Foreign publishers have invaded market, say Indian publishers

March 18th, 2009 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh, March 18 (IANS) Despite a growing domestic market and increasing exports, Indian book publishers are concerned over the “invasion” by their foreign counterparts and have demanded that the government scrap the foreign direct investment (FDI) in the industry.

“We demand the government scrap the FDI in the business of publishing to give a breathing space to Indian publishers,” Anand Bhushan, advisor and former chairman of the New Delhi-based Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), told IANS here.

The government allowed 100 percent FDI in book publishing in 2000. The domestic industry has been seeking a reversal of the policy ever since.

“Foreign publishers have big capital and full support from their governments. They have badly invaded the Indian market and Indian publishers cannot compete with them,” he said.

Bhushan, also joint managing director of Pitambar Publishers in New Delhi, said the domestic market was increasing every year but foreign players were eating into their profits in a big way.

Foreign publishers have invested around Rs.200 million (Rs.20 crore/$4 million) in India in the last 10 years and taken away profits worth over Rs.1 billion, he said.

Bhushan was in the city recently to head FIP’s 12th national convention that saw the participation of publishers from across the country.

“Every year, over 80,000 new books are published in India. Hindi language books constitute the majority as around 25,000 books are in Hindi while about 20,000 books are in English, and the rest are in other vernacular languages,” he said.

Asked about the threat of e-books, Bhushan said: “E-books have stormed into the market and they will certainly create their monopoly one day. But for the next 10 years, we face no threat from them as this technology will take time to make room for itself.”

According to official figures, book exports increased from Rs.800 million in 1998 to Rs.12 billion in 2008.

However, publishers are not impressed with the growth in exports.

“Despite this huge figure, we stand nowhere in the international market. This figure is just a fraction if we compare it with the number of books exported from countries like the US, Canada, Russia and the UK,” Harish Jain, owner of 28-year-old city-based Unistar Books Publishers, told IANS.

He said that the situation was not very rosy since “banks are not giving us loans as they do not consider books as a security”.

Even the government does not give enough importance to the publishing industry, he said. “In countries like Russia, there is a separate ministry of book publishing that takes care of publishers’ interests,” Jain said.

Ramanjit Sandhu, a leading exporter of books to the US, said Indian books have high demand in the overseas market.

“India exports books to 110 different countries and America has emerged as a big market of Indian books, especially based on Sikhism due to the presence of a large Indian diaspora there,” Sandhu said.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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