Frontlist | An insightful session with Mr. Sunil Mehta
“I am quite positive that the sales are growing, whether in the form of physical books, eBooks or audiobooks.” – Mr. Sunil Mehta, MD of Mehta Publishing House
What is the key ingredient to manage a good team ?
Oh, we can say this way, if a person is doing a business, he should have the knowledge of how to run it properly at the administrative level. Even if he doesn’t know but he should have some skills to see that the persons are together, they work together and we put in efforts for increasing the sales throughout the year according to the market. Now, another factor is that the person with whom you’re working should know the product and how it is being marketed. So according to that, you can hire people who have the required skill.
At Mehta Publishing House, how do you prioritize and organize your work?
Okay, so prioritizing the work means you have to plan. Now we keep meetings with various departments for proper communication. So I bring in Google Sheets. I see those Google sheets are filled by the department heads or the people who are working with the head of the department. So that I can monitor their activity for maximum efficiency and guide them wherever is needed.
So as we are moving towards digitalization, how is your organization evolving with it?
Okay, since 2012-2013, we started to digitize our content as eBooks on Kindle, which was just launched in India. Google Play was already there by that time. We had our own platform as a bookseller and even rented a platform on our website to make our content available as eBooks to the readers. But as Amazon arrived into the market, we made all of our content available on it to expand its reach globally. Now, we are one of the biggest publishers having, I guess, more than 1500 titles. Now the same audiobooks are also coming with storytellers. Also, we are working on many audiobooks books which we will be giving it to storytellers to get it out or to sell it out on the platform.
How do you see books evolving in the coming future?
I think the situation of the publishing industry is not so good in India right now. The report is saying that the sales of books are continuously decreasing due to the downfall in the number of readers. But, I am quite positive that the sales are growing, whether in the form of physical books, eBooks or audiobooks. I think people have started educating themselves and when people get educated, they would know the importance of the content, the general books or whatever genre of the books that are available in India. So people would love to read more and more.
In today’s time of COVID-19, have you noticed any change in the reading pattern of readers before and during the pandemic?
The pandemic was a very big and good holiday for each and every person in the world to think more positively about their products, whatever they are selling in the market and whatever the people are doing as an employee. So, I think that we have learned more to keep ourselves positive in India because we have got a huge market and thus, the sales of the book would also increase. And there is a definite increase in online book sales. Additionally, during the pandemic, there was around a 300% increase in eBooks. So in terms of eBooks, you can sell it cheaper than the printed book and even in the audiobooks you can decrease your prices, give to those people who don’t want to read and like to listen more. Like we know, in eBooks you can give a video like some live music in the background to make it more interesting to listen or to read eBooks. So I think this issue that we see, the reading habit would go down and the publishers are not able to come up with new titles, and most likely, will not sustain once we are out of the pandemic.
We have released 70 new titles during this time. However, the quantity of the printing book has decreased just because the technology is much superior because earlier, we had to print many copies but now, there is no limit to our printing. We can print one copy or we can print lakh copies. So, whenever a book is emailed to you for 50 copies or 100 copies, you can get them printed immediately and you are back in the market with those copies.
Where does the publishing industry stand right now and what are the challenges that are faced?
See, there are a few issues and challenges that we come across quite often. It is just like GST, which has been implemented for printing papers. So, if we have a federation going to the government and showing all those possibilities, where the EDS readers are going to be affected by this increased cost. Another challenge for the publishers is the advertisement platform. You never see advertisements done by the English publishers in English newspapers because they’re too costly. The government should give a subsidy or they can make a flat rate as the internet may trade for the books, where a newspaper page can be dedicated only for the book industries, the sales of the books would increase.
I feel challenges are buried in every sector or with every industry, but we have to see the opportunities in those challenges. And we can make it happen with all the publishers coming together and looking for solutions to these problems.
Copyright is one of the most serious issues persisting in the publishing industry right now, what do you have to say about that?
Like you mentioned in the last question about the challenges of the publishing industry, piracy is one of them. And regarding copyright law, the copyright law is okay, there’s no problem about the copyrights because the pocket which has been mentioned in the law gives all the advantages to both the publishers as well as the authors. So it is just how the publishers manipulate the authors and vice versa. If a publisher has a big author name details with them so the author, of course, will dominate all the publishers, but you can just negotiate those terms. You can have a mutual understanding between yourself and a bit of change in your agreements. Regarding copyright, it is just like every paper where you’re putting down your terms, it is much more your view and a mutual understanding, how you pay your author, your content, how the content is prepared or given as an eBook to the readers.