It’s already a dominant player in India’s English-language publishing industry. And now Penguin Random House (PRH) is looking at a wider presence in local language publishing after it acquired Hind Pocket Books in June. The deal will also help PRH, which started an Indian language publishing programme in 2005, boost its distribution network in the hinterland. PRH India has a 31% share of the English-language books market, according to the company’s website. Its overall revenues have risen 23% in the past two years and sales of its 250 English-language books grew 80% between 2005 and 2017. Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO, Penguin Random House India and South East Asia, spoke to Fortune India on the deal and the company’s plans. Edited excerpts:
What is the size of the deal and how long did it take to conclude?
We had been exploring an acquisition to expand our presence in the Indian language segment for some time and had been in discussions since last year. We don’t disclose deal values.
The underlying principle of the deal seems to be that it gives PRH depth in Indian language publishing distribution. Would you say that is correct?
The landscape in terms of publishing in Indian languages is extremely vibrant and dynamic, with a rich tradition of established voices, as well as exciting new authors and writings. Penguin Random House India has had a strong commitment to publishing in Indian languages—we launched our lo - cal languages publishing programme back in 2005 and have since then been publishing in Hindi, as well as collaborating with regional publishers to bring out some of these voices in other local languages. The acquisition of Hind Pocket Books, one of the oldest and most respected publishers in Hindi and Urdu with a culturally rich and formidable backlist brings us that much closer to our aim of being present across languages and markets.
Also what is the extent in numbers of the Indian language publishing part of PRH’s business in India today and how do you see it growing?
The Indian language market is an important and growing segment for us, and our aim is to build on Hindi as well as expand our reach in other languages—we are looking at Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, and Malayalam to begin with.
Could you tell us the publishing scope as in the number of books and distribution footprint that this deal will bring PRH?
To begin with, we are looking to bring to market the extensive backlist catalogue we have in our stable now. In addition we will be looking at translations and of course publishing new voices across genres, including literary, commercial, self-help, memoirs and biographies, poetry, and collections of essays—showcasing the immense range and scope of the Hind Pocket Books list. We will, therefore, be giving the rich range of titles renewed exposure, while working on building a new list simultaneously. Through the Hind Pocket Books team and its robust distribution network, we plan to reach Hindi readers in the 10 key states in northern and central India to begin with, and through our co-publishing partnerships in other languages, we will be reaching readers in other regions and parts of the country.
What are the contours of the deal? Is it a straight 100% buyout of Hind Pocket Books by PRH?
Yes, it is.
Does the deal mark the transformation of PRH from a publisher to also an investor in India? Would you be looking for more such deals?
We are first and foremost a publisher, and will always be. Having said that, India is a very exciting market for us and we are com - mitted to building readership by publishing stories and making them available to readers across all formats. The country and region has immense opportunity with a young population eager to explore and engage. We do want to be an integral part of the various cultural conversations going on. Thus we will continuously look for opportunities and partners that will support our growth. When the right opportunity presents itself, we will be happy to explore further.
(This story was originally published in the November 2018 issue of the magazine)