India’s Business Books Prominent Reads

by Nancy Needhima on Dec 16 2011 9:07 PM

India’s Business Books Prominent Reads
The predominance of business and management titles sweep across stores from giant chain retailer to the humblest bookstall at an airport departure gate.
English-language biographies of leading business figures and self-help books about how to make a fortune pack the shelves, tapping an apparent thirst for success and self-improvement in the fast-growing South Asian nation.

"Business books are very important to us," said Sonal Gandhi, head buyer at the leading chain Crossword, which has 86 stores across India.

"It's the more populist ones that really sell. We don't really do a lot of technical stuff. But we do business management, self-help books, a lot of biographies, which sell a lot," she told AFP.

Precise data on sales and the size of the publishing market in India are difficult to come by, given the vast unorganised retail sector and lack of accurate, computerised measuring.

But Nielsen BookScan, which tracks retail sales, said the value of the business publishing sector grew at a rate of more than 25 percent from the second to third quarter of the current financial year.

The overall market increased at a rate of 18 percent value-wise in the same period.

Nielsen BookScan estimates that it tracks more than a third of all English-language Indian trade book sales, using data from retailers including Landmark, Crossword and the online book, film and music store Flipkart.

Volume, however, is small: Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple's Steve Jobs, for example, sold a little over 14,000 copies in its first week in India, compared with a massive 379,000 in the United States.

The current business best-seller -- entrepreneur and motivational speaker Rashmi Bansal's "I Have A Dream" -- has sold just over 43,000 copies between January and November.

Publishers expect the sector to drive overall growth, as Indian spending habits change and interest grows in global business.

Rahul Srivastava, director of marketing and sales at Simon & Schuster India, said cover prices were key.

"Business books are important because they command a higher retail price as compared to other genres like fiction or self-help and still generate good volumes because the target audience is upwardly mobile and affluent," he said.

"Some business books in hardcover have print runs higher than best-selling fiction titles in the same format."

Krishan Chopra, publisher and chief editor non-fiction at HarperCollins India and Collins Business, said the phenomenon mirrors India's expanding economy, as well as a shift in attitudes towards success and money.

"It's part of the growth story," he said.

In the austere days before India's economy opened up in the early 1990s, there was less general interest in economic affairs, while visible signs of wealth were looked down upon.

Even books were considered an unnecessary extravagance.

Now, the effects of a more open market and high economic growth are being seen, with increased disposable income and a burgeoning consumer culture, especially in big cities like Mumbai and New Delhi.

Chopra said the creation of financial newspapers and magazines reflected "an entire wealth culture", while local editions of glossy lifestyle publications tap into a wider interest in the trappings of success, he added.

Increased literacy, greater professionalism in Indian business, which is expanding its reach overseas, as well as new business and management schools were also helping to drive the sector's growth.

"It will certainly expand," added Chopra. "There's a growing readership. There are more people who are trying to upgrade their skills who will certainly provide readership."

Simon & Schuster's Srivastava added: "This sector has always done well in India as our economy continues to grow and professionals like to read about it to enhance their skills."