With an estimated 1.1 billion people, India is a major market where publishers are looking to expand. And, given the country's exploding business segment, it's only appropriate that Penguin has launched a New Delhi—based offshoot of Portfolio Books, the business book imprint that Adrian Zackheim founded here in 2001.
To date, Portfolio India—the imprint was officially unveiled this fall but had a soft launch a year ago—has published 21 titles. Although it began largely with English-language reprints from Portfolio's list, it has begun publishing local authors; its first original work, Gita Piramal's Smart Leadership, bowed in December 2005. According to executive editor and publisher Krishan Chopra, the thinking behind the soft launch was to establish the imprint before trotting it in front of the press. "We needed a proven body of work rather than a couple of books with the promise of more to come. So while Portfolio takeover titles had started trickling in since November 2005, our originals effectively began this year."
The Portfolio launch is only part of Penguin's aggressive growth strategy in the region. Penguin began publishing in India in 1987, and now Penguin India publishes about 200 titles annually under six imprints, according to CEO and president Thomas Abraham, giving it a 23% market share.
Portfolio India, which publishes almost entirely in English, mimics, to an extent, the outline its parent company has set. According to Abraham, English is the dominant language for trade publishing in the region as well. Nonetheless, there is a growing desire in India, he said, especially among those in the "new liberal middle class," to maintain the country's various native languages (which differ region to region). To meet that demand, Penguin India releases a number of titles each year in Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam. (The house has also done some books in Urdu.) When asked about genre focus, Abraham said his house looks to do books on India, with an eye toward work by local authors. He added that one of the "killer categories" in the region now is narrative nonfiction.
But Penguin isn't the only big house making moves in India. HarperCollins, which announced last month that it will license books by HarperCollins India (in addition to publishing, in native dialects, some of its English-language bestsellers there), has lured away two Penguin India execs. CEO Jane Friedman has just hired Chopra and V.K. Karthika (currently executive editor of Penguin India) as publishers at HarperCollins India. Though execs at HarperCollins could not provide details on what those hires signal about HC India's publishing program, PW was told an announcement is imminent.