In September, Nihar Malaviya was named to head the global operations of Penguin Random House. This follows the departure of Markus Dohle at the end of 2022. Malaviya joined what was then Random House in 2003. In 2014, he was named president and COO of PRH, during which time, Bertelsmann said, he “spearheaded the creation of a variety of industry-first capabilities in data science, supply chain, technology, and consumer insights.”

We took this opportunity to learn more about him and let him share a bit about himself and his vision for leading the world’s largest trade publishing company.

Congratulations on your new role. What is it that publishing pros should know about you and your passion for books?

Like most of us in this industry, what drew me to publishing was the role books have played in my life since an early age. I was an avid reader as a kid. Growing up in India, I regularly walked almost an hour to our local library and read each and every book in the children’s section—I was particularly fond of the Hardy Boys series. When my family decided to move to the U.S., all the reading I’d done helped with my transition to an American school, as those stories had given me a window into new worlds and ideas, and how others see the world. And that is a learning that I really kept with me throughout my entire life.

How has the company fared in 2023, as inflation has put pressure on book buyers and some categories, notably hardcover nonfiction, have suffered?

What I find heartening about publishing today is that books provide a unique experience to readers that they can’t find in other forms of media. While the overall book markets have normalized and are down compared to the heights of COVID, they are still considerably higher than 2019 in many of the markets in which we operate. From a category standpoint, fiction has been a standout performer. However, we are proud to have published the biggest book in the industry this year, Prince Harry’s Spare, which happens to be a hardcover nonfiction book.

For Penguin Random House, we’ve held onto many of the readers we gained during COVID, leading to an increase in overall revenues, but we have also been faced with significant cost increases across our business. We have already taken several steps to offset these pressures in some of our markets around the world and will continue to carefully navigate these industry and structural dynamics.

Many experienced people recently left the company. What propagated that and what is the vision going forward?

As I discussed before, in light of the significant cost challenges throughout the industry, we created an opportunity for many of our long-tenured employees, who had been with our company for decades, to retire if they chose to do so. Of course, many of our colleagues took us up on the opportunity, and while transitions can sometimes be challenging, we’re also looking forward to elevating and promoting the next generation of talent.

As we look to the future, our North Star remains to ignite a universal passion for reading by creating books for everyone. We believe that each book has the ability to inform, entertain, and inspire audiences around the world, and our goal remains to grow our company and publish more books that continue to reach more and more readers. We are the best home for creative publishing talent, and we will continue to attract the very best author and publishing talent in the world.

What is your opinion of the AI revolution and are there positive use cases for the company?

There is, understandably, significant apprehension and excitement in the wider world as well as within publishing about AI. Of course, the most important thing we must do is to ensure that our authors’ and artists’ copyrighted work is protected. We are working with various industry partners and closely monitoring the legal landscape to see what will happen.

The way I have always thought about AI is that it’s never an “or”—it is not technology or the human; it is always an “and”—people using the technology to aid and improve their work. If we can use technology to publish and sell more books, that will help us with achieving growth and fulfilling our mission. At Penguin Random House, we’re experimenting safely with AI to embrace opportunities where it can help our people to do their jobs better and faster.

The international markets remain vital for PRH. Where do you foresee growth?

We’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in our Spanish-language business in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. We’re always experimenting and learning from our mature markets, like those in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, and we expect to continue to nurture the next generation of readers there and in our developing markets.

In short, we want to grow in every market where we have operations, and we also want to expand our footprint where it makes sense. To that end, in addition to focusing on organic growth, we are also looking at M&A opportunities for small- and mid-size companies and intellectual properties that we believe could fit under the Penguin Random House umbrella.

What do people in the industry consistently misunderstand about PRH, and please correct this for us?

We all recognize that Penguin Random House is the world’s largest trade book publisher. We are made up of 11 different businesses operating in more than 40 office locations and numerous other remote locations around the globe. We offer our authors unparalleled global reach, and at the same time, we provide them with a personal connection with our 320+ imprints around the world, which operate completely independently.

This is what’s even more important than our size: the way we work as a company and as a community. We deeply believe in decentralized decision-making and giving our editors and publishers the freedom to choose which books to publish and how to publish them.

We also deeply care about the role of publishing in the broader society, and we devote significant resources to going beyond the books through our extensive social impact efforts and advocacy for issues that impact our culture at large, such as protecting freedom of expression. In this way, we bring the best of both worlds, offering authors personalized support for each book while maximizing their worldwide presence.

What books have you read recently and would recommend?

My favorite question! I love to read across categories. I liked the novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin; Hidden Potential by Adam Grant, which illustrates how we can proactively reach our own potential while cultivating development in others; and I also enjoyed Matthew McConaughey’s new children’s book, Just Because.