The Indian Book Market
The Indian book market has a centuries old experience of publishing and book selling. India is the 7th largest publisher in the world and the 3rd largest publisher when it comes to texts produced in English. It is a 9000+ Crore industry and is one of the biggest markets in the world second only to the US and the UK. Before Independence the industry was controlled by the British and hence there was an element of homogeneity in the publishing market. TATA McgrawHill was the only major publisher that existed then and was a joint between the TATA's and the McGrawHill publishing house. However, the era after Independence saw the rise of publishing giants like Kali, Seagull and Roli.
There are more than seventy thousand books published in the Indian market out of which only 20% belong to the English category. However, due to the excessive requirement of English textbooks the total worth of the material published in English has grown significantly. The Indian market is characterized by a very high number of publishers and retailers and the costs of producing books in India are comparatively low (Francis, 2007)). Also, the final price of a book in the Indian market is relatively cheaper than books in other developed markets. Hence, the Indian market has caught the eye of the global publishing industry.
Currently, the Indian market has seen an influx of foreign publishing houses that have entered into joint ventures with India conglomerates in order to exist cost effectively. With the advent of liberalization in the 1990's, publishing giants like Penguin, Harper Collins, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Random House and Hodder have formed sustainable joint ventures with Indian publishing houses and quite a few are even looking at off shoring a part of their publishing activities to developing countries like India where the costs of production are low and the sales price is 2-3 times the production cost. The result of these partnerships is that the Indian publishing Industry now possesses the most technologically advanced production services in the world in addition to financial resources, employment opportunities and structured training and skill acquisition practices. This gives the Indian publishing industry an edge over its national rivals like Russia, China etc. This service industry has quickly become a global supplier to publishers across the world, but especially Europe. Investment has been heavy but competition is fierce and prices have remained very keen as a result. Costs for Indian publishers are therefore low by global standards, while production standards have improved radically (Katyal, 2007).Also, apart from technology related to the publishing industry, India is one of the world leaders when it comes to providing leading technology as far as IT and communications industries are concerned. Hence, the Indian publishing industry is backed by the unparalleled cost effective back end services provided by these industries.
In addition to the factors listed above, the tremendous growth witnessed by the Indian economy has also been largely responsible for shaping the success of the publishing industry. The population of the country is in excess of 1.2 billion which provides a potentially large base of readers. Also, the burst in the economic growth has brought about an increase in the per capita income of the people coupled with a dramatic increase in the purchasing power. Efforts made by the state and central governments, and rising consciousness amongst the population have brought about a substantial increase in the literacy levels as well as a positive change in the lifestyles of the people. Not only are people more willing to indulge in purchase of books, people are actively investing their time in looking up good literature.
Due to the importance of English as an international language, literature written in English is being given due prominence. The result being that India is beginning to compete with international publishing houses where English literature like textbooks, monographs and other literary works are involved. A recent survey conducted on global reading habits has showed that Indians have the highest consumption of literature and spend the most amount of reading. The youth population of the country is constantly hungry for good quality contemporary English literature which is one of the major areas for the growth of the industry.
While we are looking at the core strengths of the Indian publishing industry, there are a lot of weaknesses which are hindering the progress of the industry. Lack of infrastructural facilities among a number of the smaller publishing houses is resulting in inefficient management which is giving away business to the rival publishing houses in nearby developing nations. The low cost of production and sake has made the returns in the India market a volume game. The earnings per unit are low and the publishing houses need to publish substantial print runs in order to earn a sizeable profit.
The supply chain of the publishing industry is currently long and tedious and hence increases the production costs leading to lower revenues.
Publisher→ Distributor →Wholesaler → Retailer →Consumer
The sales and distribution channel needs to be improved for the returns to increase. The lack of availability of data documenting the activities of various publishers and the use of traditional and outdated practices followed by domestic publishers leads to a waste of resources and a drop in the revenues of the industry. The Government of Brazil has developed an excellent system to tackle this problem in their industry. “The Brazil Book Chamber commissions a group of academics to prepare an annual report for the Chamber. They obtain the required statistical information from member companies on a confidential basis and then collate the information into a useful and robust report on an annual basis” (Francis, 2007)
Another issue crippling the growth of the industry is the presence of multi-national publishing houses in the country. Organizations partly owned by foreign multi-nationals are becoming targets of off shoring activities which has created a rift between these corporations and indigenous industries. The regulating government organizations for the two are also different which leads to a clash in the policies governing their action. Also, content for these publishing houses is imported and written by foreign authors, which suppress the growth of the potential Indian writers. Global brands like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings take precedence in the minds of the readers and Indian literature is relegated to the sidelines. Hence, publishers are skeptical to publish the works of lesser know writers and prefer to go with trusted international names even in the domestic market. The publishing of textbooks provides a constant source of revenue for the publishing houses and the revenues earned from these areas is pumped into the production of other literary works. In India, the state government has strict control over the publishing of textbooks which handicaps the revenue streams of the indigenous publishing houses which then affects the publishing of other works.
“Brazil and Mexico offer excellent models for how government and industry can work together to ensure the requirements are met. In both countries (Brazil at primary level, and Mexico at middle school level) the Ministry of Education purchases books from publishers at very low net cost, and then provides these textbooks free to the children in the state schools. The schools thus have a choice; textbook standards are high due to the competitive market; government is buying cheap; the children receive good books free” (Francis, 2007)
The diversity in culture in India also proves to be a stumbling block where the publishing of books. Due to presence and popularity of localized content in regional dialects, Indian publishers are forced to print editions in multiple languages which inhibit economies of scale from accruing.
In conclusion, we can summarize the trends by conducting a SWOT Analysis of the Indian Publishing Industry like in the diagram illustrated above.
The Children's Book Market in India
The rapid economic growth of the Indian economy has provided a boost to many industries including the publishing industry in India as illustrated previously. With the increase in the purchasing power of the people and the resultant improvement in the standards of living, people are actively looking towards collecting books and are constantly on the lookout for popular literary works. The economic, social and cultural changes taking place have given rise to an educated mass of people who are hungry for information. The increase in the intensity of competitions and examinations, and the fight for survival in the corporate world has given parents the impetus to urge their children to cultivate reading habits. The market for children's books has expanded tremendously and Indian authors and publishers are still struggling to cope with it. From being a neglected industry, the Indian book market has suddenly caught the fancy of the global publishing houses.
“The market for children's books in India is influenced by foreign authors and imported books. Mainstream publishing today caters to two kinds of markets -quality books for the more discriminating English-speaking urban elite and mediocre to poor quality books for the masses made up of India's vast and growing middle class. Both markets are huge and growing and will keep the children's book market thriving” (Menon, 2006)
In developed countries like the United Kingdom, children's books including picture books, textbooks and fictional thrillers account for nearly 25% of the total market. Now, as there has been a relative slow down in the developed economies where book are concerned, newer markets like India are seeing a burst of development and investment from international brands like Disney and Scholastic. This has provided incentive to Indian authors as well as publishing houses to meet competition and provide quality children's literature at affordable prices. This will result in higher standards & more creativity, a very welcome change thereby opening up opportunities for new writers & illustrators.
However in India, the children's book market been crippled mainly due to lack of infrastructure facilities. Inaccessibility of well stocked libraries and book shops mainly due to limitation of financial resources has led to scarcity of good literature available to young readers until now. With the entry of global retailers like Landmark and Crossword the scenario is changing rapidly and so is the demand for books.
However, this sudden explosion in the retail space has caught the publishers as well as the authors in the segment unawares. While books like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have attracted readers into the market, there is scarcity of Indian authors who can come up with quality literature in this segment. There is a strong demand for talented writers who can come up with books that the Indian youth can relate to. For example, one of the reasons for the success of Chetan Bhagat in India is the fact that his works appeal to a very specific segment in the Indian market. Bhagat's first book, Five Point Someone, which was published some time back and has now been successfully made into a major motion picture, was based on the lives of three Indian teenage boys doing their engineering and the challenges that came that way. The books struck a chord with the millions of youth who have experienced the ruthlessness of competitive examinations in India. It deals with the emotions of young teenagers as they are propelled by societal and family pressure into competing against millions of other students and the psychological and physical trauma that they go through. The book was the national bestseller for weeks and was read avidly not only by teenagers and young adults who had gone through this phase themselves but also by young preteen adolescents who were about to make the same journey.
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Genre fiction also known as category fiction or popular fiction refers to literary work of fiction written with the intent of fitting into a particular type of literary genre so that it appeals to people who are familiar with that genre. A genre basically helps to classify works which will appeal to a particular set of people who have familiar tastes. Different types of genres include fantasy, romance, mystery, detective, horror, science and literary. Looking at the children's category, be it any market, fantasy fiction is the most popular genre. Fantasy fiction is a genre that uses mythological characters or magical/supernatural beings in the primary formation of the plot. The most successful examples of fantasy fiction are Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings. While earlier the market was dominated by foreign authors and a few Indian book legends like Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Champak etc. now there has been an influx of Indian authors and multinational publishing houses bent on widening the scope of the market. Where domestic works are considered in the fantasy fiction genre, the focus has been more on numerous short stories rather than heavy tomes such as Harry Potter. The Hindu mythology has also been very popular amongst the children and have also been endorsed by parents wanting to instill cultural and religious knowledge amongst their children especially Indians living abroad.
Reading Habits and Lifestyles of Children
There is a startling lack of data available on the reading habits and lifestyles of children in India. Of the 1.2 billion population tweenagers and teens together comprise an approximate total of 23% according to the National Statistics provided by Euromonitor International. Hence, they serve as a large potential market for publishers to look at.
A survey done on students of Kendriya Vidyalaya detailed the trends in the reading pattern of children across different age groups. The paper explores the purpose, frequency and tastes and preference of students in these schools. What emerged strongly from this study was the fact that by the age of nine, boys and girls have significantly tastes; girls will still read fairy tales while many boys have rejected them. Both boys and girls of ten to eleven like adventure stories involving group activity but boys show a preference for wider and rougher adventure. Girls like store set against a family background which deals personal relationships and reflect their need to love and be loved. By the age of twelve girls are interested in romance about girls slightly older than themselves, while boys like science fiction, mysteries and facts (Sharma & Dasgupta 2009)
The problem is becoming more acute to look at fiction for this age group (9-12) in terms of convenient categories i.e. Fantasy, Adventure, Dom6stic, Adventure stores new usually have some elements of domestic features and growth, domestic features and growth, domestic stories unfolds in a way that makes every-day life seem exiting and fantasy stories usually involve both adventure and domestic elements
Classification of reading preferences of children based on age:
Children Below the age of 5: Board books including word and counting books, concept based books, picture books illustrating fairy tales and popular nursery rhymes. The emphasis in these books is basically on visual content as the book is read aloud by adults. Colorful pictures, good quality paper and original artwork are prerequisites. The purchase of these kind of books is totally influenced by parents.
Ages 4 - 8: These are the books which are read by children after they have just learnt how to read. Hence the use of colorful and engaging pictures coupled with simple grammar and short uncomplicated plots are required. Even here, parents are the sole decision makers in the buying process.
Preteens: Adventure, mystery and fantasy fiction genres are the most popular genres in this group. The plot and characters are relatively uncomplicated and there is a huge demand for magical and supernatural characters in this story. Popular examples are Harry Potter and mythological stories which are endorsed by parents in an effort to inculcate cultural knowledge amongst their children. Short stories are also very popular in this age group.
Teens & Young adults: during this period the teens develop the sense of values and learn to look deeper into the meaning of things while still sensitive to the magical/supernatural stories. Harry Potter is a very good example to quote over here as the plot explores the emotional and physical experiences that Harry and his friends go through while the main plot still revolves around magical mystery.
The Harry Potter Story
The global success of the Harry Potter brand is nothing short of magical. What started as an innocent attempt to capture the attention of young kids has blossomed into a super brand that has caught the fantasy of children and adults likewise. Within a span of 10 years the brand has gone from being just another children's novel to being a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon.
The original manuscript written by Rowling was rejected by several publishing houses before it was published in 1997. Bloomsbury was responsible for the publishing of the book in London, while Scholastic published the book in the US under the name of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The rest as they say is history.
Harry Potter was launched at a time when there were recessionary trends in the book markets globally especially in the children's category. There was much hype about new media like television and the internet and reading habits were not being cultivated amongst children. The Harry Potter series have broken all records in the publishing world and set new higher standards when it comes to children's reading. Apart from the phenomenal success of the brand, another reason for studying the growth of this brand was the way in which it rejuvenated the mature market for children's books in the US and the UK. Also, it gave a much needed impetus to Bloomsbury London and helped generate a versatile revenue stream.
Another unique aspect of the series is that it appealed to readers across different age groups and cultures. The original story plot has captured the attention of adult readers around the globe. Scholastic has released statistics to support their claim that fifty percent of the books in the series have been bought by readers thirty-five years or older. Brenda Bowen, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Children's publishing and twenty-one year publishing veteran confirms this surprising information. The raving success of the series amongst adults led publishing giants like Bloomsbury and Scholastic to introduce adult cover versions of the book for in 2007. Also, after the sales of the books started dwindling, Scholastic launched advertising campaign with posters targeted specifically towards adult readers (Nielson, 2009). It also gave rise to formation of multiple communities and discussion forums like “Harry Potter for Grown Ups” and “Harry Potter for Adults” which catered solely to the adult fanatics of Harry. The reasons for this surge in consumption of these books by adults are many. The storyline recounts the trivial yet very important experiences that every adult goes through as a child. Also, the plot revolves around a young talented wizard who has been wronged at many counts yet remains true and humble which strikes a chord with every reader be it a child or an adult. The struggle for existence and the continuous fight against the evil or “dark” forces as well as the rebellious exploits of Harry Potter and his friends provide an escape from the ordinary mundane lives of the people. Also, at the end of each book a group of survivors stand together and celebrate, enjoying a brief moment of reprieve before the next battle begins which identifies with the basic nature of human beings be it of any age group.
The Potter Series were published at a time when the global boo market was facing a slowdown and publishers were desperately struggling to find further sources of avenue especially in the US and UK markets. The shares of Bloomsbury London had been steadily declining as was common with publishers across the globe. Of the multi-billion brand that Harry Potter is the most major source of income for the publishers is the sale of books with over 320 million copies in print. The books had become bestsellers before they were even released owing to advance orders being placed through the various distribution channels. The huge demand for the books also brought about synchronization in the different production processes involved in the successful launch of the series. With the launch of each book, new cost effective ways managing the enormous demand were discovered. Online media was used by the publishers to generate hype and anticipate the demand through advance bookings made on internet sellers like eBay and Amazon (Kotarba, 2003).
Customization of content was also done to suit the cultural needs of the market in which the books were released. The Harry Potter series have been translated into 64 other languages so far and the content has been suitably modified to appeal to the readers of that particular region. Translation strategies were such as substitution of names or including popular regional dialects to convey the meaning to readers. The publishers also came out with different cover versions for adults owing to the popularity of the series amongst adults.
Also, the success of the Potter series gave the impetus to publishers to come out with more books targeted at children and it drew the attention of adults towards other authors of children's books.
““The Potter books have made children's literature more visible, the market more receptive to hardcover editions of new children's fiction and reviewers more willing to tackle juvenile titles in their columns.” (Weinburg, 2003)
The success of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone triggered an avalanche of marketing activities undertaken by Scholastic and Bloomsbury for building the brand especially in an industry where marketing is considered expendable.
“The books business is widely regarded as a marketing backwater, a domain where marketing is either reviled or practiced with considerable reluctance.” (Kotarba, 2003) (Rowland, 1996; Schiffrin, 2002).
The launch of the editions saw innovations in areas of distribution, advertising and retail promotions. From organizing international book reading by JK Rowling in the Hogwarts Castle where the film was shot to the launch of a multi-million dollar marketing campaign seven weeks before the release of the seventh book the publishers left no stone unturned. The growth of a brand can also be taken as an example of how a brand can be successfully repositioned once it approaches maturity. After the sales of the series petered down, an advertising campaign targeted solely towards adults was launched in an effort to expand the readership of the books.
The concept of reverse product placement was also used with great effect in the marketing of the books. Reverse product placement refers to the commercial translation of fictional brands from popular works into the real world. Hasbro, the world's largest toy maker purchased the licensing rights from Warner Bros. to manufacture products used in the books and followed in the movies like Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, Ollivander's Wands and other games.
Marketing to Children
Marketing to Children: a planning framework (Sharma & Dasgupta, Young Consumers, VOL. 10 NO. 3 2009)
This paper seeks to identify the focus areas for marketing strategies targeting children. It seeks to help marketers tailor their strategies to create maximum impact in the children's segment. The paper researches the growing purchasing power of the children and the relationships between parents and their children when it comes to making purchase decisions.
According to the authors, upbringing has become more liberal and families have become ‘‘negotiation families'' (Du Bois-Reymond et al., 2001), where influence may travel in either direction between parent and child (Bridges and Briesch, 2006) and parents have become more accepting of children's preferences (John, 1999). As the extent of children's influence increases, children are becoming a part of most marketers' target audience even if they are not part of the target market”.
Depending on the degree of interest and the level of influence children have for different product categories, three distinct zones of influence have been defined by the authors. Marketing strategies would differ on the basis of these zones:
* Preference zone are those in which parents are the initiators, decision makers and purchasers but they may take into account the preferences of the child
* Pester zone is where the parents are the decision makers and purchasers but children have very strong influencing power. Bargaining and persuasion are employed as children grow older, and demands for products turn into discussions and compromises between parents and children (Rust, 1993; Palan and Wilkes, 1997). In this zone, marketers definitely need to address children through some marketing activities either independent to or in conjunction with activities targeted at parents. Marketing activities targeted at parents will aim to create some level of awareness, and if possible, liking, for the brand. Harry Potter is one example where the ability of the brand (a children's book), to create excitement among both children and parents the world over, was a critical reason for its success.
* The purchase zone is where parents may be the purchasers while children are the decision makers or co-decision makers. In product categories where children are co-decision makers, marketers need to cover both parents and children through their marketing programs. Focus should be to provide information and highlight the value proposition as well as create excitement around their brand.