THE LITERARY OCTOGENARIAN.
THERE was once a man, selling hosiery in Calcutta, who so impressed an English gentleman with his salesmanship that the latter asked him to join the business of books. The Englishman was William Collins, who owned the Collins empire at that time and the hosiery salesman was Daudayal Mehra, who went on to establish Rupa Publications.
Eighty years later, it's his grandson, Kapish Mehra, who helms the affairs at the publication house. Speaking on the occasion of the landmark anniversary, Mehra says that many turning points have come in Rupa's life.
"The most important thought that has been there throughout the 80 years has been to serve the reader. Any publishing house's turning point is marked by the publishing of important books, and ours has been Sunil Gavaskar's autobiography Sunny Days or the The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur or Gayatri Devi's autobiography A Princess Remembers . In the last few years, it has been Chetan Bhagat, Natwar Singh and recently Pranab Mukherjee," says Mehra.
Coming to the subject of Chetan Bhagat, it is widely recognised that it was Mehra himself who helped rocket the author to the bestseller lists. "I was in college when Five Point Someone was published," says Mehra. "It was a Saturday evening and I was reading amongst the first few drafts of the book. It took me about seven hours to read it and somehow the book stayed with
me for seven days. As a voracious reader you tend to have a cynical taste, but I felt that his writing was appealing to me and I couldn't shake off the feeling. We doubled the print run and we took it to larger quantity and things moved forward." The way forward for the publishing house is to focus on four areas. "We are currently looking at things from content perspective, digital perspective, efficiency of distribution, and making our international reach better," says Mehra.
At present, other than India, Rupa has its presence in the US, UK, East Asia and the Arab world. The decision to expand beyond borders was taken in the 75th year -- the same year Rupa went into tier- II and III cities. "At the outset," he says about the popular genres in small towns, "fiction was very popular.
Therefter, self- help books became popular. In small towns the avenues of entertainment are still limited and books still occupy the pride of place." A matter of pride for the company is its first logo. "Our first logo, the Rupa cursive logo, was designed by Satyajit Ray. He only took a few books as his fees.
That's the way Rupa was born - as a cultural thing. Then, later, it evolved," says Mehra.
From selling hosiery to publishing books -- what an evolution it has been!
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