Fifty years call for celebrations. Come December and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), will enter its golden jubilee year. To mark the event, it has lined up a host of programmes from launching a new logo to organising alumni unions and lectures.
One initiative that is likely to have an impact beyond the institute is the IIM-A Business Book Series. Four business books were published last week and will be formally launched nationwide in December.
Unlike in the West, where several universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Wharton have their publishing programmes with imprints, Indian universities press departments have so far limited themselves mostly to publishing information bulletins and journals.
But that seems set to change. Samir Kumar Barua, director, IIM-A, says the proposal came from publishers Random House India (RHI). The institute liked the idea and the rest followed, he says. Although IIM-A professors have been publishing books in their individual capacity, this time the publications will be almost like an imprint of the institute. We have been thinking about starting a business books list. Associating with IIM-A, the countrys top B-school, in this regard seemed a no-brainer to us, adds Chiki Sarkar, editor-in-chief, RHI.
No accurate figures on the value of the business and management books market are available, but publishers say they account for around 10 per cent of the total business of general and trade books in India. They stress the segment was languishing till a few years ago, but got a boost with the rise of authors such as Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) and Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) in the popular economics section that broadly falls in the business and management category.
Publishers stress that the segment was languishing till a few years ago, but got a boost with the rise of authors such as Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) and Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) in the popular economics section which broadly falls in the business and management category.
A book like Engaging the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad can be a text book in a management school and also a general book that is liked by a CEO. Striking such a balance is the challenge for general books on business and management, says Vivek Govil, chief operating officer and president, Pearson Education-India. Pearson is the largest publisher of education books in the world.
The RHI-IIM-A books have been written by faculty members. The four general business books to be launched shortly are Managers Who Make a Difference by T.V. Rao, Business and Intellectual Property by Anurag K. Agarwal, Strategies for Growth by Atanu Ghosh, and The Persuasive Manager by M.M. Monippally.
Observers believe that the books will help not just management students but others interested in business and trade. My book is meant for a large section of people from all sectors of life who would like to make a difference. This book distils my own experiences, all that I observed and all that I have been trying to pass on as lessons to MBA and non-MBA students and learners, says T.V. Rao.
Clearly, the market for such books is large. Not surprisingly, Penguin India, which works with business authors such as Subroto Bagchi, Gita Piramal, Gurcharan Das and N.R. Narayana Murthy and has its own imprint for business books called Portfolio, is now trying to rope in authors from the IIMs and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
The move has enthused professors from other institutes. Its a wonderful concept. I think it should be a pan IIM venture. It will provide a pool of talented authors and the publishers could chip in in terms of copy editing, marketing and so on, says Devashish Das Gupta, professor, IIM-Lucknow. Gupta recently authored a book called Tourism Marketing published by Pearson Education.
It, however, remains to be seen if the business book series by IIM-A will lead to an exclusive imprint or a permanent publishing programme by the IIMs. It will be a good idea, but if we have to go about it in a big way, IIM-A needs to spend a lot of its energies to run the business. Harvard has a well-established global network and so marketing is easy. If the IIMs must do it, they would need a lot of preparation. Tie-ups with publishers may be a good way to do this, says Rao.
Tie-ups so far have mostly been for institute-specific textbooks. While Pearson has tied up with the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, the West Bengal University of Technology, Calcutta, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, Penguin has tied up with the Infosys Leadership Institute for institute-specific textbooks. But this is the first time that IIM-A has tied up with a publishing house for general books.
Even the best of universities around the world cannot do without tie-ups with publishing houses, say experts. Whether it is Oxford or Harvard, even they bring out their imprints in association with publishing houses. It is only now that we in India are discovering the importance of imprints in the name of the educational institutions, says R.R. Iyer, director, Amity University Press, Delhi. The press, which has been bringing out school textbooks and journals, is now looking at the higher education segment.
Govil points out that a publisher brings world class copy editing, research and marketing that many institutes may not be able to provide. In fact, Prahalads book, one of the best selling business books in the world, was published in association with Wharton School Publishing by Pearson, he adds.
However, such initiatives are not without a downside. One problem I foresee with such imprints, at least in India, is that these might be taken as exclusive to the institute only, says Govil. Rival management institutes, for instance, may not subscribe to a particular institutes publications.
For students, though, every book would be a lesson.