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Vision to reality... on a roll

No shade of swords this. Roli Books intends to create our own Harry Potters, tap the Hindi market. ANUJ KUMAR speaks to Pramod Kapoor, the man behind the success... .

Pramod Kapoor...fulfilling ambition with hard work. Photo: S. Arneja

A QUARTER century submerged in the pool of black and white with a dash of colours yet unquenched and determined to make a splash in the sea of mind's eye. This is Pramod Kapoor for you, reaping the fruits of his 25 years of labour. Son of a paper businessman from Varanasi, Pramod decided to write his destiny on the blank sheets that his father used to sell with his specialisation in marketing management providing a cutting edge in smelling the trends.

"I always wanted to be in the publishing business. Perhaps my voracious reading habit had something to do with it. It started with comics and soon from classics to virtually anything that interested me found a way into my study. After completing MBA from Benaras Hindu University, I started as a trainee with Macmillan and within three years started my own business with publishing textbooks for Oxford University Press and rest as they say is history," reminisces Pramod.

That Roli Books is synonymous with world of pictures of all sizes ranging from tourism and arts to maharajas or simply opulent Bollywood has also to do with Pramod's dalliance with colours. "In India we started the trend of illustrated books. Our first book in 1980 was in this genre by Sandeep Shankar and Sivanthi Ninan and since then we are the leaders in this segment."

But post-September 11, as the tourist figures have dropped significantly the demand for such books must have reduced? "Yes, in fact that was the only year when the business remained stagnant as the tourist inflow shrunk to one-third. Otherwise, we are growing by 20 to 30 per cent every year. However, our ability to think ahead helped, as we diversified into the current affairs section with books like M.J Akbar's `Shade Of Swords' becoming a bestseller." The demand for the book has made Pramod to release its paperback edition with 50 more pearls from Akbar on post-war Iraq.

And what about the omnipresent channels that vie for eyeballs whenever they try to settle for letters. "TV is not a competition. I am quite bullish about my business. Even books on mainstream Bollywood cinema which were earlier non-existent are doing good business because now a young reader has evolved, who watches `Dil Chahta Hai' and wants to read about it as well."

However, what is the point in using a conservative term publishing house for publishing company when the sole criterion is minting money? "Besides the usual connotation of the family business, the term owes it origin to the fact that publishing industry was not merely driven by profit motive alone, there was always a case for cause in the minds of publishers. And we are following this tradition. Every two to three years we bring out something without proceeds being on top of our priorities. `Fallen Angels' by John Federick and Thomas L. Kelly, a telling account on the prostitute trafficking in the sub-continent, is a case in point." Now Pramod fulfils the subtext as well as his wife and two kids are giving him company.

Pramod doesn't see any prospects for e-books as they don't have the charm of prized possessions but for Roli's future he has a slew of ideas starting with journalist Sateesh Jacob's war diary on Iraq to beginning a new romance with fiction and plugging the untapped Hindi market to the ambitious project of creating our own Harry Potters. Dreams to realities, Roli rolls on...

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