Indian readers, particularly young ones, have been devouring books on business, management, careers and money in recent years. In storefront displays and airport bookstores across India, these tomes get pride of place, relegating fiction and books about politics to the back row. Bangalore’s annual book fair, which was held over 10 days this month in the grounds of the Bangalore Palace, a Windsor Castle lookalike from the Raj days, attracted dozens of business-focused publishers and retailers with catchy names like Success and Genius, as well as more than 200,000 attendees.
Young Indians graduating from management schools “are voracious readers of nonfiction, they read to get a competitive edge,” says Krishan Chopa, chief editor for nonfiction at HarperCollins Publishers India. India’s growing economy has accelerated changes in business and at the workplace, he said, and authors who write about these changes are popular because the “country’s book-reading public is eager to stay updated.” Bestsellers in India do not sell in the millions, as some do in the West; the most popular titles sell about 50,000 copies the year they are released. (Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, by comparison, sold more than 379,000 copies in its first week in the United States). India’s publishing market, when compared to the West’s, is still tiny, fractured and hard to measure. But more people are reading, which, along with a competitive printing industry, appears to be fueling a publishing boom. As literacy rates climb (to 74 percent, according to the latest census) and as expenditure for private consumption grows (projected to rise 7.5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2012, according to the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy) , book buying is expected to ascend as well.
India’s educated, savvy middle class has caused the market for business and management books to “explode,” said the Bangalore-based IT entrepreneur Subroto Bagchi, an author and the vice chairman of MindTree, a Bangalore base software services firm. This is especially true in smaller Indian cities, he said. Mr. Bagchi’s three books include “The Professional” and “The High-Performance Entrepreneur,’’ both published by Penguin; together they sold more than 150,000 copies. With his fourth book, “Business at 16,” Mr. Bagchi hopes to get teenagers interested in business, partly by using fictional anecdotes, including boy-meets-girl stories. Business biographies and management guides are a top-selling category at the online retailer FlipKart, whether the author is Indian or foreign, said the company’s chief executive, Sachin Bansal. “Successful entrepreneurs are young India’s role models and their narratives offer valuable lessons,” he said. Sales of such books on FlipKart are up 191 percent in the first ten months of 2011 compared to the entire year before, he said. Among the current chart toppers is Rashmi Bansal’s “I Have a Dream,” on social entrepreneurs.