From one-book-a-year to one-book-a-day, Rawat Publications has come a long way and is known not just in India but around the world as the beacon of authenticity and unprecedented workmanship.
Publishing is not just a simple demand and supply game, in fact it is no game at all. Once you put your foot in the door, you must clamber through the immense hardships to reach the other end, if there is one.
And the living example of it is, Mr Kailash Rawat who initially wanted to be a doctor but later changed more lives than he could imagine, as he championed the cause of Publishing Industry instead. Growing up in Rajasthan, he faced an immense dearth and need for books, so he simply proceeded to fulfill it. When he was in the 9th standard, he started ordering books from the neighbouring states and selling them on bicycle. This way he was not just impacting the entire demography but also ushering the Publishing Industry in India into a new, much vigorous phase.
Soon as he entered the industry, his efforts first earned him a name in the field of Sociology. Sociologists of immense repute like I. P. Desai would vouch for the quality of Rawat Books and say, “If a person teaching Sociology in India doesn’t know Rawat[Publications], then he is not teaching Sociology at all”. Needless to say, Rawat Publications grew both in terms of collection and the quality of the books. With growth in titles as well as readers, Rawat Publications expanded rather organically-as the scholars would prefer Rawat imprint over others-to more social sciences and humanities subjects like Geography, Anthropology, Gender Studies etc. Now, after three decades of relentless hard work under the guidance of highly energetic and still very much cheerfully passionate Kailash ji, Rawat Publications is seen as the anchor around which the academia and professional readers find the much-needed stability.
Following is a mix of anecdotes and an excerpt from a recently conducted interview with Mr Kailash Rawat:
Q. What has been the most fulfilling part of this journey?
A: The trust and credibility placed by people from all over the world. To become a reference point for a countless number of students and playing a role in changing their lives have been the most magical experience. I believe one should be known through his or her work rather than anything else. That’s why I take immense pleasure in knowing that our books are recommended by the best of scholars. The validation is in this industry is hard to get, that’s why when you get visited by the professors and academics from around the world, you feel you have done something right.
Q. Tell us about one such visit, that you treasure the most.
A: The famous German historian, Dietmar Rothermund once visited this very place where we are sitting right now, and complimented, “I don’t think there is any publisher or professor in the world, who knows more about the publishers of the world than what you know”. We had dinner afterwards. (Says with a broad grin)
Q. How many titles come up each year?
A: Somewhere between 70 to 90 titles, which makes it almost 2 new books every week. And if we count the reprints, atleast one book is coming out every day.
Q. What’s the process of selecting a book?
A: Experience. One look at the bibliography of the manuscript is enough. If the pioneer writers or theorists are not quoted or mentioned in the bibliography then you know the manuscript doesn’t hold much water.
Q. Rawat has a sizable catalogue of foreign titles as well, which are available at affordable prices. Why did you decide to pursue something like that?
A: A book which can be bought for just 700 Rupees, if printed in India, is being sold to Indian students for as much as 9000 Rupees. Would that not make you worry about both the finances of the students and of the country. The foregin exchange gets drained too. Moreover, when no publisher in the world says no to Rawat publications when it comes to getting the rights of books then we have no reason not to do it. We simply identify and approach the foreign publishers and get the book to India without burdening the economy and draining whatever money the students have.
In fact we have started the reverse process. Rawat Books are now going worldwide. Writers from across the globe are approaching Rawat Publications now, which is unprecedented in the history of Indian Publishing.
Q. Speaking of worldwide, Rawat Publications has been featured on some of the biggest stages. Can you tell us more about that?
A: Being the president of the Rajasthan Publishers and Booksellers Association, I have been organizing events like Book fairs in collaboration with National Book Trust. But speaking of world stages, Rawat has represented India both at the Frankfurt Book Fair when India was invited as the guest nation, and World Geography Congress which takes place in Hague.
Q. In the age of the World Wide Web, what challenges does the publishing industry face?
A: One-word answer, ‘Plagiarism’. It is the biggest onslaught and the most commonplace fraud that is being perpetuated on this industry. Back in the 60s, when there were just 32-33 colleges in Rajasthan, our run of titles was of 1100 copies which has now come down to a meagre 400 when there are close to 1200 colleges now. For an outsider, this may seem astonishing, but plagiarism is wreaking havoc in this industry where even the people from industry are cutting each other off by stealing and copying the content. From chapters of the books to the entire manuscripts are being copied and circulated without any fear of authorities. And technology enables such offenders as they find more and more ways of circulating the content illegally.
Q. What do you think should be done to tackle this?
A: A severe lack of coherency and the non-existence of any structure in the industry is to blame for it. There are no communication channels and no ways to resolve conflicts other than individual means which are often not enough. The industry has no representation in policymaking. Governments are bereft of any talent and are unwilling to include us in the process. And, a huge dearth of knowledge and self-knowledge among the publishers themselves is the biggest impediment of all. Until the industry starts introspection and asks governments in one loud voice to make policies to tackle the problems, there seems no hope.
Q. Apart from the structural issues what other challenges are there?
A: Publishing is the only industry where the production stage is largely bereft of cash. As somebody once said, “It is easy to publish a book and even easier to sell it, but it is most difficult to realize the money.” Due to the accute shortage of cash, a lot of traditional publishing houses are history now. And instead of the decentralization of the industry, it has been encapsulated just to the national capital region.
Q. But Rawat remains firmly in Jaipur and still is an example for the entire industry to follow.
A: Well, I too could have simply moved to Delhi and made a fortune for my family. Instead, I decided to keep my feet on the ground and do what’s best for society and the country. I believe a book should sell on its worth. You should be recognized through your work and not by name.
Q. And the recognitions have been aplenty. Which ones have been your career highlights?
A: A few years ago, we got to know that Rawat is identified by UGC as one of the top 5 most credible publishers of India along with Oxford University Press, Sage India, Orient Blackswan and one more publisher. Also, the federation of Indian Publishers awarded me with the Life Time Achievement Award a few years back. I won’t say it didn’t feel nice.