K Satyanarayan (Satya) is the co-Founder of New Horizon Media, a publisher in the Tamil language book market. Satya is an alumnus of IIT Madras and Cornell University in the US. He and his co-founder Badri were one of the several people from around the world who started Cricinfo, which became the go-to site for cricket before they exited and went on to launch New Horizon Media. Satya has blogged on education and state of publishing industry in India, and he has spoken on the publishing industries in India at forums such as Publishing Next. This is part I of our discussion.
Satya talks about the evolution of the Tamil language book industry, challenges with distribution, size of Tamil language market, reading preferences of readers in Tamil Nadu, and audiobooks.
“The year I spent travelling around India after my return from the US had a lasting impact on me”
Discussion About New Horizon Media and Tamil Books
- Satya discusses his journey as a serial entrepreneur. His first venture was cricinfo with his co-founder Badri and several others from around the world. This was followed by book publishing company New Horizon Media – a leading publisher in the Tamil book market.
- Satya spent one year traveling in India after his return from the United States which gave him a very different perspective about life in India.
- He believes that he is in the business of content, knowledge and entertainment. In that sense, he finds both his ventures quite similar.
- Satya believes that book publishing has its own set of structural challenges being a different sector industry such as distribution and retailing.
- The challenges are even more for a regional language book publishing companies. Many of the publishing houses are family owned and have been there for generations.
- New Horizon Media started publishing and selling books for their authors from 2004 onwards but they realized there were no distributors in Tamil. Getting into distribution was more of a compulsive decision. Back then, publishers used to interact with retailers directly. This is unlike English language books where there are established large distributors.
- 12 years a go there were close to 400 publishers in Tamil language but now there are close to 1000 publishers, majority of them are very small in size. The larger publishers publish 30 or 40 titles every year. The market leaders back then continue to dominate the market. Most of the publishers reach out to all the retailers in order to get their books distributed.
- Majority of the books sold in 2004-2005 were in fiction or religious category. New Horizon Media began to publish nonfiction books (biographies, self help, etc.) Majority of the nonfiction books are written originally in Tamil, and very few of the published books are translations.
- Tamil language is a 100 Crore Rupee market (1 billion Rupees or USD 16 million) and there are 1500-2000 titles published every year. This is a very conservative estimate, and very few studies have been conducted to find the actual sales data. Vivek Mehra, CEO of SAGE India, has mentioned that the overall market size for print books in India is USD 4 billion dollars. (episode number 2 of MyKitaab Podcast.)
- Most of the original content for most of the books is in Tamil except 5-10% which is translations. Finding good translators is a challenge. The translator has to be a subject matter expert in two languages (i.e. the language in which it is getting translated and the language from which it is getting translated) should have the inclination and the time.
- Majority of the readers who read Tamil books are not comfortable reading in any other languages though they may be fluent in speaking English. This situation prevails across the demographic.
- Newspapers headlines, etc. in English can be read and understood by many people. But when it comes to serious or heavy reading, they prefer to do so in Tamil. According to Satya, less than 10 percent of the 70 million plus Tamil language speakers can read English.
- Practise of reading books is not very prevalent in the state of Tamil Nadu. Most people prefer to watch regional language content on YouTube or on TV rather than reading.
- History, self help and biographies and novels are most commonly read books in Tamil.
- New Horizon Media has published over 100 audiobooks. Nearly a decade ago, they released the audio in CD-ROM format. A small percentage of customers became fans of audiobooks, but because the majority of customers weer not used to listening to books, them market did not take off.
- Satya believes that content which is created specifically for audio format will work much better than print books which are narrated as audiobooks. Particularly for regional languages, Satya believes that audio has a greater growth potential. Communication and knowledge transfer can happen much more effectively in audio format.
- New Horizon Media tried to partner with Radio channels in the past for audio shows, but that experiment did not work out very well due to difference in approach to monetization. This has changed today with use of smartphones and podcasting apps.
Resources and References mentioned in the podcast
- Satya’s interview with Hemu Ramaiah
- Satya’s blog on Education
- Satya’s LinkedIn Profile
- New Horizon Media (about Satya)
- Publishing Next (about Satya)
Ways to Contact