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These 15 leading women in publishing have reinvented the Indian industry and made a mark for themselves on the way. A quick look at some of the leading names you should know!
Decades ago, the global publishing space was dominated entirely by men. Not any more though. Today women occupy plum roles in Indian publishing houses, calling the shots, making critical decisions and indeed, taking the whole publishing industry by storm by being at the forefront of innovation. Here are 15 spirited women in publishing who are at the helm of the country’s biggest publishing houses or have started their own publishing ventures.
Their commitment to literary work, to taking authors to a wider reading public, and to bringing out uniquely Indian writing (and increasingly, illustration) play a big role in creating the vibrant publishing industry that we have today. Some of them have also played a big role in bringing feminist writing to a much wider audience in India and across the world.
Diya Kar Hazra is the woman behind Pan Macmillan India’s country imprints. She has over two decades of experience in the publishing industry, having worked with some of the biggest names. She began her career with Harper Collins where she worked in the editorial and marketing teams. Diya then moved on to Penguin books and later to the London based Bloomsbury, before joining Pan Macmillan. Noteworthy authors published by her include Amitav Ghosh, Ramachandra Guha, William Dalrymple, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Jeet Thayil, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri and Bapsi Sidhwa.
Chiki Sarkar is one of the most innovative women in the Indian publishing space. She began her career with Bloomsbury later moving on to Random House. With the merger of Penguin books and Random House, she took over the mantle to become the country head. In April 2016, Chiki quit Penguin to start her venture – Juggernaut. Juggernaut as a publishing company focuses on delivering fiction in a digital format, especially for mobile phones. It is the first app based mobile publishing firm in India and is surely creating a change in the way books are read and published.
Meet the duo Sayoni Basu and Anushka Ravishankar, who are the founders of Duckbill books. Duckbill brings out fun-filled books for children including the popular ‘Hole Books’ and others for readers from six year olds to young adults.
Anushka Ravishankar is a well-known children’s author having authored over 25 books, many of which have been published internationally. Anushka has also been associated with Tara books and as the publishing director of Scholastic India. As an editor, she has worked with noteworthy authors such as Paro Anand, Manjula Padmanabhan and Meera Uberoi, among others.
Sayoni Basu is a veteran children’s publisher with over 13 years of experience in the publishing industry. Her experiences include her stint at Oxford University Press and Penguin India. She was in charge of the children’s list at Puffin India, before she joined Scholastic India as publishing director, a position she held for several years. Most recently, she worked at ACK Media as the group publisher. As an editor she has worked with well-known authors like Siddhartha Sarma, Anushka Ravishankar, Samit Basu, Jerry Pinto, Manjula Padmanabhan, Ruskin Bond and APJ Abdul Kalam, among others.
Till recently, Karthika was the spearhead of Harper Collins India. She was its publisher and chief editor when she resigned from her position after her decade long stint. One of the best regarded names in the Indian publishing scene, she started her career with Penguin books India in 1996, and then moved over to Harper Collins. She has published some of the biggest names such as the Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga, Anita Nair, Rana Dasgupta and Manu Joseph. Karthika has also worked with Hussain Zaidi, known for his work on the Mumbai bomb blasts.
Her contribution to Harper Collins goes further. She oversaw the publishing programme of the Indian wing of Harlequin, which also owns HarperCollins. It was under her, that Harper Collins was able to bring about poetry and graphic fiction to mainstream reading each year. Acclaimed poets like Karthika Nair and graphic novelists like Amruta Patil are worth noting here. During her stint, Karthika also launched the sports imprint with biographies of stars like Sania Mirza, Abhinav Bindra and Shoaib Akhtar. News reports suggest that she is to join Westland Publishers and start a new division there.
Poulomi Chatterjee is the Editorial Director at Hachette India. Poulomi began her publishing career with Macmillan India and then with Penguin books, where she managed the editorial as well as the rights and contracts departments. She has worked with some of the most talented Indian writers in English.
Urvashi Butalia started her career with Oxford University Press in Delhi. Quite early in her career, she started a feminist publishing house called Kali for Women in 1984, along with Ritu Menon. She has written on many issues topics ranging from gender issues to communalism. Kali for Women aimed to increase the body of knowledge on women in the third world. It provided a forum for women writers both creative and academic. However, the publication was later split and Urvashi started Zubaan Books with a focus on fiction and non-academic books.
With Zubaan books, Urvashi began publishing feminist writing, fiction, children’s titles and other general interest books.
Ritu Menon founded Kali for Women along with Urvashi Butalia. After it was shut down, Ritu started her own publishing house called Women Unlimited. Ritu has been a regular columnist in numerous newspapers. Her writing predominantly focuses on women and gender issues. Ritu has also co-authored books. Her latest book (co-authored with Kalpana Kannabiran) is titled From Mathura to Manorama: Resisting Violence Against Women in India.
Nilanjana has worked for over fifteen years in media and publishing. She has been the chief editor at Westland Tranquebar and has also served on the jury for the Crossword book prize. She is the author of The Wildings which won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2013. Nilanjana’s column on the reading life for the Business Standard has run for over 15 years. She has also been featured in the New York Times and the Kolkata Telegraph, and has contributed to the BBC, Outlook, The New Republic, Huffington Post and several other publications.
Mandira Sen is a partner in Bhatkal and Sen, a publishing house that brings out the imprints, Stree and Samya. These focus on Gender and cultural studies. Based out of Calcutta, the publishing house publishes around 8-9 books a year. She started her career in the USA as an editorial assistant at Schenkman Publishing Co at Harvard Square in 1972, continuing as one in Little Brown’s medical publishing department in Boston, and as a copyeditor at Houghton Mifflin’s trade department. She later returned to India to become the regional editor of Orient Longman. She is also a partner of Independent Publishers Distribution Alternatives (IPDA).
Arpita Das owns the Delhi-based independent publishing house Yoda Press. Founded in the year 2004, along with her friend Parul Nayyar, today Yoda Press has built a strong reputation, having published some noteworthy books, such as Sunil Gupta’s photo-memoir, Wish You Were Here, the illustrated – A Little Book on Men; and Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Arpita and her publishing house. From the initial challenges of raising capital to taking on bigger players in the publishing industry, Yoda Press has seen it all. In 2010, Yoda’s publishing programme expanded to include travelogues, memoirs, and books on food, poetry and even fiction. As a publisher, Arpita believes that she is not a gatekeeper but a facilitator in knowledge-production and over the years, the house has managed to leave a mark in the publishing sphere
Radhika Menon is the spirit behind Tulika books which is known for children’s publishing in India. Tulika publishes books in nine Languages, English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla. Started in 1996, with an aim to bridge the gap between knowledge and imagination, today the publishing house has grown to provide a wide range of quality books for young readers.
Tulika has published over a thousand odd titles and is considered a benchmark in children’s publishing.
Shobha Viswanath is the co-founder and Publishing Director of Karadi Tales Company. Karadi Tales is known for its brilliantly produced audio-books for children, illustrated books for the visually disabled, and inspiring audio biographies for young adults.
It is Shobha’s vision that has steered Karadi Tales into the world-class publishing house that it is today. Karadi tales has a range of books, and the house is working towards converting traditional tales to other platforms such as digital applications, video books and e-books.
A writer, editor, educator and Executive Director of Katha, Geeta Dharmarajan focuses on education through stories, especially of children from poor families.
Through her venture Katha, which also included the Katha Prize Stories, she has edited more than 200 of India’s best literary talents, in 21 Indian languages. Katha books are a compilation of contemporary Indian fiction. She instituted the Katha Awards for Literary Excellence, curated Katha Festivals and utsavs that bring literature to the public. She also started a children’s magazine called Target, and was associated with The Pennsylvania Gazette, the award-winning alumni magazine of the University of Pennsylvania.
Gita Wolf founded Tara Books over twenty years ago. Based in Chennai, Tara Books over the years has garnered immense reach both within the country as well as internationally. Bringing out high quality books for young readers, Tara books is unique in its own way. It works closely with folk artists from around the country and concentrating on creating content that abides to its core values of respecting individuals and their cultures.
Gita Wolf herself has authored over 14 award-winning books for children and adults. An academician by training, she explores books and experiments with the form of the book and its status as a revered cultural object.
These women in publishing have created the space for more and more women to enter the publishing industry in every capacity. If you are a reader, chances are that your life has been enriched by their work!