Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The joys of Rudyard Kipling, retold by Heather Adams

Would you like to do a book reading? What a question to ask a ‘just published’ writer. How can I refuse? Vanity gets the better of me and I say YES – it’s all in a good cause, of course! And I now feel like a ‘proper author’.

With time on my hands when I first moved to India, I started rediscovering the joys of Rudyard Kipling and the Jungle Book. To my amazement I then discovered that my favourite Just So stories were not available in an easy to read format. Now, here was something I could do to fill my days….retelling the Just So stories for Ladybird's Favourite Tales.

Retelling the stories were easy with RK (as I fondly called him) looking over my shoulder at each step of the way. His marvellous language once more reminding me of the wonderous world we live in and the joys of imagination. What fun he must have had creating the stories and telling them to his children. What fun did I have retelling them for our little ones of today and reading them aloud to just about anybody I could get to sit still long enough to listen!

The beauty of the books lie in the imaginative world Kipling creates – and the fantastic pictures created by the illustrators for the Ladybird editions. I feel like a fraud for my part in it all.

Still fraud or not, the book reading is booked and the day arrives. I choose two books to read (How the Camel got his Hump and How the Elephant got its Trunk) and nervously turn up wondering what will happen. Eureka, the specialist children’s bookstore in Alaknanda, are marvellous. 20 parents signed up their children to savour the delights of the Just So stories – or to have a Sunday morning in peace – but the results are the same: 40 deep brown eyes looking up expectantly at me and happy to go on their own journey of self discovery into the world of Kipling. How magnificent. If only adults could suspend all judgement and go with the flow. It was magical and good for the soul. The children were enthralled in the stories, joining in as appropriate, asking questions, being concerned for the hero (the baby elephant having his nose pulled in this case), delighting in the world Kipling created. They made my day.

Thank you Mina for persuading me to do the reading, thank you Ladybird for publishing the Just So stories, thank you children for just being you.

Oh, and I’ve now agreed to do a reading at Bookaroo, the Children’s Literary Festival in Sanskriti Anandgram, on 28th and 29th November. See you there!

Heather Adams
Editor - Penguin Portfolio

Friday, April 3, 2009

SPECIAL GUEST BLOG by Elaina Zuker on the changing nature of the New World

Here, Elaina Zuker, author of The Seven Secrets of Influence, looks at the diversity of issues facing today's workforce, and how your "Portable Power (TM) Tools" can help you achieve those crucial career goals.

Welcome to the New World of unprecedented change

As many of us are all too painfully aware, change seems to be the only constant these days. Many organizations (and the individuals in them) are, voluntarily or reluctantly, finding themselves in a world that may not resemble anything they ever imagined.

Economic conditions, changing social and political climates and current sociological trends in human behavior have led to a number of challenging issues in today’s workplace, in private industry, and especially in State Government.

Some of the most significant of these are:

New Technologies have revolutionized the flow of communications across departmental and functional lines. Even “technocrats” and former loners (individual contributors) now must work on teams and task forces with others. New technological advances, which promised to make our lives easier, and in many ways have, also have distanced us from our fellows. As John Naisbitt said in his book “Megatrends”, “HI-TECH leaps ahead, HIGH TOUCH lags behind”. In other words, we are losing the very important personal contact with other individuals, and our human interaction skills are getting rusty in the process.

More and more, we will have to influence others in order to achieve our own goals.

Innovation is no longer just the province of ”research” or “development”. Now, we are all required to come up with innovative solutions to problems. But good ideas are just that, until you can influence someone to take action. So, we are all going to have to become better influencers.

New Worker Values. There is a new sociology in today’s workforce: workers are more sophisticated, have different expectations and want less of a “command” style and more of an “influence” style from their management. Managers will have to learn new ways of managing and motivating their people in a more open, participative, “influencing” fashion.

Organizational Structures are changing in rapidly accelerating ways. Most organizations are becoming flatter, less hierarchical. This is partly the result of much “streamlining”, “downsizing” and “reorganizing”. Networks and staff roles become much more important in this kind of structure, and there is much more need for interdepartmental and cross-functional collaboration. People at all levels must learn new sets of skills - Influence Skills - in order to survive in this “matrix” type of organization (some have called it the new “ad-hocracy”)

With all these changes and uncertainties going on, neither WHAT (your technical or professional expertise) you know nor WHO you know (your network of contacts) will guarantee your success. Your technical know-how can become obsolete with the next new innovation, and even your network of carefully acquired contacts can vanish overnight with a surprise “reorganization”.

What will help? Portable Power (TM) Influence skills - a set of Skills you can take with you any time, anywhere you are in any organization.

What is Influence? We define Influence as the “power to affect change, or to achieve a result, without the use of force or formal authority”. This means that in order to be truly influencing, you must cause a change of some kind in another’s behavior, actions, attitudes or values. In some cases, the desired effect might not be immediately apparent, as in changing attitudes. This can be a much longer process and will only result in changed behavior at a later time. And notice that we are saying that Influence is different from formal authority. Any bully can say, “I’m the boss and you must do as I say”, but that requires no skill. We have seen that while some may be “born Influencers”, almost anyone can learn to develop these basic skills. We believe Influence is a simple but powerful tool to help you get the results you want.

Some Myths About Influence

Many people believe that the ability to influence others is simply a matter of good communications skills. Not so. Communications skills are only one part of the equation in getting other people to do what you want them to do. To achieve enthusiastic cooperation and consistent high performance, successful influencers use a carefully orchestrated, strategic approach.

Some people think that “real” managers do not need influence skills.” After all, the manager can demand that the staff carry out instructions. Wrong again. Today’s employees are less likely to mindlessly obey the old style, “top-down” kind of management.

Finally, the word “influence” is often maligned, especially in government, and thought to connote manipulation. Is there a difference, or is the use of “influence” just another way of saying “manipulation”?

A way to distinguish between the two is that while “manipulation”, strictly speaking, means “skillful handling” an interaction can be said to be a positive influence when the influencer has the intention to provide value, ad benefit or enhance the experience of the other person. It can be called “manipulation” if there is an intention to exploit or mislead the other, or to misrepresent the product or service. Positive influence has as its result a “win-win” outcome. Both parties in the transaction reach their goals and sometimes even exceed them.

How Can You Learn to Be a Better Influencer?

Research has shown that there are six basic influence styles we all use. We determine this by the use of a specially designed questionnaire, Secrets of Influence ™Inventory”, which we use in our seminars, (a version of the Inventory and a detailed analysis of all six styles is contained in the book, “The Seven Secrets of Influence”) Each style is a “road”- an approach, made up of a number of different skills or behaviors. For example, one of the styles, called “Telling” or “Analyst” describes a person who favors reason, logic and an orderly process for influencing others. This is the kind of person who must see concrete and solid evidence and data, in order to be convinced.

Other styles are characterized by skills and behaviors such as negotiation, or gaining rapport, strong listening, or creating a sense of vision or mission.

Most of us use one dominant or preferred style, and while it is interesting to become aware of one’s own style, if you are only using the same style all the time, you may not be as effective as you can be.

The real key to successful influencing is our “formula” INFLUENCE = ATTENTIVENESS = FLEXIBILITY. That is, one must learn to become aware of other peoples’ styles, (Attentiveness) and then develop the Flexibility to shift into another’s style, so that they feel most comfortable. People are usually influenced by a style similar to their own.

The result? You will be a more effective influencer, and will have a set of your own “Portable Power Tools” to enhance your success in the fast-changing, exciting workplace of the 21st Century


To learn more about how to determine your own Personal Influence Profile, how to analyze your Influence Styles and those of others, and how to put these powerful tools and skills to work for you, you can order the book, The Seven Secrets of Influence, which was released in March, or visit the website
Elaina Zuker

Monday, March 30, 2009

Treasure Found!

The Delhi Treasure Hunt, part of the online promotions for Sam Miller's Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity, came to an end with our winners Vipra and Ambika Malik (see below) solving the final clue and discovering the treasure first! They win Rs 5,000 worth of books of their choice courtesy of IndiaPlaza. 5 runners-up also found the treasure to claim their prizes of Rs 1,000 worth of books each.

Winners Vipra and Ambika Malik with author Sam Miller

For those of you who weren't sure, the Treasure was located in the park, in Panchsheel Park, hidden behind the 'Uneven Walk' which forms part of the Fitness Trail there. Watch a video as author Sam Miller reveals where exactly it was hidden here.

We created a special minisite for the book, containing photos, features surrounding Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity, and the Treasure Hunt, and I’m pleased to say that it received over 15,000 page views since it was launched.

The Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity Facebook Group has a fantastic 550 members, many of whom have taken part in the quizzes, ‘fill in the blanks’, ‘translate the Hindi blue movies’ and other games that have been taking place online. See more photos from Treasure Hunt.

The Google Map we created had over 640 views throughout the Treasure Hunt, and contains extracts from the book, plus other information about Delhi.

Thanks to everyone who took part, we hope you had as much fun solving the Treasure Hunt as we did in creating it!

Keep an eye out for similar online initiatives soon!

Guy Fowles
Business Development & New Media
Penguin Books India

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Delhi Treasure Hunt reaches its conclusion!

Over the last two months we've tried something a bit different in promoting Sam Miller's Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity online.

In the book, Sam, a BBC journalist, undertakes a series of walks around Delhi, traveling in an anti-clockwise spiral as he works his way out of the city, writing about his adventures, the people he meets, and the fascinating eccentricities of India's capital.

We decided to replicate his journey on Google Maps, offering people extracts from the book, and photos Sam took during his walks. But there was a twist-the Delhi Treasure Hunt! Each week as the spiral grew we set clues to be solved, which in the end reveals the whereabouts of the real-life Treasure. There has been a great response to the Hunt, with lots of people enjoying following Sam as we recreated his journey online.

In addition to the Treasure Hunt we set up a Facebook Group for the book, filling it with additional photos, games, quizzes, and information surrounding the book. The group has some 540 members, many of whom have joined in the fun by writing pieces on Delhi and posting comments to the photos, particularly when translating 'blue' film posters from Hindi into English!

The final clue has just been published, and the Treasure will be in place from 10am, tomorrow morning, Saturday, 21st March. Whoever solves the clues and finds it first will be declared the winner, and receive Rs 5,000 worth of books of their choice, courtesy of IndiaPlaza. 5 runners-up will get Rs 1,000 worth of books.

Good luck to all those who are taking part in the Delhi Treasure Hunt, we hope you are successful in your quest! Here's a final hint to help those of you still struggling:

Guy Fowles
Business Development & New Media

Monday, February 2, 2009

Defining Diaspora: Hari Kunzru, Nadeem Aslam, Tahmima Anam and Tash Aw

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2009 took place recently at the lavishly-decorated Diggi Palace, on the outskirts of the famously Pink City. Author discussions (such as the one below, featuring Michael Wood and Charles Nicholl), book readings, and all-things literary were the delightful order of the day:

One of the sessions I was lucky enough to attend, 'Defining Diaspora', was chaired loosely by Penguin India's very own Hari Kunzru, who was joined on stage by Nadeem Aslam, Tahmima Anam, and Tash Aw to discuss their feelings towards diaspora, and how these might have changed from previous generations.

The first subject the panel addressed was their relationship with the English language. English, Hari felt, had become very much the ' lingua franca' in south-east Asia, and this allowed him to reach out to as wide an audience as possible. Tash Aw agreed, pointing out this was especially the case within middle-class book readers. The panel dismissed the common notion that the use of English is a colonial hangover; things have moved on, it seems, at least within literary circles, from the resentment in postcolonial attitudes, or within postcolonial literature, as suggested here.

One thing that had remained the same, Tahmima Anam noted, was the practice by book publishers to stereotype disasporic or ethnic writers by portraying iconic images of south-east Asia on their book covers. For Tahmina, from Bangladesh, it was the classic 'woman-in-a-sari' tag, on which I found an interesting debate, whereas for Tash, from Malaysia, it was 'houses on stilts...or naked Chinese chicks', the first of which can be seen on a Spanish version of one of his books below:

Having exhausted themes from their own cultures, are European publishers looking to play the ethnic card too often these days? This was a subject raised by both the panel and members of the audience, and perhaps works to the advantage of the 'displaced' writer, propelling them above their less exotic counterparts. Several people felt publishing houses were too quick to compartmentalise all of south-Asian literature, when surely this area is too vast a fiefdom to fit snugly under a generic 'Asian' umbrella.

Whereas diasporic writers before them drew from their experiences to serve as a vehicle for passionate vitriol against colonial oppressors, superbly in some cases (Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart springs to mind, you can read an extract here), there certainly seemed to be less resentment in the panel's feelings towards the past, and in turn the focus of their writing.

Nadeem Aslam (below), felt no pressure to write from a personal cultural viewpoint; instead he argued it was his skill as a writer that allowed him to craft a book. He also revealed that for his next novel, which is based in Afghanistan, he spent time researching the experiences of Afghanistani immigrants now living in the UK, and he would draw from these memories to construct the book.

In closing, displacement, Hari Kunzru surmised, although uncomfortable at times, ultimately provided the creative spark, because it is the very feeling of not belonging that actually enhanced their writing. As the great Lee Marvin once said, "I'm an ex-citizen of nowhere. And sometimes I get mighty homesick..."

It would be interesting to get your thoughts on diaspora and how it impacts on a writer's work, do you feel the definition of diaspora has changed over different generations? Has the subject matter of 'diasporic' books similarly shifted over time?

Guy Fowles
Business Development & New Media

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Summer of Cool - Suchitra Krishnamoorthi on her return to innocence

Over the coming week, we'll be featuring recent interviews with our latest, coolest author, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, in which she discusses her book, The Summer of Cool, the first in the exciting new Swapnolock Society series, and other aspects of her busy life.

Here Suchitra reveals how writing The Summer of Cool was her attempt to return to innocence:

Sometime in late 2007 I decided to take a couple of months off from painting continuously for the last three years. I was exhausted and needed some refueling. My plan was to sit back and do nothing, except perhaps to read gossip magazines (even a novel seemed daunting) watch the sunset, go for a jog on the beach and spend hours at my local spa.

But I couldn't stick to my plan beyond a week, when restlessness crept in and the compulsive creative need for expression took over once again. I decided to revisit a story idea in my head that I had written a synopsis for many years ago. The story of a ten year old girl looking for her father and her trials and tribulations in that journey. As I started to write, I delved into the rich memories of my own growing years in a very interactive and involved housing society in downtown Mumbai. So, many of the characters and incidents from my childhood emerged (my friends will forgive me for using their names I hope).

There was underwear aunty and underwear uncle, jealous aunty, Haldi maami and her cola water, a khadoos uncle who hated dogs, the building bully, the beautiful confident friend from London, the upstairs boy who flirts with my didi and many more. Of course as the story evolved I found that the characters were speaking words to me that came not only from my memory, of events that had actually occurred but also from the magic of my own imagination. I heard them laugh I heard them cry, I felt the breath in their hearts as they whispered their secrets to me. The process has been fascinating and exhilarating.

What is the series about? Why the name Swapnalok Society? Is it like Harry Potter? Is it a children's book? These are the questions I am frequently asked.

Swapnalok Society is a really metaphor for urban utopia. A world in itself. A parallel universe where all the questions and answers are contained within the four walls of the housing complex. Where people are as nice as they are naughty, as comical as they are conniving, and as good as bad can be. It's a place where children run free, a place where dreams come true.

It's a series of books for children and for the child in every adult. Was "The Alchemist" a children’s book? Or "The little prince" a children’s book? I have no answer. I read them both as an adult and I continue to read them even today so maybe I'm an overgrown kid then. Dang! I hate to admit that my mother is right on that one. I also have to admit that when I was writing The Summer of Cool (the first in the Swapnalok Society series) I kept in mind that my daughter Kaveri should be able to read it in a few years time. So there are no gangsters, no whores, no swear words and no sex scenes.

The Summer of Cool was supposed to be a one off thing. I finished writing it in six weeks, and dashed if off to a friend of a friend who happened to be in the publishing world. I was delighted at the enthusiastic response I received from Sudeshna Shome Ghose, the Commissioning Editor at Penguin Books India. Not only did she love The Summer of Cool she was asking me to develop it into a series called 'Swapnalok Society' and write three more books along the same lines. The challenge was too great for me to not take it up and I must confess here that I have surprised myself. The process of writing is thrilling and more satisfying than I imagined.

The world is getting better and better.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Become a spy in Puffin's Alternate Reality Game!

The Shadow War has officially started! Become either a British or Russian agent in the Young Bond alternate reality game.

To celebrate Young Bond: By Royal Command, we thought it was time to invite you, the reader, to become Bond...James Bond!

The Shadow War involves seven missions which takes the intrepid adventures in the world of Young Bond. It's never too late to join - head over to for details of your first mission!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The people inside our markets – part I SPECIAL GUEST BLOG BY NANDAN NILEKANI

Nandan Nilekani, author of Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, blogs about the rationality of spending.

I recently had a very interesting conversation with the Harvard economist Dr. Sendhil Mullainathan. Economists have recently been looking at how large a role human behaviour and incentives play when it comes to markets, and how people treat money; this is a big part of Sendhil’s work.

Sendhil’s particular interest is in how the poor, especially in rural India, respond to the lending and savings solutions that banks offer them. Sendhil points out to me, that what the financial sector typically does is take the banking solutions they have for the middle class and offer it to the poor. This does not work well because the way the poor earn their incomes is very different from the salaried class. Indian farmers for example, typically earn a chunk of income every six months or so, after harvesting and selling their crops.

For these farmers, paying loans on monthly installments, and saving money becomes an extremely difficult thing to do. ‘Its difficult for people to spend a large amount of money they suddenly receive, very carefully,’ Sendhil points out. Its human nature – people who get rare windfalls of cash find it difficult to plan and spend the money in small amounts. The impulse is then to celebrate - what money they receive they splurge, spending on weddings, family events and ‘conspicuous consumption’. Such consumption is especially important for the poor. As recent work on low income communities points out:

“Conspicuous consumption…. is not an unambiguous signal of personal affluence. It’s a sign of belonging to a relatively poor group. Visible luxury thus serves less to establish the owner’s positive status as affluent than to fend off the negative perception that the owner is poor. ”

As a result, the poor often have little money leftover for monthly expenditures such as schooling for their children, and even food and clothing.

Sendhil and other economists have been trying to devise specific banking solutions, which for example, allow rural workers to pay out big chunks of their loans at the end of the harvesting season. They are also working on other solutions which help them manage their money better, through micro-insurance schemes and savings accounts that allow large deposits and automated monthly payouts.

This new focus on human behavior– and tailoring market solutions accordingly – has become a focus for economists across different fields. They argue that people don’t always keep a complete hold on the real value of an asset when they are buying or selling in a market. The truth of that is pretty apparent when I look at our everyday purchase decisions. My friend hankers after the newest mobile phone or PDA - even though he (and many other likely buyers) feel that a part of the high price comes from the hype, and that ten months later once the next version is out, this one is relatively worthless, both to him and on eBay. We are rarely completely rational in our purchases — whether that’s a house, the latest gizmo, or a car loan.

So new theories around real estate and credit bubbles – which is the root of the global downtown we are now facing– have focused on how people in real life react to regulation, easy credit, and speculative prices in real estate and the stock market, and how the collective mood, rather than any fundamental numbers, works in sending economies into upswings and downturns.

Tying our individual and collective behavior to economic theory is not going to be an exact science. But I am still betting that it will give us some new, powerful insights.

Visit the official site of Imagining India here; designed to serve as a living companion to the book for readers who want to delve deeper into the book’s material and themes, and who want to carry forward the discussion on the ideas that have shaped, and continue to shape India.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Nandan Nilekani, author of Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, blogs about the attacks in Mumbai.

Where was the mayor?
December 14th, 2008

There was a very good reason for Rudolph Giuliani to run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 – the formidable reputation in crisis management that the former New York mayor had gained after the 9/11 attacks struck the city. He was photographed at Ground Zero immediately after the planes mowed into the Twin Towers, and was a prominent presence on the airwaves in the days after. He came through as decisive and in complete charge of the city’s response to the terrorist attack; in fact, criticism later converged on whether his presence influenced decisions too much, rather than not enough.

But in Mumbai after 26/11, all we received from our mayor was deafening silence.

The lack of comment or reaction was probably expected. I doubt many in Mumbai even know who the mayor of the city is – it’s a largely ceremonial post. There was no powerful official representing Mumbai’s city administration simply because the administration has no power to speak of. The responses in the immediate aftermath of the attacks – orders to the police and military, evacuation operations – flowed from the state and central governments. It was the state, central and defence officials who seemed to be in charge. An entire tier of government at the local level appeared non-existent.

This had huge repercussions in the speed and efficiency with which Mumbai responded to the attacks. The city’s police were ill-equipped for any sort of rapid response. The NSG commandos who cleared the hotels had to be flown in from Delhi – and after their arrival in Mumbai, had to wait for hours to be transported from the airport.

In a crisis, the city was thus left helpless, its institutions frozen in place. The power of city administrations has in fact, been deliberately hollowed out since independence, as state governments superseded city authority and co-opted its power. The decline of the Indian city took a decisive turn after the battle over Bombay in the 1950s, when states were being formed according to linguistic boundaries. Bombay presented a puzzle to the Indian government – while it lay in the heart of Maharashtra, it had Gujarati as well as Marathi residents, and vast numbers of other language communities. Nehru proposed at a point that Bombay become a separate, bilingual area, but the rioting and protests that ensued forced him to back down, and the city became an unequivocal part of Maharashtra. Since then, our cities have been passive and subordinate to the state governments. The bulk of city taxes are collected by the state and central governments and administration is dominated by state run agencies. And with local authorities powerless and unaccountable to citizens, city infrastructure has neared collapse.

The disadvantages of weak and ineffectual city governance become most stark in these times of disaster. The Mumbai floods in 2005 saw civilians far more present in rescue and rehabilitation operations than civic agencies. When calamity hits, the lack of local power and the authority to respond instantly, means that such events are far more catastrophic than they need to be. The twin challenges of climate change and terror are therefore only going to get exacerbated.

The Indian city has long been exiled from our collective imagination. The romance of the ‘village republic’ for India’s politicians and the strong association of the city with the British Imperial Raj doomed the city in Independent India. Gandhi said, ‘I regard the growth of cities as an evil thing’ and for Nehru the city of New Delhi was ‘un-Indian’. Cities were barely mentioned in the Indian Constitution, and were constitutional orphans for over four decades, passed over in favour of state and central government. It was only in 1992, that the Narasimha Rao government passed the 73rd and 74th amendments, which mandated more power to local bodies in cities and villages. Even these amendments were meant to fulfil Rajiv Gandhi’s dream of the Panchayat Raj and village power - city governments were an afterthought.

But these changes, and the powers that the amendments offer, have largely remained on paper – states have been reluctant to cede powers of taxation and control over their cities. The possibility of competition from the grassroots has made state political parties wary of an ‘hour glass’ effect, of being squeezed in the middle between a strong centre and powerful cities. And no state Chief Minister wants to let go the money and patronage that comes from controlling urban land.

But there is some pressure for change. In the years since independence, it was easy for Indian governments at both the state and the centre to dismiss urban India as somehow ‘inauthentic’, and not as legitimate or representative as the rural country. Even today the former CM of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy justifies protests about Bangalore’s school children reaching home 5 hours late due to his party rally as the outpouring of an ‘effete’ IT/BPO crowd, and the BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Naqvi dismisses ‘women with lipstick’ as somehow not eligible to protest.

But as the spontaneous outpourings in our cities over the terror tragedy has shown, there is change in the air. As India’s urban population steadily grows they will demand more local empowerment. And the implementation of the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations will increase urban representatives in the state legislature reversed this marginalising of urban India. But these are small steps, and crises like the one we just witnessed shows how urgent empowering our city governments has become.

We cannot keep our cities – the centres of our economic growth, innovation and where we are most able to move beyond our caste and our past – weakened and marginal in our politics. This imbalance has led to the decline we can see in every Indian city, the apathy made concrete in our crumbling roads, massive encroachments, and our chaotic, unplanned growth. Without local governments that answer directly to their citizens, urban India will face the threat of being mauled again when the next crisis hits.

Visit the official site of Imagining India here; designed to serve as a living companion to the book for readers who want to delve deeper into the book’s material and themes, and who want to carry forward the discussion on the ideas that have shaped, and continue to shape India.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Imagining India is launched in Delhi

Amid critical acclaim and interest, last night saw the launch of Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, by Nandan Nilekani (near left), at the ITC Maurya, Delhi, in front of a packed audience that included Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Mike Bryan (far left), CEO & President, Penguin Books India, spoke about the lasting impression Imagining India had left on him, and explained how apt it was that Nandan's book should be the first title in India to be published under Penguin's non-fiction imprint Allen Lane - a stable of 'some of the greatest minds from across the world' that includes Amartya Sen, Thomas Friedman, Joseph Stiglitz and Richard Dawkins. Mike then invited the 'founding father of Penguin India', David Davidar, on stage to introduce Nandan Nilekani.

David Davidar (left), currently President of Penguin Canada, revealed that Imagining India offers: 'several kinds of wisdom that no other non-fiction book on India is able to do.'

An all-encompassing book, Imagining India effectively examines the problems, prospects and chances of achieving superpower status, he said, before inviting the highly respected author, Nandan Nilekani (below), to impart his knowledge and theories on India to the expectant audience.

"It is all about ideas. Ideas happen not because of diktats, but because society starts believing that the ideas are the best for them".

"For instance, the idea of English in India began as a language of outsourcing by the British - forging a collective linguistic unity. But post-Independence, it became the language of imperialism. The same language, however, came back in the globalised era as the language of outsourcing," Nilekani explained.

Technology in India has undergone a similar transition, he revealed. Whereas it first appeared as an intimidating force that people were reluctant to embrace, now it is being utilised as a tool of empowerment. However, the key to harnessing the potential of India's technological strength is by providing access to all; looking throughout India as a totality, a 'unity of aspirations', Nandan said.

Nandan (left) claimed that India is the only country in the world to possess the following six attributes that he felt would be critical to its success: population, democracy, technology, globalisation, English and ideas. This puts India at a unique global advantage, he proposed, so long as these factors are managed effectively.

In what was quickly becoming a fascinating speech about India and its future prospects, as well as offering a tantalising glimpse of the content of Imagining India, Nandan postulated that it is the speed of movement towards a single market that has determined the growth of different industries in India. Whilst the services sector now functions on a national level, manufacturing exists on a state level and agriculture remains on a provincial level, he explained.

In Imagining India, Nandan presents his set of 18 ideas that are divided into three broad groups - concepts that are already in place, contested ideas, and ideas to anticipate.

Focusing on what he saw as future initiatives, Nandan drew attention to improvements in health patterns, pension schemes (to which he paid tribute to Finance Minister P Chidambaram (above right)) and environmental issues including a post-carbon economy. One of the most difficult challenges would be to break the link between carbon emission and income growth, he prophesised.

The key to successful evolution of ideas, Nandan concluded, was to embrace and understand the history of India, then look towards the future by connecting the dots between all social aspects that influence this great country, and crucially, provide access to all.

Mike Bryan then hosted a Q+A session with the audience putting their questions to Nandan, the most significant concerning his view on the differing attitudes to emerge over the last 20 years in India, to which he replied: "More than ever people are taking charge of their lives now...a collective spirit has been unleashed." Imagining India indeed.

Watch highlights from the book launch here:

Visit the official Imagining India website here:
Guy Fowles
Online Marketing

Monday, November 3, 2008

Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani, the co-chairman of Infosys Technologies and Thomas L. Friedman’s muse for The World is Flat (who also has a new book out called Hot, Flat and Crowded), is working on his own book titled Imagining India; his attempt, as he puts it, to address a gap in understanding India. Imagining India is published by Penguin in November.

Delivering the global leader lecture at Johns Hopkins University’s school of advanced international studies in June, Nilekani spoke of the six things that changed in the mindset of india:

1) Earlier, population was looked at as a burden and a lot of things that happened in the 1960s and ’70s—like family planning and sterilisation and the Emergency and so forth—were related to the belief that population was getting out of control and that it was actually a problem to have a large population. Today, we think of it as human capital. And, this has become even more critical because India is going to be the only young country in an ageing world and that really makes a huge difference.

2) Entrepreneurs are no longer viewed with suspicion but as icons of economic growth. Since 1991, there has been a huge expansion of enterprise, there is a far bigger role for the private sector and for industry. India today has the largest pool of entrepreneurial talent outside the United States. Indian entrepreneurs are not afraid of liberalisation any more. They are very confident and globally competitive and they are not only investing abroad, they are buying companies abroad.

3) English is no longer viewed as an imperial language that has to be jettisoned but as a language of aspiration that has to be really cultivated. All the political angst about English has disappeared largely because of the growth in the economy, the growth of outsourcing, the growth of jobs. More and more people, whether they are in villages or small towns, are realising that if they want to participate in the global economy and bring more income to their lives, they have to learn English. And the political system has accepted this because more and more states which had stopped teaching English are now going back to teaching English from class one.

4) The notion of democracy has undergone a major transformation from the time of india’s Independence. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was really a top-down idea. It was an idea of the leaders who had a certain vision of the kind of country they had to create, and it was given or gifted to all the people who may not have necessarily understood the value and import of what was happening. Today, it has gone on to become a bottom-up democracy where everybody understands their democratic rights. You see people taking charge and doing things without waiting for the state to do the job.

5) Technology has helped India leap-frog several decades from a very antiquated system to a very modern system. What people don’t realise is it has played as much a role in India’s internal development as it has in terms of the $50 billion in IT exports. The entire national elections of 2004 across were done digitally using electronic voting machines—there was no paper. Today, thanks to technology, India has the most modern stock markets in the world. The mobile phone has become accessible to everybody. It is touching every individual and we are seeing more and more applications, causing a quantum leap in productivity, fuelling economic growth.

6) India has adopted a progressive view of globalisation. Fundamentally the confidence that India has gained has made our worldview on globalisation far more positive. Our companies have become globally competitive and are willing to go out. More and more people are beginning to become far more comfortable with globalisation and they are realising the benefits of an open economy, of having their workers and their people all over the world, and of Indian companies exporting capital abroad.

Imagining India will be released in November, keep an eye out here for more information and features.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Penguin Annual Lecture - have YOUR say

‘A New Century—and the Dark Side of Globalization’

by Chancellor of the University of Oxford and University of Newcastle
and former Governor of Hong Kong

On Monday, 13th October 2008, Lord Chris Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong, delivered the second Penguin Annual Lecture entitled 'A New Century - and the Dark Side of Globalisation.

Below is a review of the Penguin Annual Lecture by Shivangi Singh & Nabila for

Patten’s wit peppers Penguin Lecture

The ambience at the British Council – the venue of the second Penguin annual lecture, exuded learning and knowledge. The stage was set against the background of huge placard in orange and black with the ‘Penguin’ logo, which announced that ‘The Penguin Annual Lecture 2008’ titled ‘A New Century – and the Dark Side of Globalization’ would be delivered by Lord Chris Patten, renowned author, the last Governor of Hong Kong and Chancellor of Oxford and Newcastle universities.

The lecture was based on Patten’s recently released work, “What Next? Surviving the Twenty-first Century” and was being broadcast live to the audiences at the British Council in Mumbai and Chennai.

Rajya Sabha MP and former member of the Planning Commission, N K Singh, was called upon the stage to deliver the introductory remarks. “It’s a pleasure to introduce Lord Chris Patten. I have, of course, with great interest read ‘What Next’ a few days ago, and just like his other two books, it deals with burning global issues like, climate change, pollution, institutions like UN…”

When the ‘serial chancellor’ Chris Patten was asked to take-over the stage, he set the mood of the evening with his witty one-liner, “Besides a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.”

Patten looked suave in a black suit with red polka-dotted tie. His voice commanded authority. He kept the listeners’ interest alive, speaking fluently on international issues of contemporary importance, peppering them with wit and humour.

He talked of the contemporary global situations, riveting the audience with his succinctly informative and wise words. He made all realize the reality saying, “Sometimes the change creeps up to us like children at grandma’s footsteps.”

Speaking about the plight of the contemporary world, he made the following tongue-in-cheek observation, “My grandfather’s generation spend their lives thinking on how much Germany spent on armaments. My father’s generation spend their lives thinking on how much Germany spent on armaments. We think – why is Germany not spending much on armaments.”

Chris Patten emphatically stated that the two countries that are crucial to the new regional and global power hierarchy and will remain so are China and India. “China and India are highly powerful economies with regional and global importance. India would embrace as explicitly as possible an international stage in the future and I also agree that India could be a superpower and a super democracy in a few years` time; but it is not there yet."

Patten said that the dark side of globalisation came into forefront after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He said the world`s population had increased fourfold and the number of industries 40 times. The number of people in cities had gone up 13 fold, the use of water by nine percent and the use of energy 13 times. Despite the leap in numbers, the principal players (read US, Europe) still remain the same. Of course, the nationalist citizen did not fail to add that though US is the superpower, Europe is the civilian power.

The tongue-in-cheek liners targeted at the US continued to tickle the listeners at intervals. The media present was personally amused when he said, “The media in US is deeply nationalist about every issue except ownership of media!”

"The US, with its military might and its superiority in space, water, land and air, still remains a superpower, though its soft power is not what it used to be. It has taken a beating with the humiliating discussion on whether torture was acceptable, the financial humbling of the Wall Street and the mountain of debt. The US is still the superpower; multilateralism does not work unless US is involved," he said.

Europe stands second in Patten`s globalised world order. "Europe is the second world and a significant civilian power. It is not going to become like a military might like the US because it is a union of sovereign nation-states. But Europe has its own demographic problems. The population is falling steeply and ageing rapidly - it is supposed to fall by 20 percent by the middle of the century," he added.

India and China, predicted Patten, were going to be the third players. "India, which had initially escaped growth, was now growing almost at the same rate as China. According to Goldman Sachs projections, India would grow longer at a substantial rate than anyone else," Patten expressed.

Patten, however gave a warning to the nationals of the two countries, “The state will become too weak in India, too strong in China. But the two countries would be major global players in the coming century. My only worry is that after sometime, the developed economies will stop believing in globalisation, and start feeling that China and India are better off and eventually lurch into protectionism - the bane of free trade."

Talking about the dark side of globalization, Chris Patten fluently said, “Frontiers are poorer now, terrorists use aircrafts. The 9/11 enterprise was paid through credit card - modern slave trade – migration – international crime - drugs trade - new problems of epidemic disease - 40 new diseases have come up after 2000 – TB, cholera are back”, all this and many other issues that comprise the dark side of globalization has been extensively dealt with in his book ‘What Next’.

The book deals with two other important global topics: Climate change and Sovereignty. Talking of climate change, Patten said, “We seem to have gone from denial to frustrated horror, to despair to have not done anything to hope that we may be able to manage something.”

Patten talked about sovereignty at length, “Sovereignty is what we have as individual citizen. It is wrong to think that only states have sovereignty, we can make a difference to all the problems by the way we act, by the way we do things and the way you and I behave. We can actually work to save the planet.”

On this hopeful note, the second in Penguin annual lecture series, launched last year as part of Penguin India’s twentieth anniversary celebrations, ended.

Chris Patten writes in his ‘What Next’, “Looking at one problem after another, the answers are usually pretty clear. The puzzle is not ‘what is to be done?’ but rather ‘Who is to do it and how?’ The issues are mostly matters of will. We know why action on this or that is needed. We know, usually, how to act, what to do. The capacity to act is the problem, not the comprehension of what we should be doing.”

Well, seer Chris Patten has already sent the warning signals and we know what is to be done, the need of the hour is to act and save the world from the ‘dark sides of globalization’.

The original article can be read here.

What did you think to the Lecture? Did you share Lord Patten's views of the current advantages and disadvantages of globalization? Which countries do you see rising to prominence in the future years, and do you think states will retain the sovereignty of their inhabitants?

We want to know how you feel on these issues. Write your opinion on teh Penguin Annual Lecture by clicking on 'comments' below.

Penguin. Encouraging interaction.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Penguin Annual Lecture - we want to hear YOUR view

‘A New Century—and the Dark Side of Globalization’

by Chancellor of the University of Oxford and University of Newcastle
and former Governor of Hong Kong

Chris Patten

This Monday, 13th October 2008, Lord Chris Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong, will deliver the second Penguin Annual Lecture entitled 'A New Century - and the Dark Side of Gloablisation.

Lord Patten's new book, What Next? tackles the big questions about our global condition and our collective future with a verve and authority no other current commentator could match. Very little in the world, he says, has turned out as we might have expected twenty years ago. But for reasons Lord Patten explains, he remains an optimist in the face of this formidable agenda.

In the wake of US President George Bush signing the US-India nuclear trade agreement, which allows India access to US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for permitting United Nations inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities - but not military nuclear sites, what do you think to the controversial deal?

Below are extracts from Chris Patten's What Next? which provide a brief insight into the creation of nuclear states, with particular reference to India:

'Today, there are eight confirmed nuclear states – China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the UK and the USA. North Korea may have weapons. Iran is suspected of having an active programme to manufacture them. These declining figures, given that about forty-four states are reckoned to have the industrial and technological capacity to develop weapons (partly because of their civil nuclear-power programmes), represent the partial success of the efforts to contain proliferation that were promoted particularly vigorously in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Why do some states want these weapons while others are happy without them? There are generally reckoned to be five relevant issues – security, prestige, national politics, technology and economics. These are not discrete motivations; they mingle and merge.

Security is an obvious consideration, though it does not in all circumstances stand up today to rigorous scrutiny. The Soviet Union developed a bomb because the United States already had one. China did not trust the Soviet Union or the United States; and once China had tested a bomb, India wanted one too. Anything India could explode, Pakistan wanted. It was even more directly relevant that India began researching nuclear weapons after her defeat in 1962 at the hands of China, and that Pakistan began research on them ten years later after her defeat by India. Britain did not think it could wholly depend – special relationship or not – on its main ally.

From the outset, under the post-war Labour government, there were worries both that an American nuclear monopoly would not be acceptable, and that other countries might develop weapons of their own. Moreover, Britain was at the time – perhaps until Suez in 1956 – still regarded by many as one of the world’s superpowers. France was explicit that it could not depend on America. Israel was worried that it was surrounded by hostile Arab states, committed to wiping it out. Its nuclear weapon (whose production South Africa may well have assisted) was the final deterrent against conventional threats.

Many of these security considerations have been publicly argued. For example, the former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh has said that ‘the nuclear age entered India’s neighbourhood when China became a nuclear power in October 1964....Sometimes domestic politics determines the decision to develop or reject nuclear weapons. In India, the arrival of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in office in 1998 led rapidly to turning a small and more or less covert nuclear capability that had existed since 1974 into a more open programme, with several nuclear weapons tests being conducted in 1998.'

What is your view on the US-India nuclear deal? Does it bring India closer to the United States at a time when the two countries are forging a strategic relationship to pursue common interests such as fighting terrorism, spreading democracy, and preventing the domination of Asia by a single power? Or is the agreement overly beneficial for India and lacking sufficient safeguards to prevent New Delhi from continuing to produce nuclear weapons

Let us know your opinion on India's current nuclear state-simply click on 'comments' below.

Join the debate here. Penguin. Encouraging interaction.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Emerging markets to write new chapter in Penguin

This story appeared in the Times newspaper in the UK last Friday, 19th September.

Book publishing has, traditionally, been a sleepy, easygoing business, operating at the pace of Jane Austen rather than Elmore Leonard. Yet, John Makinson, the chief executive of Penguin, which publishes both authors, believes that globalisation is changing the rules of the game.

Penguin, owned by Pearson, is one of four major publishers of works in the English language, second in America to Random House and third in the UK behind Hachette and Random House. Given that books have been around for 500 years, it is safe to say that the business is mature.

“Publishing has grown slightly ahead of GDP in the UK, at about 4 per cent a year, and slightly behind in the US, at about 2.5 per cent,” Mr Makinson says.

That is the recipe for a steady but unexciting profit generator - Penguin earned £74 million on sales of £846 million last year. The company has been cautious about buying smaller publishing houses - and is reluctant to offer substantial advances, although paying Alan Greenspan $8 million for the rights to The Age of Turbulence was a clear exception.

However, the book, by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a moneyspinner even before the release of the paperback this month. More than one million hardback copies, priced at about $35 (£19), have been shipped in the English version. Penguin's cut, before costs and royalties, would be half.

“It's been a very good investment. We bought the worldwide rights and thought there would be a significant additional market in Asia and in other foreign languages. Those were rights we could immediately sell on,” Mr Makinson says.

However, the economic crisis in America and Britain - induced partly by Mr Greenspan's willingness to prolong the credit boom by slashing interest rates - is a reminder that in developed economies the books business is a mature one, the dynamics of which do not change.

Which is why Mr Makinson, a former journalist at the Financial Times, is keen to launch Penguin in Pakistan, although in the light of recent political turmoil in the country he concedes that “it may not be the best time to launch a business [there]”.

The point is to harness the potential of emerging markets, where literacy rates are rising and where Penguin is willing to break from English. In India, where the company has been operating for 20 years, the publisher is moving into Hindi, Marathi and Urdu. Penguin India publishes 300 titles a year.

Mr Makinson, 53, believes that Penguin can generate 10 per cent of its sales from emerging markets, which amounts to £100 million a year. The operation in India grew by 25 per cent last year, boosting turnover by £15 million and should, Mr Makinson says, generate 5 per cent of revenues in five years.

That fuels a belief that Penguin's growth can be boosted, although Mr Makinson points out that the business “has hardly let the side [Pearson] down - profits have grown in double digits in 2005, 2006, 2007 and is expected to again in 2008”.

Globalisation also represents a far larger opportunity, in Mr Makinson's view, than digital books. The arrival of Sony's Reader in the UK has generated some excitement about the prospect of digital, and Penguin is making many of its titles available digitally. But Mr Makinson thinks digital books will make up only 1 per cent of sales by 2010, even if he expects fivefold growth this year. Penguin is exploring other digital opportunities but they are not expected to be big contributors.

The chief executive says that he “defers to the judgment of editors” when signing up a book, although he confesses to buying the international rights to Wolf Totem after offering Jiang Rong, the author, $100,000 while on a trip to Beijing. It was a publishing success.

With that kind of good fortune, could Mr Makinson end up taking over from Dame Majorie Scardino running Pearson? “What can I say? I'm happy doing what I am doing now.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two Penguin authors on the Man Booker shortlist 2008!

Great news!

The Man Booker short-list 2008 has just been announced, and includes Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Sea Of Poppies’ (Penguin Viking), Steve Toltz's ‘A Fraction of the Whole’ (Hamish Hamilton), and Sebastian Barry’s ‘The Secret Scripture’ (Faber and Faber).

The full short-list is included below:

Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger (Atlantic)
Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture (Faber and Faber)
Amitav Ghosh - Sea of Poppies (Penguin India)
Linda Grant - The Clothes on their Backs (Virago)
Philip Hensher - The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate)
Steve Toltz - A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton)

Why not visit the Sea of Poppies website here to discover more about this stunning book, watch an interview with the author Amitav Ghosh and see him reading an excerpt of Sea of Poppies.

Congratualtions to all the nominees, the winner will be announced on October 14th.

For more information visit the Man Booker website here.