One of India’s largest book publishers and distributors, Rupa Publications (formerly known as Rupa & Co.) began its phenomenal journey, more than eighty years ago, from College Street, Kolkata. As the company has grown, it has redefined the rules of Indian publishing, finding and promoting the most exciting talent in both fiction and non-fiction (the latter ranging from biographies, history and philosophy to sports, self-help and business).
In 1936, K. Jackson Marshall, an Englishman selling books in New Market, Calcutta, met a dhoti-clad young man selling hosiery. Impressed by his sales pitch, Marshall asked the young man to join him in selling books. With meagre capital and his home doubling up as his office, D. Mehra, the young man, became the bookseller’s representative, and started this new career. Christening the new enterprise ‘Rupa’, which means silver, the intrepid D. Mehra’s luck extended to being fortunate enough to have Rupa’s logo designed by Satyajit Ray. And the fee charged—‘a few good books to read!’
As a result of World War II and the consequent instability in Calcutta, the Rupa family shifted to the then political capital of India—Allahabad—in 1939, expanding to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1951. The late fifties and early sixties witnessed two important changes in Indian publishing. First, language publishing started in an organized fashion, and Indian authors were persuaded to publish in India, rather than seek a publisher abroad. Second, the large US funding, committed to making American textbooks available at low prices, encouraged the opening of Indian subsidiaries of American publishing companies. Around this time, Rupa extended its business and ventured into publishing, starting with two slim volumes of Bengali poetry. In 1960, Peter Laughlin, the chairman of New Directions, persuaded Rupa to publish Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. From here, the list of bestsellers started, never to stop.
Continually expanding its horizons, the 1970s and 1980s saw the company set up offices not only in Delhi but also Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, thus completing Rupa’s representation in the major book markets in India. This decade saw Rupa’s successful foray into the world of sports-related publishing with books by Don Bradman, widely acknowledged as the greatest Test batsman of all times, and the great trio—Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare and Mushtaq Ali. Later, sporting legends Sunil Gavaskar, Erapalli Prasanna and Sandeep Patil joined Rupa’s team as authors. Two of our most cherished books—Gavaskar’s Sunny Days and Idols—broke records in sports books, sales and continue to be in print even after thirty-eight years. Gavaskar’s last book, Straight Drive (2009), also topped the bestseller lists. Our emphasis on sports continues with inspiring biographies of Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Pullela Gopichand, Milkha Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. Giving recognition to our sporting heroes, we have brought out The Winning Series, which chronicles the lives of icons including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Saina Nehwal.
In the 1980s, Rupa re-energized its focus on paperback publishing and marketing. A remarkable feature of the Rupa paperback list was, and is, affordable and competitive pricing. Combined with cutting-edge publishing, the company scaled newer heights. It was during this period that Rupa joined hands with HarperCollins and started HarperCollins India, a partnership which continued till 2001.
The turn of the century saw Rupa’s foray into yet another genre of publishing, catering to a wider range of tastes with its eclectic range of cookbooks and food memoirs by stalwarts such as Camilla Panjabi, Premila Lal and Vimla Patil. This continues into the present with Jewels of the Nizam: Recipes from the Khansamas of Hyderabad, and the forthcoming magnum opus, Lazzatnama, by the redoubtable Pushpesh Pant.
Our non-fiction list carries books that have caught—and will catch—the country’s imagination: Mann ki Baat captures the common thread of positivity and optimism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has woven through his popular and ubiquitous monthly radio address, while A Journey is a hugely popular compilation of lyrical poems by the Prime Minister. Our list of bestsellers includes The Coalition Years by former President Pranab Mukherjee, Rural Manifesto by Varun Gandhi, The Path Ahead by Amitabh Kant, The Bombay Plan by Sanjaya Baru and Meghnad Desai, Lutyens’ Maverick by Jay Panda, Evolution by Kiran Karnik, Newsman by Rajdeep Sardesai, Thinking Aloud by Prasoon Joshi, On the trail of the Black by Bibek Debroy and Survive or Sink by Naina Lal Kidwai.
Having published icons such as former President of India R. Venkataraman, Acharya Kriplani, L.K. Advani, J.R.D. Tata, F.C. Kohli, Kishore Biyani, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Vikram Sampat, Ram Jethmalani, Mark Tully, S.Y. Quraishi to name a few, we have successfully maintained the momentum by recently publishing books by Bimal Jalan, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, writing on the immediate priorities that need to be tackled in our national interest; Kingshuk Nag, a bestselling author and political journalist who has penned a wonderfully balanced biography of Mohan Bhagwat; and Arun Maira, former Chairman, Boston Consulting Group, whose recommendations on a new toolkit founded on disciplines of systems thinking provide much food for thought.
Our exciting and invigorating list across non-fiction in the recent past includes revered names like P. Chidambaram, Jaya Jaitley, Rajendra B. Aklekar, K. Vijay Kumar, Jairam Ramesh and Shekhar Gupta, to name a few. This was at the back of the stupendous success achieved by Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah, which raised serious questions about the Partition and the provocative and bestselling memoir of K. Natwar Singh, One Life is Not Enough.
We, at Rupa, never rest on our laurels. Close on the heels of some truly great publishing in 2018, we are geared up for an exciting and invigorating list across fiction and non-fiction in 2019. This year’s much-awaited memoir of N.K. Singh will be followed by books by Subramanian Swamy, Sunil Ambekar, Vinod Rai, Samir Saran, R.S. Sharma, Ravi Venkatesan, Sandeep Shastri and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
In fiction, we will continue to publish some of the best writers of the subcontinent, including Kulpreet Yadav, Anuja Chandramouli and Anuj Tiwari. The pioneering novelist and short-story writer from Nepal, Samrat Upadhyay, returns with The City Son while The Love Letter and Other Stories, a translation of the short fiction of the Bengali great, Buddhadeva Bose, by Arunava Sinha proves why Bose is considered the true successor to Tagore. In the mass-market space, we have maintained the pace set by authors such as Varsha Dixit, Nishant Kaushik and Nandita Puri, and have published Anurag Mathur’s hilarious new novel The Country Is Going to the Dogs.
All this in addition to publishing some of the icons of Indian publishing: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, Satyajit Ray, Khushwant Singh, Ramesh Menon, Gulzar, Derek O’Brien…the list is endless.
Our success is due not only to our loyal base of authors and readership but also a consequence of the teamwork and dedication of all at Rupa. As we continue on this remarkable journey, we hope to remain the publisher of choice, providing as we do, a wide selection of great books that will entertain, engage, move and delight.