The Revolution is at the Doorstep

In the Indian children’s book industry everything is changing rapidly – the creators, the books, the buyers, and the readers.

The Story So Far

Legacy

Fortunately, in India, we have a rich history of great children’s literature, in every language. Our ancestors left us a giant magic pot of stories. Many publishers have built their backlist solely from these stories. For e.g., Amar Chitra Katha‘s popular books are mostly “Indian stories” that spread “Indian culture.”

Unfortunately, this magic pot has also held us back. The demand for Indian epics and folk tales is so high that Indian publishers have found it hard to invest in contemporary stories. And while we dipped into the magic pot, the West moved the needle of children’s literature forward, producing classics such as The Gruffalo, Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, The Cat in the Hat, No David, and so on.

First Wave

Fortunately, the mid 90s saw the birth of 4 women-led independent children’s publishing houses In India: Radhika Menon’s Tulika Books, Shobha Viswanath’s Karadi Tales, Gita Wolf’s Tara Books, and Geeta Dharmarajan’s Katha. While these publishing houses have produced a few contemporary renderings from the same magic pot – who can deny the absolute brilliance of Samhita Arni’s The Mahabharata: A Child’s View, or Anushka Ravishankar’s The Rumour, or Manasi Subramaniam’s The Story and The Song – they have also made space for contemporary stories. Also in the 90s, Zubaan, the feminist publishing house that Urvashi Butalia co-founded, started a children’s imprint called Young Zubaan.

Unfortunately these new books didn’t break the internet. Especially since the internet, as we know it, didn’t exist. In the old days of traditional retail, it was hard for these imprints to “scale”.

Ecosystem Changes

Fortunately, things changed. The internet helped spread information. Amazon and Flipkart helped reach newer customers. A second wave of independent Indian publishers – Pratham Books, Duckbill, Campfire, Talking Cub, Ms Moochie – hit the road. Storyweaver raised the bar for illustrations in picture books. Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival and other festivals gave a platform for creators to meet each other (and customers) regularly.

In schools, the colonial hangover began to wear off. Schools that earlier wanted to work with foreign co-scholastic programs only (like The Oxford Reading Tree, Scholastic Book Fairs, and British Council Reading Challenge) realised that they were paying too much for imported products that don’t work. They started working with homegrown co-scholastic ones like The Karadi Path and the The Book Lovers’ Program for Schools.

The Future

The Indian children’s book industry is changing rapidly. More people are buying books, both in English and in vernacular. The quality of books are improving. New digital storytelling and reading apps are coming up. The future looks bright, but of course, everyone has a role to play to make the future happen.

Multistory’s Role

Who are we?

We are a multi-brand company based out of Adyar, Chennai. We work with stories, storytelling, and books. While we started work in Jan 2010, we were formally founded in Dec 2011. Our founders are Amrutash and Naresh, who were batchmates at IIT-Madras. These are the things we do:

  • Book Lovers’ Program for Schools: We help schools get their children to love to read.
  • Best of Indian Children’s Writing (BICW) Awards: We promote contemporary Indian children’s literature through the BICW awards.
  • Ms Moochie Children’s Books: We publish books under the Ms Moochie imprint.
  • Little Book Lovers‘: We publish an emergent reader series called the Little Book Lovers’ Reading Series for children ages 2-6.
  • Retail: We sell our own books, and also those published by others. We sell in schools, in stores, and online – including on this website.
  • Consulting: We undertake projects related to stories, storybooks, content, publishing, curriculum development, and inquiry-based learning

Naresh is our CEO. While Naresh and Amrutash are both men, our team is largely made up of women, including in leadership roles. Karthika leads Ms Moochie, BICW, and a few consulting projects. Karishma leads the Little Book Lovers’ and product development for BLPS. Rathy leads the execution team for BLPS. Sathya leads the supply chain.



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