The venture: It is something I had already started over the last year with my involvement limited to part-ime. However as it was getting bigger and the opportunity far more exciting, I decided to move over completely. I am moving full time into this venture starting April (once the Pakistan tour ends). The plan is to create content in regional languages – with the content in the form of printed books, audio, CD, online (but subscription-based) etc. We are starting with Tamil (as I am familiar with this) and are looking at aggressively expanding to other languages. We will also produce some content in English but that is not our priority at all.
The opportunity: Basically there are over 550 million literates in the country and of this only about 25-40 million are English literate. Even amongst this crowd there are a fair number of bilingual readers, most of whom would prefer the content to be in their mother tongue. In any case close to 500 million or so are not being serviced at all with quality content. These people are perhaps not near a computer and in any case today’s computer and web services are not indian language friendly to the extent we want them to be. You need multitude of fonts and all you get at best are newspapers and low quality magazines on to the web. Where is the quality, knowledge driven , local language content on the web at this stage?Even amongst books that are published, there is a vast difference between books published in English and those that are published in local languages. Also an average English book is extremely expensive. The regional books are, on an average, priced one third of an English book (which is itself a reprint for India – in lower quality paper etc.). We studied the Tamil market and decided that we will enter in a big way and over a period of one year have created a very strong brand in Tamil Nadu.
I know Badri (and Satya) well and I wish them the very best. I’m sure they will transform the Indian language publishing space – just as they did with cricket coverage on the Internet.