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Relief for Pilot as HC orders status quo on disqualification notices

Ashish Sinha

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The Rajasthan High Court has ordered status quo to be maintained in the disqualification case against former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and 18 Congress rebel MLAs. No action can be taken against Pilot and other rebel Congress leaders for now since Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi can’t act on disqualification notices issued on 14 July.

The High Court also agreed to Pilot camp MLA Prithviraj Meena’s request to include the Centre as a party to the case since the 10th Schedule’s constitutional validity was under challenge and no order could possibly be passed without hearing the Centre.

The High Court has pointed out 13 questions which will have to be decided in the case now. This came a day after the after Supreme Court allowed the High Court to pass orders. However, the top court had clarified that the judgment passed by HC will remain subject to final orders of the top court. It will not be implemented till the top court decides on the Speaker’s query: Can courts interfere with the disqualification proceedings initiated by the Speaker at an interim stage before a decision is taken?

From Monday, the apex court will begin day-to-day hearing on the Speaker’s plea questioning Rajasthan HC’s jurisdiction and the ancillary question of silencing dissent with disqualification.

Rajasthan HC was hearing a petition filed by former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot and 18 Congress rebel MLAs against the disqualification notice issued by Joshi to disqualify them as MLAs.  

The petition stated, “None of the petitioners herein have either by expressed conduct or implied conduct, indicated to the members of their constituencies and/or the public at large of their intention to leave or voluntary give up the membership of Indian N a t i o n a l C o n g r e s s . ” The petition junked the allegations as baseless and said that the petitioners had no intention to voluntarily give up Congress party membership.

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Is it impossible to stay together in a large multi-generational family firm?

Parampara Family Business Institute organises fifth session of online symposium looking for answers.

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Parampara Family Business Institute (PFBI), a non-profit research and educational institute under the charitable arm of GMR, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF), organised fifth session titled ‘Togetherness in large multi-generational family firm: Is it impossible to stay together in the long run?’ in the online symposium, ‘Essential Mantras for Family Business’.  The session featured Antoine Mayaud, who is a 3rd generation member of the Mulliez family that owns the successful French retail company-Auchan Hypermarkets.

 The session was moderated by Peter Leach, founder and chairman, Peter Leach Associates Ltd. The Mulliez family has successfully managed to keep together over 800 family shareholders from the 3rd to 6th generation. Many members of the family have launched businesses such as Decathlon that have become part of the group contributing to the shareholders.

 They are one of the largest business groups in Europe. The session attracted around 400 registrations. The speaker and the moderator discussed various issues related to keeping all family members together in the business. Antonie Mayaud was instrumental in designing the governance and planned for the long-term sustainability in governance of the family as the head of the process for over 25 years. 

On why they would spread the capital over many family members rather than concentrating it into a few hands, they believe that the best way for sharing wealth is to share it with their large family instead of concentrating it into few hands. That there is more intelligence in many brains and hearts than in only 5 or 10 is also one of the beliefs. 

One of the topics discussed at the session was the difficulty in convincing and keeping the whole family together in business, including the spouses. Mayaud believes that it is very difficult, but in the long run it is beneficial to all concerned. Peter Leach pointed out that culture is a very important component of managing a family business -more so than structure or strategy. The culture of the Mulliez family is to work hard to keep the family together. 

They believe that alone, they can go far and together they can go further. During the period of their parents, sometime in the 1960s, they decided to share the company stocks with in-laws instead of giving out cash and this helped to keep the cash in the business and help it to grow. Ensuring that there is ownership with employees as well (in the 70s) has helped since they have one of the lowest labour strike rates in the country. 

With over 800+ shareholders, they appoint only 7 members into the family council. The family council is elected every 5 years. Its main mission is to nominate the boards of non-executive directors for each company. This means that decision making, at family level, is concentrated into 7 family members. On developing entrepreneurship in the family, Mayaud informed that they started an investment firm called Creadev in 2002, of which he was the first non-executive chairman. Creadev is an evergreen fund, with a “no selling the companies” perspective. It is now a success with 5 verticals. On why this was important to the family, Mayaud said firstly it keeps Risk taking Spirit alive within the younger generations. 

Secondly, instead of having the younger generations diverge from the family business, they are motivated to contribute, because their own businesses are part of the family businesses. 

Thirdly, in a natural, and organic way, the family builds a diverse portfolio of investments. Instead of having to hire consultants to tell you what are the good businesses for the future, you only have to invest in your young generation businesses: they know better than anyone else, what are the good businesses for the future.

  Fourthly, the younger generations do not have to prove that they are as good as the elder generation nor compete for senior executive roles, because they are growing their own companies.

 Fifth, by promoting entrepreneurship inside the family, they promote Confident Active Successors instead of having Fearful Passive Heirs, which is the main threat in all family businesses. Sharing his learning in the past 25 years, Mayaud said it needs constant efforts to regularly conduct individual interviews with all family members, etc. This “family caring” process is based on choices that are supposed to be impossible choices: Do business within a family, include spouses as shareholders, stay in a joint ownership, involve as many family members as possible as employees or board members, promote entrepreneurship inside the family, promote a diversified portfolio and no selling of businesses (but re-invent them).

 To these choices, he adds four key behaviours inside a family, which are also common sense but very difficult to follow: Speak openly, be friendly when the business goes through difficult times, plan when things go well, and help senior ones leave early rather than too late. In his closing remarks, Mayaud pointed out, “Plough is straight only if both the horses go at the same speed.” There can be no family cohesion without business performance. There can be no long-term performance without strong family cohesion and involvement.

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The big Indian publishing divide

In this era of becoming vocal for local, there is still a bias among writers and the media towards international
publishers in India. Why are indigenous and independent publishers in the country still being overlooked?

Lipika Bhushan

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Why should a distinguished publisher like Bloomsbury publish such a book when there is always some Garuda to publish it? This sentiment, which found resonance among a section of people when Bloomsbury India de-platformed the book Delhi Riots 2020 on the day of its launch event, raises pertinent questions on why, even with a rich Indian publishing history, there is a perceived difference between international publishers and Indian ones in the eyes of writers.

 This gap in brand perception is, in fact, equivalent to that of India and Bharat, between international publishing houses that have set up offices here and our own indigenous ones. When Penguin set up its offices in India in the 1980s, it was a joyous moment for writers in the country as they now had a multinational brand at their doorstep for their dream stories to take the shape of a book. Indie publishers had been there for centuries but they were either dedicated to Hindi and regional languages or the few that published in English could not provide an international platform to writers. 

There was also a big difference in the quality of production between books published by an international publisher and those by an Indian publisher. International publishers also brought in a large collection of some of the best international books they published at reasonable prices. In addition, they dedicated resources to scout for local writing talent and to build a list of indigenous writers, which further helped penetrate the Indian market. 

Penguin coming to India was perceived as an opportunity for Indian writers to get noticed and established in the US and the UK. With every passing decade, a new international publisher set up offices locally and entered the Indian market with its set of international writers. Simultaneously, it also built a list of local authors. Writers form the backbone of a publishing list and having some big names adds tremendous value to a publishing brand. Even after four decades of operating in the Indian markets alongside international publishers, indie publishers struggle to be given preference over international ones by writers.

 When asked why writers prefer international publishers over indie publishers, Niti Kumar, Senior Vice President, Penguin Random House India, said she feels that this isn’t a general rule per se. Thomas Abraham, Managing Director, Hachette, too isn’t sure they do, adding, “Because we do have strong local brands; and let’s not forget most internationally-owned publishers are completely Indian too. The days of the liaison office or expat-run companies or editorial departments are over.” Thomas further adds, “But, yes, the lure of longestablished imprints, where you join a stable of renowned authors or are part of a long chain of landmark writing, is understandable. When you are published by John Murray (the world’s oldest trade publisher), or Hachette or Hodder, you are following a tradition that published Charles Darwin or Madame Bovary or Jane Austen or, even on the commercial side, genre definers such as Love Story, The Saint, Enid Blyton, Ludlum, etc, so that might play a part. But strong imprints have been built here too. Kali for Women was definitely comparable to a Virago, for instance.”

 Kumar further says, “A well-researched writer will and should choose a publishing house that will best understand and represent his/her work and that could be an international publishing house or an indie publisher. In India, Penguin has a rich legacy of over 30 years. And this legacy, alongside the editorial, sales and marketing talent we have, makes us a compelling choice for authors.” Kumar also feels that the criteria to choose a publishing house should be beyond just its global presence or stature and more about its sensibilities which are best suited to bring the author’s vision to life. 

From the socio-economic point of view, international publishing houses setting up offices here in India should have led to local players improving the quality of their books to match the international ones, learning from the knowledge and insight gained out of operating in the same market. However, even after 40 years since the first international publishing house set up its India offices, we are yet to see a considerable and favourable shift in the publishing preference of writers towards indigenous publishers, especially the big names, unless it is for translations of their book.

 Why does this divide continue? 

In the world of branding and marketing, international publishers have definitely had an advantage with their brand image due to an international presence. But there are also these key factors that help build a brand image:

 Editorial Quality: For a publisher in any language, it is imperative that the books are error-free. This is not only about cleaning text of grammatical errors but also about engaging with writers to enhance the nuances of the language to add to the delight of the readers. Apart from having a command over language, the excellent quality of editors that are hired post standard language skill tests also ensure skills to identify and commission what would add to their publishing list in terms of content, quality of writing and profile of the writer. 

Production Quality: The perceived value of the price paid for a book, while measured by what the readers think of the author, also depends a lot on the quality of pages, the fonts, layouts and cover designs. There are well laid out standard practices followed internationally to ensure that the quality is not compromised upon. 

Distribution: There are primarily two aspects to distribution: first, that of sustaining long credit periods; and, second, being able to grab a bigger space on the shelves with more profitable and popular titles.

 Marketing and Publicity: Strong writing and great packaging backed by the right amount of publicity for their books ensures that publishers command better recall in the media. 

Deep pockets: Publishers need to have the ability and intent to offer big advances to writers and to sustain bigger teams and overhead costs. Indie publishers have been slow to up their game over the decades. They have largely remained disorganised and continue to be mostly family-owned, which limits their abilities to create clearly marked systems and processes, especially in the areas of editing, production and marketing. 

The cumulative effect of compromising on quality in the production and packaging of books has led to a contrary image in the eyes of the media, which is key for carrying forward word-of-mouth publicity. It has also widened the gap as the volume of books being published by the international publishers in India has increased considerably over time. Another very important factor that has played a vital role in a greater brand perception of international publishers is the perceived access to international availability and publication in the US, UK and Australia which comes with being published by their offices in India. 

On this matter, Thomas Abraham of Hachette says that there is a difference between ‘presence’ and being ‘made available’. He says, “So, we offer books to our group companies, but Hachette is known for a very federal approach and there is no tokenism of any sort or regional quotas. If the companies there want to pick a book, they do so because they like it and because they believe it will work for their market. Just like we offer our UK/US books here but will pick just a few here based on what we feel will work in this market. All of publishing runs on curation.” Niti Kumar of Penguin Random House shares, “Books do need to have a local relevance and cultural appeal.” She adds that publishing with a global company like PRH does open up opportunities for content to enter markets outside India; however, the decision is far from an automatic one. Kumar further says, “Each market and territory makes carefully considered choices about the books they will publish or distribute and these are in line with what audiences in that territory want to read.” Thomas, one of the doyens of Indian publishing, adds that any writer, who labours under the myth that being published by an international publisher automatically gets them international presence, is very much mistaken. He further adds, “Look back at the last 50 years and see how many books have travelled from a local international company to the West. Yes, there are export catalogues and books being ‘made available’, and today eBooks ensure that your book is visible, but there is no substitute to being locally published in a market. I’d say 99% of Indian books that are published abroad are from the Western route of agenting.”

 The Indian Resilience

 Despite tough competition from international publishers entering India with big monies, some indie publishers did foresee a need for change and have managed to compete well with international publishers. Publishers such as Rupa and Westland started by focusing on the above factors. With the passing of years, Rupa also launched a literary publishing arm called Aleph and Chiki Sarkar launched Juggernaut, and both have been able to capture the attention of some established writers and big names in the writing world. There are also indie publishers such as Vitasta, Srishti and Roli, which have been consistently working towards bringing out books that go on to become bestsellers. 

All these publishers have not only competed in quality but have also been able to establish some big-ticket writers and bestsellers from their publishing houses. Though they continue to lose some of the writers they established to big international publishers, again due to the perceived brand power. For example, Preeti Shenoy, Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Dutta, Novoneel Chakraborty and a few others were first published and established as a brand by Srishti, but the publisher lost Durjoy and Singh to bigger international publishers. Renu Kaul, Publisher, Vitasta, an indie publisher, shares, “It’s not been easy. As independents, we have to compete with the big publishers for everything, right from the manuscripts, to shelf space to media attention.” She adds that, because most authors still suffer from a colonial hangover, the indie publishers invariably lose them to big brands. 

Another challenge, she says, is: “Unlike the big ones, we cannot give hefty advances nor do we have budgets to market our books. Despite all these constraints, we give the bigger publishers a good fight.” Arup Bose, Marketing Head of Srishti Publishers, confirms, “International publishers have their strengths, like a bigger and international catalogue of books and authors, plus more resources.” Bose adds that they are a platform for debut authors and have published many titles which have become bestsellers soon after publication. These indie publishers also enjoy the freedom that apparently, and especially given the current Bloomsbury controversy, international publishers don’t. Kaul says that the joy of being in complete control of what and how you want to publish makes up for all the competition. 

She adds, “All these growing years, we have tried very hard to give the term ‘independent publisher’ a meaning, we have dared entrenched systems and succeeded in making a dent in the process of thinking; several of our books have influenced national policy changes.” She also says that since they are small, it is easier for them to resist pressure, recalling the time when Vitasta published a political biography of Rabri Devi when Lalu Prasad, who wielded a lot of power in those days, wanted some chapters removed. “Because I was small, I think I could resist the pressure. Big ones come with baggage and therefore have to be politically correct.” The representatives of both Vitasta and Srishti almost unanimously voice that smaller indie publishers score over big international publishers in their quicker turnaround time. Bose says, “Like most indie publishers, we have a comparatively smaller chain of command, and hence, decision making is faster. We remain more connected to not only the ground realities in our organisation, but within the industry as well.” Kaul adds, “Each of our authors and their books get an equal share of attention. So the authors feel much at ease with us. And I believe because we work closely with our authors, there is less trust deficit.” 

Another fact remains that, barring Penguin, very few readers identify writers with their publishing brands. What they do identify is a good story, told well, and a book with an author name that looks good on the shelf. But a publishing brand does matter to the writers, media, retailers and the festival and award organisers. Indie publishers are also able to provide books at competitive prices which are, at times, given the overhead costs of international publishers, difficult to achieve for them.

 Some indie publishers also have a better reach and market penetration with the ability to reach bookstores in the remotest parts of the country. And yet, we see only a few big names in the English writing world entrusting their books with indie publishers.

 The Way Forward 

Today, some part of this problem may have been answered through digital sales and social media and digital platforms to help spread the word and connect directly with end readers, where some of these indie publishers do much better than the international ones. But the media is important for adding credibility and building an image for a writer, and the media prefers books published by international brands over indie publishers for its books pages. But things are moving towards a change.

 If more indie publishers continue to put effort into investing in quality editors, production and marketing, this bias will change, and is beginning to already. In order to assure writers of an international presence, tying up with indigenous small publishers in the US, UK and Australia would help greatly.

 Brand building is a continuous and long term process and indie publishers need to focus on building a strong brand identity that’s global in its outlook and presentation. Given that the publishing industry plays an important role in shaping the past, present and future of any country through literature, it is imperative that it remains free of biases and encourages all kinds of opinions and voices. But to really break this divide over why choose a distinguished publisher over a Garuda, the need of the hour is for indie publishers to start working towards building the brand perception so that writers don’t shy away from going vocal for local.

 Founder of MarketMyBook, Lipika Bhushan has 15 years of experience in heading marketing in leading publishing houses. She also hosts a YouTube programme called ‘Between The Lines’.

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Monorail and Metro services resume in Mumbai after seven-month hiatus

Urvashi Khona

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Almost after 7 months, Mumbai Metro services resumed with Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place on Monday. Monorail resumed services on Sunday. However, both the services witnessed low patronage, currently. Mumbai Metro One restarted its services from 08:30 am onwards. 

The services were opened to all, without age or gender restrictions, However, the elderly and children were advised by the authorities to travel only when necessary. A total of 140 trips were operated with 100% punctuality till 05:00 pm on the first day of operations post lockdown. 200+ services will run between 08:30 am and 08:30 pm daily in the initial phase. 

  Ridership of 6,727 was recorded till 5 pm on the first day, with the figure expected to go up to 10,000 till 8:30 pm. As Mumbai opens up gradually, the footfalls are expected to go up significantly over the coming few weeks.

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Tamil Nadu extends succour as Telangana reels under monsoon fury

Lokeswara Rao

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Rains continue to lash Hyderabad as India Meteorological Department (IMD) advised people to stay indoors and come out only if necessary. IMD has predicted light to moderate rain or thunderstorms for various parts of the city. It also warned that a thunderstorm accompanied by lightning is likely to occur in some parts of Hyderabad, Rangareddy, Medchal Malkajgiri, Mahbubnagar, Yadadri Bhuvnagiri, Nalgonda, Nagarkurnool, Wanaparthy, Medak Vikarabad, and Sangareddy.  

IMD’s weather inference on 19 October read, “The upper air cyclonic circulation over east-central Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood now lies over central Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood and now extends up to 5.8 km above mean sea level. Under its influence, a low-pressure area is very likely to develop over the same region during the next 24 hours. An eastwest trough runs roughly along 14°N across peninsular India and cyclonic circulation over central Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood between 1.5 km and 5.8 km above mean sea level tilting southwards with height. 

The cyclonic circulation over the west-central Bay of Bengal off south Andhra Pradesh coast has become less marked.”  Meanwhile, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) on 19 October, announced that the state government has allotted Rs. 550 crore to help the poor people affected by the floods.  He said govt will extend help to people living in lowlying areas of Hyderabad and provide Rs. 10000 to each household affected by the flood. The financial aid will be provided from Tuesday morning, he said. Rs. 550 crore has been released to the municipal administration department.

 KCR also announced that Rs. 1 lakh each would be provided to all those whose houses were damaged in the rains and floods while Rs. 50,000 will be given to those whose homes were partially damaged. The CM has instructed officials to repair and restore all roads and other infrastructure facilities on a war footing. KCR instructed chief secretary Somesh Kumar to monitor the financial distribution programme and set up 200 to 250 teams.  At the time of crisis, Tamil Nadu is the first state to extend financial help. 

TN CM K Palaniswami in a letter said, “The heavy rains and unprecedented floods in the city of Hyderabad and certain districts of Telangana have caused extensive damage to property and have taken a toll on lives. At this difficult time, on behalf of the state government and the people of Tamil Nadu, I convey my heartfelt condolences to the family members of all those who have lost their lives in the rains and floods” He further adds, “As a token of support and solidarity of the government of the people of Tamil Nadu with the people of Telangana, I have ordered an immediate contribution of a sum of Rs 10 crore from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.”

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Muthiah Muralidharan asks Vijay Sethupathi to pull out of his biopic

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After Vijay Sethupathi confirmed to a Sri Lanka based radio that he will act in the biopic named 800 on, the retired Sri Lankan spinner Muthiah Muralidharan has asked the Tamil actor to drop the project as he doesn’t want his movie to become a hurdle in his future endeavours. In a statement issued by the Sri Lankan cricketer, Muthiah Muralidharan urged Vijay Sethupathi to drop the biopic project based on his life. 

Muralidharan stated that he is stating so because of the controversy raked up by few people in Tamil Nadu without a proper understanding about him and also added that Vijay Sethupathi is under tremendous pressure and doesn’t want this controversy to affect his career. 

Muthiah Muralidharan has requested Vijay Sethupathi to back out from the project and has said that “The reason why I agreed to the biopic is that my life and struggle may inspire a lot of youngsters who want to pursue cricket as a career, but I’m sure that I will go ahead and present my biopic for the future generation as promised.” After Muthiah Muralidharan released the statement and requested him not to act in the biopic, Vijay Sethupathi tweeted saying “Nandri Vanakkam” as if to suggest that he won’t be starring in 800. 

Sources say that the production house will make an official announcement regarding Vijay Sethupathi being dropped from the biopic 800. Several political parties, pro-Tamil organisations, Eelam Tamil organisations and Penang Deputy Chief Minister Ramswami were continuously requesting Vijay Sethupathi not to act in the biopic of Muthiah Muralidharan as it would hurt the sentiments of Tamils.

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Jaipur watch company unveils its latest creation

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With the festive season round the corner, Jaipur Watch Company, India’s only bespoke watch manufacturer, has unveiled its latest limited edition watch-“the Harmony Collection’s ‘Jump Hour Watch’, a unique timepiece that has an “hour window” instead of the “hour hand”!

 Unlike the traditional watch, where the hour hand sweeps the dial, this distinctive creation has a disc behind a tiny window on the dial that ‘jumps’ to indicate the hour accurately when the minute hand touches 12 (60 minutes). 

The company touts that this royal blue heirloom has an enameled blue dial, with the hour window placed right at the top. It has one long hand that sweeps the dial indicating the minutes and a sub-dial displaying a tiny second hand. This mechanism is based on a modified automatic movement, with a power reserve of 40 hours. 

 Speaking on the launch, Founder & CEO, Mr. Gaurav Mehta said, “The Jump Hour Watches first caught everyone’s fancy along with the Art Deco movement in the 1920s, but actually goes way back to the 18th century. We are excited to introduce an interesting version of this in India. We have worked on keeping it simple and stylish and have created only 100 units of this limited-edition timepiece. In short, I would say it is “Minimalistic magnificence” personified!” He further added.

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