Sharjah: India's top book publishers and distributors have expressed a huge sigh of relief at being able to return to on-ground events and activations.
Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), several of them said that they were happy to be travelling again and interacting with people after travel restrictions around the world eased over the recent weeks.
Kanchan Wanchoo Sharma, who heads public relations and international exhibitions at National Book Trust (NBT), India, an apex body established in 1957 to encourage and promote books and reading under India's Ministry of Education, said it was refreshing to be able to do business like in pre-Covid times. "The Frankfurt book fair that we attended last month was more of a B2B (business-to-business) event. So this fair is our first big global event in that sense since the pandemic struck us and it means a lot for us," explained Sharma, who is also the training and promotional activities editor at NBT that's showcasing some 200 titles over 11 days at the ongoing SIBF.
Dr Aman Puri, the Consul-General of India to Dubai and the Northern Emirates, during his official visit on Wednesday, November 3 to inaugurate the India corner at Sharjah Expo Centre's hall number 7 where NBT is exhibiting along with some 30 other top Indian publishers, said he was ecstatic to see the huge presence of Indian publishers at the festival. "I am delighted to see such an emphatic participation (by Indian publishers) at such an important international platform," he said while touring the NBT stall.
Almost every top private or government publisher from India was forced to give the SIBF, the region's top literary event and amongst the world's most reputed, a miss last year owing to the then on-going travel restrictions due to Covid-19. So the sentiments remain the same for all of them.
"This is one of the biggest annual book festivals in the world, alongside the ones in Frankfurt and London, but for us this is the first big event we are attending this year after flight restrictions began easing globally. So that should tell you why attending this event was so crucial for us. I see it as a start of our return to normalcy for us and our industry at large," said Maruf Alam, Business Manager of Publications Division, a Government of India (GoI) undertaking that functions as a division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India), publishing books in Hindi, English and other regional languages, with a focus on Gandhian literature and Mahatma Gandhi's collected works.
It's the same story for CAPEXIL, another Government of India (GoI) undertaking, attending this year's SIBF. The New Delhi-headquartered Chemicals and Allied Products Export Promotion Council, a not-for-profit body run by India's Ministry of Commerce to promote trade and export, has funded half the cost incurred by book publishers every year to travel from India and set up stalls at SIBF. They are back this year too with as many as 23 exhibitors, just like every year. "That used to be the average number of stalls we facilitated every year until Covid-19 hit us hard. We couldn't participate last year for obvious reasons but it's business as usual again and we are relieved," said Sunil Kumar, the deputy director of CAPEXIL that's flown some of India's most reputed publishers to this year's SIBF including reputed names like Amar Chitra Katha, DC Books, Harper Collins India, Kairali Books and Penguin Random House.
Now in its 40th year, the festival is being held at the Sharjah Expo Centre in UAE by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) until November 13.