An Indian Publisher’s Journey : Rupa & Co.

Via The Hindu

Seventy-five years after his grandfather began the journey of Rupa in the world of publishing and book distribution on a humble note, company managing director Kapish Mehra talks of having a list of nearly 2000 book titles and “a front list that is growing by leaps and bounds.” With its present well-entrenched as a frontrunner in mass English readership, and the future already etched on the drawing board, Rupa is indeed at a defining moment in its platinum year. But its past is equally inspiring.

Relates Kapish, “It was by accident that my grandfather got into publishing. Late K. Jackson Marshall, the India representative of Collins dictionary, noticed his salesmanship in the hosiery business in Calcutta’s New Market and persuaded him to sell their dictionaries.” It, however, didn’t take much time for Mehra to develop a liking for books which led him to start Rupa at College Street corner, “near Presidency College and the Sanskrit School, the hub of intellectuals and litterateurs” to be precise. Kapish fills in, “His first customer was Humayun Kabir, who later went on to become Education and Culture Minister of independent India.”

But why the name ‘Rupa’? “That’s also an interesting story. He was looking for a name to give his company. He had gone to see a play in which there were two characters — Rupa and Sona. He found Sona too glamorous a name and instead picked Rupa.” Mehra started the company with a loan of Rs.590 from Pearl Assurance Company.

Also, not too many people know that the familiar logo of Rupa was designed by Satyajit Ray. “All he charged for it were a few good books to read,” says Kapish. However, to mark its 75th year, Kapish has “added some elements to the old one.”

After two decades of book distribution, Rupa turned a publisher in 1960.

“It began with two slim volumes of Bengali poetry followed by Herman Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’,” says Kapish. “Siddhartha” became a bestseller and since then, the list of bestsellers has continued to swell.

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