Flat prices in Mumbai rose 11.6 per cent in the five years up to 2013. In Gurgaon, prices grew at 12.9 per cent during the same period and in Bangalore they grew at ten per cent. Though it seems unrelated, the number of literary festivals in India during that time ballooned from under ten events to more than 60.

Some of India's most prestigious book events, it turns out, are sponsored by real-estate firms.

Their motivation for doing so may lie in another startling statistic. As flat prices have outstripped the growth in salaries, just over 11 million homes are lying vacant in Indian cities, according to the ministry for housing and poverty alleviation.

"You sponsor such events because you have a product to sell," said Pranay Vakil, former chairman of Knight Frank India, the prominent real estate consultancy firm. Partnering with literature festivals, he said, is a way for real estate firms to target specific customers.

Among the highlights of the Jaipur Literature Festival, which starts on Friday, is the announcement of the annual DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. It carries a cash prize of $50,000 and is by far the most lucrative literary award in the subcontinent. It is sponsored by DSC Ltd, an Indian infrastructure and construction company.

DSC is not the only real-estate firm that is promoting literature. The House of Hiranandani sponsored Lit for Life, the annual literature festival of the Hindu newspaper, which was held in Chennai from January 11 to 13. The Lodha Group funded the Times of India Literary Carnival held in Mumbai in December.

"Lodha played a discreet behind-the-scenes role in the festival," said Times of India journalist Namita Devidayal, who organised the festival along with her colleague Bachi Karkaria. "We really appreciate their patronage, for it is impossible for cultural events like this to take place at this scale without hefty corporate sponsorship."

Consultant Pranay Vakil said that real-estate firms are drawn to literary festivals for the same reason they also sponsor college culture festivals and even religious events: these gatherings give them access to select groups that are likely to buy their flats.

However, R Karthik, the chief marketing officer of Lodha Group, said that sponsoring literary festivals wasn't exactly the most cost-effective method of promoting his products. He said that his company wanted to create an association that went beyond both literature and real estate.

"This is the first time we have ever sponsored a literature fest, mainly because of the Times of India brand and the prominence of the event, both of which worked to reflect well on Lodha," Karthik said.

Whatever the motivation of real-estate firms, their new-found interest in books bodes well for the Indian literary scene. Though publicity budgets across most sectors been hurt by the global economic slowdown, real-estate firms were the fourth-largest spenders on print advertising last year, and among the top ten advertisers on TV.

Devidayal of the Times Literary Carnival said it is heartening when a real estate firm looks beyond the bottom line and participates in enhancing a city's culture and literature scene.  "I think the landscape of a city is shaped not just by its physical skyline, but by its intangible cultural skyline, so to speak," she said.