What does a beverage maker have to do with books? Is there a connection between selling books and selling drinks? For Paper Boat, the company which packages nostalgia-infused traditional Indian drinks, there is – it feels that books are an important part of its business. So it ventured into publishing with reprints of classics such as Three Men in a Boat and The Jungle Book, which were given away with the beverages as sales offers. However, the latest book to be published by them, Half Pants Full Pants, by advertising professional Anand Suspi, was an original title that is being sold through various channels of distribution. Parvesh Debuka, Head of Marketing at Paper Boat spoke to Scroll.in on this surprising move and what to expect next. Excerpts from the interview:
Two years ago, you started by reprinting classics. How did this idea come about?
At Paper Boat, most of us in the team are book lovers and some of us are in love with idea of being a book lover. One day, we were sitting around the pool in our office, thinking about innocent childhood memories (as we often do) and what we could do next to surprise our consumers. Then somebody said, ‘Remember library period?’ and that’s where the idea came from.
Several names got thrown around and we were soon running down the lane of most loved childhood authors and some of their finest works – Enid Blyton, Dr Seuss, Kipling and so on. In the end, there was one suggestion we all stopped at – Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. Maybe it was the title of the book or maybe the English humour. In either case, it became our first reprinted classic.
Extensions usually have some link to the existing business. How do books link up with beverages and food?
We have been bottling nostalgia in our packs and by that yardstick we think the classics do extend what we at Paper Boat promise to our consumers – connecting with some of the bygone pleasures of a life we grew up with. With this publishing journey, we also seek to play a more meaningful role in consumers’ lives and take it beyond just the functional.
Do you have a full-fledged publishing division with commissioning editors and other supporting staff?
Well, we do have editors but mostly self-proclaimed ones who already exist within the walls of our office. But we did hire a professional editor for Anand Suspi’s Half Pants, Full Pants.
It has been a few months since Half Pants, Full Pants was launched. Is there a distribution system in place?
Yes, the book is still available at multiple bookstores across Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai. It’s also available on Amazon, which makes it accessible to many readers all across the country.
Will you be using traditional distributors channels as well as online selling? If so, how has been the experience so far?
Our major focus has been the online space – Flipkart and Amazon. Though we have also worked with a distributor who has access to offline stores and he has distributed our products across key outlets. The response has been extremely encouraging.
What was the print run for Half Pants Full Pants? What are the sales figures like?
We haven’t sold any of our previous books and have always paired them with our drinks as giveaways. Anand [Suspi]’s book is the first to go up on sale with a print run of about 5,0000 and it has seen a very exciting response.
Could you give us a brief background of how you zeroed in on Anand Suspi for a book? And why?
We only had two degrees of separation from Suspi so we managed to find each other without much effort. When he sent us his stories, they resonated very well with what we stand for. His real-life stories about growing up in Shimoga are about childhood innocence, and are an ode to bygone pleasures in an age when playtime just seemed to stretch forever.
Do you get many submissions from authors now that the publishing arm has become official?
Since Half Pants, Full Pants, we have got a few enquiries; mostly short stories about mischief, innocence, and childhood adventures.
What about e-books? Any plans?
We are very excited about the physical book for now and perhaps can include e-books in future.
Is it going to be all English for now? Any plans for regional language publishing?
We haven’t thought about it so far, but we someday we just might. Who knows?
Are there any other books in the pipeline?
There are no other books in the pipeline right now but we will wear our thinking hats sometime soon.