Priti Paul has just released ABC Desi, a compendium for children and the newest chapter in her life-long romance with books
Despite all technology-led claims to the effect, books are in no danger of facing imminent extinction. In fact, if truth be told, readership habits have placed unshakeable faith in the format, which has been around for centuries and which will, in all likelihood, endure for a few dozen millennia into the future.
Entrepreneur Priti Paul is an avid book lover. Director of the very reputed Apeejay Surrendra Group, she has steered the iconic Oxford Bookstore chain to hitherto unknown heights and has made it one of the most loved congregational points for readers all across the nation.
Educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, United Kingdom, she has spearheaded the real estate division of the Apeejay Surrendra Group which included expanding the footprints of Oxford Bookstore.
Described as the best equipped base camp for journeys of the mind, Oxford was established in 1919. It was reimagined as Bookstore – Gallery on its platinum anniversary in 1995. Priti is the creative force behind the store and should be credited with ensuring top-of-mind recall for the brand in the book lovers’ universe.
Extending her passion for books, reading and learning into another area, Priti has also been Darshanaat the Ubl forefront of an initiative that seeks education for children that come from economically weaker sections of society. The Apeejay Anand Children’s Library is run expressly for the benet of street children and a string effort to inculcate a love for books and reading amongst children who cannot really afford it.
We spoke to the inspiring entrepreneur who is a member of some very prestigious organisations like the Royal Institute of British Architects, Women in Shipping and Trade Association, England, the FICCI Committee of Art and Business of Art and many more.
What factors led to the conceptualisation of ABC Desi?
It stemmed from the fact that I had not come across an alphabet book that catered to a new generation of children. Most books illustrate the English alphabet with imagery that might be somewhat alien to an Indian child and what we wanted to do was to take objects and illustrations that are a part of their surroundings and put them together in a book.
Since, a book of this description did not exist, I decided to make one myself. ABC Desi celebrates modern India. It is a book where cultural references abound and each alphabet accompanied by illustrations that create a very Indian imagery. You will see a convergence of English alphabet and Indian visuals, which make it very interesting.
To what do you attribute your love of books?
I feel a very big part of it comes from growing up in Kolkata. It is a city which is very inclined towards the arts and I grew up surrounded by books.
The Oxford Bookstore in Kolkata is nearly a 100 years old and has been an intrinsic part of Kolkata’s literary landscape over the years. It is the agship store for the Oxford chain and formed nucleus of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, an annual event which Priti started in 2010. Priti grew up in Kolkata and the city with its artistic spirit is very special to her.
Do you feel that technology is slowly making the concept of books redundant?
You know if you would have asked me this question some four or ve years ago, I probably, have given you a very different answer. The jury was still out on this debate and it was not very clear if books would survive in their original form or if they would evolve to a different format, which based itself on technology and the Internet.
However, I can very safely say that this whole debate seems very settled. It is absolutely clear that technology is not going to adversely affect books or traditional reading habits. Technology inuenced forms of reading have not really taken off the way they were expected to and books have continued to thrive. I do not think that books will ever become redundant.
Perhaps the most conclusive argument in this entire E-books versus actual paper books comes from the fact that E-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon has recently opened its seventh brick-and-mortar bookstore. Located on the third oor of the Time Warner Center in New York City, this store is proof of the fact that books are right where they belong – on book shelves.
Are you planning to take Oxford outside of India as well?
The Oxford experience has its roots in India and it has its readers here who love the experience. I have another brand in Marrakesh. It is called Kathakali and it is has been our constant endeavour to open the world of South Asian, Indian and world literature Moroccan readers.