Fair is full, full is fair
Muhammad Yusuf reports on some players and activities at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair
One of the big guns which are showcasing its works at the current Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF, Oct. 31 – Nov. 10) is National Book Trust (NBT), India. NBT is an apex body established by the Government of India in 1957. Its remit is “to produce and encourage the production of good literature in English, Hindi and other Indian languages and to make such literature available at moderate prices to the public and to bring out book catalogues, arrange book fairs/exhibitions and seminars and take all necessary steps to make the people book minded”.
A regular visitor at SIBF, this time the NB T lag is held by Kumar Vikram, Editor (English), Project Incharge, Research & Innovation and Mohammed Imranul Haque, Dy. Director (Exhibition).
“We work at many levels”, said Vikram, inding time from attending to pushy customers, curious school kids, lazy wanderers and others, to speak to Time Out. “We have organised a collective exhibit of Indian books”.
NBT has brought 300 titles and 30 publishers. “The focus”, said Vikram, “is on Mahatma Gandhi. This year we are celebrating his 150th birth anniversary”.
He pointed out that 25 publishers have arrived at SIBF through the good ofices of NBT, as a result of its moving its leverage with and links to Sharjah Book Authority, the organising body of the fair.
“The year 2019”, he said, “is very important in the book world, especially relating to Indo-UAE publishing ties. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the UAE in February, a joint statement was announced where Sharjah was chosen as the Guest of Honour at the New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF, Jan. 5 – 13) in India.
“And to add cream to the cake, India will be the Guest of Honour in April 2019 during the Abu Dhabi Book Fair”. Vikram also noted that Sharjah has been for long a participant at NDWBF.
According to him – are there many who can question this? – there is little or no perception of Sharjah and the UAE in India vis-à-vis the literary scene and knowledge of major authors. “This can be a point of engagement and discussion”, he said.
Given this condition, he insisted that Emirati names have to be made well known in Indian literary and other circles. “Young writers and women writers, especially, have to be promoted”, he said.
He said that Sharjah would be coming with a large delegation to the book fair in New Delhi next year. Emirates Publishing Association will be hosting 25 – 30 publishers.
Sharjah will deliver the keynote address and there will be other presentations. It will also take part in the ‘CEO Speak’ forum, where head honchos of the Indian publishing industry will participate. The emirate will also take the opportunity to showcase its culture and tourism.
“We have just had a meeting with Indian publishers where we took inputs and suggestions for the Abu Dhabi Book Fair”, Vikram said. “We will be associating the Indian community, publishers, culture workers and professionals on one platform”.
Among other things NBT discussed at SIBF: copyright sales and translation of books on Gandhi into Arabic in the UAE.
In 2017, NBT observed the 60th year of its foundation. The occasion was marked by a special exhibit showcasing its efforts promoting the Culture of Reading at the NDWBF.
As the nodal agency for the promotion of books overseas, NBT has participated in many international book fairs. Since 1970, it has taken part in fairs in Frankfurt, Bologna, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Colombo, Tokyo, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Nigeria, Warsaw, Kathmandu, London, Dhaka and Jakarta, among other places.
Held annually, NDWBF attracts over 1,000 exhibitors not only from across India but also major international publishing houses of the world. It is the largest book fair in the AfroAsian region, hosting many literary and publishing conferences and emerging new voices in Indian writing. It also conducts special programmes for children and youth.
Sunil Kumar, Executive Officer, Capexil (sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India), said that the body “acts strongly for the promotion of the Indian publishing and printing industry in the world market. We try to set standards and best practices”.
Capexil is a non-profit making organisation, set up in 1958 to promote the export of chemical and allied products from India. Since then, it has been the voice of the Indian business community, especially exporters.
Headquartered in Kolkata and with regional offices at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, it has over 5,000 members across the country. Its primary focus is to provide export assistance to its member exporters. It showcases Indian exports all over the world through exhibitions and fairs.
It is planning to organise a buyerseller meet at SIBF 2019 to beneit the Indian publishing industry. In 2018, US$12.85 million worth of books, publications and other printed material has been exported from India to the UAE. Capexil has also suggested that a “business bay” be established to serve as a permanent base for the Indo-UAE publishing industry.
Capexil Book Division has brought 20 publishers for the SIBF as participants. “We strive always to create more exports for India”, Kumar said.
Contented customers at SIBF 2018.
Kumar Vikram (left), Mohammed Imranul Haque and Sunil Kumar at the NBT stall.
A scene from New Delhi World Book Fair.