Adgully Exclusive | Ahmed Faiyaz, MD, Grey Oak: Leveraging on mass marketing ideas

Everyone expects a market space to be saturated when there are more than enough players in it. However all the market spaces have only accommodated more players with time, be it the television business or print or even the publishing space. Every single day there are about 20,000 books being published in U.S. according to Bowker, the global leader in bibliographic information management solutions, who had released statistics in 2008. India being an emerging market with immense growth potential also sees a large number of entries into this space. Grey Oak Publishers India Pvt. Ltd is one such company that was born out of the realization that the industry was shaped by a few credible big publishers who were out of reach for many.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Ahmed Faiyaz, Managing Director, Grey Oak Publishers discussed extensively about the challenges and experiences in this space.

Having done his MBA and CA simultaneously, Faiyaz worked as a Strategy and Management Consultant in India and UAE and has around 10 years experience in the corporate world. Also being passionate about writing, he published his first book, Love, Life and All That Jazz and realized a lot of good work weren't being recognized. This led him to begin his own company.

"A lot of work gets published through existing networks and literary agents. On the other hand there are small publishers who lack the marketing and editorial calibre to bring good literature to the market. More importantly we saw a lot of these firms lacking the passion for books and are being run no differently than a courier service down the road. We wanted to provide a platform to Indian writers and bring quality content to the market," he said talking about the inception of his company.

He further added, "This was established by five of us a few months back. Though I'm involved in strategy and overall direction, it is being managed day to day by our executives based in Bangalore and Mumbai."

At Grey Oaks, Ahmed stresses on trying to focus primarily on mass-marketing Indian fiction. "I feel one big challenge is making a space for yourself in the bookstore, given that there are a multitude of publishers and tons of books. Bookstores have limited budgets and there are only so many credible distributors in the country which is also a limiting factor. The question is how does one stand up and get noticed? This is what we are trying to accomplish," he further explained.

"Love, life & all that jazz' and "Another Chance' are both bestsellers published by Grey Oak. Another Chance, is Faiyaz' second book, which will be marketed in a more subtle approach than his first book.

""Love, life & all that jazz..'is in its 5th print run and we are planning a 6th run in January 2011. We've had a great run so far as the book has been a bestseller in a number of stores in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. It was on the Hindu Bestseller List in June and July 2010. It also did remarkably well online across a number of online retail platforms. Another Chance which we recently launched, and which is my 2nd novel is already a bestseller on Indiaplaza within a week from being launched. We've been getting a good response for Urban Shots too," he said.

Urban Shots is edited by bestselling author, Paritosh Uttam, this is an anthology of 29 urban tales by 13 young writers. Each of these fresh, vivid and deceptively simple stories focuses on an epiphany. The stories are set with the backdrop of the urban metros with their bright lights, sky rises, glitzy malls, tenements, crowds and the chaos that comes with it.

Grey Oak Publishers is more focused on bringing value to the reader through affordable, well written and well presented books as well as working in an environment where its win - win for their authors, retail channels and other associates in the chain which includes editors and creative designers. "We don't have an x % in mind and neither is it our target. It more has to do with building a brand that is respected by authors, readers and the retail channel alike," Faiyaz further said.

Talking of the content that exists in this space, Faiyaz said, "There is a lot of good content, some of our contemporaries have put in credible effort, but some of it doesn't get enough marketing attention. However, we feel there is more room to bring a little more and add a little flavour to the bookshelves."

Grey Oaks is looking at a growth path which is with a long term view. "We've started off based on an idea, but we are now looking at how do we build this as something sustainable for the long term. We don't want to be aggressive and publish everything that comes our way. We've rejected a lot of manuscripts, even ones by known published authors. I think our Publishing Director rejected the 1st 10 manuscripts she read," he said.

Faiyaz urges young writers to write if writing is what one is passionate about. He adds, "Also, you're writing for an audience, so look at your own work and think from the audience's perspective." | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)adgully.com]

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