'An e-book reaches places where a paperback cannot,' says Chiki Sarkar of Juggernaut

25th Sep 2017
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On Day 2 of TechSparks, Juggernaut Founder Chiki Sarkar and journalist Sagarika Ghose discussed the do’s and don’ts of the content business.

Chiki Sarkar (left) and Sagarika Ghosh (right).

Good content, they say, is not just storytelling; it’s telling your story well. In today’s digital world, the importance of content can’t be stressed enough – it’s relevant in every industry and sector. Who better to discuss it than two renowned names from the industry – Juggernaut Founder Chiki Sarkar and journalist Sagarika Ghose.

With more than 200 million Indians on smartphones, almost all businesses are going online. Be it fashion or food, a touch on the screen takes care of everything. In the startup world, techies are coming up with newer ways to engage people and enhance their spread. Publishing is among the many industries to have been bitten by the tech bug.

The content business in India is experiencing an evident change. Readers are transitioning from books to e-books and a completely new audience has taken a liking to reading because of the ease of accessibility to e-books. To foresee and adapt to changing times is one of the formulae of being successful.

Chiki Sarkar, former publisher of Penguin Random House, is among those who realised the value of leveraging technology in publishing early. Her startup Juggernaut is changing the way Indians read books.

On Day 2 of TechSparks, she and Sagarika Ghose, journalist and author of Indira, discussed the do’s and don’ts of the creative business.

More flops than hits

“In the creative business, we have more flops than hits. There is no assurance of success in publishing,” said Chiki as she took to the Tech Sparks stage to talk about building content businesses in India.

The session began with a discussion on what goes into the making a book.

“The key to great content is a great idea,” said Sagarika, who recently published her book with Juggernaut and had a lot of insights to share on books going electronic.

Chiki, with more than a decade of experience in the publishing industry, explained how things work in her company. Editors at Juggernaut have an ideas meeting every Monday. The team thinks like journalists and looks for news or events that can be made into books.

Citing the example of Sagarika’s biography of Indira Gandhi, Chiki said the team was aware that Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary was coming up and decided to publish a book on her.

At Juggernaut, “we don’t wait for the book to come to you, [we] make the book happen,” Chiki said.

But in the content business – as in most others - while a good idea is a great start, it is not enough. For the book to be successful, it is important that both the writer and publisher are passionate about the subject.

Effective promotion is essential

Writing a book is just the beginning. Effective promotion is the key to a successful product, and both Chiki and Sagarika emphasised its importance. The advent of new media has led to a change in the way books are read along with in readers.

For Sagarika’s book, Juggernaut used social media for marketing purposes. They organised a pre-launch event where they held a discussion between the author, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit and journalist Nalini Singh, inviting selected users of the app to attend the event. The event was live-streamed and the video was promoted online. This helped them reach audiences that would probably never attend a book launch.

“The event was a learning experience for me. It gave me a perspective on how a book should be written and read...Online readers are very different from traditional book readers; they are much more demanding and discerning. They have access to global material,” Sagarika said.

Revealing her startup’s marketing strategy, Chiki said Juggernaut breaks a book up and releases chapters on their app months before the release of the book to engage readers. The firm staunchly believes that an e-book reaches places where a paperback cannot.

Online content is at a nascent stage, with Indian audiences slowly shifting from traditional books to e-books.

Chiki believes that at the end of the day a great idea and a great writer decides the success of the book (or e-book), but new media “does provide a lot of flexibility”.

Just one-year-old, Juggernaut is making good headway.

Opening up about the challenges she faces, Chiki says the greatest challenge of the Indian content business is that “no one wants to pay for it”. However, she added that despite that, their app’s free-to-paid conversion is 10 percent, much higher than many other popular apps.

And while one would think that online books are sold at a fraction of the paperback’s price, Chiki emphasised that there is “no cannibalising” of digital to print as both have their own share of unique readers.

Sagarika ended with a piece of advice that she believes Indira Gandhi would give young entrepreneurs, "Never give up."

(Watch out for a bigger and better TechSparks 2018. Sign up for updates now.)

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