New Delhi: Romance fiction giant Mills & Boon aims to fete its 100th anniversary by giving India a “new guilty pleasure” -- printing its steamy love stories for the first time in the morally conservative nation.
According to Andrew Go, the group’s head of operations in India, the books are tailor-made for a country where people flock to see Bollywood films that mirror the publishers’ own rose-tinted storylines of “Boy meets girl, conflict, happy ending.”
“India loves romantic stories, it’s the perfect plot” for a business foray into the sub-continent, he told AFP.
The move setting up a subsidiary here gives India a “new guilty pleasure,” said a spokesman for Harlequin Mills & Boon, which is owned by Torstar Corp, Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher.
The world’s leading publisher of romantic fiction said it hoped India, with an estimated 300 million English readers, would become one of its biggest -- if not the biggest -- markets.
Indian market staggering
“The market is staggering,” said Donna Hayes, chief executive of Mills & Boon, which already sells 4.1 books a second, or 131 million books a year in 109 countries and 26 languages.
She declined to give details about the company’s investment in India but said it was prepared to “spend what it takes” to be successful. Hayes dismissed speculation that such titles as “Pride and Pregnancy Secret” and “Bedded for the Italian’s Pleasure” could be too explicit for a country where premarital sex is deeply frowned upon.
“This is where the Kama Sutra was born,” said Hayes, adding that the books were targeted at readers aged 16 and up but that many people in other countries reported reading them from about 13.
“The world has moved on -- there is premarital sex,” she said. At the same time, Hayes said that all Mills & Boon’s publications stressed “family values and a committed relationship” at the same time as lust and love.
Men too reading romantic fiction
Indian women readers -- and, according to Go, a lot of men too -- have been swooning over the publisher’s dashing heroes since British colonial days thanks to exports.
Go had no explanation why more men appeared to read the books in India than other parts of the world, except they might be more “open in admitting it.”
But the establishment of the subsidiary represents the company’s first full-scale assault on the Indian market.
Mills & Boon completes 100 years of publication
The launch came just days before Mills & Boon was due to kick off its centenary celebrations with a glittering romance-themed party in London on Thursday.
The launch of the Indian subsidiary follows a change in Delhi’s rules three years ago allowing foreign groups to own non-news publications wholly for the first time.
Mills & Boon is the latest in a string of publications to enter India, following style magazines Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Hello.
The breathless romances will sell for just Rs99, a price the company believes will appeal to India’s booming middle class. “Setting up local operations and distribution will make the brand available to readers like never before,” said Hayes.