I think we have a few 100,000-copy books next year," says Kapish Mehra, 29, managing director, Rupa Publications, matter-of-factly. It would be an absurd figure for most Indian publishers to bring up in conversation, but Rupa has apparently mastered the art of phenomenal sales. With its tremendous reach, increasing focus on quality and production, and Mehra’s instinct for the kind of books Indian readers are drawn to, Rupa has fulfilled the goal Mehra set for himself when he came to work at his grandfather’s company—to lead, and then dominate, mass-market publishing.

Rupa’s authors range from heavyweights like Chetan Bhagat, whose non-fiction book What Young India Wants sold 500,000 copies in a day, according to the company, to debutant Varun Agarwal, whose book How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded A Million-Dollar Company came off the slush pile and sold out its first print run of 20,000 copies within weeks.

Rupa’s traditional edge over its competitors—low prices—is now complemented by slick covers and improved editing. “You can charge a little bit more for look and feel, but pricing has to remain competitive," Mehra says. “An impulse buy depends on both factors."

Rupa now sells books not only in Mumbai and Chandigarh but also in Bilaspur or Gorakhpur. “They won’t have a movie theatre," Mehra explains. “But they will have a corner store from where they can buy a book. That’s how you build your customer base."

Even more than the beautiful redesigned red-and-white Rupa Classics line, Rupa’s changing profile is represented by ventures like Aleph Book Company, the literary publishing outfit run by former Penguin chairman David Davidar, 54, in which it is a majority stakeholder. Incorporated in 2011, Aleph began publishing in April this year. Books like Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s Between Clay and Dust and Nilanjana Roy’s The Wildings have won critical acclaim, and Aleph’s stunning covers and production values have set new standards for book design. “That was one of our goals," says publisher Davidar, “to prove that out of India could come books that could compete with the rest of the world, through just focus, focus, focus. It was such a treat that people actually noticed."

Aleph will publish “about 40 books a year; the right size to focus time and attention on each one," says Davidar. In the pipeline are books by Rajmohan Gandhi, Pranay Gupte, Barkha Dutt, and a series of writings on Indian cities. Meanwhile, Rupa will unveil its Red Turtle imprint for children in early 2013, and, later in the year, its business imprint, Maven.

“At Rupa we believe there’s a book for everyone," Mehra says.

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