Imagining India has a very real marketing story to it

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : December 17, 2008
The launch of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani's debut book about India as a nation has a detailed marketing strategy behind it. A peek into it


Nilekani is a 'household' name in corporate hallways, oxymoron notwithstanding. The co-founder, former chief executive officer and co-chairman of software giant Infosys evokes reverence even from those who may not fully comprehend the extent of his contributions to the IT industry. Naturally, news of the businessman's debut book was bound to create curiosity.

On November 24, Nilekani released his book, Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century. The book has 18 integral ideas that India has either adopted, or should adopt, on the road to prosperity. It is divided into four parts - ideas that have arrived, ideas in progress, ideas in battle and ideas to anticipate.

Published by Penguin Books India, Imagining India delves into the great social, political and cultural change that India has undergone since its independence, and aims to answer the question: How will India as a global power avoid the mistakes of earlier development models?

Anantha Padmanabhan, vice-president, sales, Penguin Books India, reveals the sales picture to afaqs!: thus far, around 40 per cent of the sales have come from South India, 30 per cent from North India, some 25 per cent from Western India and the remaining from the East. Western India was expected to perform better, but owing to the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, the book's sales have been affected up to a certain extent.

Around 40,000 copies have been sold in less than a month of the book's launch, while Penguin was actually expecting a sale of 50,000 copies over a period of six months. By February or March next year, Penguin expects to sell 70,000 copies. "Overall, this has been one of our most successful launches," says Padmanabhan.

What's rather interesting is the manner in which this 380-page book has been marketed, particularly to create a buzz amongst the youth, which is the largest demographic set in our country today and the leaders of tomorrow.

"Our first task was to convince people that unlike what is expected of Nandan, this book isn't about IT or business alone," says Hemali Sodhi, general manager, marketing, Penguin Books India. "It is a book with which every Indian on the threshold of change can identify."

In Sodhi's words, this is an "ideas book… a blueprint for India". The book called for a tailormade strategic marketing exercise. Penguin started off with creating a pre-launch buzz: Excerpts of the book were published serially in The Times of India in a full-page format each time, around two weeks prior to the book's release. This was done to give people a flavour of the book.

Next, an Imagining India website ( was set up by Nilekani in association with several parties, including Penguin Books India and Webchutney. The idea behind the site is simple: Nilekani wants to engage and interact with his readers/potential readers on the issues mentioned in Imagining India. The site reveals information about the book, its author, news and reviews, and provides a mechanism to order the book online. The online orders are directed to The site also carries Nilekani's blog and allows people to post comments and indulge in debates and discussions.

Apart from the website, Penguin has tied up with Café Coffee Day (CCD) outlets and launched a contest wherein any CCD customer can fill in an entry form, describing in 50 words what he thinks is his idea of a Dream India. The best of the lot stands to win autographed versions of the book, or meet Nilekani in person and discuss the issues raised in the book.

Penguin has organised a six-city launch tour (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad), and the publishing house, along with Nilekani, is currently engaged in book launches across hotels, bookstores and universities. All these events offer a chance to interact with the author.

In February, a special leg of promotions across the academic circuit will be rolled out in a bid to influence young minds to take more interest in the way in which their country is being run.

This will be done across business schools and universities, and will involve interactions with Nilekani, who will in turn collect feedback from these youngsters and help pass it on to the right parties.

"The whole idea is to get a debate going," explains Sodhi of Penguin. "It isn't a one-way monologue about Nandan's vision for India; what others think of it is equally important."

Furthermore, an association with telecom major Vodafone has been inked, through which postpaid users of Vodafone have been provided with an IVR number on their bills. They can avail of special discounts if they order the book using the IVR number.

Collaterals such as posters and danglers across bookstores and other retail touchpoints are also being leveraged.

Clearly, the TG for this book seems to be Generation Next, considering the kind of marketing that Penguin has dabbled with. Sodhi, while admitting that Imagining India is hoping to influence young minds, states firmly that the book has been written for a "lay person who is interested in thought provoking non-fiction." Obviously, the hunt is for a committed, interested reader. Padmanabhan says that the book also hopes to reach out to the government and policy makers to a certain extent.

Stage 2 of marketing will have Penguin and Nilekani engaging with other opinion leaders. But this won't be immediate. "Actually, Nandan has already sought the opinion of some of our top leaders and the book itself makes references to these people and what they think," says Sodhi.

Imagining India is priced at Rs 699.

First Published : December 17, 2008

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