Jill Poet, CEO of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses, interviews Prabhu Guptara of Pippa Rann Books and Media (PRBM), to find out why the parent company, Salt Desert Media Group, decided to become #ORBMembers.
Q. What is Pippa Rann Books & Media (PRBM)?
A. PRBM is a new publishing imprint, a “general publisher” (meaning publishing a variety of books, for the ordinary reader), which was launched on August the 17th this year.
Q. This is surely a strange and difficult time to start a new publishing business, isn’t it?
A. Well, every week and every year has its own challenges.
I started this publishing venture, at the age of 71, with no previous experience of the publishing industry, really out of a sense of divine compulsion as I wanted to do something in memory of my wife, and as India was going into what will be a period of darkness – so the imprint has my wife’s maiden name, and what’s special about it is that it focuses on nurturing democratic and humane values among Indians and others who love India.
The PRBM imprint is part of a British company, Salt Desert Media Group Ltd [the #ORBMember company] whose vision is to nurture democratic and humane values around the world. But as there is only one of me, I have started the first imprint, and I await others who may feel moved to join me and start other imprints covering other areas of the world, and perhaps global themes. In fact, discussions have just started on starting a second imprint. We shall see how the discussions go.
Q. And how is it all going so far?
A. Well, I decided that the only way to learn to swim is to jump in at the deep end. So I’ve probably made a complete mess of publishing my first three titles!
The first title (political humour, titled PolyTicks, DeMocKrazy & MumboJumbo was published on August the 31st – roughly a fortnight after the imprint was launched!
The second title is in the area of spirituality, religion, or philosophy Seeking God, Seeking Moksha and was launched at the end of September.
And the third title should have been launched at the end of October but we had to schedule it, for various reasons, for a few days later – November the 3rd. You can imagine that that’s meant working day and night till now, but I can now take a step back, notice my wounds as well as attend to them, and learn from my experience how I can avoid repeating expensive mistakes in the future.
But the launches have gone well. My third title, Business Storytelling from Hype to Hack, has already hit the best-seller list on Amazon!
Oh, and the other encouraging thing is that I was already asked to speak at an international conference, organised by Soka University, Japan, on “Pan-Asian Publishing”! Extraordinary, within weeks of my start as a rookie publisher, to be recognised as a bit of an expert. In a particular area of course. So I am encouraged. Though being an expert in one narrow area, while being relatively incompetent overall, is perilously near the definition of autistic!
Q. Haha! I see you don’t take yourself seriously. Yet Pippa Rann Books & Media joined the Organisation for Responsible Businesses, which is really quite a serious organisation. Why did you join?
A. Oh, I should be clear: I don’t take myself seriously because I don’t suffer from any illusions about my efforts making the blindest bit of difference to the world as a whole. Faced with overwhelming odds, laughter is both the best strategy and the best medicine. But one should do what one can, so I do.
I suppose I should say that my wife and shared a deep commitment to the necessity for businesses to be responsible – in her case, I know, it was a much deeper commitment than mine. But in my case, the roots of that commitment go back to my childhood.
My father died when I was eight years old and, for reasons that are too long-winded to go into here, the family fortunes plunged overnight from living in literally half of a real palace to literally being on the streets.
That started me on a search for answers to basic and profound questions such as:
– “Is there a God?”,
– “If so, why doesn’t He make His existence unmistakably clear?”,
– “Why are there so many individuals and groups retailing contradictory and competing versions of who He is and of the way to Him?”,
– “If there is a God, He should surely reward the most religious country on earth (India) with prosperity – why hasn’t He done that?”,
– “If there is a God, why doesn’t He do something about all the suffering that I see around me?”,
– “We Indians worship nature in many forms – why, then, do we also trash nature so comprehensively?”,
– “How come this highly religious country is also one of the most corrupt in the world?”,
– “Those with the greatest resources should be doing most about making the world better – why aren’t they?”,
And so on …
By the time I was 14, I had become a follower of Jesus – a pretty unusual choice you might think, for an Indian, but there are more and more of us making that choice – though some become Christians, most of us reject Christianity and are “Hindu followers of Jesus”. That can be a long discussion, so let’s not get into that here.
Anyway, the point is that moral, ethical, social, and environmental concerns run very deep in the core of my being because I saw from childhood the national consequences of the abandonment of responsibility in those areas.
I began to travel outside India from 1968, and even live outside India from 1976 – and have now come to some age, if not any maturity! – so I have seen, and I am increasingly seeing, the international consequences of the abandonment of basics such as the Ten Commandments.
You know, I have been invited to speak on business-related topics at some of the top universities and conferences and business schools in the world, and it is quite astonishing how few people even know what the Ten Commandments are today.
When people are ignorant of the basics, it is not surprising that they feel all the more free to lie, cheat, steal and worse – in the case of our leaders around the world, at a massive scale. And once that is the situation with leaders, it isn’t long before “everyone is doing it”.
Well, not everyone, thank God. Which I guess, why the ORB has come into existence. Naturally – and I know my wife approves and supports from Heaven – I want to join hands with people who recognise the tide of irresponsibility that seems to be overtaking the world at present, and are working to reverse that.
Prabhu Guptara is the Publisher of Pippa Rann Books, an imprint of Salt Desert Media Group Ltd, UK which is based in Sutton, London. In addition, he continues his earlier work as an Advisor to Company Boards.