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UK publishing house plans big for India

March 29, 2006 12:27 IST

Michael Heseltine's Haymarket wants some of the media action in India, but hush!

Britain's largest privately owned publishing house, Haymarket Publishing, has big plans for India.

"We were the second foreign publishing house to come into India after the Financial Times," says Michael Heseltine, chairman, Haymarket Publishing," and we believe that this market is just opening up as the cap on foreign direct investment is extended. We do have more plans for India in the coming months."

Adds Hormazd Sorabjee, his Indian partner, "We saw an emerging niche for a specialised magazine for hi-fi gadgets, as the market in India is just beginning to take off. Also, as whatever is available in the markets abroad is now available here simultaneously, we don't have to tweak it too much. Unlike autos, where the local products play a big role."

The company, which already has a presence in India through two of its auto titles, Autocar and Autocar Professional, has just launched a third title, Wot Hi-Fi, and is planning a fourth one, also with Sorabjee Communications.

Heseltine, a British Conservative politician best known for hastening the end of what is widely remembered as the "Thatcher era", is a well recognised face in India, even though he has quit active politics and has been busy expanding his publishing empire across the world. This is a quest that has taken him all the way to China too, where he has a slew of titles including  Auto car and F1, a formula racing magazine. The aim is to capture interest in what Heseltine describes with a twinkle as "boys' toys".

"We are the largest licensor of titles in South-east Asia," he says. "We also have a couple of significant partnerships in Indonesia. We also publish one of our women's titles in Indonesia, Eve. We publish around 180 titles and quite a few are licensed in Asia."

Heseltine, who started the company in 1959, says most of his ideas for magazines come while travelling. "I have travelled extensively on my job and wherever I go, I look for opportunities. If we can satisfy a human market in Britain, then we can satisfy a human market anywhere else. They aren't all that different after all."

Asked to elaborate on his India plans, Heseltine shakes his famous leonine head of grey, and says firmly, "I have too much respect for Indian entrepreneurship to disclose my plans. While I am spending three months getting the necessary permissions, somebody would already have got a whiff and started off on the same thing."

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Gayatri Ramanathan in Mumbai