By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
It’s a complicated question, one that is addressed briefly in today’s interview with Indian media pioneer Raghav Bahl: which is a better investment for media companies, China or India?
India once had a bigger GDP than China; today, China’s GDP is many, many multiples larger than India’s. The difference is the speed at which China has empowered people to climb out of poverty and strive for the middle class. As a business person, China’s growing internal market would seem to be the better opportunity, provided you can work your way through the political, errr, red tape. But is that still the case in book publishing? Nearly all media is state-controlled, with independent publishers remaining in the awkward position of having to buy ISBNs from state-controlled companies. Joint ventures also remain majority-owned by the Chinese partner.
In India, there is also a growing middle class that consumes media — though the pace of that growth is slower. E-books, in particular, are on the rise and according to Bowker, more than 50% of Indian’s surveyed said they were going to buy an e-book this year (of course, I’m sure their polling never reached into the poorer area’s of the country — how could it, frankly, when there is inconsistent electricity, poor sewage, etc.). India is also a democratic country where freedom of press is respected, business ownership is more liberal, and corruption is — arguably — less of an issue. Of course, there is also a multiplicity of languages in China, meaning a publishing investment in English language books has a someone more limited reach than you might anticipate.
So tell us, if you had a big pot of publishing money to invest in one of these two enormous emerging markets, where would it go?