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Little black books

Business books highlighting company achievements are becoming the new branding tool for corporate organisations.

Apr 17, 2007, 11.38 PM IST
For an out-of-the-box look at corporate branding, head out to your nearest bookstore. Till some time ago, commisioning a business book was restricted to corporate biography, or a commerative volume to mark a significant anniversary.

Today, the business book is being used as a branding tool — corporates are looking at them as a way to communicate with prospective investors and customers. Here’s how the examples stack up: Gujarat Ambuja Cement published a volume called The Ambuja Cement Eastern Turnaround Story, Exide Industries released Always Ahead, while the Kolkata Municipal Corporation commissioned a book about itself called Corporatising The Mindset.

SB Ganguly, chairman & CEO, Exide Industries, says the company’s usual corporate gifts included books by Tagore and Amartya Sen, so “when the idea of a book on Exide struck us we were quite excited about it.” Always Ahead showcases Exide’s growth post-liberalisation, when foreign companies posed a threat to the local battery factory. The Ambuja Cement Eastern Turnaround Story was a gift from the employers to Harshavardhan Neotia, the managing director of the company at the time.

It was their way of expressing gratitude to Neotia for changing the fortunes of the sick company. “I was quite surprised when I was gifted this book, it’s one of my most cherished possessions,” says Neotia.

Author Sharadha Dwivedi, who set up Eminence Designs to handle such publishing projects, believes that companies should make their stories more public. “I tell my clients to make copies of their books available in book stalls. Stories of successful men and the empires they built will be an interesting read and people should be able to pick it up if required.” Delhi Metro Rail Corporation printed 3,000 copies of its book, which was gifted to dignitaries visiting the metro like Prince Charles and Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.

But 2,000 copies have also been sold in bookstores, and it can be bought at the station master’s office across the 59 metro stations. Eminence Designs has been the force behind Reach For The Stars, published by Blue Star and Jindal Group’s The Man Who Talked To Machines. Mudar Pathreya, chief positioning officer, Trisys Communications, another consultancy on corporate books, says, “Earlier, corporate books were mostly biographies, but over the last 6-8 years we’ve seen a range of subjects.”

Trisys is working on a book for Balrampur Chini Mills that required them to talk to more than 180 farmers. There is a book being made about the 100 years of Bank of Baroda and one on the existence of the Taj Group of hotels in India — each trying to capture a particular time period.

While most corporate communication like brochures, booklets and annual reports are relevant for a year, a book can stay on the shelves for decades. So, this could be considered a long-term investment. Dwivedi says it is up to the client to decide the budget, “It may vary from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 2 crore, depending on what they want to communicate. Basically, such books are aimed at creating awareness, so cost is not a concern.”

The timelines can be vastly different as well — the Bengal Ambuja book was completed within three weeks while the Exide book took 15 months. Given that quite a few corporate ad campaigns take that long to develop, expect to see many more titles on the bookshelves.
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