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Lest We Sing the Same Tune

An unscheduled but much welcomed session by Anish Trivedi concluded proceedings on the first day of Publishing Next. This veteran of the music industry shared his experiences with the evolving music industry scenario over the last fifteen years.

Anish shared his opinion that within the music industry, it is not the music label, or the listener but a group of companies that own every radio station over the world who decide what is heard. “There are musicians who will never be heard because some software decides what’s to be heard on the radio.” he said. He put forth an interesting fact, “If there are 50 manuscripts that get trashed at a publishing house every week at one publishing house, there are probably 5000 tracks that get trashed everyday in the music industry,”  thus drawing parallels with the publishing industry.

The music industry had spent a lot of time plotting how they could be protected from the internet, stop piracy and eliminate peer-to-peer sharing. Ten years were spent trying to combat these “ills” (quotes ours) and all they realized was that it cannot be stopped. The consumer refuses processes that make it difficult for them to listen to music. Meanwhile, sites like emusic suggested that musicians put their tracks up for free. The way out was to collaborate with online mediums to make it easier and more convenient for music to reach the people.

Since there is no data available on sites, how do you find a track? In the Indian music industry, nobody knew the name of the song or singer; they knew the actor in the song. That made it easy for them to find music on certain criteria, by putting data together. Anish exhorted the audience to action saying, “It took us a long time to realize that things have changed. Don’t make the same mistake, because whether it is the ipad or iphone, the convenience of it will draw people to it.” His advice was to use technology to reach the audience, not to protect content against who might be genuine customers.

“The paradigm has changed”, he concluded.

The parallels are too obvious to ignore. The traditonal gatekeeper role that publishers have played, and sometimes importantly so, is being challenged by various options that make it easy for authors to self-publish. That said, it is sometimes difficult to believe that a few editors can decide, and will do so correctly, what millions will read. The need therefore is for independent publishing houses that will support alternate voices and opinions and independent bookstores that will pay lesser attention to margins, concentrating instead on providing visibility to lesser known titles.

Similarly, the desire to control usage of digital content is too attractive for some publishers. At CinnamonTeal Publishing, we believe in the author’s right to choose on which platform books can be read. We would rather appeal to the reader’s sense of ethics and discourage piracy. That may or may not work and less subtle forms of discouraging piracy (like social DRM) are now available and could be employed. However, to totally restrict usage to publisher-mandated platforms may be counter-productive.

This report was presented by Lianne Caldeira and Malaika Fernandes at Publishing Next, 2011.

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The Right, Rights and Copyrights in Tamil Publishing

By Kannan Sundaram

A couple of months back, I was asked to speak as a panelist in the Publishing Next conference, hosted by CinnamonTeal in Goa. The panel that I was a part of was focused on discussing Copyright Issues in Publishing, in the light of the proposed amendments to the existing Copyright Act. It was suggested that I speak on how the legal framework of copyright, executed through contracts between an author and publisher, impact upon the author-publisher relationship, with specific focus on subsidiary rights and territorial rights.

My experience as a Tamil publisher, and of the issues publishers like me face, are so different from that of an independent English publisher in India, that it is hard to believe that we all exist in the same geographical space. For instance, the proposed amendments to the copyright law, such as the introduction of clause 2(m) (which would allow parallel imports) that have worked up the independent English publishers and created a debate in the English media are probably not of any great concern today to a Tamil publisher. I often dream of facing the problems encountered by independent English publishers – problems like book piracy and parallel imports.

The day one of Kalachuvadu’s books is pirated, I will decide that we have finally arrived!

Parallel-import fantasy

Tamil is probably the only Indian language that is also an international language. It is an official language in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. After the vast Sri Lankan Tamil immigration to the West, Tamils now live in substantial numbers in about 50 countries across the globe. Their population is above 100,000 in cities like Paris, London and Toronto. It is said that more Tamils now live in Toronto than in Jaffna. Tamil is a municipal language in the city of Toronto.

Tamil-publishing activities are taking place outside India from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and to a limited extent, in the Western countries. So, now I also dream of parallel imports.

Because, this would mean that the international Tamil market would expand manifold. Markets for Tamil books in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the West would grow to such an extent that publishers would buy territorial rights from the copyright holder and publish them for their local market. And, we would do the same for Tamil books published outside India.

That would be a dream come true, because the scenario where 2(m) threatens us is possible only when the international Tamil book market becomes a fully developed market. I do not intend to either trivialize or romanticise the problems of the independent English publishers, but only wish to point this out: facing these problems in a developed market might be better than surviving in a market that cannot sustain book piracy or parallel imports.

Author–Publisher– Copyright Relationship in Tamil Publishing

Typically, a Tamil writer is thrilled if the publisher signs a contract, sends him a statement of accounts regularly and pays him some money as Royalty. Tamil publishers are not known to easily part with Royalty. For their star writers, they dole out some cash during the occasion of Pongal festival, which is like a bonus to encourage the writer. Royalty accounts are not given as a rule, but provided only under duress. I would like to narrate two stories to illustrate the author–publisher–copyright relationship:

Ten years ago, I met the family of a great Tamil writer who had passed away some decades ago. His books continue to sell well even to this day. The family narrated this story: Their publisher came every year to pay them a paltry amount as Royalty. Typically, he would then begin to complain about the lack of sales. So much so that the grandchildren of the writer began calling him “cry baby” behind his back. During one such visit, when he was about to leave, a granddaughter raised an innocuous question about his new house. His face spontaneously brightened up and he told her with a lot of pride: two floors are complete and the third floor is under construction.

Few years ago an archeologist visited me. He worked for multinational companies in Asia, Europe and Africa. He had written a wonderful book in Tamil on archeology nearly a decade ago. He wanted to know if I would republish it. I considered it an honour. He had doubts about the copyright for the book – whether it was with him or with the publisher. I pointed out to the imprint page of the book where it was clearly mentioned that the rights were his. At this time, two things struck me: one, this was the first time he was looking at the imprint page, and two, he had never received any Royalty for this very valuable book.

Couple of years ago, we published the Tamil translation of Baby Halder’s A Life Less Ordinary – the autobiographical story of a house-maid who had educated herself, and penned the book. Before we commissioned its translation in Tamil, the book was published in many Indian and international languages. Baby Halder had travelled across the globe, participating in readings and signing copies. When I gave her the Tamil translation, she immediately turned to the imprint page, read what she could of the information printed in English, asked me several probing questions on the number of copies printed and the royalty she would get. In my 15 years as a publisher, this was the first time an author quizzed me on the details of the imprint page.

Awareness of copyright does not come with education of it, but only with exposure to the issues of copyright. As a rule, Tamil writers lack that kind of exposure. There is enough material for a doctorate on Tamil publishers-author-royalty relationship in the last century, which will, in essence, be a history of exploitation of the author. A senior writer once wrote in a publication, “how can you cheat a Tamil writer by not paying royalty when he does not expect to be paid in the first instance?”

There are of course a few honourable exceptions to this rule.

Creating a “Revolution”

When Kalachuvadu Pathippagam was started in 1995, one of our earliest decisions was to sign a contract with our authors and pay royalties regularly. This is hardly a revolutionary decision, but in the context of Tamil publishing it created a buzz and became our USP with the authors. The buzz came about because contracts and royalty were not the norm in the industry.

Very few authors have moved away from us in all these years. We have an undeclared rule of not approaching an author who is publishing with a fellow publisher. But authors often approach us. One major reason for this policy of ours is the respect for copyrights. The money is not big, and for many writers who are not dependent on writing for a living, it may not mean much in financial terms. But the few thousand that they earn through writing gives them enormous satisfaction.

Many senior writers have called me after they receive a cheque from us, and have said that this was the first payment they have ever received for their writings. For them, it becomes a moment to be cherished. Like I mentioned earlier, there does exist the theoretical possibility of territorial rights in Tamil. However contracts never mention the territorial rights. To my knowledge, sale of territorial rights has never happened.

The total population of Tamils across the globe is estimated to be around 65 million. But sales of books are minuscule when compared to this figure. For any piece of literary fiction and non-fiction, for a sale to be considered good is if an edition of 1200 copies is sold in a year.

There are many reasons for this. I will touch upon a few here:

  1. Book culture itself is not developed. Reading books outside your school curriculum is typically considered a waste of time.
  2. Complete domination of English is present in both material and psychological spaces. More and more children are receiving schooling in English. Speaking English is considered the final proof of knowledge. Tamil school curriculum is archaic and encourages the child to hate the language.
  3. The establishment is completely biased towards classical Tamil and modern writing is largely ignored in school and college syllabus. After three millennium of the reign of poetry, prose (which is probably a 150-year old tradition) is treated like an upstart.


Subsidiary sales are practically non-existent. To my knowledge, no Tamil publisher has ever sold film rights. Our film producers are too smart to waste money in buying rights. They have this unpaid army called “assistant directors” who are commissioned to read lots of books. Very few Tamil films are made with scripts. The movie team sits together with the story line and develops the movie scene by scene over discussions. As per the situation the assistant directors will adapt a character or role in the story from a published source of Tamil fiction and insert it in the script, as and when the story demands. It is done so cleverly that even the author will not recognize this piracy.

We at Kalachuvadu have sold a few subsidiary rights, for translations to Malayalam, English and some European languages. When I share news of sales with my authors, they are typically moved. They are excited about the possibility of their work being read by other readers in other languages. When a publishing house takes the initiative to sell translation rights, it definitely strengthens its relationship with the author.

Digital, in the context of history

Digital and e-book sales have not yet taken off among Tamil books, and so the industry is yet to face issues of copyright and subsidiary sales for digital rights. Speaking of digital books there has been a lot of debate on print books versus the e-book elsewhere and in the Publishing Next conference too. The traditional medium for writing in Tamil was palm leaves. We used this medium for at least three thousand years, or more.

The first book to be printed in any Indian language was probably in Tamil.  It was printed in Goa, in Roman script, for the purpose of propagating Christianity.  In spite of the advent of printing technology, for several centuries after this, palm-leaf writing flourished.  We have evidence that in the early-twentieth century, books that were first printed were later copied onto palm leaves for reading. I won’t go into the reasons, but I would like to stress on the point that the future of the printed book will be decided not on the basis of technology alone, but also on the basis of culture and politics.

In conclusion…

Issues like piracy, 2m and digital rights, which are the talking points for independent English publishers, are not yet major issues for the Tamil publisher. But, as the market develops, these changes are bound to hit us sometime in the future.

On a more personal level, the signing of legal contracts, respecting copyrights and doing our best to sell subsidiary rights has had a very positive impact on our relationship with authors. Two years ago, I walked up to U.R. Ananthamurthy at a dinner at London. We had not met for a long time, so I began to introduce myself again: He silenced me, turned to the group he was in, and introduced me: “This is Kannan, my Tamil publisher, and he pays Royalty”!

Kannan Sundaram is the Publisher of Kalachuvadu Pathippagam, a publishing house that has published seminal texts covering fiction, non-fiction, literary criticism, social and political comment in Tamil language. He is also the Editor of Kalachuvadu, the renowned Tamil literary journal launched by Sundara Ramaswamy.

This article is a modified version of the talk given by the author at the ‘Copyright Issues in Publishing’ panel of the Publishing Next conference.

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The last session: Managing the Translation Market

The last session of the conference deliberated upon a topic that read: Managing the Translation Market. With a panel of six members and panel chair Arshia Sattar, this session tackled different aspects of translation within the publishing industry. The moderator emphasized on the value of translation, saying it “provides a whole new text for an audience to enjoy,even though a few things are lost in the process.”
Arunava Sinha touched uponthe market reasons for translation in India. A representative of the NationalTranslation Mission, Winston Cruz explained the vision and strategy of the organisation in his presentation and introduced the audience to several Government initiatives in this regard. Rubin D’cruz, Director of KSICL, took this opportunity to point out that languages in translation should not be referred to as central or regional as all are important and main languages and all deserve equal respect and attention. He also stressed on how important theNational Book Trust and Sahitya Academy were instrumental in national enterprise building.
K. Satyanarayan, co-founder of Chennai-based New Horizon Media and a Tamil publisher in his own right, discussed options for funding translations as well as the challenges involved in it. Other members of the panel included Neeta Gupta of Yatra Books who initiated the subject of tri-lingual dictionaries required in the industry, andJudith Oriol, the Book Attachee at the French embassy in India. “French publishers cannot ignore the Indian market anymore”, Ms. Oriol said.
The panel was almost unanimous in its assertion that there is a need for training and infrastructure to support translation in India today.
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Session 6: Copyrights in Publishing

The session on  ‘Copyright Issue in Publishing’, a very informative and interesting session, dealt with, as the name suggests, the much-deliberated copyright amendments and other copyright issues that most publishing houses face. The panel included G.R Raghavender, Registrar of Copyrights and Director at the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India; Pranesh Prakash, Programme Manager for a Bangalore based non-profit Research and Policy Advocacy organisation; Kannan Sundaram, of Kalachuvadu Pathippagam and author of several articles on politics and media including ‘The Great Copyright Hoax – Untold Story of 20th century Tamil Publishing’; Mandira Sen, a partner at Bhatkal and Sen which publishes two imprints, Stree and Samya and was chaired by Vinutha Mallya, a senior editor at Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad.

L-R: Vinutha Mallya, Mandira Sen, Kannan Sundaram, Pranesh Prakash, G. R. Raghavender

G. R. Raghavender in his presentation gave a detailed report of the copyright Law, itemizing every aspect of the law and explaining the circumstances that led to those aspects being introduced. Mr. Raghavender elaborated on the amendments, provisions and exceptions of the law and the changes it has faced in due course of time.

Pranesh Prakash began his discussion with a provocative comment stating that ‘each one of us is a criminal and should be jailed. Every single day, we violate the copyright law, whether we know it or not.’. This he said to illustrate how so many provisions of the Copyright Law were meaningless in today’s environment and therefore needed a revision. He said that the one problem with the Copyright Law was its attempt to bring together a large variety of very different kinds of activities under one umbrella while people actually engage in these creative activities for very different reasons. Mr. Prakash further continued to elaborate on this topic enlightening the audience with the various issues that publishers and other artists face due to the Copyright Law.

Kannan Sundaram gave a satirical viewpoint of Tamil publishing industry. He stated that ‘my experience as a common Tamil publisher and the problems that I faced are so divergent from the independent English publisher.’  Using many instances, Kannan illustrated how the concept of Copyright was either misunderstood or abused in the non-English markets.

Mandira Sen, in her discussion mentioned some of the amendments of the law with regard to the business models of publishers and how they affect them. She stated that there were three pillars of publishing, the first pillar being the copyright protection law which protects the rights of the author from issues like piracy and others, the second, territoriality which protects the sale of the work over a certain geographical area and the third, royalty which the author receives for his work. In her presentation she briefly explained section 2(m) of the copyright law, 2010 and the impact it has on the publishing business model.

Vinutha Mallya concluded by stating that ‘in India there are no industry statistics for publishing which is, in fact, is urgently required. Longitudinal studies tell us the patterns in India; territoriality has been a cultural notion as much as it has been a geographical notion and that the dependence on foreign books for the education of students among Indian publishers will decrease with the advent of the changes’.

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Workshop 2: Social Media Marketing

Workshop on Social Media Marketing
This workshop was handled by two socialmedia strategists, Maya Hemant and Maegan Chadwick-Dobson from Pratham Booksand Tara Books respectively.
The use of common social media toolslike blogs, twitter and facebook alongwith not-so-frequently used SoundCloud,Slideshare, Youtube and so on were dealt with. The audience was advised todevise their own unique social media strategy according to the personality oftheir distinctive companies. Problems and pitfalls were also discussed andvideos were shown for better understanding of the topic.
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Session 5: The Impact of Alternative Publishing

The panel discussion on ‘The Impact of Alternate Publishing’ was chaired by renowned journalist and co-founder of the South-East Asia and Earthquake and Tsunami blog, Peter Griffin. The panelists for this session included Chetna, founder of Graffiti Publishing House, Maitreyi Kandoi, who publishes the magazine titled Kindle; Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, The Director of the Mercator Institute for Media, Languages and Culture and also the publisher of an online magazine called ‘Transcript’; Vaishali Khandekar who publishes Reading Hour, a bimonthly, and Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director at ‘Profile Books.’

L-R: Chetna, Vaishali Khandekar, Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Michael Bhaskar, Maitreyi Kandoi, Peter Griffin

This session aimed to discuss the different forms of alternate publishing, their impact on traditional publishing and the challenges faced in this form of publishing. Traditional mediums like books and magazines have served the readers for decades. However, has the advent of e-books and blogging slowly decreased the practise of reading books?

Chetna initiated the conversation by stating that she favours the online medium of publishing over print because it is economically convenient for her. ‘There is a lot less investment in terms of money to start something online than something in print,’ she asserted. She also said that putting content together is far easier online and so it co-ordinating with parties like writers and designers. She also cautioned that people should not easily discount the geographical reach of online media. ‘Online medium works better than print medium because it’s a lot more convenient to start something, to get it going as well as to reach out to people,’ she said.

Elin Jones publishes an online magazine called ’Transcripts.’ The aim of this magazine is to enhance literary exchange among the smaller and substantial languages of Europe like Polish and Portuguese, for instance. They have collaborated with publishers, translators and others who are a part of the publishing chain in Turkey, Egypt as well as in India. She believes that ‘multi-lingualism is the key to international exchanges.’ One of the challenges that Elin faces with multi-lingual exchange is that very often it’s not possible for literary or creative translators to make a living out of various language combinations. Therefore, they have created a network of thirty to thirty-five -35 organisations that work together and have also organised translator workshops as a methodology to enhance literary exchange through translation.

Michael Bhaskar was of the opinion that alternate publishing refers to the different forms and formats of publishing. A publisher can be much more than a book or a magazine publisher. He states that the term publishing comes from a Latin word which means public. The very act of publishing means to make something available to the public. ‘People publish myriad apps, games, websites, and data bases and if we massively open up what we normally do, we’ll get whole new different areas,’ he said thus pointing to the fact that a publisher was now capable of many things.

‘Kindle’ is a three year old magazine started by Maitreyi Kandoi. According to her alternate publishing means alternate content and not necessarily alternate technology. This view was echoed by Vaishali Khanedkar who said that Reading Hour was conceptualized in order to fill a need she pereceived there was for reading material of good quality.

Peter Griffin made the discussion very light and interactive. In a departure from earlier formats, the panelists first discussed among themselves the various issues they had in mind before throwing the discussion open to the audience. During this interaction, a very interesting thought about the U.K market being dominated by Amazon and Kindle was put forth by Elin Jones, a point also supported by Michael Bhaskar. Elin further continued to state that the repercussion of this domination on small language communities were enormous. Michael Bhaskar ended by stating that the digital medium is fantastic opportunity but one should also be aware of the set of challenges that can be inhibited in the alternate or independent publishing.

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Session 4: Publishing houses of the Future.

The second day of the publishing-next conference began with a session on ‘Publishing Houses of the Future.’ This session was chaired by Nilanjana S Roy, a Delhi based literary columnist and critic. The other panel members included Atiya Zaidi, publisher at Ratna Sagar Pvt Ltd, Payal Kumar, vice President at SAGE Publications, Sunil Patki, Strategy and business planning consultant and co-founder of, Ramu Ramanathan, editor of PrintWeek India, a columnist and a playwright director, Trisha Gupta, writer, critic and editor and Ulhas Latkar, founder of Ameya Prakashan.

The panellists discussed the many changes that occurred in the publishing industry over the period of time like the advent of alternate forms of publishing and social media marketing. In her opening remarks Nilanjana Roy spoke about teh recent craze of self-publishing that made it seem like the process could be done away with when in fact even authors who did self-publish did their homework on the nitty-gritties of the publishing process. Aitya Zaidi began by providing a glimpse of the text book market which was very unorganized and which is only now beginning to understand the importance of and invest in textbooks that are pleasing to the eye. She stated that while the procurement process was indeed very corrupt, one hopes that Government initiatives will make it more transparent. She also spoke about the transition some schools made to e-books although she thought that such practices would remain an exception rather than the norm, given the fact that many Indians still cannot afford text books and the abysmal state of many schools.

Ramu Ramanathan, editor of PrintWeek India provided a global perspective stating that India had much catch-up to do given the per capita book consumption in other developing and developed nations. He remained optimistic, though, stating that recent trends pointed to an increase in consumption of books in India.

Payal Kumar pointed out that all processes in publishing houses should move to the online platform, making work error-free and streamlined. In her field, of academic publishing, she stated that there was some resistance to change but that authors slowly understood the benefits of certain process changes that SAGE had introduced.

While Sunil Patki stressed that Indian publishers should not only digitize their content but should also find a way to monetize it and deliver it seamlessly, Ulhas Latkar spoke about his foray into digital publishing that started with English titles before titles in Marathi. Trisha Gupta felt that contrary to public opinion, there are still a large number of people who are willing to read books on screenand ebooks should therefore be a logical choice for any publisher.

During the Q&A session that followed, the reluctance of many publishers to digitize their backlists was discussed.

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Technologies of the future-Indian and UK entrepreneurs

Presentationsby UK and Indian entrepreneurs were organised on the topic of “Futuretechnologies that bridge the divide: Making good in the absence of a supplychain.” The first presenter was Gavin Summers a Digital Services Manager fromthe UK. He suggested an innovative digital strategy called ‘Dynamic Learning’and ‘Practise Every Question’ to improve on the print text book. The future ofthis technology, he said was to ensure accessibility of the book from anywhere,enable collaboration and keep the pace of change in tune with the market.
‘Valobox’another novel idea was presented by Oliver Brooks from the UK. He discussedwith the audience the idea of web-friendly books that have the characteristicsof pay-as-you-go, peer-2-peer, premium content layer and revenue forpublishers.
TitashNeogi discussed “Themeefy” an online book reading format which also serves as aplatform for curated content. His presentation emphasized on the rethinking offundamental business and personal values.
Thenext speaker was awarded the British Council’s Young Entrepreneur award in thecurrent year. Ganesh Ram KR spoke about Mobileveda and eMahatva.
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Learning from the music Industry’s experience-Anish Trivedi

An unexpected but much welcomed session by Anish Trivedi ,  this veteran of the music industry came up and shared  his experiences with the changing music industry scenario over the last fifteen years.
With the onset of piracy , Torrent’s, itunes  and so on, the  industry attempted to protect themselves from the internet but eventually realised that there is no real way to do it. You cannot stop people from downloading free pirated tracks. The way out was to collaborate with online  mediums to make it easier and more convienent  for music to reach the people.
He drew parallels in this respect with the publishing industry, which had all authors and publishers present nodding their heads in agreement. The paradigm has changed he concluded.
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Session 3: Book Marketing in the Age of Social Media

This session discussed the new roled of book marketing in the context of the prevalence of social media. Probably the much anticipated of all sessions, it was perhaps the most involved of all panel discussions on the first day of Publishing Next.
Preeti  Vyas, a big believer in social media platform, chaired the session and stressed on a one-on-one connection with the audience  targeted by the book marketer. Echoing that sentiment, Maegan Chadwick Dobson of Tara books,Chennai stated that social networking is about “finding your personality and that of your company”  and portraying that personality accurately constituted a good marketing strategy.

L-R: Kiruba Shankar, Lipika Bhushan, Maegan Chadwick-Dobson, Nikhil Pahwa and Preeti Vyas

More than just a marketing strategy, Social media should be used to develop a connect with your audience even before  you start penning your book. Kiruba Shankar stated that it was more enjoyable to author a book when you collaborate with people online, an activity he said he himself followed and contributed to the marketing of the book.
During the session, blogs, Twitter and Facebook were established as effective platforms for book marketing. Lipika Bhushan, Marketing Manager at HarperCollins India and Nikhil Pahwa, founder of shared  their views and experiences in this regard. Nikhil stated that since the time gap between a consumers impulse andpurchase has reduced, demands need to be met more efficiency.