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Foreign Publishers Set Up Shop in India

Foreign book and magazine publishers are making a beeline for India, which has a growing population of affluent, English-speaking customers. Anjana Pasricha has the story from New Delhi.

The sugar-candy romances published by Mills and Boon, the British publisher of romantic fiction,have long been popular in India, where watching Bollywood films woven around love stories is a favorite past time.

But the high prices of imported books meant more people borrowed than bought them.

Mills and Boon hopes to change that, and turn India, with its 300 million English-speaking people, into its biggest market.

The company recently established an Indian subsidiary. Its head in Mumbai, Andrew Go, says it will offer books to Indian readers for an affordable two and a half dollars.

Go says the romances are tailor-made for a country where the theme of love dominates the entertainment industry.

"Whether I turn on the TV here, or I watch a Bollywood film, or listen to the radio, everything is about love here and so I think that really resonates with our product," he said. "If you really look at a base Bollywood storyline where it is boy meets girl, maybe some kind of conflict, but always a happy, uplifting ending, that really just nears what is in a Mills and Boon book."

The publishers plan to add some Indian content to some of their romances, one story for example features a billionaire Indian hero.

Mills and Boon is not the only one making a foray into the Indian market.

Last September, the publishers of Vogue magazine introduced an Indian edition, which features India and international fashion, and has Indians on its cover.

Vogue publisher, Conde Nast, also plans to bring other magazines, such as Glamour, to India.

Studies estimate that about one million homes in India have annual incomes of over $100,000, with the potential to buy high-end clothes and accessories.

Other publications that have come to India include the style magazine Cosmopolitan and the celebrity news weekly Hello.

These publishing houses have been able to set up Indian operations after the country changed the law three years ago, allowing foreign groups full ownership of non-news publications.