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June 16, 2014

Power Publisher: Chiki Sarkar

Text by Nasrin Modak. Photograph by Manpreet Singh

Publisher of Penguin Random House, one of World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Chiki Sarkar dreams of having a drink with The New Yorker book critic James Wood….

Her penchant for spotting talented authors got Chiki Sarkar instant admiration in the publishing world – Mohammed Hanif, Basharat Peer and Daniyal Mueenuddin – are among her finds. The Oxford graduate worked at Bloomsbury Publishing in London for seven years before returning to Delhi as the Editor in-Chief of Random House India. Last year, the ‘books girl’ as she likes to call herself took over as the publisher of Penguin Random House, with overall responsibility for building the local publishing programme in both English and the local languages. It is no wonder then that earlier this year Sarkar was named as one of World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders.

Starting off: ‘Being an editorial assistant at Bloomsbury meant making coffees, editing and eventually commissioning. That was my learning ground. It was home. I always kept a toothbrush and toothpaste in the office, because sometimes I’d come in my high heels and my party dress from the night before. Life at Random House was intense. I was involved in everything from sales and marketing, to the flowers at the office reception.’

Best decision: ‘Taking up Random House India’s job. When I started there, I gifted myself three shelves of the Everyman Classics series, of which I read two or three every year.’

Dreams of: Having a drink with The New Yorker book critic James Wood to talk books.

On women chiefs: ‘On the Indian publishing scene, the only reason there are no women MDs is literally because they don’t want to be.’

On the number game: It is a part of her daily job. She is known to have said, ‘I love it. It’s all about translating your passion into sales.’

Literature love: She says that the reason she reads is 19th century European and British fiction.

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