Story writing competitions India

Ishani Duttagupta & Malini Goyal, ET Bureau

(The basic emotion of romance…)

Amrita Chowdhury is a BTech from IIT Kanpur and has an MBA degree from Carnegie Mellon's Tepper Business School. Having started her career as a semiconductor engineer in Silicon Valley and later having held various consultancy jobs in the US and Australia, writing papers on technology and business strategy come easily to her. But the biggest challenge for Chowdhury was when she turned fiction author in 2009 with a romantic whodunit Faking It (published by Hachette).

"It is a romantic thriller set in the world of art and involves a fake Amrita Sher-Gil painting. I have a deep interest in art and felt very involved when writing this book, " says Chowdhury, who is now the India head and publishing director of Harlequin, the publishing house that has given a desi twist to Mills & Boon, the globally famous women's romance genre of books. Harlequin's revenues for 2012-13 were $426 million.

Chowdhury, a hard-headed engineer herself, doesn't shy away from seeing a big business opportunity waiting to be exploited in what has often been described as "mushy romantic women's stories" and is upbeat about continuing on the double digit year-on-year growth that the company has been achieving in India.

"I have always loved challenges and, at IIT, when I was a teenager and one of the very few girls among a large number of boys, I learnt what it takes to push the envelope. There were no concessions for being a woman and one had to work even harder at being accepted, " she says.

Today the challenges for the Mills & Boon genre are multiple including carpet bombing from various other forms of entertainment for young women, a transition to digital reading habits and retail bookselling chains shutting down in India.

But all this doesn't deter Chowdhury who is upbeat and sees the biggest advantage coming from the Indianization of Mills & Boon, with a few of these titles selling as many as 100, 000 copies annually.

Changing Times

Harlequin set up shop in India in 2008, before which only global titles were exported to this market. The company started with a short story-writing competition to search for Indian talent.

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