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BW Businessworld

Of Books & Big Deals

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A couple of weeks ago, I had written that business people in general were more optimistic about the future than they had been even six months ago. One excellent indicator is the activity taking place in the investment banking arena. Only a while ago, many investment bankers were sitting twiddling their thumbs. But over the past couple of months, quite a lot of business has started coming their way once again. Sure, it cannot be compared to the frenzy of deal-making of the boom years, and sure mergers and acquisitions — the thing that investment bankers love the most — is way below the 2006-07 levels. But there is other business — mundane fund raising, domestic acquisitions, etc. — that has started and is providing enough fees to the bankers.

Senior editor Raghu Mohan takes a detailed look at the investment banking scene in our cover story. He points out there is enough business going around to keep almost all the firms operating in the country happy. The big boys offering full services are getting enough business to earn fat fees. But the boutique firms offering specialised niche services are also doing quite well. Much of the activity is centred around raising money — through QIPs, debt issues or plain vanilla IPOs. Some amount of domestic M&As have also started. It will take a year or even more before it is business as usual, but things have started moving.

Raghu's conclusion is that the investment banking community has also changed considerably. In the old days, it was often about relationships — and only a handful of players hogged the bulk of the deals. It was a fairly closed club in many ways. Currently, there are a dozen odd players, and many of them are rank newcomers. But even the new entrants are closing enough deals and getting good business.

Far away from the investment banking arena, a lot of activity has started in another sector — the book publishing business. Till a few years ago, book publishing in India was a sleepy cottage industry, where a book that sold 3,000 copies was considered a bestseller, and even star authors got tiny advances. Today, there are many authors with 50,000 copies plus under their belts. Deputy editor of The Telegraph, Paran Balakrishnan, examines the changes taking place in the industry. That's on page 44.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 09-11-2009)

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