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HE ALWAYS HAD THE VISION OF A GURU BUT THE FREE MIND OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER

By DW Desk

Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra, Founder of the MBD Group — a first-generation entrepreneur and a pioneer of the publishing industry in India — has been honoured as a “Publishing Icon” by the International Publishers Congress. The International Publishers Congress 2018 was hosted by the International Publishers Association (IPA) with its Indian member, Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), in New Delhi after 26 years. The IPC is a biennial Congress and the principal theme of the Congress is ‘Shaping the Future: Innovation meets Experience’.

Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra, perhaps the youngest publisher ever who published a selfauthored book when he was just 13, was a true visionary; he dreamt of creating an MBD product for every literate person. He was a force in shaping the publishing sector in India and elsewhere; not only did he understand the significance of creative learning, but he was also instrumental in modernising the publishing business and introducing contemporary learning practices among other things. He was a man with a mission to transform a book-selling business unit into a financial giant and one of the successful brands of all times.

Today, MBD Group is one of the leading education companies in India with over six decades of domain experience. It is the only company which has complete backward and forward integration with ten printing units, fully equipped with state-of-the-art pre-press, press and post-press facilities, producing about 5,00,000 books per day. The Group has 34 branch offices, a large number of employees and a wide network of distributors and booksellers across the country.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) is the foremost global representative of the full range of publishers’ interests, from copyright to freedom to publish. Since the first IPA Congress held in 1896 in Paris, the event has continued to attract the world’s leading publishers and is a vital platform for publishers to discuss the industry’s most important challenges, network and learn.

Under the futuristic vision of the Founder of the Group, Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra, the Group has diversified into a vast portfolio comprising E-Learning, Capacity Building, Stationery, MLearning, Skill Development, Eco-Friendly Notebooks, Paper Manufacturing and ICT Infrastructure. An entrepreneur par excellence, Shri Malhotra had also envisioned the Group’s diversification into Hospitality, Real Estate and Mall Development and Management. His enduring vision and laudable legacy have been ably realised and cultivated by his two daughters, Monica Malhotra Kandhari and Sonica Malhotra.

“I am overwhelmed by this recognition accorded to my father whose vision and legacy laid the solid foundation upon which the MBD Group stands today. As a father, he is the perfect role model and whatever we have achieved today is solely because of his guidance and life lessons we learned from him,” his daughter Monica Malhotra Kandhari and Managing Director of MBD Group said in tribute to the great publisher.

Building an Empire

Motivation, Belief and Determination were the key strengths that Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra had built the MBD Empire on. At MBD, he dreamt to offer a platform where all voices were equal. He wished to put a spotlight on everything! Every profession, sector, issue and person was important to him. He often said, “It’s when things seem the worst that you mustn’t allow yourself to quit.” He always had the vision of a guru but the free mind of a spiritual leader. A first-generation entrepreneur, he embarked on his journey of books at the tender age of 13 when he published his first selfauthored book, ‘General Education’, with an initial seed capital of Rs One lakh, and that marked the birth of the MBD Group.

Hailing from Jalandhar in Punjab, the beginnings of his journey were humble but he had the quiet conviction to make his vision of, “For every literate person, there should be an MBD Book” come true. Initially, he had to outsource the printing. He bought his first press ‘Dhanpat Rai’ where the composition of books was done by hand using lead type as offset printing had not arrived yet. It would take up to two months to publish a single book by hand.

Today, MBD group publishes the largest number of titles, including textbooks, workbooks, teacher manuals, readers for all classes and subjects, in all major boards and regional languages of India. It also publishes books in programming language and mathematics curriculum. The e-learning programme caters to millions of learners across the globe via its e-content in the form of Academy (Digital Classroom), Self-Learning Material for Students in CDs/ DVDs, and online resources. We have made inroads into M-Learning and have successfully launched the first augmented reality app Nytra, for learners in the Asia Pacific region, which is integrated with our textbooks.

Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra firmly believed that the best things in life find their own place in course of time; all you need to make this happen is motivation backed by belief and determination. His dynamism made him an extremely successful businessman, one who shouldered multi-business responsibilities with ease and huge success.

As a father, he always ensured that his daughters, Monica and Sonica, were brought up to be strong individuals who were independent and yet grounded. The dynamic young duo is trained to handle the publishing, hotel and real estate divisions of the company and is following their father’s footsteps as the company forges ahead.

They have had their fair share of challenges and losing their father was tough on them. “After my father passed away, we not only had our own personal grief to deal with but also had a larger responsibility of MBD Group, as well as the need to protect what out father had given his life to build. It was a very critical time for us, but, we did not let this discourage us. We were successful in directing our multiple business verticals and converted adversities into opportunities and opportunities to success,” Sonica recalls.

But the greatest challenge they faced was to bring innovation into the Group without compromising the MBD legacy. They have retained a lot of the key employees and talent in the company, and are proud that some of their employees have been with the company for more than 40 years.

Born in Jalandhar and brought up in Delhi, the sisters graduated from Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi.

Monica’s own style of working has emerged from her father’s style, “My dad was a Karma Yogi and I idolise him. He taught me to learn from my mistakes, to be humble, to never stop learning. While he taught me to aim for the sky he also told me that creating job opportunities is the greatest social work. Do not learn tricks of the trade instead learn the trade. He also taught me ‘either be the best or the biggest in business. My father gave me total freedom – no supervision, no policing. It was his trust that kept me on my toes and helped me to work hard and not let him down. He explained that we all are born in an orbit. We can either choose to stay there and waste our potential or strive to push ourselves ahead to the next level that not only benefits us but also benefits the people walking along with us,’ Monica remembers.”

Their mother has been a major influence in their life too. “My mother has always ensured that her daughters are brought up to be strong individuals with independent thinking and yet be grounded. It is because of her that we both are qualified (postgraduate diploma) Kathak dancers from Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, under Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji. This truly helped us in personal development, attaining emotional maturity and meeting artists from all walks of life,” says Sonica.

The diversification into hospitality was Shri Malhotra’s vision too, which has been taken forward by his daughters. Today, MBD owns and manages two 5 star hotels – Radisson Blu MBD Hotel Noida and Radisson Blu Hotel MBD Ludhiana. The MBD Group has also ventured into premium and luxury Mixed Use Developments primarily entailing hotel, retail and entertainment.

A people’s man, Shri Malhotra treated his team as his extended family. As a true leader, he believed in creating more leaders and today the Group draws inspiration and is guided by his values and ethics. He is the perfect role model and whatever MBD Group has achieved today is solely because of his guidance and life lessons to the MBD Family. In order to keep his vision alive, the birth anniversary of Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra is celebrated as Founder’s Day. The special occasion provides the MBD Family a perfect opportunity to commemorate his legacy, his vision and augment the understanding of his teaching and rejuvenate everyone’s inspiration.

The flagship CSR programme ‘My Best Deeds’ under the Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra charitable trust plays a pivotal role in carrying forward his legacy and his philosophy of giving back to society and helping the needy.

To salute the entrepreneurial excellence and exemplary contribution of Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra to the publishing industry, the FIP (an apex organisation setting high standards of printing and publishing in India) and FEPI (India’s most acknowledged publishing organisation) have conferred several awards on him. Shri Malhotra always believed that “One could be the biggest or be the best but there would be no accomplishment if the biggest wasn’t the best... so one must strive to be the best.”

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