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The History of Zubaan

Kali-Logo-for-WebIn 1984, Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon set up India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. Over the next two decades, Kali established its name as the preeminent publisher of women’s writing and writing on feminism and gender, in South Asia. Kali's list consisted of three distinct areas: academic and general books, fiction books and small pamphlets and booklets and featured such prominent authors and activists as Vandana Shiva, Uma Chakravarti, Vina Mazumdar, Radha Kumar and many others.

Zubaan-Logo-for-ProAfter nearly two decades of publishing and being trailblazers in creating a market for women, the two founders of Kali decided to set up their independent imprints. In 2004, Zubaan was formed headed by Urvashi. Several of the staff joined her, and have remained a key part of the Zubaan team since then, including senior editor Preeti Gill, Satish Sharma, our accounts manager, and our receptionist Elsy Paul.

In November 2008, Zubaan shifted from Hauz Khas Enclave to its current location in Shahpur Jat - one of Delhi’s many urban villages. Then, there was The Great Rehaul of 2013. Inspired by our, then, newest employee, Ishani, Zubaan got bright red walls, a cozy reading and browsing cove and a few coats of DIY paint for the furniture. This is when the office space began to truly reflect the people inside: warm, friendly and fun.

Shahpur Jat is a maze of shops, boutiques, cafes and houses, and it can be a challenge to find the little lane to our office - which we have shared, at various times, with buffalos, cows, puppies and cats. But once you’re here, you’ll find a welcoming and easygoing office, full of chatter, laughter, books all over the place (of course), excellent coffee (if you time it right), and chocolate muffins on the (many) occasions we have to celebrate.

Company to Trust

Zubaan was originally set up as a non-profit Trust. Alongside the Trust, Zubaan now operates as a private company, Zubaan Publishers Pvt. Ltd. The company is owned by five shareholders - Urvashi Butalia, founder and CEO founder of Zubaan, along with senior editors Anita Roy, Preeti Gill, Shweta Vachani and chief financial officer, Satish Sharma.

Although set up as an NGO, Zubaan has effectively functioned like a business, and donor funds have formed a very small part of its work. It is largely self-sustaining, although at a very modest level, and primarily because its employees work at modest wages for a cause.

In a rapidly changing marketplace, Zubaan had two choices before it: one, to continue functioning as a Trust and two, to turn itself into a company, owned by its staff (key staff who would become shareholders of the company). Zubaan has taken the unusual step of doing both: separating Zubaan’s activities into two: the income generating activities like publishing books, and the more ‘social’ activities that have a wider goal of improving women’s lives. The Trust, therefore, will be retained, but only for projects and other social activities such as organizing workshops, while the company will publish books, organize events related to books, work with authors etc.

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