By Vinutha Mallya
Even now, when digital publishing continues to be dominated by e-book publishing, Focus Medica, the independent medical media company based in Bangalore, India, has defied the trend. At the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, the company launched its online library for medicine and health content. With tens of thousands of video clips and over 150,000 images, the Focus Library collection is be the world’s largest single source for health and medicine videos and images, say the publishers.
Nine years ago, the molecular biologist and behavioral science researcher, P T Rajasekharan, saw the many opportunities offered by the internet to create visual content. With an initial investment of about $4 million gathered from family resources, Rajasekharan and his mathematician wife, Sophie, launched Focus Medica. The idea was to develop authenticated high-end health reference material – images and animated videos – for medical health practitioners. Nearly a decade later, the company’s turnover is $8–15 million.
Focus Medica has published nearly 300 titles, under its different series – Understanding Diseases, Junior Atlas, Essential Atlas, Animated Atlas, Animated Dictionaries, Frequently Asked Questions and Animated Quick Reference. These titles are delivered through DVDs, and apps are available for purchase on iOS, Windows 8, and Android platforms. Institutions can subscribe online, too.
Focus takes pride in its team of highly talented animators, specialist doctors, content developers and programmers. “The content, animation and visualization have been edited by key international opinion leaders,” says Rajasekaran. “We function like a research institution. We are up-to-date with the latest developments and are able to offer updates on most of the content every three months or so.”
Many of Focus Medica’s titles are bestsellers with a global footprint and are among the top five apps in the app stores, for their category. Many titles are available in languages other than English – in about 13 Indian languages, and in nearly 10 international languages, such as Arabic, Chinese Japanese, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese, among others.
While the pharmaceutical industry is their largest customer base, institutions and doctors are also their valued customers. Institutions prescribe their products; for example, the Canadian Nursing Academy has prescribed their bestselling title, Animated Essential Atlas of Anatomy and Physiology. Among international publishers, the company has worked with Springer in the past.
“Our databank is so rich that today we are in a position to provide, within a week, a 10-minute video produced authentically, done with the help of a group of experts, on 80–90% of any health and medicine-related topic,” says Rajasekharan.
Video Complements Print
The pioneering publisher believes that the digital medium is not a substitute to print. “In print we can do things that digital can’t and vice-versa. If you have a 30- or 45-second visual with a commentary, you can pack in so much information into it that you will need 15–20 pages of narration with maybe about 15–20 color photographs or illustrations. That is the power of visual communications, if it is authentically represented.”
Rajasekharan cautions that digital publishing requires content creators and a lot of patience. Despite being located in the IT-capital of Bangalore, Focus Medica is not over-awed by technology, but instead uses it as a device to visualize and create content. “Exactly like cinema,” says the publisher. “Getting all the experts together is the task. So instead of a single author in the print world, this is a collective endeavor.” It is this collective work that publishing has to master, he adds.
“The time is right for the content created for its IP value, and there is phenomenal opportunity now. It is the future, especially for Indian publishers, because we have the supporting knowledge base, and it is easy for us to do this. We can be very major global players,” believes Rajasekharan.
With the launch of the new online library at FBF this year, Focus Medica is taking the next step, in expanding its offerings globally. “The next two years are crucial for us and we have many plans for this period. We are aiming for a turnover of $20–25 million in the next three years.”