By Frankfurt Academy and German Book Office in New Delhi
“What is your biggest challenge?”
This was the top question posed to the 17 publishers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka at the weeklong Publishers Tranining Program, jointly organized by the IIM Ahmedabad and the Frankfurt Academy held at the end of June. The answers came fast and clear: digitization, HR training, distribution and consolidation.
That digitization is the top priority is no surprise. It is an issue all over the world, with publishers investing a lot of money into digital strategies, but finding that with rapidly changing user behavior, publishers seem to always be one step behind readers — losing a lot of money on the way without being able to overtake and see what the future can bring.
The scene in India is no so very different. “We are looking at a market, without any history we can learn from” says Ritu Menon of Reed Elsevier. “How can we, judge a situation without even knowing what the situation really looks like?”
Supreeth Sudhakaran from Haymarket Media noted “We are investing a lot of money into the e-business,” but it does not appear to help the Indian publishing industry, as more and more titles are getting self-published due to easy accessible e-publishing platforms. “How can we change the game?” he asked.
Professor Dixit of IIM Ahmedabad framed the question differently. “Publishers nowadays have to ask themselves continuously how to stay relevant in the face of changing environment, while they would still respect their legacy. How can they stay connected?”
Dr. H. Anil Kumar, the course coordinator at the IIM, added that “the volatile environment of publishing is forcing publishers to look at various strategies to face the challenge of change and to innovate and grow. With tremendous potential that the India market offers to publishers, it is pertinent on part of the publishers to develop key skills and competencies that can leverage knowledge to meet these challenges.”
The program covered Strategy and Business Environment, Customer and the Corporation, Leadership and Change Management, Driving Innovation in the Publishing Sector, as well as Accounting Concepts, Financial Statements, IPR and Protection. Following the week’s discussion, we went back to once again ask the same question: “What is your biggest challenge now?”
Mandira Sen, director of Stree Samya, said the program made him reconsider priorities. “Throughout my long career I have always felt that I have been far too much editorially-oriented—which makes for great books, but what is the point if you cannot market it well? ‘To publish’ is to make public, after all. Though I did learn marketing through trial and error and just being thrown into it, that is not an ideal way. Mistakes are mistakes. Aside from the many aspects emphasized by the IIMA course was the understanding that just as competition, adaptation, innovation, are vital, so are the perennial virtues of fellowship and support. Most of all, as I am clearly of the older generation, I enjoyed seeing how bright, open and responsive the younger people in publishing are, and I feel optimistic about the future because of this.”
Further to this, Manish Purohit, Chief Executive at Popular Prakashan, said that the program offered a very good opportunity to “step out” from the all-encompassing “operational aspects of running a business” to take a look at “strategy.” He feels that often while running a business, there is a lack of “evaluation and objectivity,” which was something that the program helped provide. In addition, by focusing on increasingly relevant issues like digitization brings one out of the “denials” of traditional publishing.
No one wants to maneuver blindfolded in this new world. They want to know, learn and experience how to survive in the digital age; an age where no one knows what the future will bring, as we can’t depend on experience, on age or on our background anymore. We have to find new ways, conquer and find new paths and partners to endure the loneliness we sometimes feel on our ways.
This Publishers Training Program is unique in offering the publishing industry the opportunity to network, learn and groom the next generation of publishing professionals. As we continue to expand the projects and its endeavors, keep and out for the 2014 edition and further developments online.