Three generations of S Chand Group have been empowering students with the promise of affordable books to read with more than 7,000 products. Himanshu Gupta, joint managing director of S Chand Group is the third generation of the family.
Under his leadership, S Chand Group has moved from being a traditional publisher to publishing company that reaches the nook and corner of the country and even international frontiers. Asked how he shouldered this responsibility, Gupta says, “Personally, I feel, I have a big responsibility on my shoulder, that of ensuring the name and goodwill of the company is taken to a higher zenith with the passage of time. We have over 7,000 products in last 70 years; have a very good distribution network - 27 branches, over 4,000 distributors and dealers; and two printing facilities:’
The S Chand Group is also trying to push business to other sectors related to education, such as digital. “That’s an area with potential. Our aim is to impart education to our customers, and for it the medium should never be a constraint. We are content providers. Albeit, printing still is the biggest medium to impart education, it is evolving faster with digitisation of the content;’ Gupta adds.
The Group has been transforming itself with the changing times. However, the biggest modernisation was done six years back (2006) when the top management decided to make the company more professional. “The market is dynamic in nature, it keeps on changing. Revamping the organisation to infuse a positive energy is important, and I feel every organisation should implement such efforts after every 8-10 years. This gives an edge to the organisation:’
Today, the Group employ CEOs, CFOs, VPs, and we now have a complete blend of new and old personnel, spearheading different sections. In addition, it has ensured that the veteran employees undergo professional training to match up with the young workforce. “Veterans play an important role as they bring in their experience, knowledge and contacts;’ Gupta adds.
However, Gupta doesn’t take all the credit for this change.“While I have been spearheading these changes, I still say that it is teamwork that deliver results and I am just a team member. I am a believer that success stories are made when a team works towards it. Everyone contributes; only the magnitude one puts in varies.”
An advocate of change, Gupta headed a panel discussion on copyrights during the Publicon 2011 conference organised by FIcer. Gupta feels that in India, copyrights have always been a backburner issue with the publishers. “Unfortunately, the legal procedures in the states are tad slow that it takes a lifetime to fight a case. S Chand Group, therefore, has set up an anti-piracy cell which has around four members, including a lawyer. We have conducted big raids in Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra etc, and we have found that a large number of books were being pirated. On an average we do around 2-3 raids a month.”
Widening the domestic and export book market reach
After publishing for central board of secondary education for several years, S Chand Group has now widened its prospects by entering the state board books publishing market. “We are eyeing the state boards from KG to VIII standards as we feel the syllabus coincides with those of CBSE. Today, schools which are affiliated with state boards feel that the quality of education imparted through their institutions should be at par with the CBSE level. According to our research there are over 55,000 English-medium state board affiliated schools in India, and they have a huge potential. We have not even covered 10% of this market. In next four years, we plant to tap this market;’ he shares.
Nevertheless, he clarifies that the company wants to target only the English educational content market. “We don’t want to cater to the vernacular books market. It is a different market altogether that has been provided with subsidies by the state governments. We cannot compete with them on the price front, since they are either subsidised or almost free. Moreover, there large number of regional languages and scripts; producing books for each language is a tough task:’
Gupta feels that the export market in publishing is growing but still small. At the same time he feels the export market for commercial printing is gaining traction. “Developed countries don’t prefer to buy books published here; however, African and UAE countries are our markets. India is a tough market to enter currently if you are a publisher.” Gupta estimates the Indian book export market should be worth Rs 3,000-crore. Although, S Chand’s export to total production ratio is around 5%, it has a separate exports division that looks after the SAARC, Middle East, Africa and UAE markets. We are trying to cater to the African book market.
Regionalising printing units
Currently the company produces around 12-million books every year and this quantity is increasing by 15% every year in terms of production. Apart from the two existing printing units in Ramnagar and Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, the Group plans to set up printing units in Chennai, Kolkata and Maharashtra in the next three years. “This is a move to cut down on the freight and logistic charges. This will also help us manage the production and supply better as we don’t have any more capacity in our existing plants. The southern unit will cater to the whole of southern region, which contributes around 30% to our market share and therefore it is empirical to have a printing setup for our southern branches.”
“We plan to install two sheetfed and one web press. Most probably the sheetfed presses would be from KBA, and the web presses would either be from TPH or we might also import Goss or Komori 4 Hi press; this is still not decided;’ he confides. The company was earlier planning to set up a digital unit, but Gupta shares that the plans have been put on hold:’
The printing facility in Ramnagar houses seven KBA presses of which five are four-colour, two four-colour, one dominant four-colour with perfection and one Heidelberg single-colour along with bindery equipment. It also houses machines from Muller Martini, three Welbound machines of six-clamps, four three-knife trimmers from Perfecta. The Rudrapur facility is mainly a web offset printing press facility with two two-colour TPH Orient web presses. “We have procured a Wohlenberg with a speed of 5,000 per hour, 24 gathering station, 12-clamp station, three knife trimmer and stacker, all online;’ Gupta states.
The company outsources the pre-press to venders who utilise Highwaters CTCP and conventional systems. “We are adding one four-colour machines every year. We are also utilising severalother printing contractors for their services. All in all, currently we convert around 9,000 tonnes of paper every year:’
Mergers and acquisitions
Recently the company expanded its portfolio through two different mergers and acquisition. The company acquired UK publishing company Blackie and Sons Indian Arm, and BPI in which we have a majority stake. BPI owns rights for major characters from Warner Bros, Cartoon Network etc, which helped S Chand Group to strengthen their children’s book segment. At the same time, the joint venture with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was done three years back as S Chand Group wanted to enter the digital market.
“We wanted to bring international content to the Indian education market. We have tied-up with around 200 schools and we are adding one school every day to the portfolio. The company is called’S Chand Harcourt’ and the product is called ‘Destination Success’. We understand Educomp is far ahead because it launched long before we entered the market. But we believe that our content quality and service will help us catch up fast;’ Gupta shares. In fact, the company plans to acquire around 3-4 publishing companies in the near future.
23 March 2012 Vol IV Issue 11 PrintWeek India.