Frontlist | Dr. Ashok Gupta on digitalization & publishing industry

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“We do not need any help from foreign countries, we do have good machinery. We just need a slight push from the government side.”- Dr. Ashok Gupta, MD, of Unicorn Books and Hon. Gen. Secretary of Federation of Indian Publishers

Question: In your experience, what is the key factor in maintaining and developing a good team?

Answer: In my opinion, in any working environment the most important point to develop a team is to trust all the members. Second is the delegation of powers to the juniors so that they start taking responsibilities into their hands, and they come out with solutions. If the solutions are coming from down and they are going upward towards the management, I think that is a better approach instead of pushing a solution from top to bottom. In any organization, the whole staff knows the actual problems they are facing and if you are able to solve those problems, I think the overall output of the team will improve. 

Question: With so many responsibilities on your shoulders, so many things to take care of, how do you prioritize and manage the work that you do? 

Answer: I think there are 2 main aspects, the first one is family and the second one is your work environment. Both you have to manage. And in today’s environment, in these times when nuclear families are grown and your children are demanding your time and they want freedom also, you have to balance both the things together. You cannot have one thing more and the second thing on a little lower level. Similarly, at your spouse’s level, you have to give full time to her as well. And within the working environment, if you are able to put together a team that has faith and trust in each other, I think automatically your involvement would be a little less in terms of time. On its own, the company will start growing without your too much involvement in any particular work. You will have sufficient time to manage both things together. So if you can find the balance between your personal and work life, that is the best.

Question: So, in the digital era that we are in right now, how is your publishing house evolving with it?

Answer: The consumption of content as such is not going down, rather it is increasing. The problem is – the medium is changing. Earlier, our publishing has been in the conventional print form. However, day by day, the interest in books is coming down. Though it would be wrong to say that reading habits are coming down because the consumption of content is day by day increasing. The advancement of technology is affecting our business. We have to see how we are able to imbibe these technologies in our working environment. Plus, there are other factors too. Your team is not able to accept the newer form of technology and neither are you. Then, a lot of investment is needed and results might not be as per your expectations, you know after digitalization, because so many changes are going on in the digital environment. Every 3 to 5 years, the technology changes or some other company comes out with better techniques and the investment which you have made goes down rather than getting listed. All these are affecting the publishing industry and it’s time we start looking for solutions. 

Question: Are there any positive sides to this whole process of Digitalisation with respect to the publishing industry? 

Answer: Yes, I think there are many. 

First of all, this Inventory management – day by day, our books are going towards the ebooks site, and earlier we used to maintain the inventory a lot. So this is coming down and we will be able to save a lot of investment here. Second, earlier we wanted a lot of space to store these books but now we can save them on small devices. Third, we can maintain the total stock of content in one place and you repropose and reintroduce it in a different format. Another advantage is the discoverability of content. Earlier publishing and promoting were a little difficult. These days it is very easy to find it on google. The fourth advantage is that merging and absorption of audio-visual content along with textual content, which is a very good feature of digitalization. It makes the learning process very smooth and way better. The industry will have to evolve and absorb. Some publishers will be able to absorb it and rise and some would go down. 

Question: The Covid-19 pandemic has hit all the global industry. Where do you think the Indian publishing industry is standing right now? 

Answer: I would say, the pandemic has rather given impetus to the total disruption process which was going on for the last 3-5 years because of digitalization. No doubt it will definitely come out in a matter of 5-6 months. The time is such that people are not able to come out and buy things like before but definitely within 5-6 months we all will be normal and reasons are the same for all of us. But yes, this has given impetus to the industry. 

Question: Are there any suggestions, you want to give to the government for helping the publishing industry as a whole.

Answer: The publishing industry can be divided majorly into three sectors such as school-level textbooks, college-level, higher-level and the fourth is general and trade books. Amongst them, the educational sector is the biggest industry. Government has to devote some funds to support it. With ‘Atma Nirbhar’ Bharat, this industry is already ‘Atma Nirbhar’, we do not need any technology from outside, we do not need any content. Because of this disruption going on, this industry is going down the hill. I think the government should give a slight impetus that all we need. Maybe library purchase should be increased. Some purchases should be made for the local school. Some people do not have that much income to buy books, to spare money for bigger books. For 500 Rs, people prefer to go for a photocopy. Something should be done to increase the purchase at the library level. To increase awareness of the copyright law. We do not need any help from foreign countries, we do have good machinery. We just need a slight push from the government side.

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