Interview with Sharad Sharma, head of operations at Souvenir Group, talks about his vision for the publishing industry.
on Aug 08, 2022
Sharad Sharma, Head of operations at Souvenir Group, talks about his vision for the publishing industry, what he learned from his father, and how he plans to change the dynamic of the Indian book publishing industry.
Frontlist: What inspired you to pursue a career in publishing in the first place?
Sharad: Growing up, my father taught me much about the publishing industry. It is a business that distributes knowledge to those who need it. A publisher popularises an author’s work of art and gives them recognition while sharing their value with a vast community of readers. I’ve always believed publishing to be a benevolent business and was drawn to it.
Frontlist: What are the indispensable learnings you adopted from your father - Mr. Gopal Krishan Sharma when you began your career? How have these learnings changed you into the person you are today?
Sharad: Well, among the many things I've learned from my father, I would highlight the "never give up" attitude. In an industry such as publishing, it is very important to be planned and prepared; hence, times of uncertainty take a toll on these highly organized individuals.
In this digital era, My father has witnessed ups and downs in the publishing business. And the uncertainty of the pandemic made matters worse. However, I have never seen my father lose heart or be pessimistic. He has not only resilient positivity but also the resourcefulness to cope with a new situation. I love this trait about him and wish to develop the same.
Frontlist: Souvenir Publishers play an essential role in the spectrum of educational books. What are your views on Artificial intelligence in education?
Sharad: I believe that AI is an excellent way to complement traditional teaching. A teacher may not be aware of some gaps in their teaching style, but an AI system can alert the teacher about these gaps based on the student's performance. It can also make the grading system very efficient, like Souvenir's Learning Management System.
Nonetheless, I also believe that nothing can ever replace traditional classrooms. Teachers can only evaluate students' progress, and technology cannot replace humans.
Frontlist: As a director of Souvenir Publishers, what changes have you brought to the Publishing industry through your existence in the community?
Sharad: Along with technological incorporation through Dreambox.inc, I've strived to improve our sales. Most salespersons in the Indian Publishing industry are old-fashioned and cultural, which gets them a boring rap. But for a company like a Souvenir that solely deals with the young generation, we couldn't afford to carry that image for too long. I've encouraged a modern dress code, grooming among the staff, and a current outlook for running a business. The results have been quite positive, I must say!
Frontlist: How has Souvenir Publishers transformed itself regarding new age technology? What's your take on the digital world in the Publishing Landscape?
Sharad: Most people think the Digital Age threatens the publishing industry. I think of it as an opportunity!
Due to digitalization, people habitually consume content that significantly involves educational content. Even so, most millennials know that free-of-cost internet content is not authentic for in-depth research. While the internet cues people's interest in subjects, they turn to books to learn more.
The internet had also marketed books like never before and spiked their sales. Additionally, people turn to books for a digital detox, which profits the publishing industry.
Frontlist: Having a massive existence, the Indian Publishing Industry is still grappling with getting acknowledgment at the global level. What's the leading cause behind this? Kindly explain it in a detailed manner.
Sharad: As the Director of a publishing company, I believe this is because of the lopsided priorities of Indian publishers. They use more resources on the look and feel of the books than the content.
However, the global market does not judge a book by its cover and rejects books with shortcomings in content. I strive to change this culture of ignorance through Souvenir Publishers and focus on quality content and writing style. After all, how can we forget our industry's bottom line, right?
Frontlist: What is the role of education publishers in the age of digital learning? How has the emergence of digitalization impacted the book sales of Souvenir Publishers?
Sharad: During the pandemic and other uncertain times, the sales were negatively affected. I did not expect us to thrive in such a situation by only relying on books. Hence, through Dreambox.inc, I introduced e-learning and hybrid learning tools to complement our publishing business and education. Adapting to technology worked magically for us as our sales increased exponentially. The e-learning tools incentivized the sales of our books.
Frontlist: What are the paramount issues that require more attention to expand the publishing industry?
Sharad: Language barriers are a significant issue regarding publishing in India. While publishing books in English or even Hindi helps us reach a wide customer base, we often underestimate the number of people who are educated in their regional languages. Without a good translator, it isn't easy to maintain the authenticity of the content in its original language.
Also, most Indian publishers are traditionalists and reluctant to incorporate technology into their business, making Indian publishing an industry notoriously tough to get into. However, the businesses that adapt to the latest technology, such as Souvenir, reap its benefits.