One of the earliest publishers to take to digital, Disha Publication has come a long way in the last 14 years and has maintained its poll position on the leaderboard.
From competitive exam books to school books to ebooks & e-tests, Disha Publication hasn’t just been a leading light for students but a ‘Disha’ in true senses for other publishers to follow. Making the most of opportunities offered by the digital world in the form of e-books, e-tests, online study material and online mock tests, Disha Publication reaches a broad base of students preparing for competitive and school exams, Olympiads and other scholarship programs. Known for their quality content and high reference value, Disha enjoys a history of successful connect with teachers, students, toppers and renowned institutes across the country.
And as the industry finds itself in lockdown among other non-essential services, there is no denying that it is a good time to ideate on the ways of the business and future strategy. In order to bring the best word out of the currently hibernating industry, we turn to Disha Publication.
Following is an excerpt from the interview Wonderpublish conducted recently with the Director of Disha Publication, Deepak Agarwal:
Q 1: Disha Publication is seen as an innovative platform, how do you see the publishing scenario changing as a result of this ongoing Corona Pandemic?
The physical book (p-book) industry is in lockdown. Definitely online/digital is gaining traction as digital payments gained traction during demonetization. Disha is already live on most of the popular e-book platforms like Kindle and Google Play. Already the internet penetration and bandwidth have improved the use of e-books, online tests and e-learning are seeing new levels of demand. Further, the mobile phones and their usage among our major target segment(15–30 years old) are adding new users at a much higher speed. Webinars have emerged as a new and important way of learning; Keeping this in mind Disha Publication would be conducting a lot of webinars for students with its authors in the near future.
As far as demand for academic study materials is concerned, it is much lesser as compared to trade books where users are matured and require soft reading. Moreover, a lot of academic content is freely available on the net which makes it difficult to price the e-books dearly. Disha is also aggressively using the digital platform to showcase the samples of its products through its Freedownload Blog, Google Play Books, Amazon LookInside etc. Further, Disha has seen a 100% growth in the sale of its ebooks with an average product value of Rs 100/-. I can see a definite growth in digital content consumption but the physical books market with continuing its growth as there is an increasing demand for Govt. vacancy based test prep and competitive exams. Apart from this in our B2B vertical, we are providing customized study package to coaching institutes in electronic form.
Q 2: Can Digital come to the rescue of an industry that still largely remains traditional?
Yes, definitely. Today we have high-speed access in every part of the country. There are 3 big challenges in the traditional p-book industry – capital, logistics and payments. On all the 3 fronts digital scores much higher as compared to p-books. The capital and logistics requirements in ebooks are quite meager, whereas payments are highly transparent with reduced credit period. Thus digital solutions reduce cash flow problem of the industry. This push, which has come in the wake of Covid 19, will definitely help the publishing industry. The offline industry is too big to vanish but if we are able to transform around 10-15% of our business online, I think a lot of problems can be solved.
Moreover this shift from p to e would be exam specific and subject specific. For example, learning General awareness or history through ebooks is easy compared to learning Mathematics for JEE which requires complex calculations.
Q 3: As Disha has already made that digital leap, can you tell us what are the challenges of working on multiple mediums at the same time?
Both are totally different businesses and their sales drivers are different too. In the offline market the fleet on street is most important and sales are mostly dependent on recommendations. Further the availability of the books across the country makes the logistics very challenging. The online/digital medium requires a separate team with an understanding of e-commerce. Further digital marketing and separate marketing on different ecommerce portals is very essential. Maintaining and managing stocks for multiple mediums is another challenge.
Q 4: As the entire education system comes to a halt, do you think private publishers can help out NCERT better, once the pandemic subsides?
Private publishers can help NCERT in multiple manner:
Quality of content and how it is presented. Providing immersive learning experience to reader by adding value through digital assets. Help in developing electronic content like assessments, ebooks etc.
Q 5: How many titles does Disha Publication have currently? And in such a fragmented environment of publishing, how do you get the relevant information to select what to publish next?
We have currently 700+ titles. Fortunately we are among the Top 3-5 publishers on all online platforms. Further after having worked for more than 8 years on online portals, we have very good visibility, awareness and acceptability among students. We are always looking out for newer opportunities and grab any or every government job vacancies where we expect more than 50,000 students to appear. A lot of exams have changed patterns and we identify this as an opportunity as fresh content is required. Further, we are in a continuous process to build our portfolio and thus cover all big and popular exams. The most important strategy we follow is to study the past papers of the exams very sacrosanct and try to keep our books very near to the exam pattern, syllabus and latest updated content.
Q 6: From school books to competitive exam books to e-books to even online test series; Disha publication is an all-encompassing place. What’s the next step for Disha Publication?
Our strategy for the next 3 years is to consolidate all our efforts in different verticals:
An annual growth of 50-60% in online sales of pbooks. An annual growth of more than 100% in online sales of e-books. Working seriously on exclusive ebooks and to create 500 such books. We are also working on exclusive POD (print on Demand) books and are targeting 200 such books. We already have 70 such books and are working very closely with national and international POD players.
Q 7: As this Corona Pandemic goes on, do you have any message for the industry and the personnel employed in it?
Dear Friends, I know that it is really tough time for all of us. None of us could have imagined such a unprecedented situation. But we are into it. So let us face it courageously. I request you all to Stay at Home and follow all Government directives sincerely. Let us not waste our time at Home and learn some new skills. Please ensure physical and mental fitness of yourself and your family. This time will be over soon. Let us store our energy so that once the offices resume we come back in swing with double force.
Q. 8: Lastly, How are you using this time to reinvent yourself? What’s next for Deepak Agarwal?
Fitness – physically and mentally – reading books (finished Alchemist), regular exercising, meditation. Spending time with my children. Orienting my team to work from home. Finish the ongoing projects, planning new projects. Generally, during normal days, most of my time goes focusing on p-books. But now, I have started working on e-books aggressively.