Ratna Sagar – confidence in quality
At the Ratna Sagar headquarters in Virat Bhavan in Mukherjee Nagar, a thriving hub of education near Delhi University, we met with publisher Atiya Zaidi. Soon, Gaurav Goyle, general manager, sales, also joined us. School book publishing is the flavor of the season, especially with news of the impending initial public offering of S. Chand, one of the country’s biggest school book publishers. Zaidi agreed that this is a milestone for an industry that needs to tackle huge demand from the ever-growing number of private K-12 schools. While meeting this growing demand there are also challenges such as the more frequent changes in syllabi in recent years. For Zaidi, the quality of her learning-based content is a priority and sometimes she has to fight to preserve this quality edge in the face of the marketing demands who require the rapid adoption of the new syllabi. The quality parameters of Ratna Sagar’s book are apparent when one picks them up and even more apparent when one goes about reading them.
The content depth, meaningful illustrations, content formatting, attenuation to the audience level, title, cover design, paper quality, printing and binding quality all speak of impeccable quality. To achieve this, it is apparent that the company is committed to sustained research for continuously improving the content. However, this takes resources and time and cannot always be done at the drop of a hat in the case of sudden and untimely syllabus change, which means that the company’s marketing and sales force has to prevail in a very competitive situation on this belief in quality. In the main, it seems to be succeeding as the company has seen continuous double-digit growth in recent years, a level of success that it hopes to match when results for FY16-17 are declared in a couple of weeks.
Zaidi said that today the end consumer needs both the printed book and other tools and mediums of learning, and any good publisher should recognize that. For subjects like science and English communication, provision for eBook, animated activities, games and mobile applications are necessary value additions that improve the book’s appeal among the target group—students and teachers. Many subjects require an activity-based integrated skills course that may not be possible without adequate investment in resources who create the content.
Zaidi feels that many of the new private schools that have grown rapidly in recent years are not always able to appreciate textbooks with better learning-oriented content. With more private schools coming up in Tier-II and -III cities, and many publishers expected to pitch in hard for a share of the burgeoning market, Ratna Sagar hopes to see a greater emphasis on quality in the days ahead. For Ratna Sagar, its reputation as one of the country’s leading publishers of quality text books is a major priority. The schoolbook publisher has many firsts to its credit, including an excerpt from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone in its New Gem’s English Reader for the 8th standard.
From the sales point of view, Gaurav Goyle admits that there are huge competitive pressures in the highly fragmented school textbook market but that the market is also growing with an additional 4% in the growth of schools annually. He says, “The Delhi schoolbook market alone is worth over Rs. 100 crore and that’s just a small part of the market. So, there is enough scope of growth.” In spite of the challenges, Goyle is optimistic that Ratna Sagar will maintain its track record of growth “even after considering the 15% of unsold books that come back to us every year.”
Ratna Sagar has an in-house people resource of 600 of which 300 comprise marketing and sales across its 31 branches in the country. Beyond schoolbooks, the company is also a leading academic publisher. It jointly publishes educational books as well as medical books with other national and international publishers such as Scholastic, Blake Publishing, Byword and Dr NDTV. Ratna Sagar has also collaborated with Harper Collins to publish the Collins dictionaries in India. It has published more than 1,000 titles in both English and Hindi with the best of resources like Ruskin Bond for children’s stories, Atanu Roy for illustrations and many others enjoying different levels of repute.