Publish and Prosper : A Case for Indian Multi-media Publishing

The quality of the print products from India does not compare well with that of the foreign ones. There could be many reasons, but two are rather obvious. First, the paper used is of inferior quality. And second, the printing units do not have modern machines to handle speciality multi-colour jobs. A few that are existent, are utilized for printing corporate brochures, annual reports, ornamental publications, calendars and of course cine posters. These jobs are all done mostly on imported paper. It is also known that some such jobs are assigned out to printers in countries like Singapore, Hongkong and Japan. Under no stretchof imagination, the Indian info-educational publishers could have such quality but expensive options and offer productswithinthe purchasing capacity of the Indian users.

The Indian environment is more conducive to multi-media publishing. Globally, the technology is of recent origin and the Indian institutions also have the state of art hardware facilities. Indian software capabilities, language proficiency, extensive cine and audio production experiences are strong enough to merit international acclaim. The question is whether the Indian potential could be converted into global market opportunities.

A cursory glance at the market suggests that the Indian CD and multi-media publishing have already ventured into a variety of areas. For example, a bibliographic product like Suchak (SNDT University & Pioneer Infovision) or NUCSSI (INSDOC); a full text database like AHEAD _ Environment & Health Asia, Wealth Asia (NISCOM); a journal like the Business India, corporate database like Indian Decision Support System and Electronic Corporate Directory (CERC), and Meta Stock (DART); educational items by INFUSE Inc. and the NIIT; info-educational products like, Mystica India (Magic Software) andKarishma (Padmini Multi-media); financial information products like Taexpert (Odyssey Technologies), Exim India (Informatics India); Yellow Pages like Super All India Yellow Pages (Super Media); tourist information on Goa, and Taj Mahal (Kirloskar Computer Services); storey books like Fables from India: The Panchatantra (Padmini Multi-media ); and so on are the most noteworthy efforts. These apart, lot of corporate presentations are also madeon multimedia though there is a paucity of information onhow such products fare in the market, plausible conjectures can no doubt be made.

Computer penetration being low in the country, one can infer that the home market for products on CD media is small in India. Only a small proportion of home computers have CD-Drive and multi-media kits. The high price of information products also deters an individual buyer from buying and using these. The access to CD products may not be widespread unless a scenario develops in which public institutions keep CD products along with paper-print items in libraries for consultationat site or for borrowing. Private operators who runpre-recorded video-cassette loaning facilities would not be interested to stock infotainment or educational materials, on perception of a possible low demand. Therefore, the CD publishers need to target mainly the organised market composed of educational and research institutions and the corporate sector.

However, one can envision a strong foreign market especially with the large NRI population. Presumably, there is a lot of interest world over on Indian heritage, spiritualism, culture and tourist sites. Some publishers are already working towards satisfying such demands. The NRIs who are long away from the homeland and especially the later generations, are cut off from the Indian mainstream. Some may still maintain an interest in knowing about their roots. They may resort to self tutoring and in such pursuits, use of CD-ROM packages like Banga Parichaya (Gautam Sengupta), All about Sikhism (AMS International and Katra Computer Centre) could be preferred alternatives to books, howsoever colourful these may be. In fact the initiative that has been already taken by foreign companies on Indian subjects e.g. Gandhi (Walnut Creek, USA), Yoga (Krea Technology, USA) may be indicative of the beginning of a flood of demands for cultural material.

Further, if seriously marketed, some of the educational items may also find customers outside the country. In fact, the huge skill-base that India rightly boasts of, could be used to develop products with an eye on the international market. Like Singapore and Hongkong which have established their electronic publishing facilities and marketed their printing capabilities,India could also capitalize on its skill-base and aim at being a world leader in multi-media publishing.

As of now, India has atleast two units producing CD discs. Mastering facilities are also common. For replication the Indian publishers need to go out. The arrangement may work fine but for a small hitch with customs rules. The fact that while one master goes out, thousands of disc copies come back, and this is viewed as import. Such irritants could be removed if the publishing industry could logically argue and lobby with the revenue department.

In short the ground is fertile, the stakes are high and suitable actions are called for. Let us not accept the common belief: "Never run after a .... or a bus, if you miss one, wait, another would follow".

- A Lahiri