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MBD Group Focuses On New Phase Of Growth

Managing Director Monica Malhotra Kandhari says the group has diversified into various industries such as e-learning, hospitality, real estate, mall development, ICT infrastructure and skill development

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Monica Malhotra Kandhari, Managing Director, MBD Group, talks about her company's growth strategies, achievements, investment plans and business focus in an interview

What is the scope of work MBD is undertaking?
MBD Group, one of the leading education companies in India with over 6 decades of experience, under the futuristic vision of the Founder of the Group Shri Ashok Kumar Malhotra, has diversified into various industries including e-learning, m-learning, hospitality, real estate, mall development and management, ICT infrastructure, skill development, capacity building, stationery, magazine and paper manufacturing. The group has also ventured into the SAARC, South African and Sri Lankan markets with its basket of education services.

With the aim of bridging the gap between the supply and demand of skilled manpower, MBD Skills Division provides skill development training in the field of education, hospitality and entrepreneurship. MBD Group has also launched MBD Disha - a capacity building program for teachers, principals and school educators in India.

Also, MBD has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with National Skill Development Corporation under Project UDAAN to train and provide jobs to 5,000 students at New Delhi. MBD Skills Division, a part of MBD Group will provide skill development training in the field of IT, ITES and hospitality, with the aim of bridging the gap between the supply and demand of skilled manpower. Under this MoU, graduates, 3 year diploma holders and post graduate youths from J&K will be trained on various courses like desktop publishing, retail, sales, front Office etc., for various industry segments like publishing, e-learning, hospitality etc. MBD Group has recently participated in the UDAAN mega drive in Jammu and will be conducting few drives in the coming months. MBD Group has also trained 20,000 pupils under the Capacity Building Program and aims to train 1 million people by the year 2022.

Please elaborate on your e-learning platforms

1. AR & VR Technology - We are planning to invest Rs. 50 crores in augmented reality and virtual reality space in the next three to five years. We will target kindergarten to grade 12 as well as vocational education. We will produce 3D educational AR and VR videos and simulations. This high quality interactive content will be compatible with the best VR devices like Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift etc. Packaged AR & VR based educational curriculum and content will help in keeping the students deeply engaged in the classroom, it will offer an immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving. This will be a great way of learning, where the students can practically experience and bring their subjects to life, which traditional education couldn't offer.

2. MBD Group's e-learning venture - MBD Alchemie creates an e-Learning platform catering to students, teachers, authors, parents, corporate, institutions and government, targeting every learner. The focus is to be a destination to every learner. Building on its rich pedagogy in publishing quality content, it has successfully implemented Ecademy Solution (Digital Classrooms) in 1,500+ schools across India. MBD group are the pioneers to bring Nytra - augmented reality to educational text books in India, and with the introduction of 3D printing in education we endeavor to bring a digital revolution in the country.

3. Nytra, an augmented reality application, is our homegrown mobile app, which we have developed two years back. I would be proud to tell you that we were the first publishers to bring this technology in India in education. Nytra brings textbooks (k-12) to life, it can make the images and illustrations in the book come alive with voice over for better understanding of children. It supports all Digital content, videos and, animations, which work on Android, iOS and Windows- based mobile devices and requires minimum Internet connectivity. Nytra is very popular and doing very well in India. We have Nytra for all classes, especially for class 11th and 12th. In fact, there are countries other than India, who want us to develop their content and offer them Nytra. We are in talks with them. Also, we have recently developed few apps for Kindergarten, which we will be giving free of cost initially.

4. E-commerce Portal: The Beta version for our e-commerce portal is already on. Right now we have books for K-12 segment, for all states, all subjects and all major boards, available on this portal. Moving forward, we will also be concentrating on vocational and skill development books. Also, our group publishes diversified range of books on agriculture, plumbing, astrology etc, but right now for this e-commerce portal http://mbdbooks.in/, we are primarily focusing on school level education books, at the first level. This will include the entire range of work books, text books, help books, reference books and teacher manuals. And eventually will come up with other ranges. In order to bring few important courses/contents to our children apart from our home grown competencies, we will also be collaborating with different expert players from different countries who have got some unique/ important course which is very popular over there, in due course of time.

How are you doing digitization at MBD? What kinds of steps are involved?
We have a strong in-house team, right from authors, animators to people who do voice overs. Earlier we used to outsource for the voice overs but now we have set up the studio in our own office. We have talents for story boarding as well as for conceptualization of animation. This is probably the direction we have always followed, whether it's for books or for digital. This helps in controlling the cost, time and quality of our projects. I believe in giving my people a free hand to work and do my best to keep them motivated.

However, there are times when we have to deliver a project in a limited time frame, in that case, we outsource as well as work in-house, with full focus and dedication.

In terms of business, do you see a shift from traditional physical books to e-learning?
I see the shift not only in providing the e-solutions but the way it has been offered to teachers and students. Today, we have Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, where you can reach to the world with the products in no span of time.

Also, intervention of these IT related platforms have cultivated a lot of entrepreneurship opportunities. If I talk about the shift in making, it started from as a fashion of having e-learning products; but now it has become as a reputation for the schools and a must have. Assessments have become part and parcel. Percentage of schools effectively using e-learning is increasing every year. And past 5 years it has been mandated in few states, it's a must have. This shift will happen; nobody is going to stop it because students are going to drive it.

Are you also looking for some kind of partnership with any startups to reach out to more people?
We are in talks with 2-3 startups and have kept aside Rs 3 to 5 million to invest in them. We are evaluating the financials and their roadmap. As there is equal amount of threat and opportunities while investing in startups, we will take a little bit of time to assess the whole scenario. Most probably, we will close this during this financial year only.

How will you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Publishing is the only industry which does not work or rely on any advertisement, hoarding etc. Our industry only relies on personal relationships with our target audiences. We have the largest sales force any publication house has ever got till date. We have 500-600 persons on ground visiting 70,000 schools each year, which other publishers do not do. Reach is our strength. We make products for masses; our products are priced to suit the pockets of many.