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'We Plan To Accelerate Our Growth At 50% p.a.': Prashant Jain

Part of the Indian publishing industry for over 37 years, Agra-based Oswaal Books, publishers of educational content, also plans to diversify into other category including getting into Short Film production Prashant Jain, CEO, Oswaal Books tells Ashish Sinha. Excerpts:

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Talk us through the past four-decades. What are your growth areas?
Oswaal Books is one of the pioneers of modern education in India; it was birthed almost 37 years ago and has come a long way since then. It was inspired by my paternal family running a separate publishing business, which prompted my father to delve deeper into this domain. Education was in the process of evolution at the time of Oswaal Book's inception and was picking steam with people from all walks of life, realizing its worth and gaining acknowledgment. Although the government was publishing books, their subject matter and context, along with the knowledge they imparted, were not at par with the consumer needs. This societal gap was the muse behind my father’s actions: he borrowed one lakh rupees from his friends and started printing books at an Agra unit with students of Madhya Pradesh as his primary target market. Gradually, Oswaal Books became a prominent player in the publishing industry with a circulation of a whopping two lakh copies per year.

Eventually, in the 1990s, the business expanded to other domains, including printing books for ICSE and CBSE boards. Me and my wife, Swati Jain, joined the business in 2007 after our return from London and inaugurated the company's website to open new avenues in the digital world. Although the initial internet penetration was relatively low, the online business grew to about 20% until 2020. This number has augmented to a whopping 45 per cent in the last one year alone.

How did Oswaal Books prepare itself for the pandemic?
The world witnessed an increase in the demands for digital education as the disasters posed by the Covid-19 pandemic increased in magnitude. Even with a report by the RBSA Advisors anticipating the Indian ed-tech sector to reach $30 billion by 2032, we at Oswaal books kept believing in its motto of making things simple instead of getting swayed by trends. However, I realized an angle of fear or FOMO in my team when interacting with them pertaining to matters of technology integration in education and the platform launch. Even though my employees were tilting towards the idea of integrating digital means because it was rapidly becoming the talk of the town, the brainstorming phase took up almost a year. After that time lapsed, my team had reached one conclusion: "If something makes learning simpler, we will do it; otherwise not."

That is when I saw the silver lining in the dark, magma-filled cloud of the pandemic and chose to take a dive in, considering it the perfect opportunity for the test-prep segment. So, as several businesses across India shut down due to the pandemic, Oswaal Books gained more momentum by prioritizing its already established online clientele and focusing on attaining more. As publishers across the world moped around and fell to their death, not only did Oswaal survive, but also did so in great profit due to its prognosticating outlook.

Fast forward to today: our preparation resources now come based on subscriptions, and the prices range between Rs 250 and Rs 600, depending on the course type, and are highly popular all across the country. During the last 2 years which were affected by Covid, we grew by 30% CAGR. This was achieved by a constant focus on our plan, reworking on it every quarter, a winning team.

How is Oswaal 360 platform different from its competitors?
Oswaal acknowledges the ways technology has metamorphosed this world and even us humans. It does not intend on forcing education to stay restricted in the shackles of chalks, boards, and markers but instead is open to the new and innovative means of learning. Today's education necessitates the provision of updated resources to our students as per their convenience. Thus, Oswaal boasts its position as India's most trusted and experienced education service provider by adopting an amalgamation of the two highly trending domains of educational necessities and technology revolutions. Oswaal 360 is the brainchild of this amalgamation and provides students with a centralized online learning platform usable at any time of the day with convenience at the same investment level required for guidebooks. In addition, our experts at Oswaal 360 offers innovative and efficient modes of learning through revision tools, mnemonics, concept videos, mind maps, mock tests, daily and weekly practice papers, and much more. The on-the-spot analysis with detailed solutions and live score updates also offer insight into the "topper's answer" to guide students on the "what you could have done better" section, one that is seldom left untouched by many other organizations. Oswaal 360 was launched in November 2021 officially and has been able to garner more than one lakh users since then.

What about expansion? What is your target for revenue in next five years? How will you achieve it?
Motivated by years of success and positive feedback in the education sector, Oswaal Books is on its way to expanding its business and helping as many students in their educational endeavors as possible. With the five-year expansion plan built on the primary objective of revolutionizing India's education sector and making it one of the highly intellectual nations of the world, our expertly-crafted plan entails the introduction of specialized and expertly crafted competitive books in addition to the already best-selling book lot for students till grade 12. We anticipate our target revenue to reach a whopping Rs 500 crore in the next five years, along with significant expansion and market growth. For the last 10 years we have grown at a CAGR of 40%. We plan to accelerate our growth rate to 50 per cent p.a.

You have been a part of the education book publishing industry for the past 37 years; what significant changes have you witnessed in this area for the past few years?
Education is not at all what it used to be a few decades or even years ago. Today’s education sector portrays a picture starkly different and unidentifiable than what it depicted 37 years ago. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic, despite its negative implications in the sectors of the world, has pushed humans to change their ways of life and adopt new and revolutionary technologies. The education sector is no exception: several educational platforms in India have been switching to hybrid methods of education, and the pandemic has added fuel to this fire. Education is now wholly a mixture of online and offline tools and is directing the future of India into dimensions never explored before.

The orthodox methods of teaching that were practiced 37 years ago via chalk and a blackboard have ceased to exist and are being rapidly rooted out with technological advancements in the areas where they are still practiced. Needless to say, the education sector is running side by side with other developments in this global race and must continue to do so as a number of domains in the world depend upon its pace. Oswaal Books is not unaware of these changes but is instead an advocate of their application and adoption. It is, thus, bringing to light new and improved modes of education to play its part in revolutionizing this sector and pushing it forward in this race of improvement.

In the future, can we expect Oswaal Books to diversify into other segments? If yes, why?
Recently it has been decided that Oswaal Books will not just be confined to educational books. We will soon be launching separate divisions of General Books (Fiction & Non-Fiction), Online Content, Short Films and many more which cannot be announced now. 

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