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Shouldn't rely on one source of income for success in digital medium: Genevieve Shore

Q&A with Pearson's CIO, director of digital strategy

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, a global educational and publishing company which owns brands such as Penguin and Financial Times has announced to offer tablets to Indian students which will come bundled with content compliant with CBSE syllabus. As of now, the students have the option of choosing between the tablets from and .

While the Micromax tablet bundled with the content will cost between Rs 7,000 to Rs 12,000 depending on the screen size, the cost of Samsung tablets will be on the higher side. In an interview with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra, Pearson’s Chief Information Officer and Director of Digital Strategy, says how is increasingly becoming attractive for readers, especially in the sector. Edited excerpts …

Do you see much of a demand for digital content for students in Indian schools?

Students in India are now much more digitally aware be it through gaming, smartphones, tablets and laptops either at home or in schools. We think the use of mobile technology will actually help improving student engagement, make their education much more interactive and interesting. We are fairly well-established with digital products and services in North America and parts of Northern Europe. But most of our future growth will come from markets like India, China and Brazil.

Is selling of hardware devices not an unrelated space for Pearson to be in even though those will be bundled with your content?

We don’t make tablets, but have partnered with two vendors for this. But customers can also go for their preferred devices and we can offer the content. In many cases, we are founding that schools actually want us to offer both the devices as well as content.

What kind of volumes you are expecting in India after the launch?

We expect the roll-out to be bit slower as there are different elements involved in this whole process. Because, once you got the tablets and the software, the next things to be taken care of are the service, deployment and retraining of teachers. If we manage to roll out 25,000 students in the first few weeks, that will be a good demand from our point of view.

Pearson has set a target to derive about half of its revenues from digital platforms by 2014. What are the factors which are aiding the swing to digitalisation?

Pearson’s endeavour has been to make education much more accessible and affordable. Based on our experience, we have seen is that when you offer devices and software together in the hands of the consumers, the prices come down and the needs go up. So that‘s the major piece behind digital transformation.

What is the future of print medium?

We still sell books worth billions of dollars in every single year. However, as far as digitalization is concerned, I think certain sectors such as education will change much more quickly. Digital education makes the learning experience much more compelling for students with simulation, interactive and rich media content. But I still think that reading a book is a fantastic experience.

As far as media is concerned, Financial Times has been quite successful in capitalizing on the digital medium, and your digital subscribers are said to have outnumbered that of the print? Why is this shift happening?

Financial Times’ is incredibly successful model particularly in markets such as United States. I think again, we find that people don’t act in a binary way. Print medium has got its own set and kinds readers. It’s like shopping. Sometimes, you go to the market and shop at high-end stores, and sometimes you order from your home. So it depends on your convenience.   

How successful have you been in monetizing Financial Times’ digital platform?

It is incredibly successful. It accounts for a significant proportion of our total revenues now. But, it’s a combination of advertising, subscription, corporate and consumer sales and different kinds of services from FT. I think, one should not rely on one source of income to be successful in digital model.

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