Sriram Subramanya the founder of Integra Software Services is the catalyst for conceptualizing and implementing Integra’s vision in a rapidly changing publishing industry. Over the last two decades, the company has grown to be one of the top 10 Digital Content Services companies in India with 1200+ strong employee force.
In a conversation with Kabuliwaala Kamal Pruthi, Sriram shares his untold story of getting into the publishing industry, his initial challenges of setting up his business, his views on digital vs. print publishing, and the agenda of Sriram Charitable Trust.
Share your own untold story and journey into the publishing industry.
I had always dreamed to run my own business quite early. Right from my college days, I had written it down on paper and kept looking at this dream constantly. Agro business always fascinated me as my family owned agricultural lands in plenty. The other two industries that also fascinated me were Automobile (being a mechanical engineer) and IT (being a sunrise industry at that time). Both were in its nascent stages and looked like growing leaps and bounds.
But, I took some elders advice and decided to work for a few years in the Auto Ancillary industry and learn the nuances of business. That is where I was involved in setting up two green field projects that really fuelled my ambition to set up a business from scratch. This was a great learning ground.
Well, you had a lot of career choices to make? How did you finally narrow down on one?
Between the three fields I narrowed down on IT as I felt that it was most likely to grow the fastest. I then narrowed down on IT services. There was a huge potential on the take at Pondicherry for Design and Pagination work, hence decided to offer Desk Top Publishing Services at Pondicherry.
What were your initial challenges in setting up the things?
The early days were extremely challenging. Right from bank loans to residential office spaces, raising capital to internet lines in Pondicherry was a monumental struggle. In a few years we overcame many challenges to identify our first customer in India and then when we acquired our first international customer our joy knew no bounds. It was worth our entire struggle and we started looking at the future with great belief and then there was no looking back.
Your views on Digital vs. Print?
As much as the print to digital transition is impacting publishers it is also impacting partners who have to be in harmony with the needs of the publishers. Traditional print-centric partners will have to create competencies around the digital requirements and will need to relook at their business model.
How important is it to stand out in the crowd to sustain in the publishing industry?
Differentiation is the key to grow in this competitive market. We are focused on differentiating ourselves by Investing around $2 million in various products and platforms in the last 2 years by Investing on technology solutions for quality, scalability and on-time delivery, by being focussed on process automation for efficiencies and by looking at innovative solutions we are investing in setting up Integra’s Content Innovation Lab (ICIL) – to proactively address customer’s content pain points.
What are the top two priorities of Integra in the coming year?
We are focusing on Digital services for publishers, where in New Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Digital Solutions Delivery is being setup in Chennai. Second priority is Targeting 50% of our revenues from digital services by 2020.
Apart from that our Focus is on Products across B2B (for publishing solutions) and B2C (for Education focused initially for schools)
What key messages would you like to convey to the Publishing Industry through your talks at Publishing Next 2016?
Focus on core competencies – Identify best of content and ensure you are able to reach it to the right target groups.
Outsource your production processes for leveraging technology, automation to improve efficiencies.
Digital is making large inroads in western markets and may not be long before India will take the plunge. Publishers need to be aware and constantly exploring digital opportunities and be prepared.
Tell us about Sriram Charitable Trust?
Sriram Charitable Trust (SCT) is a non-profit organization operational since 2006 with a vision
“We commit ourselves to supporting the underprivileged in our society and support the government to improve governance.”
Established by the founders of Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd., the Trust began its activities in Pondicherry, India, and then gradually extending its activities in its neighboring states such as Tamil Nadu. The Trust has made small, but effective strides in the areas like, Health care, Education, Social rehabilitation and rural upliftment, Women empowerment, Environment, Supporting government in improving governance.
What have been the latest involvements of Sriram Charitable Trust?
Most recently the trust has been involved in helping students in dire needs with scholarships for pursuing their studies under these categories; physically and mentally challenged students to pursue their school education. We also adopted an orphanage to help students pursue higher education. The entire cost for their under graduation will be sponsored by the trust.
You have set up your own Model Organic Farm and providing nature education through that to school and college students is indeed a very noble idea. How is it progressing?
I have always been passionate about organic farming and connecting with nature. We are currently doing two things, first is Social Orientation, under which we create multiple ponds for water harvesting and social forests. We are also in the process of creating a herbarium for students to learn about nature. Apart from this, we are facilitating a program where students can work and learn in the farm. Foreign universities are interested in sending students for internships for 3 months.
Is there a Commercial orientation of your organic farm as well?
Yes, with a Commercial Orientation, we are doing organic farming – creating a profitable model, setting up a model farm for farmers to learn best practices. We are also helping Government in creating awareness among farmers, and also sensitize and orient them on best practices.
At Publishing Next 2016, you’ll be in the panel discussion on “where do we invest next”? Let our publishing industry readers get benefited with two tips from you on right investment.
Prepare yourselves for going digital. India will take the plunge earlier than you visualize.
Look for innovative sales and marketing models to reach your end consumer.
What is your opinion about annual events like Publishing Next? What role are they playing in taking the Indian publishing one step ahead?
This conference is a great platform to bring all stake holders together to discuss current challenges faced by publishers, understand best practices and get better insights into how they can leverage on technology to maximize efficiency, improving services and operational excellence to sustain and grow the industry further.
It would be a good opportunity to collaborate at the industry level & compete at the market place. This event also helps to create visibility for the Industry and also an opportunity to work with the Government and lawmakers for any support that the Industry may require.
Publishing Next is an annual gathering of publishers, authors, editors, translators, librarians, book retailers, printers, technologists, service providers and policymakers from all over India and abroad. The event is organized by Goa-based CinnamonTeal Publishing, since 2011.
Dates: 15th 16th 17th September 2015
Venue: Kochi, Kerala