Vinay Sharma, Business Head - Digital and Services, S.Chand Group

Amid the pandemic disruption students and parents are worried about the education of their kid, the trust in the quality content present is a serious concern. S. Chand and Co, India’s oldest and largest textbook and education content company, is making a swift leap towards being new age S. Chand group by focusing on investing and improving digital offerings in each of the business segments. In an email interaction with Higher Education Digest, Vinay Sharma- Business head- Digital of S. Chand & Company talks about leap of publishing business to digital learning content provider, challenges and failures in building up the digital space for the brand, and many more. Excerpts. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably affecting industries across the globe. In this time of social distancing, what are the significant challenges for traditional publishing firms?

This has been an incredibly challenging time for education industry too like other industries. The challenge becomes excessively big, mainly because:

  • Students could not get their books on time as printing/logistics/shops were closed during the lockdown. Typically, students get their books for the new class during March end or April beginning.
  • In the scenario of schools not being able to open and books not reaching students, teaching, and learning has been severely disrupted. This is where schools are looking at digital medium as the solution for teaching and learning.
  • Because of delay in sales, cash flows are impacted, making the situation difficult for publishing firms.
The nationwide lockdown and closures of educational institutions have brought online learning providers into the spotlight. How is S. Chand and Co responding to it?

S Chand group have always partnered with schools, teachers and students to facilitate quality teaching and learning. In this challenging situation where the schooling is totally disrupted in the physical space, we have taken a series of steps to help our customers.

  • For schools using our Mylestone curriculum solutions: A hybrid model of offline and online content. We have facilitated the availability of e-books for students, lesson plans and content for teacher and timetables online on our mobile app to ensure teaching-learning happens despite schools being closed and physical books not reaching everywhere. This also has a facility for video conferencing for teachers to take classes online. Our academic team is training teachers and continuously working with them to ensure proper teaching and learning.
  • We have also launched a complete student learning app called Learnflix. A user- friendly app, some of the unique features of Learnflix include easy access (one subscription & access to everything) and unlimited practice tests with varying difficulty levels. Other key features include personalised anytime anywhere learning, engaging animated videos, quizzes, revision notes/summaries, sample papers, in-depth focused and actionable analysis, personalised learning journey and remedial to master development areas. Moreover, eBooks from renowned authors (e.g. Lakhmir Singh, Manjit Kaur, P S Verma, etc.,) is also available on the app.
  • In all other publishing books also, we are supporting the schools by giving e-copies of the books on our platform and through a mobile app, Mystudygear.
  • Besides, we are working to streamline logistics to ensure books reach our customers as soon as possible.
Tell us more about Mylestone, SmartK and Learnflix. What are the key features of these products?

Mylestone is a complete curriculum solution which was launched 4 years back for K-8 schools from the S Chand Group to bring change in education that makes students learn better through Empowered Teaching, Easy Learning.

It offers a smart curriculum solution through well designed integrated components which includes Teachers handbook, Students coursebook and practice book, Assessment support, mapped digital content, teacher app, student app and teacher training. Its successful implementation leads to enhancement in teaching and learning outcomes of the school.

At present, they have a presence in 12 States with around 400 Schools, 6000+ Teachers and 150000 Students.

Learnflix is a personalised learning app which offers comprehensive learning in Math and Science for classes 6 to 10 and is based on the latest CBSE syllabus and useful for ICSE and other State Boards. It’s available across devices and across platforms providing anywhere anytime learning.

A user- friendly app, some of the unique features of Learnflix include easy access (one subscription & access to everything), engaging animated videos, quizzes, revision notes/summaries, sample papers, in-depth focused and actionable analysis, personalised learning journey and remedial to master development areas. Moreover, eBooks from renowned authors (e.g. Lakhmir Singh, Manjit Kaur, P S Verma, etc.,) is also available on the app.

Learnflix is currently, by all accounts, the most affordable digital learning solution with exhaustive quality content and is priced at INR 1,999/- per class per annum (For Classes 6 – 8) & INR 2,499/- per class per annum (For Classes 9 – 10).

Smart K– A balanced play and activity-based program which provides a stimulating environment for the language, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development of the child.

  • A child-centred program catering to individual children’s learning and emotional needs through individual, small and large group activities and one to one communication.
  • Lays the foundation for the development of reading, writing and number work.
  • A programme which promotes self-control and thereby inner discipline in children through interactions.
What was the idea behind introducing these products to the public? How did it help you to become a prominent digital learning content provider? Tell us about the leap of publishing business to digital learning content provider.

In S Chand, our vision is to extend our leadership from publishing to be a complete education services provider.

Learnflix has really helped us provide a cutting-edge solution for personalised learning for students which comes with a high-quality content package from one of the most credible names in education at an extremely affordable price. Our cost of Rs. 2000/- for classes 6 to 8 and Rs. 2500/- for grades 9 and 10, is in fact, one-tenth the cost of similar competitors offerings. Besides, we are providing eBooks from top authors.

We have our presence in a significant number of schools in India and the Middle East, who are using our digital solutions. In higher education, we are providing eBooks and digital content solutions using the platform and our digital content.

Mylestone is a smart curriculum solution with processes and tools which help the school run its complete academic operations online now. We also have an LMS to enable schools and colleges to conduct online classes in addition to providing teaching tools and content.

What are the significant challenges you faced at the beginning of your digital transformation journey, and how did you overcome those challenges?

Major challenges are

  • Conviction and ability to transition while being very successful in publishing
  • Committing resources into digital without being able to assess the financial returns in the initial phase
  • Rapid changes in consumer behaviour and usage of multiple formats for content consumption, creation of new opportunities helped us create a vision for future to become complete education services company which offers solutions to clients across all forms – physical and digital.
What sort of mistakes have you made as S. Chand and Co has grown in the digital space? What was your most unexpected lesson in leading for growth?

Sometimes we measure the digital business milestones from the existing publishing business angle, which does not work.

Lessons are we should focus on learner, and education as the objective and play to our strengths. Delivering better teaching and learning outcomes are the ultimate objective where technology is a facilitator.

What would be the future of education from now?  

Education is going to change forever now and will become a hybrid of physical and online. There will be more infusion of technology, innovative techniques which will combine the best of offline and online, education becoming more learner-centred and personalised.

In higher education, there will be increasing demand for reskilling and upskilling with massive disruptions in business models and roles. Colleges and universities will compete with multiple private companies in these areas.

Tell us about your plans for S. Chand and Co. What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Our plans are to offer complete solutions to our customers – schools, colleges, teachers, and students. They can consume our content in multiple formats like books, eBooks, online, mobile apps and LMS, including all kind of assets like written content, multimedia content, assessments, simulations and many more.

We continue to maintain our leadership in the publishing segment and will keep innovating by providing value-added stuff with our books like digital content. Mobile app and teacher support portal etc.

In our digital initiatives, our focus is to provide complete academic solutions to schools as well as providing personalised learning solutions to students using technology. We will continue to innovate to help our schools become fully prepared for not only the current situation but also for their future requirements.

 

 

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