23 March 2018 13:09:52 IST

Malathy Sriram writes poems and short stories for children and adults, as well as book reviews and articles of general interest. She is a post-graduate in English Literature from Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai. Her work has been published in Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Mirror and Femina. She has edited website content and is the editor of The Small Supplement, an online magazine for children with articles on history, science, arts and culture, sports, technology, companies and brands, mythology and short stories. Reading, teaching English, listening to music (all genres) and singing complete her oeuvre.

S Chand: Born out of textbook patriotism

Tracing the history of a publisher that remained a constant throughout school

The name ‘S Chand’ needs no introduction to the people of my generation. The logo is enough to send us down the path of nostalgia: it was found in practically every textbook we used in school.

Like so many other entrepreneurial ventures, this company too was launched out of patriotism and nationalistic fervour. During a time when publishing in India was dominated by the British — books were mainly imported, and Indian authors had little or no chance of seeing their works in print — a man named Shyam Lal Gupta took a revolutionary decision. Determined to give Indian authors a voice, in 1939, he brought out two books written by Indians and offered them for sale at reasonable rates. The revised edition of the first book — textbook of ‘Physical Chemistry’ by Prof Bahl and Tuli — is still available in the market! Thus, the seed for S Chand and Company was sown in a bylane of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where the company still has its headquarters.

Growth and fame

It was not just revolutionary but also, in retrospect, a far-sighted move. As other authors flocked to its fold, the company opened a publishing unit at Qutab Road. By 1960, the first printing press had been set up. Over the years, the company progressed from composition and offset printing to computer plate printing (Now, there are two printing presses — one at Rudrapur, Uttarakhand that was established in 2010, and the other at Sahibabad, Uttar Pradesh in 2014).

By this time, the founder had gained fame as one of the pioneers of the Indian publishing scene. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1969 and elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1972. He became a founder-member and the first President of the Federation of Indian Publishers.

Largest publishing

In 1970, the company became S Chand and Company Pvt. Ltd. (it became S Chand and Company Ltd. in 2016). The very next year, through an agreement with the Maneckji Cooper Trust in Mumbai, it became the exclusive publisher of the Wren & Martin titles. Its entry into the school textbook market came much later in 1976. It briefly forayed into the comic books segment, but discontinued it in the late 1980s.

Shyam Lal Gupta’s son Ravindra and nephew Rajendra soon joined him in the business. The S Chand Group (of which S Chand Publishing is a part) is today run by their sons, the third generation.

Out of the 10,000 or more publishers in India, it is one of India’s oldest and said to be the largest book publisher by revenue. Its closest competitor is Navneet Education Ltd. But it is S Chand that leads in the educational content category, with around 13 per cent market share and a strong presence in CBSE/ ICSE affiliated schools’ syllabi.

The evolution

The group has evolved into a complete knowledge and education content and solutions provider. It is involved not just in publishing, printing and sales of books for K-12 (primary and secondary education, where it is the leader), higher education, reference, competitions and others but also in the export and import of books, and in selling of toys for educational purposes. It even offers digital content, digital data management services and interactive learning systems to schools and colleges.

Of late, it has shown a growing interest in the ₹18,000 crore and above State Board schools’ syllabi as well. To bring its brand into this segment, and add value to its existing range, the group, which had been growing organically for several decades, went on an acquisition spree. Regional publishers like Madhubun Books, New Saraswati House, Vikas Publishing House and Chhaya Prakashani brought with them established distributor networks, dedicated readers, variety in content, better reach and increased market share.

Digital move

It is expected that S Chand will maintain its lead as the publishing world readies for the shift to the digital space. At present, the publishing business is said to account for 95 per cent of the group’s revenues, and the digital, 5 per cent. With intelligent investments and tie-ups on the digital and content fronts, the company is already ahead of the competition.

Its subsidiary, DS Digital, offers tablet-based learning solutions and tech-integrated Destination Success programme. The RiseKids programme (pre-school centres) in collaboration with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is also said to offer technology-supported education.

Ignitor (immersive learning experience), Intellitab (interactive educational tablet solution), Mystudygear (mobile app), Smartivity (activity-based learning and augmented reality) and the latest, Mylestone (end-to-end curriculum solutions) are all digital and tech-driven brands from the group.

The S Chand Group has about 58 branches across India, and more than 6,500 distributor network. It exports its printed content to about 19 countries (mainly to Asia, Africa and the Middle East). It has reportedly published about 2,500 authors and more than 13,000 titles, mainly in English and Hindi, and sold educational content to about 20 million students studying in 40,000 schools and educational institutions pan India.

Looking ahead

Turnover for the financial year 2016-17 was ₹685 crore. Plans are afoot to integrate books with the apps and extend the company’s reach to 100,000 institutions.

Market watchers feel there are two reasons for S Chand’s surge ahead of the competition: one, even though the company may be family-owned, it is professionally managed, with the top posts being filled by experts from different fields; two, it is one of the best consolidators in the market.

Certifications and CSRs

S Chand is the first publisher in India to get the ISO 9001:2000 certification (in 2006). It has won several awards, the most important among them given by Federation of Publishers and Booksellers Associations in India. It was the first company to have received the Diamond Award from the same on completion of 75 years in the publishing business and the first to receive the ‘Best Publisher Award’ from both the University Grants Commission and CBSE.

In 2013, Forbes India identified S Chand as the fastest growing player in the education sector, and it has more than lived up to that prediction, receiving the ‘Business Superbrands 2016’ award. It is also the first Indian publisher to receive funding from a private equity firm, Everstone Capital of Singapore.

The company, which has forged ahead in the publishing sphere, has not lagged behind in terms of its societal responsibilities. As early as 1964, it had set up the Shyam Lal College at New Delhi, with funds from the Shyam Lal Charitable Trust. It also funded a world-class library at the American Institute of Indian Studies at Gurugram. It is actively involved with an NGO called ‘Amar Jyoti’ to support differently-abled children who come from underprivileged sections of society. In association with Round Table India, it has put into effect the ‘Read India’ initiative. It also conducts several workshops for children and teachers in schools.

How does a publisher and printer contribute to the environment? S Chand has strict measures in place for this, especially at its latest facility, with an in-house water- treatment plant, air conditioners that run on solar energy and a 150,000 litre water reservoir for fire safety.