29 Jan 2016 21:05 IST

Harvard Business Publishing bets on India growth story

Have been very successful working with corporates and b-schools in India, says HBP’s Ray Carvey

The corporate learning business in India is poised to grow rapidly in India, says Ray Carvey, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Leadership and International at Harvard Business Publishing.

Carvey is targeting 20 per cent growth for Harvard Business Publishing’s corporate learning business in India. He spoke to BusinessLine about HBP’s corporate learning business, and Harvard Business Review’s increasing presence in India. Edited excerpts:

How has Harvard Business Publishing grown in India?

About eight years ago we decided our first international subsidiary was going to be in India. So we created Harvard Business Publishing in India. Since then we have had great success in creating a version of our publishing company in India. We have a local version of Harvard Business Review in India and a crew of 25 people for HBP India in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.

We have developed relationships with all the major business schools in India because of the different aspects of our organisation. HBP is made up of three different groups — Harvard Business Review; Higher Education, from where we sell to B-schools cases and other products developed by this division; and Corporate Learning, where we work with companies in executive education and leadership development.

We also work closely with our colleagues at Harvard Business School, who have their own entities here in India as well. We have been very successful working with dozens of corporates and business schools in India.

From which segment is most of the growth coming?

Most of the growth we are hoping to see in India will come from our corporate learning business. We really have just scratched the surface when it comes to the number of companies that we can and should be working with.

I think our relationship with key business schools will foster our higher education business, which we are trying to increase, though it will take time. I think the market for the Harvard Business Review magazine is more circumspect than the opportunity on the corporate learning side, although the book business has grown very well in India.

About 40 per cent of the traffic on the HBR website comes from India, which is pretty impressive, and we see a significant growth opportunity for HBR. Today, it is predominantly a magazine taken up by CXOs and aspiring CXOs but if you look at the volume of middle management and younger managers in India, that’s the segment we are looking at for future growth.

HBR itself is going through a strategic shift with a digital first strategy which, in turn, will help us bring much appeal and access to younger audiences as well.

How much of your revenue comes from India and the emerging markets?

Our revenue outside of North America is roughly 35 per cent of our overall revenue. In the emerging markets it’s probably half of that —16-17 per cent, which is significant. We have people here working directly with clients in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia for the last two-three years. It reflects there is a high demand for the kind of products we offer in these markets.

What kind of growth is HBP looking for in 2016 in India?

We are looking at 20 per cent growth for our corporate learning business in India. I think we have potential for more than that. It’s important that we make sure our existing engagements are productive for our clients. The Indian market is poised to take the next step forward in terms of growth and 20 per cent is very doable.

Is HBP looking at expanding online learning programmes in India?

Online learning is a subset of what we do as a business because it usually refers to learning content that is consumed strictly online, in front of the computer. We do provide a lot of content that people use in that setting but we also develop content that can be used into a blended setting — combining classroom learning with online learning in a way that each makes the other more effective.

We use this setting much in India. In fact, I would say we have learned a lot more about blending content from our operations in India than those in Boston. This is because most companies we work with in India started with the blended approach as participants are more adaptive to classroom learning.

Which are your most popular approaches/programmes in Indian market?

We have found the most traction from India in three areas — one, developing the leadership pipeline and building future leaders; these are for high-potential managers who need to be groomed to take up CXO roles in the future. Indian organisations have been working significantly as the priority area for the last 2-3 years.

The other area where we have seen a significant focus is on development of frontline management capabilities, or first-line managers. It is meant for individuals who are becoming managers for the first time in their career — a transition that companies find extremely challenging.

The last area is enterprise-wide learning — how do you take learning to an enterprise level of scale. If you look at Infosys, for instance, it has about 1,70,000 employees globally. Enterprise-wide learning is about enabling so many people to talk the same language as far as various frameworks and management approaches are concerned. Or, if you see State Bank of India, with 3,50,000 employees, how would you take learning to them at that level of scale? These are the three areas where we have had the most success.