Transcript: In Dehli, Globalocal Hits The Books

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2015 Globalocal Conference Preview


  • Prashasti Rastogi, German Book Office, New Dehli
  • Vivek Mehra, Managing Director and CEO, SAGE India

For podcast release Monday, December 22, 2014

KENNEALLY: After the US and the UK, India is the world’s third-largest publisher of English-language books. Driving that business is a young population eager for education as well as entertainment. Of the country’s 1.2 billion inhabitants, more than half are under 25 years old.

Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. My name is Christopher Kenneally for “Beyond the Book.” In February 2015, the German Book Office in New Delhi will organize the annual Globalocal conference. Billed as a forum for content and a platform for rights and licensing, Globalocal gathers publishing executives from around the world to meet their Indian counterparts, with the emphasis on networking and business matchmaking. Prashasti Rastogi, conference organizer and director of the German Book Office in New Delhi, joins me now from India. Welcome back to “Beyond the Book,” Prashasti.

RASTOGI: Thank you, Chris, for having me.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re delighted to have you join us again. I say again because we did speak with you last year ahead of the conference that was organized for 2014. Here we are again to speak about Globalocal for 2015. I suppose the place to start, Prashasti, is what’s new? What kind of things are on the program that are new for 2015?

RASTOGI: As you know, Christopher, last year we had those discussions about where is the publishing going and the influence of digital. We also had STM Roundtable, which talked about what is happening in the STM industry, with a lot of perspective, as they are known to be the advance learners in the industry with new experiments coming in. We decided that we also need to look into a very large landscape, which is very promising and especially interesting with the Digital India campaign that the government has launched, and the reformed higher education policy, is the higher education and academic publishing business in India. This is, I think, the highlight which is stealing the show this year.

Apart from that, as Globalocal always is looking forward, we have introduced certain formats which will intricately allow more networking between the entire value chain, and especially a focus on the digital-oriented companies with the idea of Experience Zone, which helps you interact with your customers and take them through your solutions.

So these are the two very new things that we’ve added. Apart from that, we are looking also at running expert-led incubators, so moving from conversations to collaborations. It’s not about only talking, it’s about doing. So more action-packed, more power-packed, and more networking-oriented is what we look at.

KENNEALLY: It sounds very interesting. As I mentioned, you are the director in New Delhi of the German Book Office. The German Book Office, of course, very much a moving force behind the Frankfurt Book Fair. It sounds as if what’s going on there at Globalocal is a bit of a mini-Frankfurt.

RASTOGI: That’s actually a correct analogy, if I were to put it like that. Because in India, there is a lack of professional programs for the publishing industry. One of the main goals that we have set out for Globalocal is to induce in mini-capsules the idea of a professional trade fair. Of course, the industry at the moment requires such platforms, and we do it in a smaller form, but very, very facilitated, very targeted – a span of two days completely focused on global interacting with local.

KENNEALLY: Right. The local aspect, of course, is driven by, as I mentioned at the introduction, the population of India growing very quickly and very much a young nation, as well as government policy. If you would, just go a little bit deeper into that as to the effects on publishing of those two forces – the very young population and the changing government policy. Tell us about that.

RASTOGI: I mentioned in the beginning the Digital India campaign. The new government has set out on the task of empowering Indian population with the smallest and the most accessible device available to India at the moment, the mobile. So they are looking at not only e-governance over mobiles, but also people are experimenting with new forms of delivering open educational repositories over mobiles. There are initiatives in the children’s space, for example, where you can dial in a story. That means you just give a call to a number. The number will call you back. And you will have access to an audio story for children.

Or there are lots of mobile learning experiments that are happening in this space currently. If you go to the K-12 segment, we had the initiative of Aakash, the tablets given out to children in school with preloaded educational content, and looking for what would be the new way of teaching. So there are a lot of experiments that are happening currently in this space.

KENNEALLY: Right. As you mentioned, too, Prashasti, there will be a couple of so-called power panels. There’s a CEOs’ power panel, which will gather some of the leading industry experts from India and abroad. The other power panel is on academic publishing, and it’s Higher Education in the New Age: Social, Global, and Digital. You’ll be looking at the impact of changing ecosystems in academic publishing and redefining the economics of that, and trying to help publishers from India and abroad have a roadmap for the future. To discuss that, why don’t we bring in our next guest? Joining us on the line, also from New Delhi, is Vivek Mehra, who is the managing director and CEO of SAGE India. Vivek, welcome to “Beyond the Book.”

MEHRA: Thank you, Christopher. Happy to be here.

KENNEALLY: We’re happy you can join us today. We’ll tell people that from your background, your business education began in a family-owned textile mill long before it formally began in New York. Vivek Mehra has an MBA in marketing from Columbia University in New York and a bachelor’s degree in textile technology from the Fashion Institute of Technology, also in New York. He comes from a family of textile manufacturers who pioneered silkscreen printing in India. In 1990, Vivek Mehra was awarded the Vijayshree by the government of Maharastra for simplifying complex food dehydrating technology and ensuring a brighter future for even small farmers.

I say all of that by way of introduction, Vivek, because there at SAGE, very much a publisher concerned with science and with academia, and your background really dovetails on that. You’ll be joining Prashasti for this panel, the academic power panel, on educational publishing in India, social, global, and digital. Tell us about some of the concerns that you have there at SAGE that you’ll be bringing to that panel.

MEHRA: Concerns are around the actual fulfillment – the grand plan that the government has on education and the aspirations of the people. The fulfillment part is something that’s of concern. The previous education minister, in one of his speeches, said that with the implementation of the right to education, even if 50% of the people who will get a primary education through the right of education bill – even if 50% went into graduate programs or postgraduate programs, India would require somewhere around 45,000 new institutions. That’s a very large number of institutions to be able to cater to the demand.

So a prime concern is where will this kind of education setup actually come about? How will it come about? There was the education bill, the Foreign Institutions Education Bill, that was put together by the previous government. It got stalled for various reasons. We’re hoping that this government will be able to actually allow that to pass through and become a law.

The other thing that we are clearly concerned with is the transparency with which the whole business of education will be conducted. You have the government funding it on two fronts – one is at the central level, and the second one is at the state level. Both don’t work in tandem with each other in terms of their primary agenda. The state government education funding is more towards the primary areas, and many times it is funding Indian languages. Most of the central funding goes towards English-language universities and institutions. So we’re hoping that there is some sort of consensus built on how education should evolve in India. With that, I think I still remain optimistic that the sheer aspiration of the young population is going to drive policy and is going to be good for everyone around, including publishers.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. And a very complex situation it is, as well – not only that interaction between the federal and state governments, as you mentioned, but you alluded to that India is really a nation of nations. Dozens of languages, and dozens, as well, of various ethnic groups from across the country. That must make for a real challenge in educational publishing to serve all of those varieties of people.

MEHRA: Yes, it is a challenge, but English is a great leveler. Most of the market that we service today is actually where English is the primary medium of education. There are some institutions which will have a regional language as a medium and then English as a secondary language being taught, so some kind of market exists for academic publishing over there.

The other thing that SAGE, in particular, is quite bullish about, is about publishing in Indian languages. I think that’s something that is now catching the attention of most multinational publishing houses, but I still don’t think a lot of the academic publishers are still in that space.

KENNEALLY: We are speaking with Vivek Mehra, who is managing director and CEO of SAGE India, providing a preview for the upcoming Globalocal conference to be held in New Delhi in February 2015. Vivek, I wonder whether you can tell us a bit about how the open access revolution, which is, if I could put it this way, sweeping the globe, has arrived on the shores of India and what that means to SAGE particularly. Open access, of course, is a drive for scholarly and scientific publishing to be made available without any hindrance in access to the public at large. Is SAGE in India seeing that having an impact on publishing for scientific and scholarly journals in India?

MEHRA: It’s still early days for India. There is awareness about open access, but there is also skepticism. There’s a very good reason why there is skepticism. The very first thing on the awareness front – there are some government-funded institutions that are active in the open access space. The one that comes to mind is in agriculture, where a lot of open access publishing is happening.

The skepticism is because there is another statistic which is not really making India proud. We have a whole bunch of predatory publishers operating globally, but the statistic that India isn’t proud of, and shouldn’t be proud of, is that over 60% of those predatory publishers exist in India, or they are based in India.

KENNEALLY: We should help the audience understand better what you mean by predatory publishers. It sounds rather ominous. I believe you’re referring to so-called publishers who set up shop in order to attract scientists, researchers, and others, and they get them to pay these so-called article processing charges, APCs, for publication. It’s a pay-to-play model. But they are not actually authentic journals. They are not peer-reviewed journals of the type that SAGE would publish.

MEHRA: That’s correct. That’s exactly what I meant by a predatory publisher. For those people, it’s make a quick buck, and if it gets too hot, they’ll probably just mutate into something else. For SAGE and reputed publishers, there is a deterrent. The deterrent is the absence of transparency on the taxation for such a business. Would this amount to a service being provided to the author, in which case would it be subject to service tax? Is this a service that is being provided to the community? By the definition of a service being provided to anybody, even if you say that the value of the service is zero, the government is at liberty to say, this is a fair value of the service being provided, and therefore you could still end up paying tax. You might end up paying tax on both fronts. There is this ambiguity that the government still needs to resolve.

I am thinking that the goods and services tax, which is doing the rounds of the legislature – before it is actually presented as a formal bill, it’s being debated across the country – if that actually goes through, it might bring a lot of transparency and will give an impetus to open access publishing within India. So for now, it’s a wait and watch kind of situation.

SAGE is globally at the forefront of open access publishing. Most of those services are provided out of India, but the front-end and the marketing and the thrust is in the North American and European markets.

There is another ambiguity which very few people are aware of. The government of India still hasn’t recognized open access as a legitimate form of publishing. It still has somewhere buried in its annals the definition saying that if you have paid to get published, it’s not really being published. That definition has to evolve, too.

KENNEALLY: Indeed. Prashasti Rastogi, I want to bring you back to the discussion here. I guess what we’ve given our listeners an indication of is the real scope, the broad scope, of the Globalocal conference. You were saying that it is a mini-Frankfurt Book Fair. There’s a tremendous ambition behind all the work here.

RASTOGI: That’s true, but we also have to put a disclaimer here, that though it can be drawn into a mini-Frankfurt sort of a model, but it is very much truly customized to suit the needs of the Indian market. Because it’s a very, very different animal that we’re talking about, and as you’ve already gathered from the information that Vivek has shared, there are certain different kind of needs. That is why the focus still remains highly aggressive on looking at the market and its development in India. As you mentioned initially, also there’s a demographic dividend that we’re banking upon. There’s a lot of potential being discovered within the country that we have to see.

And it is also simultaneously serving a need for connecting the international industry to India. That means the whole world, which is looking at Asia and India as one of the potential markets – for them, also, it should provide a whole spectrum of insights on what this market offers. It’s vibrant, but it’s highly complicated, as well.

KENNEALLY: Prashasti Rastogi, director of the German Book Office in New Delhi and organizer of the upcoming February 2015 Globalocal conference, thank you for that preview of the program.

RASTOGI: Pleasure mine.

KENNEALLY: And Vivek Mehra, managing director and CEO of SAGE India, thank you for joining us and offering your insights. We look forward to chatting with you again.

MEHRA: Great. Thank you very much, Christopher. It was my pleasure being here.

KENNEALLY: “Beyond the Book” is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and blogs, as well as images, movies, and television shows. You can follow “Beyond the Book” on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our website, Our engineer and co-producer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to “Beyond the Book.”

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