Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Experience at Publishers Training Programme Organized by The German Book Office



On 2nd and 3rd December 2016, The German Book Office conducted a Young Professionals Programme for mid layer of the professionals in the publishing industry. This year YPP primarily focused on new product development strategies for publishing and content industry and saw participation from 30 publishing professionals from the Editorial, Design, Operations and Sales & Marketing streams. It was a two day, hands on workshop where the participants from the publishing houses plugged in their entrepreneurial streak and worked on a business idea generated as part of the new product development process at the programme. The objective was to train them in skills relevant to the changes in the publishing industry and to fill the huge gap of training and development in the publishing world. 


Another purpose of the programme was to bring Indian and German publishing industry together by way of mentorship and idea exchange. Ms. Katja Splichal, an expert of product development was invited from Germany to co-facilitate the programme with Mr. R. Sriram, who is one of the pioneers in setting up the Crossword retail bookstores in India and is currently the trustee of Pratham Books.


                                                               The Participants

The Day 1 was action packed and challenging for both the mentors and the participants. While the participants were grilled and drilled and challenged to come out of their mundane routine and think of problems that exist in the publishing industry.  The mentors on the other hand had a more challenging job with making everyone come together on the same platform, break the ice between participating contestants and let them think about problems that exist in the publishing industry today and find solutions to them which in turn are also profitable businesses.

                                                                   The Mentors 

On Day 2, the teams were given a task to make a business plan around the problems they had identified on day one. The philosophy was to look each lacunae as an opportunity for business. As the teams began working the mentors constantly went to interact with each to help them get over roadblocks if any and to guide them to a right direction as for many this was a first time experience of a full-fledged boot camp. The teams were constantly kept at work by the mentors who would keep rotating between them to check their progress, to ensure they deliver a perfect pitch at 4:00 pm before the shark tank of the publishing industry.

After rushing through lunch and consuming sumptuous amounts of coffee the participants used each minute wisely to improvise their presentations before the first pitch round. The second was the grand finale to be held before their CEO’s. On each presentation the audience and the mentors asked questions and gave feedback to enable polishing of what was the first rough draft. The mentors were constantly engaged in positive critique and suggestions. The session was interactive with participants from other teams bombarding the presenting teams with questions. A lot of alternative thinking, strategizing of business model happened in this session as each team was forced to think closer to real life situations. Each team had a different idea of solving problems of reach, distribution, book reviews and marketing, encourage children and blind people to read via various interesting concepts.
                                                         Pitch till you are perfect!!!

At sharp 4:00 the CEO’s Vivek Mehra and Neeraj Gupta put on the judging caps and heard each team. This session was a true Business Pitch event where the CEO’s heard each team out and were critical to the core. While some got great improvement feedbacks on their plans, a few were discarded outright. An experience that enabled every participant to evaluate their thought process and improvise. This was a session even the organizers agreed was fiery grilling and the best.
 
Interacting with the mentors I realized that they were as excited and enthusiastic about bringing forth innovation in the publishing industry via such boot camps. While R. Sriram cited the example of Meru cabs going old school with the same service while Ola and Uber coming up with out of the box thought process to manage logistics for the same service differently and providing better solutions believed that it provided a line of thought for participants even in the publishing industry. An entrepreneur looks at the situation through the eye of the problem. Today we have readers more than ever, if you look at the broad spectrum called "reading". With the literacy, consumer power and quality of life going higher, the market is lively more than ever. Moreover there are writers coming up with a spectrum of writing that is available to the reader. Therefore the problem lies not in content but visibility to the reader. The seed of a successful enterprise is a product that people need, a solution. At this workshop we have focused on professionals understanding the problem itself. For every problem again should be looked as an opportunity to cater to. This is the best time ever for a publishing industry, they shod just grab it with new ideas. We don't expect the participants to come up with complete business models in a two day time frame but it's igniting the spark to keep thinking and evolving.

Katja Splichal acknowledged that it was a mammoth task to bring each one on the same page within a single day to making the teams do business plans around them. She acknowledged the participants hard work over the two day period with her words, “you failed miserably yesterday, you succeeded today.”

While most of the participants were delighted at the certificates each one received for the 48 hours work, majority of them were of the opinion that the workshop made them think harder and better and grow their inhibitions to present ideas that they were delighted to understand could be businesses. They further aimed to improve upon them based on the suggestions from mentors and look at future circumstances with the eyes of a problem solver and that precisely meant-mission accomplished! 

Pictures courtesy: The German Book Office


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