One of the pioneers in the Indian software and offshore services industry, Dr. Lalit S. Kanodia founded Datamatics in 1975, well after his role in setting up Tata Consultancy Services. As chief mentor at Datamatics, he drives all innovation, new product development, and quality initiatives. Now a $40-million company, Datamatics, which is the largest solutions providers in India and fourth in the world, has recently rebranded its digital publishing and retail division (including acquired PreMediaGlobal) as Lumina Datamatics. PW sat down with Dr. Kanodia for a quick chat on the content industry and its future direction.
How was the industry when you founded Datamatics?
IT adoption in publishing was at its nascent stage at that time, and it was only in the last few years that it has matured. So you can say that Datamatics was ahead of its time even then.
So what has changed since then?
The adoption of IT is definitely slow in publishing, unlike, say, in the technical side of the banking industry. But changes are happening, and publishers are waking up to the fact that they need to embrace IT. And if they have not yet done so, they will do so soon. Then publishing will be transformed from what we know of it right now. It will take some time but we will get there. As it is, most publishers have reported that digital products now represent about 5% to 10% of their portfolio. These numbers will definitely go up next year and the year after that.
IT is a destructive force in publishing, making it so that I would be able to read the newspaper wherever I am, even on a boat out in nowhere. With IT, I should be able to read a chapter, and not a whole book if I choose to do so. It would turn the world of content and publishing upside-down and that bring forward so many opportunities.
And that is where you see the publishing industry in the next two to three years?
Publishing is here to stay but the content format, and the way that is distributed, will change. So while book will be immortal, it will no longer be a product—but as a service. With publishers facing two major questions—how to increase revenues and how to achieve it effectively—there will be a convergence between publishing and IT, resulting in e-retail or e-commerce. Leveraging content into new products for e-retail is one way for publishers to grow. As it is, we are finding that publishers are more willing than ever to consider e-commerce and e-retailing. They are certainly looking into turning their content into SaaS products in order to engage clients and increase their revenues. Ultimately, what drives the world is knowledge, and publishing is all about knowledge.
Your thoughts on e-book, e-devices and prices?
The e-book market will expand over time, and e-book prices will continue to drop. I doubt the average e-book price will ever go up. As for e-device, I wish we could have one e-reader or e-device that will read everything and anything. But that is perhaps not going to happen with so many manufacturers and players offering different ideas and technologies.
Where do you see the changes in e-book or e-content itself?
There will be a lot of enhancement—with video, audio, augmented reality, for instance—and embedded technology especially now that 4G is becoming more widespread and faster bandwidth is available everywhere.
Are there areas within the content or publishing industry that you find intriguing?
That will be the rule of taxonomy and how it aids discoverability. Then there is big data. In the e-retailing part, as far as Datamatics is concerned, big data is happening. Publishers should, and must, harness it. For sure, they are more willing to look into it now. But for most parts, they are using big data for test marketing before they roll out major products. Our division CIGNEX Datamatics specializes on big data and it has been helping legal publishers to harness big data on ongoing cases.
It is also interesting to see non-traditional players like Amazon, Google and Apple getting into the publishing business, and coming up with different models and products. Self-publishing is another interesting area, and it is going to get stronger simply because everybody has a story to tell and self-publishing portals are making it even more easier for everybody to get his or her story published.
What can clients expect from Datamatics going forward?
Our roots are in IT. We are new to the publishing industry. Therefore, expect from us lots of innovative ideas and solutions. You can say that innovation is in our genes. We are looking at the publishing and content industry from a much broader perspective, way beyond its traditional percept. E-retailing and the Internet is all about content. In fact, end users see content, not a product per se. For us, it is about implementing technology in publishing and delivering value-added solutions.
And these are behind the new brand Lumina Datamatics for the digital publishing and retail division?
Yes. “Lumina” relates to the idea of throwing light on content and commerce for publishers and retailers with the help of technology. Our content services will revolve around making them easily accessible, device-agnostic, presentable, accurate and valuable for readers. We will enable publishers and retailers to deliver their products with our commerce solutions. With Lumina, the concept of end-to-end services does not culminate in delivery of print- or e-ready files. It is about further helping content creators and retailers to understand their end users better so as to meet their business objectives.
Is there a place for new entrants in the industry, and what is your advice to them?
Consolidation is happening within our industry, which basically trims down the number of players, and this is typical in a maturing industry. So, there is always space for new players, say in niche areas such as animation. My advice? Be a niche player. Dream big. If you are passionate about what you are doing and offering, and you have the drive to succeed, you will make it. Another advice: do not be satisfied with what you already know. Be a student all your life.