The first PW coverage of the India-based digital solutions industry, which was then widely known as “content services,” coincided with the launch of Twitter and Google’s acquisition of a 22-month-old startup called Android Inc. The iPhone and iPad were, respectively, one and four years away from being launched. Social media didn’t exist, phones were mobile but not yet smart, and life was just fine.

The year was 2006, and our report, titled Content Services and Printing in India, focused on print- v. content-centric workflows, with conversations revolving around XML, PDF, and e-deliverables. Also included was a “Know the Lingo” sidebar—on SGML, XML, front-end XML, DTD, batch publishing, 3B2, TeX, and LaTeX—to explain the acronyms and new workflows, for the benefit of those who were about to embark on the content digitization path.

The fact that XML—which was introduced 20 years ago, in 1996—was a focus 10 years ago, and has since become nearly ubiquitous, drives home the point that new technology often comes fast and furious, while adoption tends to be slow and sporadic. Costs of shifting to a new technology or workflow aside, change is truly scary for those operating in the legacy print-centric publishing world. In the case of XML, it really is a necessity for ensuring content neutrality, reusability, and multiplicity, while preventing content obsolescence. In short, XML is required for content longevity and healthy bottom lines (or even survival) for publishers. And that has been PW’s main message right from the start of its coverage.

Since 2006, the conversations have been expanded to cover content mobility (with e-books, e-learning, and mobile apps), cloud technologies, accessibility, Big Data, and discoverability—thus reflecting the tremendous shifts and transformation in digital solutions services, publishing models, and consumer demands. The industry is now focused on intuitive and dynamic workflows, interactive and integrated media, scalable and customized solutions, aggregated and dechunked data, single-source and multipronged processes, and agile and mobile technologies.

In our inaugural report, 20 companies talked with us about their domain expertise, and about short-term initiatives and long-term goals: Cepha, CyberMedia Services, DCS BPO, DiacriTech, Hurix, IBH, ICC, ITC, Innodata Isogen, Integra, KGL, Lapiz Digital, Laserwords, Macmillan India, Newgen Imaging, Planman ITeS, SPi, Techbooks, TIS, and Thomson Digital. Some of these companies have since been acquired or merged into bigger entities, some remain under the same ownership and have grown steadily, and a few have rebranded themselves extensively. Meanwhile, new entrants continue to make their presence felt. In total, the 10 reports (including this issue) have featured 58 companies, many of which have become preferred vendors for major publishers in different market segments.

In assessing potential report participants, we look closely at whether each company really has the expertise, secure facilities, and workforce to make good on its promises. To this end, we typically spend at least two weeks in India every year, visiting more than two dozen vendors and writing about those with track records—or with potential, in the case of newbies—that show they’re capable of partnering with publishers and content creators/aggregators on content digitization, distribution, and monetization.

While this issue celebrates 10 years of covering the digital solutions industry, PW is focused, as usual, on looking ahead to a future that is both exciting and uncertain. There will be new technologies that both require and drive the creation of even more agile content, and disruptors such as wearables and mobile wallets—hello, Apple Watch and Apple Pay—will become mainstream.

10 Years Ago...

We’ve asked nine vendors to share their thoughts about the industry back in 2006, the changes they’ve seen since then, and what lies ahead.

I thought print would be obsolete and XML-first workflows would be a done deal for all publishers.... TODAY, publishers who hesitated with XML workflows might find that HTML5 provides the type of interoperability required for content distribution. Or it might not.... There is no simple, single answer for all publishers. But what we continue to observe is that print drives digital, and digital drives print. And, no matter where the markup language is implemented in a publisher’s workflow, it is definitely implemented. —Marianne Calilhanna/Cenveo Publisher Services

We bookmarked PDFs and called them e-books, and migrated from desktops to tablets. TODAY, we have many e-book formats while content for school and college is being developed with the tablet in mind.... Those were the days of SGML, and then came XML, which was used to render HTML pages. Although ePub is a fancy word for advanced HTML, the fact remains that digital delivery has evolved in every aspect, with complex interactivity and media-rich components becoming the norm. —A.R.M. Gopinath/DiacriTech

I believed that “content is king,” and that content would always be the prime mover.... TODAY, content is a given. It is now about solutions. It is about technology, and how it enables content discovery, learning outcomes, platforms, and digital books. And so Integra has evolved along the same line to become a digital publishing solutions company.... Content by itself will fail in this digital environment. It is nothing without publishing solutions. I definitely did not imagine a scenario like this 10 years ago. —Sriram Subramanya/Integra Software Services

I was at Aptara, trying to figure out how to convince publishers to use XML at the front end of their processes. Nobody knew what user experience design meant, and cloud referred to those watery vapors floating in the sky.... Over the past decade, technology has undergone significant changes, and this has impacted the industry, with mobile transforming the experience for both businesses and consumers.... TODAY, we have built so many innovative solutions for the mobile platform that could not have been even envisioned 10 years ago. —Gurvinder Batra/KiwiTech

We were three employees with four computers. I remember training my receptionist in project management when we landed our first conversion project.... TODAY, our 1,000-plus personnel operate from three delivery centers in India to answer all types of publishing needs. We are still growing, learning, and improving our process flows.... Gone were those days when I used to say, “We are a part of a chemical company but we can set your pages in Quark and InDesign.” —Indira Rajan/Lapiz Digital Services

Digital was largely uncharted territory, and we were focused on engineering production workflows for content distribution. Then, as digital content evolved to become a much more interactive experience, we introduced frameworks to accelerate development such as our Question Authoring and Delivery tool, now used for over a million assessment items.... TODAY, the focus is on sophisticated and adaptable learning platforms for smarter content integration. It is about understanding and merging pedagogy and technology—and that is in our DNA. —Samudra Sen/LearningMate

Who could have imagined the extent of our dependence on smartphones, tablets, and e-readers? The adoption of cloud technology, strides in e-learning, use of social media, and the sophistication of mobile apps are pressurizing publishers to monetize digital content and change their business models.... TODAY, we find ways to do things more efficiently, and we forge great relationships with publishing clients and help them to identify additional revenue opportunities. We think forward, and we think for them. —Vinit Khanna/OKS Group

We would not have thought that e-books and e-publications would be the way they are today, or become so prevalent. Or that we would be able to consume content on the go via e-readers, tablets, and phablets.... TODAY, increasingly, the changing publishing landscape is going to be about multichannel content distribution with faster time to market.... Technology is indeed wonderful—and pushy—and it will drive us, more than ever before, to be nimble, agile, and innovative. —Vinay Singh/Thomson Digita

Typesetting mostly used proprietary workflows and licensed packages.... TODAY, authoring has gone online with Overleaf and Authorea while platforms like Mendeley and ResearchGate allow researchers to share published data. Between authoring and sharing, there is publishing. Can these three worlds become one? At TNQ, we see a space where we, and our soon-to-be-launched open platform, Author Café, serve a meaningful online collaboration that enables authors to research, organize, write, cowrite, cite, and publish. —Yakov Chandy/TNQ