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Evolving world of Digital Publishing - Areas of subcontracting

A host of ISSPs are emerging in India with a pool of trained resources and defined processes, enabling immense cost benefits and improvement to the entire sub-contracting market.


These ISSPs are providing varied end-to-end services and solutions, ranging from book and journal publishing solutions (typesetting, image editing, document scanning, imaging and management), illustration services, conversion solutions (eBook / content / ePUB / OCR / XML), E-Publishing, creative solutions (apps development) and technology solutions (digital archiving, DTD development, digital Asset Management).


A lot of them are providing fulfillment and BPO solutions (distribution management, customer services) as well.


However, currently, bulk of subcontracting (around 60%) happen primarily in Editing and Conversion services. 70% of revenue comes from process-based work while the rest from project-based work. Average number of pages of medium complexity that can be done in a day is 50 with cost of around INR 10 per page.


Industry views


A lot of the digital publishing firms are skeptical about the capabilities of the subcontracting vendors located in tier 2/3 cities, in terms of quality and timeliness, and hence outsources low end work like conversion and keyboarding of data. Sometimes, they have vendor resources work out of their own office premises.


A leading digital publishing firm mentioned that the understanding of content in terms of style of writing, formatting and punctuations, still is a major development area for the subcontracting vendors.


Another firm stated that they did not go ahead with Tier 2 / 3 cities since they felt that English language skills and management capabilities were not up to the mark.


On the other hand, subcontracting vendors feel that, in conversion services subcontracting, there is irregular supply of work, which might lead to low employee utilization as well as attrition. In other categories, there is stringent demand of maintaining 99.995% quality and consistent delivery. Firms are getting apprentices for work; however, they come at high salary, bad English and high attrition leading to waste of training investments. In addition, lack of tools to improve productivity and high investments required in those tools are deterrents.


Imperatives for subcontracting venders


To develop a robust cost-effective delivery model as well as clean project management, it is of utmost importance to develop a detailed program management cycle to evaluate vendors on skills availability, infrastructure, management team, experiences and to provide trainings to them on expectations, QC and delivery methods.


From the vendor point of view, strengthening of middle management who can manage big teams, development of tools for productivity enhancement and development of skills that can complement large clients rather than compete would play a significant part of the future investments.


With emerging areas of services like financial and legal publishing and changing technologies to web and mobile, the trick will be to learn the right technology mix to create the best device agnostic engaging reading experience.


Non-traditional areas would emerge such as creation of online application forms / cartoon content, conversion of old books/ newspapers, creation of multiple versions of same content for different groups of readers and content for differently-abled.


Contributed by Castling Consulting