Rakesh Suresh is a 2012 graduate from the MS in Publishing program. He is currently employed with HCL’s Media Services vertical as an Assistant Manager. Rakesh’s role is to develop and offer focused solutions for media, publishing, and entertainment companies across the globe. His focus and desire is to take the conventional publishing world to the next level.
Professor Denning: What have you been up to since graduating from the program in 2012?
Rakesh: It’s been a great journey. I returned back to India after my graduation with a vision to take India’s publishing service sector to the next level. However, it was a little difficult to convince Indian executives to change and expand their organization’s portfolio (typical example of an innovator’s dilemma). So, I did a little introspective reflection and changed my game plan a bit. I joined Newgen Knowledgeworks as an Operations Manager, where my role was to handle a business worth about $1 million a year. As handling day-to-day operations is not my cup of tea, I had a very brief stint over there. I then joined HCL Technologies as a Presales Consultant where my role is to provide media/publishing related solutions (from both IT and business perspectives) to organizations across the globe.
Professor Denning: How do you think the program helped you towards your career, however unconventional?
Rakesh: This program changed my perspective on publishing altogether. If we limit the term ‘publishing’ to just books and magazines, we are simply missing the bigger picture here. The size of the pie is always greater than what we think! My humble opinion is, publishing isn’t limited to big corporate houses anymore. Publishing defines the dissemination of content, and it can be carried out by anyone in the world. Even a layman, who is publishing his content/views on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or a blog is a publisher today.
On that note, this program helped me to understand industry trends and the impact of the west coast (i.e. technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Scribd, etc.) on the east coast (i.e. conventional publishing industry).
Rakesh: There are so many new developments: big data analytics (predictive marketing), semantic publishing, localized content owing to higher internet penetration in developing countries, XHTML or digital-first workflow, affordable CMS, CRM and DRM, customized content in e-learning and magazine industries, dynamic newsstand, technologies enabling content discoverability, value added to services through QR codes, augmented reality, near-field communication (NFC) etc., consolidation of niche products with bigger players e.g. Adobe CQ5, Adobe Experience Manager etc., the dominance of Google and Amazon in terms of advertising/display ads, content aggregation, device and distribution channels. These are just a few trends that I can think of immediately.
The others, which are hugely discussed in almost all content related conferences, are apps, responsive websites, social media content aggregation and analytics. I think most of the organizations have to get a better grip on these disruptive technologies.
Professor Denning: When did you discover that this path was the right path for you?
Rakesh: I did my Bachelors of Engineering in printing technology. During my undergraduate years, I felt that print books’ market share was slowly dying and hence I was curious about the role of technology in publishing. At that time, I happened to meet India’s national newspaper editor-in-chief and he advised me to pursue my career in new media, which was nascent and a hot topic seven years back. Hence, my game plan was to know/understand hardcore software development before I ventured myself into the business aspect of publishing.
The Publishing program really helped me understand the intricacies of the publishing business. My internship with Hachette Book Group and the many guest lectures I heard steered me in the right direction and paved the way for my growth.
Professor Denning: What advice do you have for other students who want to stray away from the traditional publishing path?
Rakesh: My input (not advice) to the future achievers/aspirants is not to negate the impact of technology in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, publishing isn’t limited to books and magazines. It’s all about content, content, and content. Content is and will be in ‘bits’ going forward! If you can have a strong foundation in technology and business, success is not far away.
The world is in dire need of content experts who not only understand the business but also enable organizations to reach their audiences at the right time and the right place through the right channel.
Rakesh: My thesis was entitled ‘Searching for the Perfect Methods to Forecast Recurring Demand in Trade and Academic Publishing Supply Chain.’ I think the industry is still in search of a perfect method and, I think it will always be a combination of few methods.
My advice to students: stay focused on what you are passionate about. It is great if you can challenge the status quo. Never hesitate to talk to professors about your topic and objective. In my case, they were so kind and helped me to connect with industry people like Thomas Di Mascio, Linda Bathgate, and Jason Epstein, who not only gave clarity on the topic but also shared valuable industry insights.
Professor Denning: How important is it to network, even on the digital side of publishing?
Rakesh: It helps us to understand:
- The current reality of the industry, and test the waters before you make a decision about your career
- Your skill gaps or your areas that need improvement
- Redefine your game plan/strategies at the right time
- Envision the future of the industry/business units
- Understand how the micro-level implementation impacts the macro-level objective
- Thinking on our own feet – It gives an opportunity to examine our own mental models
- Learn how to land in a job, if you are interested.
Professor Denning: What kind of skills do you need to enter your line of work?
Rakesh: A blend of IT and business knowledge. Analytical thinking. A love for new technologies and an interest to learn new things around the clock. More importantly, be willing to agree that the known is a little drop, the unknown is an ocean.
Professor Denning: Considering you have a unique view of the industry, what is something important for our students to know about publishing that they may not know otherwise?
Rakesh: Most of the processes are getting automated, and they are challenging and demanding (both in terms of development and usability). Several small software applications created with a well-defined focus can bring a paradigm shift to the organization. For example: subscription and distribution of eBooks, implementation of workflow management software, a seamless editorial management system, etc.—these not only change an organization’s capability matrix but also test employees’ skills and talent.
Every organization is looking out for innovative ways to monetize its content, for which technology is acting as their sole partner. To put it in a nutshell, publishing companies are becoming more of a content service provider backed by technology.
Publishing is evolving into a newer form, which embraces faster, personalized, user-generated content, new ways of digital storytelling and content sharing etc., and seamless integration with all sorts of devices.
Professor Denning: Where do you see the publishing industry headed in the next 5, 10, 15 years?
Rakesh: I wish I could!! It is really difficult to predict the future of the publishing industry over the long term at this juncture. That said, we can be sure of one thing: publishing is going to be more dynamic than ever before.
Technology is playing a key role in defining an organization’s strategy and the rate at which it should grow. Every aspect of publishing like format definition, distribution, editing, production, monetizing the backlist, the role of print and eBooks, etc. is changing faster than we ever dreamt of. It is an optimistic sign, and I personally envision many innovative business models evolving by collaborating with technology companies in the imminent future.
Publishing companies will have their own indigenous product development and R&D team, which will bring out innovative deliverables in conjunction with the latest technologies in real time. For example, recent research indicates that Augmented Reality (AR) apps currently generate $300 million in revenue. These apps could potentially earn $5.2 billion by 2017. In terms of print, it is going to be specialty products that can support smelling, tasting, augment reality, and offer innovative packaging to name a few. To sum it up, the focus would usher in a strategy fueled by technology, innovation, global markets, and strong ties with end users.
Thank you, Rakesh!