Established in 1939, S Chand Group is one of the oldest Indian textbook publishers and exporters, and largest publishing and education services enterprise. Gaurav Jhunjhunwala Director, S Chand & Co Pvt Ltd, shares with Aamir H Kaki of Elets News Network (ENN) about the group’s journey, philosophy, vision, innovative products and digital learning solutions
Being the youngest generation of the S Chand legacy, the move towards digital empowerment has been a personal mission of mine, and has been extremely challenging and rewarding, at the same time. We have adopted a two-pronged approach to the digital transformation by incubating some ventures within our own company, and making minority investments in others. So far, we have invested in a tablet LMS company, a home tutor discovery platform, a STEM and Augmented Reality Toy company and an online test preparation platform. This strategy has worked well for us and we will continue to look for good companies in which we can invest and help to grow.
Being a gen-next leader, how do you see the paradigm shift in the education and learning space?
I foresee various shifts happening in the learning space as a new generation of teachers and learners are entering the classrooms.
Firstly, educational products and services are moving from a one model to the next one, like one teacher attending to the learning needs of 30-40 children in a classroom to one-to-one model. This would be largely due to the proliferation of technology, such as smart phones and tablets, coupled with adaptive learning software, which allow children to spend more time brushing up on the areas and concepts which they are lacking in.
Secondly, a large number of startups are cropping up in the education space, giving competition to the established players. This will force education companies to start paying attention to what the students actually need, rather than telling what is right for them.
What is the idea, philosophy and vision behind DS Digital Pvt Ltd?
Our vision is to use technology and various media available to help teachers and students in their pursuit of learning. We engage with schools to facilitate effective teaching and impact learning outcomes. Since learners are increasingly using technology, it provides us an opportunity to help teachers and students ensure better learning not only through books but also audio-visual and experiential learning.
A number of pioneering products has been launched under the umbrella of DS Digital Pvt Ltd. Can you detail those?
S Chand Group with licence of HMH, the biggest US publication, has launched a number of pioneering products under the umbrella of DS Digital Pvt Ltd to empower teachers and students by using technology to its fullest potential. DS Digital provides schools, teachers and students interactive e-learning solutions comprising digital classrooms, tablets, interactive white boards, labs, assessments and cloud-based solutions. This is supported by a strong professional development practice wherein we have trained more than 10,000 teachers in India and abroad, in CCE and other areas. With nine national and four international awards, we are one of the acknowledged education partners in India.
DS Digital focuses to empower teachers by using technology to its fullest potential. How it is helpful for students? Does it eliminate the barriers of classroom teaching?
An important and often ignored factor for success of technology in schools is enabling and facilitating teachers to use technology in an easy and effective manner. In case teachers can see how it can make their teaching better, and help students learn better, they are willing to use it. However, this requires consistent efforts to train them on how to operate it with ease. Students in a class will gain only if digital content is meaningfully embedded in the lesson plan followed by teacher in the class. So, digital content solutions are effective tools, which teacher-students can use to enhance learning.
What your core values of ‘Knowledge, Innovation, Learning’ are all about?
The means of education have changed over the years, but the end has remained the same – Empowered Minds, which can evolve, sustain and fulfill the everchanging needs of society.
Our entire group is driven by our mission to be India’s leading knowledge corporation. Given the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the world today, if we are not constantly innovating and learning, then we will be left behind by new ideas and new approaches to teaching and learning.
How do see the market in educational technology and e-learning solutions in the coming five years?
- Fast penetration and explosive growth of mobile devices, lowering hardware prices and improving connectivity will fuel the growth of digital content consumption. This is bringing the complete bag, including books, assessments, videos, online resources, etc., in a single device in student’s hand;
- Increasing trend of online videos through YouTube and large screens of smart phones have been a facilitator for digital learning;
- Most of the exams for selection to top higher education institutions and jobs/services are becoming online. This is a big inflexion point for preparation for such exams to become digital;
- In tune with the global trend of continuous upgradation in skills and knowledge, more and more working people are enrolling for various courses. Given the time and commuting constraints, online learning becomes the medium of choice for most of such people. So, MOOCs will play a very important role in people upgrading their skills on continuous basis; and
- Education apps and games will become important means to engage learners. Moving forward, artificial intelligence and virtual reality will further help in making content more user need specific, and create enhanced learning experiences.
In tune with the global trend of continuous upgradation in skills and knowledge, more and more working people are enrolling for various courses. Given the time and commuting constraints, online learning becomes the medium of choice for most of such people. So, MOOCs will play a very important role in people upgrading their skills on continuous basis
How do you see the market for digital learning solutions in tier II-III cities?
As access to Internet becomes more widespread, we are seeing a new wave of learners from tier II-III cities accessing content and learning material through their smart phones. Our group has recently launched ‘myStudygear’, a K12 learning app on Android and iOS, wherein students can access assessments, eBooks and digital content such as videos and animations – all completely free of cost. While we have many users from cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, it’s got good traction from tier II-III cities.
What are your professional achievements and priorities you have set for the future?
I am very proud of the fact that today S Chand has put together one of the strongest and most talented teams in the Indian education industry. We have undergone major transformation in the past couple of years having attracted international investors, acquired a number of companies and hired top talent. More than any one individual, if it weren’t for our team, we would not be in the strong position that we are in today.
As we look towards the future, we would continue to push for growth in the publishing space, but we are also putting a lot of focus on the digital and services verticals. We want to play a role at every step of a student’s development, right from KG all the way through to help them get a job when they graduate.