Friday, July 27, 2012:
Recently, we have seen the Indian tablet market being flooded with numerous tablet brands, with a common objective to reach out to as many people as possible. Not only that, lately they are also focusing on valuable education content through content providers. Penguin, which is a part of the Pearson Group has moved in this direction and has plans to tie-up with multiple tablet players. EFYTimes.com spoke to Max Gabriel, senior vice-president and chief technology officer, Pearson India about how the entire process of imparting education via tablets can be exciting and successful.
Tell us about Pearson, what is the group all about?
Pearson is the world's largest education company. We have three main businesses, the primary one being education, secondly, the largest Penguin Group, which is into publishing books and lastly, Financial Times, which is another world class business information company. That is Pearson in a whole across the globe.
What is the kind of partnership you have with Micromax?
With Micromax, our partnership is very specific. Our major objective is to make the test preparation content available as that is an effective channel to reach out to the consumer with our content at the moment. So we are trying to make our test preparation content available through Micromax. We are in discussion with other players as well to have Penguin books available on tablets. So any e-Pad reader can work with us. Penguin's strategy would be very open for education. We want high quality, affordable devices for a credible learning platform. We want to be able to supply our content, whether it is K12, higher education or vocational - those are three big areas. Today K 12 and higher educational are sold through B2B model as we sell it to institutions, which will be our next entry into this segment. But at the moment, for Micromax, we decided we will just focus on test content, which helps us target B2C.
When you say test prep, where do you get that content from? Is it from Pearson?
It's very much from Pearson. It's actually one of our very successful product. Students start early for test preparation for entry into professional colleges, management and engineering, sometimes as soon as from 8th grade. We make the content available through Vriti in Micromax.
Do students need to buy the SD cards for this as well?
We are looking at a couple of options. One is that they will be available for direct download on the device (DRM protected). Then we are also considering some large content, we are looking at the card approach for that. So, the content needs to be available offline rather than relying on online connectivity to go through a chapter.
Will you be making the content freely downloadable?
The content will be available only through purchase. What Vriti offers is that it directs you to take a look. It's the market place where you can go through it. Normally, students go to a shop to buy it. In our case, they can search it on Vriti. They can look for AIEEE course and buy it right there.
What will be the cost of the content. Suppose it is bought via SD card, so how is a person going to pay for it?
Today, the model that we are launching is bundled with the device and I think it is priced competitively with the physical book. It depends on the book pricing. We do not have a flat rate for all of these books. While students can go and buy it from a book shop, we are making it available on a tablet.
Is the arrangement restricted only to Micromax or is Pearson looking for other options well?
At the moment, we have tied up with Micromax. But the arrangement is not an exclusive one. We are open to discussion with anyone, depending upon their presence, strength and product.
Are you in talks with other people as well. Any positive news on that front?
We have been following developments for nine months now. The reason you have not seen us come out so far is that the combination has not been quite right, either the price point was too high or the quality was missing. So Micromax is the first one to come up with affordable pricing and a very good quality tablet. We are in active conversation with other domestic players. So if the quality and the price point works for us, we are open to partnerships.
In the past, other than Aakash, there have been companies like ClassPad, Atab and AllGo. Why have you not collaborated with any of these companies?
Quality is of prime importance in our case. There have been many local domestic hardware players that tried to do an education version that has not worked, since they lacked the eco-system.
Most of the mentioned tablet brands have offered free-loaded content. Is Pearson considering an arrangement of such sorts?
We are definitely interested in making our products available for free with the tablets. For K 12, which is our school-centric concept, the idea is to pre-install the content and sell the device as a bundle.
Have you tied up with any educational institute as well?
We sell the K12 product through schools. For higher education, we have witnessed an interest coming through. Today, we sell Universally Specific Derivative Products (USDP), where we basically tie-up with a university and create an entire curriculum for them.
Do you have such a set-up only in India or is it present in other countries as well?
I think globally this set-up has been tested because of Apple, which has attained tremendous success by releasing in North America and Europe. In other regions, we have made ourselves available, after understanding the maturity level and how the local players have developed themselves into the system. For India, it is very much a localised strategy.
How will these SD cards be made available to B2C as well as B2B?
As far as the job of making the SD cards available is concerned, for B2C, the content can be bought through retail stores, which will be handled by Micromax with their retail presence. For B2B, the content will be made available to schools, who can distribute and handle the whole transaction.
Aadeetya S, EFYTIMES News Network