Dr Badri Seshadri, Co-founder and Managing Director of CricInfo, is to move to his own regional language-publishing venture. His last day at office at Wisden CricInfo will be sometime in mid-April. After a long and eventful journey with CricInfo since 1993, he has decided to take on the mantle of publisher at 'New Horizon Media Private Limited,' a year after the publishing house started operations.
Through the self-funded venture, Seshadri plans to enter the Internet and CD space too, building on a content base created for print publishing. The company will make its foray into regional language publishing across India soon. In FY 2004-05, Seshadri estimates that New Horizons has moved into the top five publishing houses in Tamil, with revenues of Rs 30 crore. The objective, he said, is to 'create superior content, express it in multiple formats, for multiple audiences, in multiple languages across segments.'
Speaking to exchange4media on the move from CricInfo and to the publishing venture, he said, "The move has to do with my interest in starting companies rather than being employed with one. Of our population of over a billion, the number of English-reading people is hardly between 30 to 50 million. In comparison, the readership of regional languages is much higher. I think there is a huge gap and opportunity." He explained with data on the rising literacy level in Tamil Nadu over the years, from 18 per cent in 1947 to over 60 per cent in 2005.
The publisher further reasoned that there was a huge backlog of publishable content in regional languages. Contending that the evolution of printing technology, buying power of the people, and availability of qualified people who could create content in regional languages make the move timely, he said that the business model for 'New Horizons' would be built around its print publishing content to start with. Over the next six to eight months, the house would start publishing in Malayalam, and hopes to start on Telugu and Kannada titles in two years.
In 2004-05, New Horizons published more than 51 titles in Tamil, in the non-textbook space, and has started a web site to enable buying of its titles online, at kamadenu.com. The Internet ventures to come include a focused section for children's content, which the publisher said will be partly pay and partly free. He added that while content existed for kids, it was primarily in the game oriented or in the epic/legend space, saying, "Fresh content which can be informative while retaining the interest of a child is something we will look at."
On the current scenario in the publishing industry, the publisher noted, "I think the market size in Tamil publishing is currently in the region of Rs 12 to Rs 15 crore a year. This is because there is no one to drive the market to its potential, of say, Rs 100 crore a year." The company is targeting revenues of Rs 1 crore in FY 2005-06. On the prospects of New Horizons, he said, "We are the only ones, I think, looking at a pan-India regional language content presence. That is a huge market opportunity being in India."
Interestingly, there maybe no one replacing Seshadri at CricInfo, as Managing Director. On his successor, he said, "Over the last year or so, following organisational realignment at Wisden across the world, my role has been in managing our global Mobile business. We now have global heads taking care of the Net, Mobile and Subscription businesses, besides a CTO and a Editorial head, instead of the regional heads like Managing Director India and the like."