In an email interaction with The Free Press Journal, Maureen O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Scholastic Corporation elaborates upon the trends and future of print industry.
Q: How do you think has the publishing industry progressed over the last decade?
A: Publishing is now multiplatform—digital and print formats. An example of multiplatform is Scholastic’s 39 Clues series which includes an interactive website and printed books.
Q: You are currently handling multiple positions at Scholastic Corporation including EVP, CFO and CAO. How do you manage all these responsibilities?
A: My responsibilities change day-by-day. For example, at year end, I am focussed on both Finance and Operations- getting the shipments out the door. At other times of the year, I concentrate on HR issues- merits, performance reviews, etc. I try to prioritize and balance my commitments.
Q: How important do you think is India as a market for Scholastic?
A: Scholastic India, our subsidiary was launched in 1997. India is a high growth market for us and is extremely important. There is a growing middle class who want their children to learn English. We are well positioned to meet this need both in the classroom and at home. . Over the years, Scholastic has received a positive response to our various products targeted at the Indian customer. In the last year, the Indian market grew by 30%. We will continue to open more Scholastic offices across India in order to be closer to the customer.
Q: How do you think will the publishing space change in the next 5 years.
A: The publishing industry has been adapting and evolving with the times. In the last couple of years the changes in the publishing industry are being driven by two factors: one, the prevalence of new technology devices that allow us to consume more content on-the-go (like tablets, e-readers and phablets); and two, the continued strength of print. In the upcoming years we will continue to see e-publishing going hand in hand with the traditional print format. Overall it will be a mix of digital and print.
Q: As a top-management personnel, what are your 3 biggest challenges at work?
A: Primarily I face the challenge of constantly changing priorities. I have to keep changing gears and multi-task as much as possible to fit all work into my priority list. Secondly, as CAO it is important for me to focus on keeping my top talent motivated. We believe in nurturing young talent and encouraging emerging talent. Thirdly, as we are in the publishing industry, change is constant. I focus on quickly identifying emerging trends in the industry so as to adapt them into our businesses.
Q: We are seeing a big start-up boom coming in India, what opportunities do you see in the Publishing space for new companies?
A: There has been a steady growth of start-ups in India over the last few years and the publishing industry has a lot of opportunities in store. Start-ups can focus on opportunities to enhance and develop children’s ability to read, write and speak English. We see parents of children in India are focused on educating their children in English. Start-ups also can identify various opportunities in the publishing space for Indian children to learn English at home and in their schools as a part of their curriculum. They also pitch a bright future for publishing books, to help readers find better books and even to manage libraries.
Q: Maintaining a healthy cash flow is important for running a small business or any business for that matter. What would be your advice to entrepreneurs on maintaining healthy cash flows?
A: An entrepreneur takes on challenges daily. As an entrepreneur the health of the company lies in the cash flows. Cash flow projections must be evaluated on a daily basis. One needs to plan short term as well as long term in the interest of the business.
Q: How do you think e-books will impact on paper books in the short term and long term?
A: Children are consuming books in both print and digital form. This trend will continue.
Q: What do you feel about India as a market for Children’s books in next 3-5 years?
A: Scholastic India’s mission is to provide children in India with reading and learning opportunities that will cultivate their minds to the utmost capacity and enrich their lives. We aim to offer the best from the world of books and other reading and learning materials produced not only by Scholastic but also by select local and international publishers at prices Indian families can afford. We see India as a high growth market for children’s books and are investing in India aggressively.
Q: How does Scholastic keep pace with the changing education needs of today’s children ?
A: Being in the position we are at Scholastic, we constantly identify the changing trends. We nurture the best talent in the industry, leading to successful franchises like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Geronimo Stilton.These and more Scholastic favorites have helped inspire a love of literacy and learning in children throughout the world, delivered to kids and families in the schools and at home.