by Jyotsna Bhatnagar
Booking profits with an academic bent
ALLAHABAD: AN academic-turned-entrepreneur is a rarity to come by. A hardcore academic, and university lecturer to boot, making it big as an entrepreneur while remaining involved in academia as well is even rarer. For straddling involved in academia as well is even rarer. For standing the vastly different world of books and big money is no mean feat. But Arun Kumar, director of Shuchita Prakashan, which commenced business in 1990 and is already ranked among the top 10 out of 2,000-odd educational publisher in Allahabad, is testimony to the fact that a successful business venture can be run even while grappling with intellectual problems in the classrooms of Allahabad University.
The 36-year -old lecturer in the Department of Commerce and Business Administration hit upon the idea of bringing out “Scanners” for professional exams like CA, CS and ICWA when he saw some of his own students struggling. “It then that I decided to help them out by collecting question appears, solving them and publishing there for prospective exam takers,” reminisces the unassuming Kumar.
Initially, Kumar brought out 50 copies of a scanner for the CA Intermediate Group I examination. Priced at Rs. 100 per set, this brought in booty of Rs. 5,000,but thanks to the innovative idea of mailing hand-written post-cards to practicing CSs, Kumar received orders for 14.000 copies. This spurred Kumar to add another scanner for the CA Group II exam. And by July 1992, he had switchover to offset printing “since I could afford it by then”. But here again to ensure high quality, Kumar learnt to operate a computer himself, hired computer time and prepared each book for printing personally. Now booksellers also started approaching Shuchita Publication. Unlike other publishing houses which offer special discounts to wholesale buyers, Kumar has, however, adhered to a common platform for all booksellers irrespective of the volumes ordered. The strategy has paid right dividend and today Shuchita Publications has 40 books to its credit and the company is growing at an annual rate of 40%. While the turnover was Rs. 46 lakh for ’96-97, Kumar is optimistic that it might breach the Rs. 1 crore figure by the end of the current fiscal year.
But the academic in Kumar insist that he is not in the business for profit alone. “The interests of the students are fore most,” he maintains and even offers students free updating of the scanners. Today his books are widely sought after by students from overseas. But the one request that he treasures most is that from the pro Vice Chancellor of Punjab University, Lahore, Khwaja Ahmed Sayeed who also happens to be the Vice-president of the South Asian Federation of Accountants. “We received request from him for a set of our titles along with a cheque of $25. We sent back the cheque along with a complimentary set of books to him” Kumar recalls. The ultimate ambition of this academic entrepreneur is to, “keep providing good books to the students and good royalties to the authors over the years.”