Innovation takes over the publishing business: Ms. Simran Khara, CEO, Juggernaut explains their pioneering model

Q. Let us start with Juggernaut’s story, i.e. what was the basic rationale for a concept like Juggernaut to be built? 

A. We wanted to operate at the intersection of a few big themes. One, the average Indian is spending a lot of time on the smartphone and she/he needs a desi-tailored reading experience. Two, content owners are moving forward and integrating to build platforms and vice versa, and it was time that publishers spoke directly with the readers. Three, a part of publishing that was growing at a staggering pace is self-publishing, and there was space for a home grown ‘Wattpad’.

Hence, what you have in Juggernaut is a home-grown app for desi-readers with content in genres that appeal to Indian readers, at prices that are efficient and a self-publishing platform that allows amateur writers to get published alongside the bestselling content.

Q. If you could explain briefly how the business-model of a platform like Juggernaut actually works?

A. There are 3 aspects of our business – (a) a very successful and commercially driven physical list of books that is retailed through traditional and e-commerce channels, (b) a digital-only list that is for the smartphone reader, and (c) a writing platform for amateur writers to upload their content on to the digital platform.

The physical list is making waves and we are the most successful publishing start-up in India in terms of revenue and hit-rates. Our digital stories, both the commissioned ones as well as the amateur ones, are being read by the smartphone readers who are looking to experiment with solid stories with lesser length and at more efficient prices.

Q. Let us move to those who have written stories for your Writing Platform. What is the support Juggernaut provides them to grow further as writers?

A. We know it is very important to add value to the lives of our writers so that they keep coming back. We have a team that organises workshops across Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore on improving the writing skills. We do a lot of webinars and mailers, all directed to solving the typical issues that writers would face. We want to do a whole lot more and are now trying to create a writer-mentor programme at scale.

Q. Would you call your writers as those pursuing writing as a profession, vocation or hobby? 

A. Well, there is a whole range of writers. Some of them write full-time, while some are only chancing upon it. Take the winning story on our writing platform story – “The Last Poisoners of 6” by Neeraj Chawla. This was bought by Rensil D’Silva, a top Bollywood director, for a motion picture adaptation. Neeraj works at a software firm.

Q. There is a general view that people are reading less and less. Would you agree? 

A. Book sales in some genres, particularly in the English trade, are not growing as they once did. That is definitely worrying. But to our minds, that is reflective of inadequate discovery and poor marketing on the part of the content owners. It is for us to stoke the demand further. Let us look at the amount of time people are spending on their smartphones. How many publishers are tackling that format for books? Till we do not innovate for the customer, the customer will not give us engagement.

Q. Most popular mass fiction writers in India today sell due to social media marketing. What is your view?

A. Social marketing is important. Look at the average time a person is spending on the large social platforms. So they should be treated just the same way as any marketing channel.

Q. Let us move to the publishing economics of it. Does this publishing model ultimately make money?

A. Publishing economics can be made to work. There are many more avenues of growth today – selling to Film and TV studios, partnerships with video OTTs, digital transactions etc. I think as long as publishers solve the problem of being relevant to the digital native who is younger, more distracted and more bombarded by media – the economics will resolve.

Q. E-commerce players are known more as tech companies than retail companies. So do we also call publishers like Juggernaut as tech companies rather than publishing companies? 

A. It is inevitable and also desirable. It is important to own a platform and engage with the readers directly. As content owners, we need to innovate around formats of consumption, distribution, pricing etc. At Juggernaut, we want to experiment with audio, tech-enabled text to speech, auto summaries, etc. to strive for relevance.

Q. What are the future plans of Juggernaut? Do you plan to enter the non-fiction space?

A. From a product stand point, we want to have a rich bank of summaries on our app by Diwali and audio by Christmas. We are aiming to double our revenues in 2019 and are aggressively signing up some of the best authors and the biggest concepts for our readers.

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