Libraries serve as vital institutions that promote education, information access, community engagement, and cultural preservation. They are essential for fostering intellectual growth, empowering individuals, and building stronger communities. Also and most importantly, these libraries are essential for fostering intellectual growth, empowering individuals, and building stronger communities. Well, in order to understand the new era of libraries SMEStreet got the good fortune of interacting with Mr Amandeep S. Kochar, President & Group CEO, Baker & Taylor Group of Companies.
Here are the edited excerpts of an exclusive interview with Mr Kochar of Baker & Taylor Group of Companies:
SMEStreet: Give us an overview of Baker& Taylor and its journey so far.
Amandeep S. Kochar: Founded in 1828, Baker & Taylor has evolved into a leading independent distributor of books and digital content, dedicated to advancing literacy and learning in communities worldwide.
With an almost 200-year rich history, we have witnessed tremendous growth and transformation. From our beginnings in bookbinding and publishing, we have embraced innovation and technology, becoming the premier partner for public and academic libraries. And as our customers’ needs evolve, we are leveraging digitization to enhance library services. Today, we take great pride in assisting over 5,000 libraries in their mission to promote literacy and provide educational resources to their patrons and communities.
Our commitment goes beyond serving libraries alone. Through our Publisher Services division, we offer comprehensive sales, manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution services to small and mid-sized publishers. This enables us to support and empower publishers in reaching their audience effectively and efficiently.
At Baker & Taylor, our ultimate goal is to improve community outcomes and foster a lifelong love for learning. We believe in the power of collaboration and strive to work closely with libraries, academic institutions, retailers, and publishers across the globe. By facilitating collective learning, we aim to inspire and serve our communities, ensuring that individuals of all ages have access to the resources they need.
One of our key strengths lies in our ability to cater to the diverse needs of library patrons. We understand that different stages of life require different formats and publications. To address this, we offer a wide selection of materials, ensuring that libraries can meet the unique requirements of their users.
As we reflect on our journey so far, we remain dedicated to driving positive change in the world of literacy. We are grateful for the trust and support of our partners and customers, and we look forward to continuing our mission of advancing learning, empowering communities, and making a lasting impact on the lives of individuals through the power of books and digital content.
- What was the insight behind developing Baker & Taylor India as a GCC?
Amandeep S. Kochar: When we were deciding on a location for our GCC, the most important factor was to pick a country and a leader that aligned with our purpose. We tapped Jagdeep Kochar as SVP and MD to lead our India operations and sit on the Global Executive Council in the summer of 2022. Once he was onboarded, our insight behind developing Baker & Taylor India as a GCC was driven by our alignment to the principles of “Make in India” and our vision of fostering local innovation while contributing to the growth of the Indian economy. The establishment of Baker & Taylor India GCC serves as a hub for innovation, research, and development, where we leverage local talent and expertise.
Through our Baker & Taylor India GCC, we align with the vision of “Create in India The global Baker & Taylor companies” Our talented Indian workforce collaborates with global teams to develop cutting-edge technology solutions for Baker & Taylor’s library & educational customers. This approach promotes local innovation and intellectual property creation while enabling us to export these solutions worldwide, positioning India as a center of technology excellence.
Jagdeep’s focus is to prioritize skill development by providing comprehensive training programs to our employees, enhancing their capabilities and contributing to the growth of the Indian workforce.
By adhering to the principles of “Make in India” and establishing Baker & Taylor India GCC, we aim to create globally competitive technology solutions in India, driving economic growth and positioning Baker & Taylor as a global leader in the library distribution, services & technology sector.
- Tell us about Baker & Taylor’s suite of offerings. How do you create value for readers?
Amandeep S. Kochar: At Baker & Taylor, we take great pride in our ability to provide a comprehensive suite of services and solutions that not only create value for readers but also empower libraries and academic institutions worldwide
Our commitment to empowering libraries and academic institutions globally extends to harnessing the immense talent and vibrant technology landscape of India. Through our dedicated team in India, we are deeply focused on developing cutting-edge technological solutions that cater specifically to the unique needs of the library and education industry. One crucial aspect of our technological advancements lies in the realm of digitization and digital lending platforms. We are dedicated to equipping libraries with complete solutions that facilitate seamless access to a rich variety of digital materials, spanning eBooks, audiobooks, and digital media.
By embracing these advanced systems, libraries and academic institutions can significantly enhance their digital lending experience, elevating accessibility and convenience for their users. Our tools also streamline various aspects of library operations, including acquisitions, circulation, and analytics, leading to operational efficiency and optimized resource allocation. Ultimately, our user-friendly systems empower libraries and academic institutions to enrich patron services, delivering an exceptional and immersive reading experience.
- How are distributors of books, and digital content enhancing customer-brand engagement and experience?
Amandeep S. Kochar: Distributors of books and digital content are actively enhancing customer-brand engagement and experience by leveraging technology and customer insights. In today’s digital landscape, it is essential to create personalized, interactive, and seamless experiences for customers. At our company, we prioritize the distribution of book collections and digital content that are of high quality and relevant to readers.
Through careful selection and curation, we guide readers through the vast content landscape, making it easier for them to discover new titles, genres, and authors that align with their interests. To further enhance content discoverability, we are investing in advanced search and recommendation algorithms. By analysing customer data, browsing patterns, and preferences, we offer accurate and relevant suggestions, helping customers find content that resonates with them.
Improved discoverability not only facilitates customer engagement but also fosters loyalty. We are dedicated to leveraging technology, data-driven insights, and customer-centric approaches to enhance customer-brand engagement and experience. Our focus lies in personalization, curation, interactivity, and delivering a seamless user experience. By forging strong connections with customers, we aim to foster loyalty, create positive brand associations, and stand out in the competitive market.
- Could you share with Baker & Taylor the challenges or hurdles you faced while building your business?
Amandeep S. Kochar: Baker & Taylor has encountered several challenges while building our business, particularly in the ever-changing media landscape. One of the significant hurdles we face is the increasing political pressure on libraries in the United States, with a concerning rise in book bans at a year-over-year rate of 38%. This poses a challenge to the freedom of access to information and the role libraries play in fostering intellectual curiosity and education.
Additionally, libraries are expected to serve as social and service hubs in their communities, assisting job seekers, immigrants, and families. As a result, Baker & Taylor strives to continuously innovate and provide services and tools that empower librarians to better serve their communities. We understand the importance of equipping libraries with the resources they need to navigate these challenges successfully.
Moreover, fostering an inclusive and innovative culture is a priority for our company. We aim to create an environment that not only caters to the needs of our customers but also makes us an employer of choice for our talented workforce. We recognize that libraries and educational institutions have a responsibility to accommodate the diverse requirements of their users at all stages of life, and we are dedicated to supporting them in this endeavour.
Despite the challenges we face, Baker & Taylor remains committed to overcoming obstacles through innovation, collaboration, and an unwavering dedication to our mission of advancing literacy and learning in communities. We continuously adapt to the evolving landscape and work hand in hand with libraries to address the hurdles we encounter, ensuring that our services and solutions meet the needs of both libraries and their patrons.
- How do you envision this technology benefiting libraries and their patrons globally?
Amandeep S. Kochar: We envision our technology benefiting libraries and their patrons globally in multiple ways. Our solutions streamline library operations, enhancing efficiency and accessibility for patrons. Through advanced cataloging systems, digital lending platforms, and robust analytics, libraries can provide a seamless and personalized experience. Our technology empowers patrons to discover and access a vast array of digital resources, promoting lifelong learning. Moreover, our solutions enable libraries to connect with global networks, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. Ultimately, our technology enriches library services, expands access to information, and cultivates vibrant communities of knowledge seekers worldwide.
- As Baker & Taylor plans to develop technology for the library sector in India, how does the “Make in India” initiative align with your plans and what impact do you anticipate it will have?
Amandeep S. Kochar: The “Make in India” initiative perfectly aligns with our plans to develop technology for the library sector in India.
Jagdeep defines Baker & Taylor India‘s goal is to provide innovative and tailored technology solutions for libraries across the globe and the “Make in India” initiative presents an exceptional opportunity to achieve this.
The impact we anticipate from the “Make in India” initiative is manifold.
This initiative promotes collaboration between local and global teams, facilitating knowledge exchange and technology transfer. As a global company with extensive experience, Baker & Taylor can bring valuable expertise and best practices to the Indian market. This collaboration can result in the development of cutting-edge technologies that address the unique challenges and requirements of the library sector.
We anticipate that this initiative will result in the creation of localized, cost-effective solutions, foster collaboration and knowledge exchange, and contribute to job creation and skill development. By actively participating in this aspect, we aim to contribute to the growth and development of our Indian workforce and support the growth of Baker & Taylor globally and the Indian economy while providing exceptional technology solutions for libraries across the world
- What are your plans going forward? Top priorities for 2023?
Amandeep S. Kochar: We have exciting plans and top priorities for 2023 that align with our vision for growth and innovation. One of our key focuses is expanding our operations in India, which presents tremendous opportunities for us. With a global team of 1,500 dedicated professionals, we are well-positioned to make a substantial impact.
In line with our expansion plans, we have already established a strong presence in India with 55 team members, and we aim to increase our Indian workforce to over 150 employees by FY24. This growth supports our vision of establishing our Global Capability Centre (GCC) in India, enabling our global teams to collaborate on product development and support for libraries worldwide.
Our top priority for 2023 is to build upon our diverse and talented workforce by leveraging the skills and expertise of our team members. We have already engaged 15 exceptional librarians in India, and we have ambitious plans to increase that number to 40 by 2024. This will enhance our ability to develop creative solutions that shape the future of library services.
Additionally, we are focused on driving innovation and staying at the forefront of industry advancements. We will continue investing in technology and research to develop cutting-edge solutions that empower libraries and enhance the reader experience.
Overall, our plans going forward involve strategic expansion in India, building a strong team of experts, and leveraging technology to drive innovation in the library industry. By doing so, we aim to deliver unparalleled services and solutions that meet the evolving needs of libraries and readers worldwide.