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Wednesday, 10 February 2016
Chennai: The STM Publishing hotspot!
Friday, 08 September 2006

There is a highly skewed concentration of STM publishing BPOs in and around Chennai. More than 50% of the top 30 Publishing BPOs are located in Chennai!

SPS has a 1,500 strong facility in Chennai catering to the STM publishers!
Newgen Imaging, a Carlyle Group company has over 600 people in Chennai!
SPI employs more than 500 people in and around Chennai for their publishing business! Macmillan, a leading publishing BPO recently acquired Chennai-based Charon Tech!

There is a highly skewed concentration of STM publishing BPOs in and around Chennai. More than 50% of the top 30 Publishing BPOs are located in Chennai!

The STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) publishing forms the largest share of offshored publishing services to India. The services offered to global STM publishers range from data conversion, digitization, copy-editing, author liaison to complete project management services. The table below gives a list of the major publishing Chennai based BPOs offering services to STM publishers.

Name of Publishing BPO Employees in Chennai (approx.) Clients (Partial list)
Scientific Publishing Services (Springer) 1,500 Springer Verlag, Elsevier, Blackwell, Oxford
Laserwords 800+ Chemical Publishing Company, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Oxford University
Newgen Imaging 600+ St.Martin's Press, British Medical Association
TnQ 600+ Not Available
Integra (Pondicherry) 550+ Pearson education, John Wiley, Cambridge University
Alden Prepress 520+ Health organisations, University research departments
Lason India 500+ Not Available
SPI BPO 500+ Oxford University Press
Macmillan (Charon Tech) 300 Elsevier, John Wiley, Blackwell
Knowledge Works Global 300+ American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
QPRO Infotech 300+ Not Available
Beacon PMG 150 Not Available
Datapage 110 Multilingual Mattersy, CRC Press
Olympus Infotech 80+ Mayo Clinic

    Note: Several of these players offer services to the Non-STM segment also.
    Amongst the leading vendors, only TechBooks and Thomson Digital do not have a presence in Chennai

    Source: ValueNotes Research

Its intriguing that Chennai has such a large concentration of STM publishing BPOs. SPS, Integra were the early movers, and set up shop around the mid-nineties. Over the last decade, the industry has developed a sizeable presence in the city, employing over 7,000 people. While part of the Chennai growth story can be attributed to the 'bandwagon' effect, a look at some of the characteristics offer a different insight.

"Chennai was an early adapter of pagination technologies such as Tex/Latex, 3B2 scripting. Publishers came to Chennai for setting complex STM books and journals that have over thousands of equations and formulas. We have excellent peripheral support from freelance copy-editors, language editors compared to other locations. Even rare skills such as XYVISION, Ventura are available in Chennai. Over 20 years, several skills were trained in various aspects of production services, resulting in a huge talent pool, unmatched in any part of the country."
                    - Vijay Ayyappan, Director, Olympus Infotech

  • Amongst all the top Indian metros, Chennai has the largest number of people opting for scientific and technical courses for post-graduation and PhDs. Moreover, familiarity with English comprehension is much higher compared to other metros. Most of the tasks in STM publishing require the employees to be technically savvy with fairly good subject (technical) knowledge and English writing skills.

A leading news daily, the Hindu reports that of the 12.1 million science graduates and diploma holders in India, Tamilnadu has a share of over 12%. As per the Statistical Handbook of Tamil Nadu-2005, the state has 20 universities, 441 arts and science colleges, and 246 Engineering and technology colleges.

  • The infrastructure / salary costs in Chennai are at least 10-15% lower than that in Bangalore / Mumbai / Delhi. In fact, real estate in Chennai is competitive even as compared to smaller cities like Pune and Hyderabad.
Major Cities in India
Rental Rate (INR) / Sq. ft.
30 to 140
9 to 35
New Delhi
15 to 135
30 to 85
Source: ValueNotes Research
  • The Chennai-based workforce have been found to be less prone to moving out of their native city, an attitude which keeps the attrition levels in check. Most top vendors in publishing BPOs in Chennai report an attrition of only around 5-8% per year. This is against 20-30% in other cities such as Bangalore and Delhi.

The client-vendor ecosystem

Apart from the several large and mid-sized vendors (Tier1 and Tier2) offering services directly to global STM publishers, there are at least 100 odd small vendors (Tier3) in and around Chennai. This provides a large pool of sub-contractors for the larger vendors. The viability of the Tier3 vendors is constantly under threat due to the commoditized services and intense price competition. However, high growth for the Tier1/Tier2 vendors translates into greater volumes for them. Eager to survive, they are ready to work at cheaper rates, offer fairly quick turnarounds and variable capacity. All of this benefits larger vendors, who are eager to keep costs down.


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