'Books & Stationery' – Growing Markets in India!

Books & Stationery is a highly ‘commodity driven’ and fragmented market and it is largely an unorganised sector. There is great difficulty to earn brand equity or loyalty; and, the organised part is controlled by leading players like Navneet notebooks, Sundaram notebooks, Camlin, new players like ITC group and Staples Inc. Even then, the purchaser does not express much loyalty to any brand while making the decision. In such a disorganised market condition, adding to the woes, the distribution structure is not well established; only the ‘skeletal’ distribution structure ensures availability of approximate data regarding market share of the leading players and the total market size.

So, how big is this ‘Books & Stationery’ market? There are no official numbers available to know how big this market is, but industry estimates put it in the range of Rs 11000 crores all over India. The growth of the education segment is directly related to this market. Out of the total pie, around Rs 6000 crore is estimated to be paper stationery, while the rest is categorised as non-paper stationery consisting of writing instruments, art materials etc. Market players estimate 15% growth rate year on year!

Education segment as a whole is getting priority in the Indian private as well as government sector due to the ‘focused’ approach of the central government and the education ministry. There is more market spread happening for the stationery segment, in the last few years resulting in higher consumption. There is an effort by each market player to target B and C Class cities/ towns so as to expand the market size and consequently increase their sales revenue. New players scout for new markets to gain some respectable market share as early as possible. At the same time, old players do not want to lose their market share and are consolidating on their strengths in the existing markets.

Text-content has been a major issue in Education segment because India is a very diverse market with many national languages and at times, the text books’ distribution do not make any commercial sense; especially, when economies of scale is not achieved. Players like Sundaram Publishers have started novel ways of text content distribution through pen drives addressing the e-class that stores syllabus on pen drives. Advent of Internet and other new technologies has enabled to create a knowledge library and the content can be accessed by students even on TV or laptops. Now, this makes sense as the distribution costs are much lower and wastage due to carrying non- saleable inventory is not there.

New players like ITC group have focused on this market early or rather within a short period of time; by applying FMCG distribution principles in the books and stationery market. Aspects like trade marketing, merchandising (in a big way), sign-ages, school and college contact programmes are being added – all this create more touch points with the market to boost sales! Staples has a ‘back to school’ sales discounts’ schemes etc to create more avenues to boost their sales, when schools re-open after summer vacation. Camlin, one of the oldest players in this market, are getting geared up to add on to their existing large network of retailers – so as to increase the number to a stag-erring figure of 2,50,000 retailers all over India, in next couple of years.

Looking at these developments, it is getting clear that books and stationery markets are growing; adding value to the concept of spreading education to the nook and corner of each city/ town – at district and taluka levels. With education getting priority, this was expected to happen!

(Data Source: Economic Times)


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