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BPO boom lures Cambridge Univ Press

The world's oldest publishing house will customise English language for army of 20-something call centre employees.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2006 11:11 IST

The Cambridge University Press (CUP), the world's oldest publishing house, plans to cash in on India's BPO boom by customising the English language for the burgeoning army of 20-something call centre employees.

The publishing house, which recently set up shop in India, will focus on customising a special type of English for call centres and BPOs as there are growing employment opportunities for those wishing to join this booming industry, CUP chief executive Stephen RR Bourne told said.

"It's mainly going to be about vocabulary and the structure of sentences. The idea is also to familiarise them with geography of different places in the world so that it doesn't matter which part of the world they are catering to," he maintained.

English language courses contribute a third of the nearly Rs 12 billion annual revenue of the 425-year-old publishing house that has published books by iconic figures like Isaac Newton, John Milton and, more recently, Amartya Sen.

A division of the venerable Cambridge University, CUP publishes nearly 2,500 books and over 200 journals every year that are sold in over 200 countries.

With the new venture in India, with its nearly 300 million strong middle class familiar with some form of English or other, the business is bound to boom.

Besides English for Special Purposes (ESP) courses, CUP's focus in India will be on publishing quality educational books. Bourne is excited about working in the Indian market and with Indian academics.

"We have been working with Indian academicians for a long time now. We will publish books in science and also mathematics in this country. Moreover, the books printed here would be exported to Arab and African countries," he said.

Impressed by the "growing educational publishing industry" in India - 20,000 new titles are published every year - Bourne waxed eloquent on the new "business culture" in the country that has encouraged CUP to set up shop in India.

"India is a vibrant educational and IT market. It's a great place to publish, to develop new products," the tall and dapper publisher said, contrasting the country he visited 25 years ago as a young man with a new India bristling with ideas and possibilities.

"In those days, it was a difficult country to do business in. Twenty-five years ago India was not associated with technology. It was associated with old things and not new things," he recalled.

"Till that point, it was quite inward looking. It was respectful of the empire. Now, it's coming into its own," Bourne said.

His enthusiasm for CUP's new venture - it acquired 51 per cent stake in the Delhi-based Foundation Books recently to enter the "vibrant" Indian market - was writ large on his benign face. "So much has changed. This country has come a long way in encouraging us to do business here".

CUP has been extremely successful in adapting to technology and has recently created a database of 15,000 digital files of books.