Thought Leadership for the Global C-Suite

The VITO Report

Subscribe to The VITO Report : eMailAlertsEmail Alerts newslettersWeekly Newsletters
Get The VITO Report : homepageHomepage mobileMobile rssRSS facebookFacebook twitterTwitter linkedinLinkedIn


VITO Report Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Roger Strukhoff, Timothy Fisher, Ernest de Leon

Related Topics: CIO/CTO Update, VITO Report

CIO/CTO Update: Blog Post

CyberMedia CEO Pradeep Gupta Innovates, Pushes the Envelope

Dataquest Publisher Now Spans Multiple Publications and Media

Pradeep Gupta is founder and CEO of CyberMedia (www.cybermedia.co.in). The company publishes 16 magazines, numerous websites, events, TV programs, conducts market research and custom publishing.

The company is India’s licensee for IDC research.

CyberMedia is headquartered in Gurgaon in the National Capital Region centered around New Delhi in northern India. The company has additional offices throughout India, in Singapore, and in three subsidiary locations in the US.

Pradeep received an engineering degree from the Delhi campus of India’s famous, highly competitive IIT system, then received an MBA from IIM Calcutta.

As a wizened tech publisher, and as someone who used to compete with one of CyberMedia’s current US holdings, I thought it might be a lot of fun to interview Pradeep.

So I did, and it was. Here is our conversation…

Roger Strukhoff: What was your original trigger when you started the company back in the early 1980s?

Pradeep Gupta: Well, upon completing my Masters in 1977, I was among the first set of management trainees to join HCL, which is today a $5 billion enterprise. My entrepreneurial journey started there, as I was watching what was going on around me. We were working hard to sell the first microcomputers in India, those old eight-bit machines!

Roger: And you enjoyed it…

Pradeep: Yes, and the spark of entrepreneurship was lit there. So in 1980, when I was 25 years old, I started on my own, with a software company. Two years later I started CyberMedia.

Roger: And planned it on the back of an envelope, no doubt…

Pradeep: Well let me tell you a story. I was a bachelor at the time, and as single people do, my friends and I would sit around an apartment, drinking the cheapest whiskey possible and solving the world’s problems.

Two of my friends were talking about a livestock magazine, explaining to me that the rural masses never got the information they needed and that something should be started here. I started doing back-of-the-envelope calculations, literally. I had no idea how many sheep there were in India, but my friends kept guiding me and I kept doing the calculations.

At the end of the day, I told them that information technology was far more exciting to me than livestock, and so if we started a newsletter on the topic of IT we would find a lot of takers.

Roger: How did you finance your IT-not-livestock newsletter?

Pradeep: I put together a business plan, and together with three people we put in 160,000 rupees (note: a back-of-the-envelope calculation says this would be about $10,000USD today.)

Our first publication, Dataquest, was born!

Roger: This was a significant sum for you and your friends.

Pradeep: Yes, but it did well because we understood the needs of the market. Then I grew it one step at a time. It took us five years to start a second publication, PC Quest. Then we started our licensing arrangement with IDC in 1987, something that has continued to this day.

IT was very homegrown in those days, you know. PCs from outside of India came in only in 1984.

Roger: How did the company grow beyond those early years to become what it is today?

Pradeep: There were a couple of key moments. One of them occurred when we were only two years old, when the magazine India Today launched Computers Today. We had fewer than 15 people at the time, and suddenly we had this giant company launching this publication against us.

Roger: How did you react to that?

Pradeep: We went back to the drawing board to do a SWOT analysis, to see what strengths and weaknesses we had. They had more “feet on the ground,” more distribution muscle, and higher printing values—and we could not compete against of that.

Roger: How could you compete against them then?

Pradeep: We decided to win the battle on the editorial front. We said to ourselves, “look, we understand our IT. We are IT people going into publishing, rather than publishers going into IT. If we get close to the customers—our readers—and understand what they want to read, we will be able to withstand the competition.”

I worked a lot in terms of relationships. IT was still a relatively small industry at that time in India, so I went for huge relationship building.

Roger: You mentioned there were a couple of key moments.

Pradeep: Yes, we had another one when PC Magazine came in. We wondered how we could tackle this competition, because even editorially they would be able to match us.

So we decided to create a test lab that would test under specific Indian conditions, rather than generic US conditions as with PC Magazine.

Roger: This was a big step.

Pradeep: Yes, but by that time we had crossed the chasm, we decided our strategy had to be clearly differentiated. So we took a three-axis approach, as represented in the name of our company.

The first part of the name is “Cyber,” so we felt we could look at numerous knowledge industries: biotech, outsourcing, tech entrepreneurship, etc. The second part, “Media” was evolving from traditional print based to more integrated format: websites, events, television, etc.

The third part of our name back then was “India,” but we realized that we should not restrict ourselves, that we should go international. So we expanded into media services, and completed three transactions in the US (note: in recent years, the company acquired research and specialty media companies in New Jersey, Illinois, and California).

Roger: How do you manage all this today?

Pradeep: We work with the local, existing teams in the U.S. and are constantly thinking of how we can leverage the US-India axis. But please realize that our globalization strategy didn’t occur overnight, but in fact happened 17 years after we started.

Roger: And you’re a public company now.

Pradeep: Yes, we started as a private company, but eventually did an IPO and are listed on the National & Bombay Stock Exchange.

Roger: So what motivates you day by day?

Pradeep: This is still exciting for me! If you are passionate about what you’re doing, then you never feel bored. So I continue to look at new things, new products, and new services.

I’ve also gotten involved in a number of activities over the past 10 years: I head the Delhi chapter of TiE (The Indian Entrepreneurs); I am the former Chair of PanIIT India; President of the Association of Indian Magazines, and others.

I spend about 25 percent of my time with civic organizations such as this. And I’m an angel investor as the co-founder of the Indian Angel Network.

My earlier passion has not waned.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.