Interview with Amandeep Kochar, President & Group CEO of Baker & Taylor

Amandeep Kochar

An exclusive interview with Amandeep Kochar, President & Group CEO of Baker & Taylor, a well-known distributor of books & digital content

Welcome to this exclusive interview with Mr. Amandeep Kochar, the distinguished President & Group CEO of Baker & Taylor. Renowned as a premier distributor of books and digital content, Baker & Taylor has long been a cornerstone of the literary and entertainment world.

Under Mr. Kochar’s visionary leadership, the company has navigated through transformative shifts in the industry, embracing technological advancements while upholding a deep commitment to fostering a love for reading and knowledge dissemination.

In this candid conversation, we delve into Mr. Kochar’s insights on the evolving landscape of book distribution, the integration of digital media, and his strategic vision for the future of Baker & Taylor. Join us as we gain a glimpse into the mind of a trailblazer who continues to shape the way we access and experience content in an ever-changing world.

Tell us about yourself

Amandeep Kochar: Born to a proud hardworking Sikh family in New Delhi, India, I was raised with core values of work ethic, service to people, and kindness. With a background as a trained software engineer and a passion for technology, I embarked on my educational journey by pursuing undergraduate studies in Computer Science and Software Development.

However, I felt compelled to expand my knowledge and skills beyond technical expertise. This led me to pursue an MBA from the prestigious IIT Kharagpur and continued professional development in the United States, where I gained valuable insights into the world of business management.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with renowned brands in the media, publishing, technology and entertainment industries. These experiences have shaped my understanding of the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of these sectors.

Before joining Baker & Taylor in 2014, I worked as Chief Product Officer at McGraw-Hill, and HCL Technologies where I further honed my expertise in product development and market strategies.

Joining Baker & Taylor has been an incredibly exciting journey for me. I initially served as the EVP and GM, overseeing various aspects of our operations and fostering growth.

However, one of the defining moments of my tenure was leading the investment buyout from our former parent company and owner, which allowed me to take on the role of owner-operator of this 195-year-old business.

This transition marked a significant milestone for both me and the company, as it provided us with the autonomy and flexibility to shape the future of Baker & Taylor.

Currently, I am honoured to oversee the management of Baker & Taylor, B&T Publisher Services, Bridgeall Libraries, Baker & Taylor India and our Australian subsidiary, James Bennett.

This diverse portfolio allows us to provide comprehensive solutions and services to our valued customers across the globe in addition to hiring the best talent available worldwide. I believe in fostering a collaborative and inclusive work culture where every team member’s contributions are valued and encouraged. Open communication, innovation, and customer-centricity are at the core of our operations.

Can you provide an overview of your role at Baker & Taylor and the key responsibilities that come with it?

Amandeep Kochar: As the President & Group CEO of Baker & Taylor, my role changes daily from simple blocking and tackling to governance. With the honor of being the first independent owner in over 60 years, I see myself as a caretaker and guardian for this venerable company with a nearly 200-year history. My responsibilities span overseeing our subsidiaries and ensuring the continuity of our remarkable legacy.

Preserving Baker & Taylor’s enduring presence for the next 200 years is both a privilege and a responsibility close to my heart. I am committed to driving growth and evolving our solutions while staying true to our rich heritage and most importantly, working with our customers to drive literacy-enabled community engagement.

Together with our dedicated team, we are propelling Baker & Taylor forward, building upon our storied past and charting a future that embraces both our legacy and innovation.

How did you become involved in the distribution and publishing industry, specifically in the realm of books and digital content?

Amandeep Kochar: My journey into the distribution and publishing industry, especially in the world of books and digital content, is deeply intertwined with my unwavering passion for storytelling. The art of storytelling has always captivated me, and I believe in the power of books and literature to be windows, mirrors and sliding doors for readers to see themselves, others and to step into different cultures and experiences.

In 2022, I took a significant step to address the representation gap in children’s literature by launching Paw Prints Publishing. Through this venture, we strive to discover and publish stories that resonate with young readers from diverse backgrounds, empowering them and fostering a sense of belonging.

As a personal endeavor, I have penned a series called Jeet and Fudge, which follows the delightful adventures of a young Sikh boy named Jeet and his lovable companion, Fudge, a chocolate labradoodle. Drawing inspiration from my own childhood experiences and the cherished bond I share with my dog; this series aims to spark imagination and instill values in young minds.

I am driven by the belief that through storytelling, we can create meaningful connections, foster empathy, and inspire generations to come.

What sets Baker & Taylor apart from other distributors in the market? What unique value do you bring to your customers?

Amandeep Kochar: With over two centuries of experience, we have weathered the storms of change and emerged stronger, proving our adaptability and reliability. Our extensive knowledge and deep understanding of our market gives us a unique perspective that our customers can rely on.

One of the key factors that differentiates us is our breadth of offerings. Unlike other distributors specializing in physical books or digital services, we are the only distributor that seamlessly integrates both. And through our single ordering platform and machine-learning-driven software we enable efficient purchasing.

This convenience allows our customers, public and academic libraries, to access a wide range of content in one place, catering to their diverse needs and preferences.

But what truly sets us apart is our unwavering commitment to the needs of librarians, who are the heart of the library experience. We understand their challenges in navigating the ever-evolving information landscape and design our digital solutions with their needs in mind.

We aim to empower librarians to effectively serve their patrons and manage their collections, making their work easier and more impactful.

With the rise of digital content and e-books, how has Baker & Taylor adapted its business model to meet the changing needs and preferences of readers, librarians and publishers?

Amandeep Kochar: The rise of digital content and e-books has ushered in a new chapter in the world of reading, and at Baker & Taylor, we have embraced this transformation. We understand that readers today seek a blend of both the tactile preference of physical books and the convenience of digital and e-audiobooks.

To meet these changing needs and preferences, we have adapted our business model to provide librarians with a diverse range of options that cater to the individual tastes of their patrons and ensure access to desired content in the preferred format.

We recognize that publishers face unique challenges in this digital era. We offer custom marketing and collection development programs to support them that help promote books and boost discoverability, especially for up-and-coming and first-time authors.

In addition, we empower librarians by equipping them with the tools and resources necessary to navigate the ever-evolving digital content landscape.

Our platform brings together both physical and digital content, enabling librarians to serve their communities and cater to diverse preferences effortlessly. We know how crucial librarians are in sparking that love for reading and knowledge, and we are committed to supporting them every step of the way.

At Baker & Taylor, we’re on a mission to keep the reading world thriving in this digital age while preserving the space for physical books and their impact. We’re dedicated to supporting readers, publishers, and librarians in creating unforgettable reading experiences.

Could you share some insights into the challenges and opportunities you face as a distributor in the ever-evolving publishing industry?

Amandeep Kochar: Navigating the ever-evolving publishing industry requires nimbleness and adaptability, two traits Baker & Taylor is known for in the industry. We understand that the landscape is constantly shifting, and we’ve learned to adapt to the winds of change.

The Great Resignation, an inflationary economy, cost of capital, rising transportation costs, and geopolitical turmoil have presented us with hurdles to overcome. We know that finding skilled labor and managing workforce dynamics requires thinking outside the box and creating innovative solutions to make us an employer of choice.

The financial landscape can be unpredictable, but as we have done for nearly two centuries, we are committed to careful planning and effective management.

How does Baker & Taylor collaborate with publishers to ensure a seamless distribution process and maximize the reach of their content?

Amandeep Kochar: At Baker & Taylor, we believe that collaboration with publishers is key to ensuring a seamless distribution process and maximizing the reach of their valuable content. We prioritize building strong partnerships supported by a range of services that cater to their specific needs.

Comprehensive support and merchandising services are at the heart of our offerings. We work closely with publishers to develop strategic marketing initiatives, optimized product placement, and enhanced visibility to maximize content exposure and capture buyers’ attention.

We actively seek out new publishers, valuing the promotion of emerging talent and diverse voices. By expanding our network of partners, we broaden our content offerings and strengthen our distribution capabilities, providing readers with a diverse range of captivating stories.

What strategies does Baker & Taylor employ to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate industry trends in order to better serve your customers?

Amandeep Kochar: At Baker & Taylor, being proactive and staying ahead of the curve to serve our customers better is what we believe in. We employ various strategies to anticipate industry trends and ensure we are at the forefront of innovation.

First and foremost, we make it a priority to stay in touch with our customers; regardless of their title or role, everyone is a customer advocate within the Baker & Taylor.

We treat customers as partners and are constantly engaged in understanding their needs, challenges, and dreams. By keeping the lines of communication wide open, we can fine-tune our offerings and stay on top of their ever-evolving needs.

We actively participate in industry groups and forums to stay connected and informed about the latest developments. We thrive with collaboration – sharing ideas, picking up best practices, and getting the jump on emerging trends.

In addition, we take pride in sponsoring industry events and research efforts, contributing to broader industry knowledge, and fostering a culture of innovation.

What do you believe are the future prospects and trends in the book and digital content distribution industry, and how is Baker & Taylor positioned to capitalize on them?

Amandeep Kochar: The future of the book and digital content distribution industry holds tremendous promise, and Baker & Taylor is poised to seize the opportunities ahead. Our long-term vision extends beyond being a content provider, distributor and publisher.

We aspire to become an integrated enterprise resource planning partner for libraries, allowing customers to plan all their resources through our platforms, from content to software and other products.

To turn this vision into reality, we are committed to establishing dynamic relationships with our publisher partners. By automating metadata processes and enhancing content discoverability on our platforms, we ensure that every title receives the exposure it deserves.

Collaborating with our supply partners is crucial to understanding industry dynamics and optimizing distribution strategies.

Our dedication to the purpose and mission of libraries drives us forward. We strive to support libraries in delivering enriching experiences to their patrons by offering a diverse range of content and innovative solutions that enhance the library experience.

Recognizing the growth potential in digital content consumption while honoring the enduring significance of physical books, we seamlessly integrate both formats through our platform.

By catering to evolving reader preferences, supporting libraries as comprehensive resource hubs, and fostering collaborative relationships with publishers, Baker & Taylor is well-positioned to thrive in the future of the industry.

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in the publishing or content distribution industry?

Amandeep Kochar: First and foremost, I would encourage them to engage themselves in the world of books and storytelling by being a customer. Visit libraries and bookstores, read widely, and develop a deep appreciation for the art of storytelling.

This firsthand experience as a reader will provide valuable insights into the needs and preferences of audiences.

Additionally, seek internships to gain practical experience and insight into the industry’s inner workings. Whether it’s with a small publisher, literary agency, or distributor, these opportunities will allow you to learn the inner workings of the industry and develop essential skills.

Internships provide a valuable platform to learn from industry professionals, understand different roles, and build a network within the publishing community.

I also recommend taking advantage of student rates to attend industry tradeshows, events, and conferences. These platforms offer valuable networking opportunities, industry insights, and the chance to connect with professionals across various sectors of the industry.

Attending such events will broaden your understanding of the industry landscape and keep you informed about emerging trends and opportunities.

Finally, let passion be your driving force. The publishing and content distribution industry thrives on the love for storytelling and the joy of sharing knowledge. Embrace it as it will fuel your motivation and drive your success.

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