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e-future, a business specializing in ELT content

Leading the Hallyu of ELT content with the highest R&D competence

 

2019.09.09

 

Creator of the widely-acclaimed Smart Phonics series, South Korean ELT (English Language Teaching) content company e-future is leaping forward as a global English education firm, beyond South Korea's sluggish English education market.

 

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As an ELT content specializing company, e-future has been making meaningful strides in English education. I think our readers will want to know how e-future became a major ELT content provider from a country where English is not an official language.

 

After e-future was established in 2000, we've been developing our own English education content for learners who live in a country where English is not the native language, called EFL (English as a Foreign Language) countries. On top of this, through continuous efforts to enter markets outside South Korea, we've succeeded in exporting our Smart Phonics series to more than 30 countries around the world, creating a bit of our own Hallyu (Korean wave).
Smart Phonics was first released in 2003, and it was well-received by many teachers at educational institutions who had previously had to rely on imported workbooks released by famous publishers in English-speaking countries like Oxford, Cambridge and Pearson. Now, we have roughly 40 percent of the market share. From around 2008, we began our overseas marketing in earnest and started exporting our books starting with China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. We've exported 1,100 types of workbooks and digital content to many places around the world, including South America, the Middle East and Europe and now even regularly send employees to train teachers to 15 countries. With that, we believe we can say e-future has confirmed its position as an ELT specializing company with the highest R&D capabilities.

 

 

Educational products have a unique characteristic that once they are chosen,
the user tends to stick with them.
So we've been deploying aggressive marketing tactics
to make sure our book exports grow effectively and our content takes root in local markets.

 

 

Publishing companies probably want to make different preparations depending on the type of ELT publication they are about to export. We are curious to know what strategies and actual steps you took to export workbooks for learning English.

 

In consideration of the fact that once someone chooses an educational product for themselves, they stick with it, we've been deploying aggressive marketing tactics to make sure our book exports grow effectively, and our content takes root in local markets. These tactics include educating the teachers in the countries we export to and the marketing employees at our partner companies on how to fully utilize our products and teach English effectively.
In addition, to enter new overseas markets, we have marketing employees stationed in key countries, and they carry out tasks such as book promotions in Vietnam and working very closely with PSI, an export agency, to export books to South America and the Middle East. We also set up plans to educate local teachers in our biggest export countries and execute them. In this process, we receive feedback on our books in the customer countries and reflect this feedback in our future plans for materials. We see this feedback as a very important resource in constructing our strategy for content development that will meet the needs of various markets.
Through online and offline meetings with our workers overseas, we pick up on information regarding education workbook usage trends per country, changes in education policy, and how to localize our products. Along with this cooperation with our agents on the ground, we've been able to participate in global book fairs and expand our overseas marketing network. Not only this, but we also partake in international English conferences and implement the latest global English education trends from these events in our product development. In the case of China, where our exports have been jumping more than an average of 50 percent each year as local competition to secure the best, guaranteed foreign content intensifies. Taking note of this situation, we've given exclusive rights to sell our books, particularly the 'Phonics' series and 'Course book', to our partners there to establish strong relationships.

 

Various ELT books published by e-future

Various ELT books published by e-future

 

You've been directly exporting ELT workbooks. Is there a particular reason you've chosen to export directly instead of signing licensing contracts? We'd also like to know what kind of caveats there are in exporting books directly.

 

In the case of e-future, we prefer direct exporting to licensing contracts. Direct exporting leads to bigger sales, and there are many cases where licensing royalty reports can't be trusted. Last year we exported roughly $300,000 worth of materials, and it was all through direct exports.
When you export directly, you need a good sense of how the inspection process works. To export to China, they carry out prior screening. Once this process is carried out for one ISBN, then that particular book can be exported continuously without having to be inspected again. However, after the screening process, you might need to make changes to the book. In that case, you create a sample book with the necessary changes and go through the screening process again. It's a given that the books for export must be brand new prints and countries tend to be quite sensitive when it comes to maps, so this should also be kept in mind when exporting finished products.

 

 

e-future approached the education industry from the viewpoint of both the teacher and the learner.
'Workbooks that are easy and fun to learn from' are what we strive to create at e-future.It's our core value and core strength.

 

 

I guess you could say the core of e-future's competitiveness is the educational content that's specialized for EFL environments. Does e-future have a particular philosophy when it comes to English education?

 

As an educational institution, e-future's biggest strength is that all four founders are all former English teachers and lecturers. If we'd approached educational business from an enterprise-centric view, we would have obsessed over short-term profits and become unable to develop content that can be loved over a long period of time. By focusing on 'If we were teachers, how could we teach this easily?' and 'If we were students, how could we learn this easily and in a fun way?' we were naturally able to create high-quality content. Through this, we believe we were able to create an effective and positive learning cycle that makes it easy for students in non-English speaking countries to continue progressing in their learning. 'Workbooks that can help you learn easily and in a fun way' might sound like a simple slogan, but it is the core value and core strength we pursue.

 

What are some of e-future's best-performing brands in terms of books and internet content? Also, what is the source of the competitive edge that enables e-future to surpass other global companies?

 

The first thing that comes to mind for many of our customers when they think e-future is Phonics. Our Phonics series focuses on the relationship between particular pronunciations and letters in English, so even learners who are seeing English for the first time can make relatively accurate pronunciations. e-future has world-class content when it comes to this type of learning, and as a result, we receive constant requests for teacher training in foreign education institutions.
We have workbooks that address everything from pronunciations to conversation like our 'Skill Book' series that has four different areas: reading, writing, speaking and listening. We also have course books for comprehensive English conversation. Our course book series for elementary school students called Smart English and Hand in Hand have seen good reactions in Asia and Central America. In the case of Graded Readers, which is a level-based English fairy tale series, it was recognized by the Extensive Reading Foundation for two years in a row in 2016 and 2017 and given prizes at their Language Learner Literature Awards, attesting to the quality our content has.

 

2016 LLL Awards, 2017 LLL Awards

2016 LLL Awards, 2017 LLL Awards

 

e-future participating in a book fair

e-future participating in a book fair

 

In addition to these, we are providing access to our eSmartClass, an online learning website, free of charge to about 170,000 people around the world. We also provide effective e-learning support on not only personal computers but various digital devices (mobile/tablet) and applications to connect learners to e-future reading content with no physical limitations.
This was all possible because e-future has proprietary copyright. The giant global publishers famous for their educational workbooks usually outsource their content development, and this complicates copyright relationships and slows down the digitization process. However, e-future has rights to all of its content including the phonics series, course books, Readers series and online student management programs. Thanks to this we can easily adapt this content for e-books, tablet PCs and other mobile devices. This also enables us to cooperate easily and quickly with overseas smart learning firms, which is a huge competitive edge. For instance, if we were a manufacturing firm, we would be a relatively small company of education engineers, but we have nurtured our own professional experts to create a great team, and that is what will help e-future stay competitive in the future. Currently more than half our staff work on R&D and thanks to our aggressive investment in the right experts, we have been able to establish a lineup for which we do not pay any royalties.

 

e-future's online learning website, eSmartClass

e-future's online learning website, eSmartClass

 

At a training course for Chinese teachers, students outside South Korea learning with e-future materials

At a training course for Chinese teachers, students outside South Korea learning with e-future materials

 

 

 

Outside the country, we try to support teachers as much as possible by providing regular training classes for them.
To boost brand recognition for e-future, we are carrying out various online promotion efforts as well.

 

 

e-future mainly deals with B2B projects. Could you tell us about the promotion strategies implemented to strengthen brand recognition and value?

 

In South Korea, very many mid-to-large education institutions like cram schools use our materials in addition to smaller after school study programs. We now have a community with 38,000 teachers around the country where they consult with each other on workbooks and curriculum. They also share their teaching strategies, and we regularly conduct free seminars that are hosted by the company and regional sales agencies.
Outside the country, we try to support teachers as much as possible by providing regular classes on teacher education with the cooperation of our distribution partners in different countries. We are trying to constantly expose our brand at conferences and book fairs, but we have been carrying out online promotion projects out of the need for bigger brand recognition in various locations. We're in the process of establishing infrastructure for global online marketing and carrying out target marketing via search engines, FaceBook, Wechat, Weibo and other social media networks in different countries. Not only this, but we're also trying to bolster our brand recognition via product introduction videos and education seminar videos posted on local social media networks and sales channels. These video resources are all tailor-made for different consumer markets and provided to our overseas partners for dissemination. We also develop e-book and digital catalogs so our consumers can thoroughly look through our sample pages even if they're not in South Korea.

 

Lastly, what are e-future's vision and plans going forward?

 

After realizing years ago that the South Korean education market was on course for stagnation due to declining birth rates, e-future has been training its efforts on entering new markets elsewhere. This is why we have various strategic deals with businesses in countries like China, Vietnam and Japan. Recently, we have been able to enjoy the fruits of those efforts, and our business model is rapidly transitioning from a conventional publication-focused one to a content provider model.
In addition to these efforts, we are in the middle of many preparations for new growth in the era of the 4th industrial revolution, like joint development of an AI speaker with key content from e-future. Through persistent content development and platform expansion, we have a plan to reach $10 million in exports within the next five years and become the 'hidden champion' in the global English content industry as we're already the top company in the industry headquartered in an EFL country. e-future will play a leadership role in making sure children from EFL countries, including South Korea, can receive proper education in English and grow to be competitive global people of talent.

 

 


Arranged by Ji-hye Gwon

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