Rob Kolkman: “Santillana Gives Us A Leading Position In The Spanish Market”

2021-02-20   |   by CusiGO

When the coronavirus pandemic shocked Europe and its enterprises, rob kolkman (ensherd, Holland, 1972) just started to be the chief executive officer of sanoma learning, the Education Department of Finland’s sanoma media and learning solutions group. “In January and February, I will meet all the teams in Europe, and that’s it, because at the end of February and the beginning of March, the confinement period has arrived,” the manager recalled. “Since then, most of our lives have been like this for everyone,” he describes, referring to interviews conducted via video conferencing. However, the parent company’s annual accounts presented the day before the meeting showed that 2020 was not a year of stagnation: the company doubled its sales to $1062 million (from $913 million in 2019) to $238 million (from $65 million the previous year).

“Most of the group’s business profits come from learning,” said Spain’s annual accounts, as sanoma completed its acquisition of Santillana Espa รณ a prisa (National Publishing Group) in a US $465 million deal on the last day of 2020. “We have been following santilana closely for many years, and when this opportunity came up, we were very satisfied, it put us in the lead in the Spanish market, and we were happy with the event,” colkman said

Spain is no stranger to the Finnish company, which arrived in 2019 after acquiring iddlink and clickedu. “Let’s hope they can work together, but it’s a different business,” said the chief executive, who clearly stated the plan’s priorities: “support and complement the good solutions that Santillana already has, as well as other digital solutions, and adapt them to different communities, Because in the Spanish market, we have a lot of special things. ”

European education giants believe that a new education law recently passed by Spain is a great opportunity to expand what they call “mixed methodology”. “Combining paper support with online formats, such as assessments, tests, exams, personalized learning… Is very useful, and we are moving along that path,” colkman said. So we don’t go to the absolute advantage of Electronics? “Of course, there will be room for pure online methods, but we really think it’s very specific, and in most cases, there will be a combination of paper and digital media.”

Colkman explained that the epidemic “changed schools and teaching institutions in many countries” and restricted millions of students across Europe. This is a challenge for students, teachers (the role of teachers is huge and indeed impressive), as well as the government or the industry itself. “We note that demand for digital support and digital conversion is increasing dramatically across Europe, but this is a very heterogeneous country, and some countries have made progress in digitization.”

How did Spain perform in that game? “In my opinion, it’s not a question of being the best or the worst student, but a question of seeing what position this country, this education center, is in,” Coleman replied. “In Spain, we found differences between autonomous regions and educational institutions. Our goal is to see how we can help them. ”

It also describes the relationship between enterprises and public education from the perspective of cooperation. “It’s not a comparison, it’s about what value a private company can add to the public education system,” he said. Education is one of the human rights that the coronavirus crisis has put the Department in trouble, and Coleman called on the Department to take action: “as competitors, we have opened up a lot of content in different markets so that schools can get through the initial phase of confinement.”

This is not the only emergency created by the epidemic. The Dutch manager said his department has been “influenced to a certain extent” by activities that require people to people contact, such as teacher training or business work. “You usually try to market new products, but obviously you need to interact with teachers to achieve that,” he explained. The use of digital platforms also presents unexpected challenges: “for example, the cost of hosting (networked storage) has risen.”

Kirkman said everyone at the Finnish company is eager to return to what they call “the best normal state” internally, which means that telecommuting is more likely in their organization than it was before the pandemic, and that these methods have the potential to make breakthroughs in the market in which they work. Management believed in the possibility of organic growth, but he made it clear sanoma was pursuing an acquisition policy. “We still want to invest 300 million or 400 million euros in this area,” he said. “Our focus is on what we call the K12 Market: primary and secondary education. This is a key focus, and there is still a lot of work to be done in the European market in this area. There will be a lot of consolidation. ”

So you ruled out other options? “Not necessarily, but our focus is on Europe,” he replied. Colkman advocates growth strategy through acquisition, which he defines as a delicate balance between local and international levels. Then he went back to Spain, where it was clear that sanoma had made a big bet: “the acquisition of santilana is a perfect combination: leading content combined with our contributions, all digital solutions and the scale of our development of these solutions.”