ILJ’s Shreyas Gupta speaks with Deepak Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Manupatra on how he came up with the idea of building an IT platform and linking it to the legal world.

  • Deepak Kapoor
Ques: How did the idea of 'Manupatra" come into existence?

Ans: Manupatra is a typical garage story conceived during the dot com boom and born during the bust when Internet companies were crashing like nine pins. No one in 2001 gave us any chance to survive with 2 non technical non legal background people trying to row the boat. But Manupatra continued to thrive and grow through the crisis years. It is a child of adversity.

The Company started operations in 2000 and launched its flagship product, the online database in August 2001. Today, it has delivery capabilities in print and electronic media. In 2005 the company forayed into Print by acquiring Bombay Law Reporter a 110 year old journal. Ever since it has started green field ventures and also acquired publication houses in Direct Tax, Indirect Tax and Corporate Law space in a bid to both consolidate the industry and strengthen its content offerings in the tax and commercial law space.

It has been a wonderful journey, though strenuous at times. The last 15-years have been an extremely gratifying experience for us where we have created a record of sorts by building a law related venture despite the fact that neither I nor Priyanka who is the Chief operating Officer of Manupatra has a legal background. Without any formal initiation to the business of law, we purely trusted our instinct for the seeding of Manupatra. Being in the market place is not easy but when I look back, I think not having a legal background helped us in a way as it not only allowed us to deviate from the well trodden path and try something completely out of the box but also gave us the leeway to innovate and execute our ground-breaking ideas. There has been lot of trial and errors but at the end of the day, an open mindset and willingness to learn from mistakes saw us through. We consider ourselves lucky to have such an exceptional team at Manupatra, who through their zeal and dedication have changed the landscape of legal publishing in India.

Ques: What were the difficulties that Manuptra faced during its formative years especially with issues like raising of funds, time it would take to break-even etc.?

Ans: While we were lucky not to have to scrounge for funds during our formative years and we were cash positive from year one from our launch. The issue we faced was during the dotcom bust. To hire talent and to get subscribers on board was an issue since both stakeholders viewed the internet based companies (read dotcom) with suspicion.

Ques: How many subscribers does Manupatra have today?

Ans: Manupatra Web has 15,000 subscribers with user base of 70,000. The users are spread across the globe with 5% International traffic.

Manupatra App launched in 2010 was the first legal app launched internationally. This is available across all iOS, Windows, Android, Blackberry. Keeping pace with requirements of the market place, Manupatra has rolled out its Web App in April 2016.

Ques: Where does Manupatra see itself five years down the line?

Ans: We see Manupatra expanding deeper into tier 2 & 3 cities in India and in International markets. We are exploring acquisition and green field opportunities in e-learning & verification markets. We have launched, a service similar as Manupatra for Bangladesh market and are working at launching similar service in other common wealth countries.

Ques: Manupatra is currently already publishing law reports in several areas of law such as competition etc. Does Manupatra plan to include these articles in its online database as well akin to what several international legal database providers such as Lexis Nexis, Westlaw etc. provide?

Ans: Manupatra is already including articles from its premium reports in its online database. Additionally Manupatra web aggregates articles from practitioners , professionals and academicians , which are available to all for free through the home page. A separate section gives free access to newsletters of various law firms.

Ques: Does Manupatra plan to partner any international legal database providers in order to expand its horizon globally?

Ans: Starting off as provider of India centric content, we have now included international content covering case laws from multiple International jurisdictions such as US, UK, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Manupatra is the only legal research tool which allows the user to search on Indian and international content simultaneously thus improving the depth and quality of research. Currently we have sales offices in Dhaka..

We do not have any immediate plans to partner with International players since we ourselves are covering comprehensive content from multiple international jurisdictions.

Ques: How different is Manupatra from its domestic competitors such as SCC online etc.?

Ans: Our biggest competitor is Manupatra itself because of rampant misuse of password.

Comparing it to other online services / database, Manupatra stands out as:-

  1. The most comprehensive database [ over 300 citations]
  2. Only database to provide State statutes & notifications across all states in one place.
  3. Search engine which gives relevant results
  4. Extensive cross referencing & hyper linking to referred cases & statutes
  5. Analytics & Case Mapping
  6. Visualisation Tools which are unique to Manupatra
  7. Manupatra is a database with legal research tool
  8. 18 sales offices with captive feet on street
  9. First Indian corporate in Indian legal publishing industry

Manupatra has been started with a vision to enable consumers to spend quality time analysing information and not waste gathering it. Since the inception, we have been evolving across all aspects of the business, whether its customer support or after sales service etc. Sophisticated research tools which were the province of the privileged have been brought to the masses by Manupatra.

With primary documents and proprietary analytical content covering commentaries, treatises, digests, editorial enhancements, Manupatra has created the largest and most comprehensive online resource of Indian materials. Manupatra gives privileged access to its users and empowers them with in-depth legislative, regulatory and procedural information critical for decision making, without having to go to multiple sources.

Ques:What constitutes a major chunks of Manupatra's customers i.e. litigation lawyers, law firms, universities, law students etc.?

Ans: With a clear understanding of customer needs Manupatra creates value for customers by delivering solutions that meet or exceed our customers' expectations. No doubt Manupatra has a high Customer retention rate with users ranging across Academic, Corporate, Government, Professionals (Lawyers, CA, CS etc), Banks, Consulting Companies, Media Houses, Litigants , Research Organisations, NGO’s and others. Manupatra's biggest customer base is the legal fraternity which includes law firms, lawyers, Law students etc.

Ques: What important role according to you can technology play in building a legal practice?

Ans: With increasing amount of information flow in the market and newer tools available assist the target audience to find relevant material in short span of time which otherwise may have taken days. Technology has empowered young lawyers with techniques which were earlier the domain of experienced lawyers. Also, now lawyers can spend time analyzing documents instead of gathering information.