2013 Winner of the Hong Kong Business Award
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Small publisher wins prestigious Asian business award

Friday 29 November saw the presentation of the annual Hong Kong Business Awards. The SME Award, for the best company in Hong Kong with fewer than 100 staff, went to ClarityEnglish. While previous winners in other categories include such household names as HSBC, Cathay Pacific and Motorola, this is the first time an educational publisher has been honoured.

ClarityEnglish is a leader in publishing online English language resources for schools and universities worldwide, and delivers consultancy services to global providers such as Cambridge University Press and the British Council.

"This is a significant achievement for Clarity, and we are thrilled to have won the award," says Andrew Stokes, Clarity's Managing Director. "It reflects the creativity and dedication of Clarity staff as well as the long term support given to us by clients, especially the British Council."

The company was founded in the Asian city in 1994 by Stokes, an English teacher, and Adrian Raper, a specialist in artificial intelligence. At that time, schools and universities were conducting their first tentative experiments with technology: usually no more than a computer in the corner of the library loaded with a couple of BBC games. But the direction of travel was already clear.

Clarity's story in the intervening years traces that journey.

The company has grown from having a single client running a floppy disk in 1994 to servicing more than 1,000 universities in 110 countries in 2013. Clarity's flagship product, Road to IELTS, co-published with the British Council, now generates around three million online sessions a year on browsers and tablets.

One of the key criteria for the award is innovation, and Clarity’s impressive development is largely due to an ongoing research and development programme that delivers better digital products.

"It's a constant challenge to keep pace with the technology," say Raper, now Clarity's Technical Director. "Our first product, Tense Buster, started off in DOS and was delivered on floppy disk. Twenty years later, the CD-Rom version is almost obsolete and we are publishing a tablet app of the same program this month. But there are four times more smart phones than there are tablets, so that is the next step."

Clarity is equally innovative when it comes to social responsibility, another focus of the awards. The company supports nine universities in Ethiopia with free software and on-site teacher and student training within the country, and also sponsors the secondary education of 25 vulnerable girls in East Africa through the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund.

So, what is the key to Clarity's success? "It's all about being in tune with the people who use your programs," says Stokes. "A smaller publisher can always give better service, and develop a stronger relationship with a school than a multinational can. It's all about being human."