In the publishing BPO world, everything is contentcentric. Using XML technologies and standards, you as the publisher can now create the content once and publish that same content—in different forms—over many channels, such as via your Web site, on CD-ROM or as e-book files.
The opportunities to leverage your content, both current and legacy, by turning it into new and improved print and electronic products are endless. However, moving from highly designed page into structured XML content is highly contradictory, and the process will require adjustment and take time. So while you are keen to improve production efficiencies, slash operating costs and generate new revenue streams, lots needs to be done to debunk long-held assumptions about the publishing work flow. In short, your problems are as much about the outsourcing process as they are about software and technology.
This report is your starting point to demystifying the process. It will help you find that content services vendor(s) who will hold your hand through the migration process, integrate the technologies seamlessly into your work flow, add value to your content, generate your e-deliverables and help create your new revenue streams. Using a rather simplistic approach, we review 20 companies with portfolios favoring the publishing sector and whose infrastructures are proven capable of supporting large-scale end-to-end projects. The focus throughout is not so much on the history of the respective companies—such information is readily available on their Web sites—but on their services and production work flow. To this end, we ask them to illustrate their capabilities and expertise using projects they have recently undertaken. But before you start reading, remember this important advice from PW: Don't let the word outsource, or the tech talk scare you away. (A brief explanation on the technologies and standards are on p. S6 for your reference.)
At Cepha, two titles take pride of place in its showroom, and operations director Hymanand Angara tells PW why. "For the 2,190-page Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, it was the first full-color edition and the most unconventional title for us: there was no manuscript for reference, and there were too many major updates for the previous edition to be of much use to us. Once we got the SGML files, we developed appropriate XSL/T style sheets to translate the codes and intelligently hid many SGML entries which were incomplete to make the files print-ready. In addition, the special characters and pronunciation symbols required a totally different skill set and expertise. But we were able to generate the first proofs within two months and the print-ready files two months after that."
The second title, The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, was prestigious in that Prince Charles is the president of the trust and the book's launch was heavily publicized. "We were sent original slides—handled by insured courier service, no less—and had to make some significant alterations to our work flow processes prior to starting the project. Three weeks later, we handed in the first proofs and had them approved. The lead time was short, as this 941-page book was to be printed for the trust's annual general meeting, which we were able to meet despite the many requests for resizing of figures and the additional process of compiling the index."
Expansion has been rapid at Cepha and has seen the company relocating to a brand-new four-story building last October. Investments from Infomedia—its parent company, which counts the Yellow Pages and special-interest magazines among its assets—have no doubt helped. "Within the next few months, we fully expect our current 300-strong workforce to expand and fill up the 500 workstations that are available," says managing director Binny Kuriakose. "Project-wise, we are moving upstream to content creators, i.e., authors, especially nonnative speakers of English, to offer them copyediting and project management services and to hold their hand throughout the whole process. Meanwhile, we are offering our clients higher-value content development, which would involve creation of multimedia products—electronic image collection, book dumps, CD-ROMs and online versions—that leverage on existing content. We're also working on a prototype in which a single repository—holding all the publisher's content from all prepress vendors in preflighted print format, parser-validated XML files, and images in different resolutions for print and online—is completely automated for receipt, queries, and file conversion and validation. This would enable custom publishing, individualized licensing, etc., through a Web interface with direct online dispatch to anybody at any location."
There is something unique going on at this company: since 2003 it has been receiving projects from the coffee-table/ trade and IT segments. "We usually take on the whole creative process, including content development, template design, layout and even image research. Let's look at some examples: For Hylas Publishing's U.S. Presidents, we designed the 400-page book, researched for relevant images and incorporated factual details about each president with some exclusive snapshots of their lives. For Travel Encyclopedia—a complete guide, which includes geography, climate, cultural traditions and cuisine information—the content was completely written and edited by our in-house team. The most challenging part was in culling information on lesser-known and far-flung African and Central American countries," says president Rajiv Seth.
"Then there was a Christopher Columbus title for which we had to weave historical facts into a contemporary storyline to keep young readers interested. We conceptualized the sample chapter according to the project brief and had it approved before proceeding with the design, layout, storyboarding and authoring processes. Another project—a series of books for children aged 6 to 12 years—required the writing to be simple and lucid yet appealing, in keeping with the target audience. Our team created the content, illustrations and page layout, and we had to get authentic information from credible sources and subsequently get that information validated by subject-matter experts."
And whether it's STM, professional or children's titles, CyberMedia has the capabilities to offer an end-to-end solution including multimedia development, technical authoring, voice-over and animation. "We offer editorial outsourcing rather than production outsourcing, which has become commoditized with too many players pitching for the same clients. Being a publisher ourselves has also allowed us to draw on the editorial strength of the group, something which cannot be said of most industry players." CyberMedia is part of South Asia's largest specialty media house of the same name, which, among others, has publications covering IT, telecommunications, consumer electronics and biotechnology.
For Seth, whose background is in STM/educational publishing services, there are major differences between the two segments. "STM and educational publishers always have a defined set of requirements in terms of the skill set and services required, primarily because the materials produced have to adhere to certain industry standards. The work flow can thus be automated. The opposite is true for trade titles, whereby each and every project is a unique experience by itself. There is more creative interaction and idea sharing in shaping the final product. In a way, it allows us to share and showcase our expertise right from the beginning of a book's life," says Seth. "In the shorter term, we intend to look for strategic acquisitions within the U.S. and keep our focus on content development and content repurposing for multimedia."
A dedicated center for a major third-party outsourcing company until 2005, DCS has seen tremendous growth since its inception nine years ago. It now has a 2,000-strong workforce—with about 200 in a small litigation/publishing support services division—operating out of five production centers (four in Chennai and one in Pondicherry). "We have established a partnership with Infolook B.V. in the Netherlands and are actively looking into strengthening our Santa Clara, California, office," says chairman S. Venkatesh. Multilingual typesetting is one DCS forte, and its team is trained to handle various layout softwares for STM, legal and financial titles. One regular DCS client is a large translation company based in Leeds, U.K., for which DCS typesets about 2,000 pages per month.
Quality improvement and development of tools remain DCS's focus. "Prior to 2001, our customers dictated the quality that we had," says director for technical and development A.R. Nallathambi. "It wasn't an effective way to work because different customers require different standards. So we went through a tedious process of finding the right quality systems for our company. We took what was relevant from various systems instead of implementing any standard per se; for example, we developed a double keying-in mechanism based on the six-sigma test quality. And we look for ways to automate our work process to ensure accuracy and faster turnaround."
One such tool developed is ECONS. Says vice-president for sales and marketing S. Krishnan, "This legacy-data conversion tool is aimed at digitization of newspapers, magazines, books and journals, turning data on microfilm, microfiche and printed matter into XML and searchable PDF." Just recently, DCS converted 150,000 pages for the Daily Mail through its British client. "Another tool, Akshaya, enables automated conversion from various formats to dual XML/PDF format. We can convert 3B2 into TeX, XML, as well as GIF formats. Or from XML to XTG format. Anything is possible. If not, we will create a tool for it. But our expertise does not lie solely with the tools that we developed. We do DTD and CSS creation for our clients as well."
Looking back on the Indian BPO publishing industry, Venkatesh says, "In recent years, the client-vendor relationship has shifted to a more knowledge-sharing experience. Companies across the globe are looking at it not just as a letting-go of their core activities, but as an integral corporate function which comes with the need to build trust and relationship. The focus is no longer just about cost and quality. For DCS, we are working on all fronts—quality, capacity, capability and reliability—to provide top-notch service to our clients."
Being one of the earliest adopters of Adobe InDesign was tough for diacriTech. "Version 1.x was clunky with insufficient plug-ins. But that has changed: InDesign CS now integrates seamlessly into our production work flow with native support for other Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat," says vice-president A.R.M. Gopinath. "Its InMath plug-in also allows mathematical expressions to be manipulated as easily as plain text within InDesign and InCopy without requiring an additional file or format. Better yet, there is no graphics or nonstandard fonts to import, and the expressions can be opened, edited and printed without installing the plug-in. This capability has convinced many of our customers to migrate to InDesign."
And speaking of software, one large corporation recently sent a 23,000-page project, created in MS Word, to Gopinath. "These are technical books, and the publisher didn't want to migrate to a friendlier layout software owing to the short three-week lead time. Obviously, since Word is not a typesetting package, consistency, alignment and reflow issues abound when the PDFs were generated. But with much patience from our experienced staff, the project was successfully completed within the time frame given." Gopinath and his team also learned from day one back in 1997 that project size does not equal project complexity. "A case in point: We had this 300-page heavily illustrated four-color book on QuarkXPress, which we immediately preflighted to determine the file resolution and print quality of the illustrations. On cue, low-resolution images and embedded RGB colorspace problems emerged. To solve these issues, we had to work very closely with the publisher and then with the printing company to get rid of any last-minute glitches."
At newly ISO-certified diacriTech, the focus is on knowledge-based services. "We have handled projects requiring writing of article synopsis, preparation of test banks and answer keys, content creation and so on. For example, there was one 250-page U.S. secondary-level chemistry and physics project for which we had to create a multiple-choice Q&A test bank. The process involved reading the entire book, noting the salient points, identifying the difficulty level of questions, ensuring that rights were given, etc. The challenge—and this was tough—was creating wrong choices which were equally credible to get students thinking. Having specialists in the relevant subject areas is paramount, and in this respect we are most fortunate that Chennai has the largest annual pool of graduates." His team also had to do preliminary research to determine the achievement levels of science subjects in the U.S. "We are seeing more editorial services being farmed out to India as initial skepticism about Indian copy editors' knowledge of American culture, colloquialism and even spelling abated due the industry's proven expertise."
Large but nimble—that's what one client said of Hurix when it turned around a complex project that was well behind schedule because of the client's vendors. Says executive v-p of sales and marketing Srikanth Subramanian, "This project involved animation development, J2EE and Flash-based application development, XML tagging and a whole lot more. Overnight, we dispatched a core team to analyze the various project components on site and worked with the client for a month. Then the team returned to our Chennai facility and set up parallel teams to tackle the components. Three months later, our client was back on schedule and our performance, needless to say, has significantly enhanced our relationship with this particular client." Tight deadlines and large-scale projects are the norm at Hurix. Take for instance a prepress project comprising 5,000 pages. "The client wanted these ancillary workbooks to be composed in FrameMaker in less than a month but was resigned to extending the deadline. However, we handed in the whole project in three weeks flat at 100% accuracy." To achieve that, a large team running three shifts—virtually 24/7—was set up at their Chennai center.
For Hurix, recently ranked 46th on Deloitte Touche's Technology Fast 50 India, its four divisions of publishing, technologies, learning and education come together to offer clients the full publishing BPO services, including project management, editorial services, educational aids, games development, e-learning portals, Web-based training and even curriculum design.
Operating out of its Mumbai and Chennai production centers, and supported by offices in Chicago, New Jersey and London, Hurix services clients ranging from el-hi publishers to Web-based testing companies to Fortune 500 corporations. Its present work flow is dominated by InDesign, Xpress and FrameMaker. Says CEO Subrat Mohanty, "These are what our current clients prefer. Above all, we are a services company, and what our clients want our clients get. In recent months, several clients are talking about 3B2 work flow, and we do see us executing the first 3B2 project this year."
"The publishing industry is embracing outsourcing in a way not dissimilar to the IT offshoring revolution of the late 1990s. One of the focus areas will be in identifying partners with full-service capabilities, i.e., a one-stop shop, and Hurix is one of the few companies capable of offering a compelling value proposition in this context. We're growing rapidly in all our service areas, and we are putting the people and processes in place to ensure rapid scalability in tandem with high-quality standards. By the way, we expect to receive level 5 CMMI certification later this year. Our main goal is to become the number one partner to each of our key publishing clients. We want to be a valuable thought partner who consults with and advises them of the new opportunities in the changing marketplace and the best ways to take advantage of them."
The first thing you should know about IBH is that it is part of India Book House, a major book publisher and distributor. That gives you an idea of its pedigree, financial muscle and inherent competencies to deliver whatever publishing solutions required. "Unlike some vendors who provide only typesetting services and at times Web-related solutions, we provide a complete service, if required, from prepress to printing, which includes project management, copyediting, illustration, composition and proofreading, besides reformatting content for the Web and other media," says CEO Dilip Mirchandani.
Currently, 35% of IBH's sales are derived from publishing services, 75% of which from North America. The other divisions within the company deal with EDGAR processing and financial typesetting as well as digital content conversion and asset management. Copyediting is one core competency at IBH, and a review of recent projects uncovers its high-level editorial capabilities. "We recently provided specialized copyediting for a 1,839-page volume on anatomic pathology for which we also processed over 1,800 images and complex tables, and later reformatted the content for an e-book version. For another title, on molecular medicine, we began at the manuscript level: besides editing about 3,760 pages, we also scanned the artwork, redrew halftone diagrams and resized the color plates of over 400 images. Complex equations were later added, followed by proofreading and quality check for the final 1,167-page book. Another project, a 200-page quarterly journal on neuroanatomy, also called for specialized copyediting skills."
Commenting on the state of the industry, Mirchandani says, "It's stratified: there are the big players, the midrange and smaller providers, and the minuscule ones who have neither the capacity nor the financial strength to properly serve global publishers. It's going to be an eat-or-be-eaten environment over the next few years. Competition will intensify from all quarters while at the same time the weakening dollar could impact survival. With so much competition despite the growing market, we have to go upstream by providing value-added services like XML work flow solutions, project management and end-to-end production, and enter into strategic partnerships with other publishers, content providers or aggregators. It is my understanding that the largest Indian content services companies have acquired more business than they can handle, so allegiances might be shifting as they are able to serve only their best or largest clients."
Mirchandani—and his friendly competitors—is aware of the fact that publishers will outsource more of their core functions in order to cope with rising domestic costs and high workloads. "And that is how IBH is positioned: our clients only have to tell us what is required of their project, leaving them free to plan their publishing strategy and focus on building their business. We are here to solve their publishing needs, hence our Web address, ibhsolves.com."
Its recent acquisition by Macmillan India has made ICC part of the biggest content services provider. According to Neeraj Malhotra, managing director of ICC's Indian division, "ICC will remain as an autonomous production unit that is focused on book publishing. By the end of this year, we will be in our new 60,000-square-foot facility in Noida. Plans are under way to double our workforce over the next two years and to set up dedicated teams for customers requiring volume commitment."
With Macmillan's financial backing, ICC is also looking to shore up its technological resources. Its president, Scott Johnson, says, "In today's publishing environment, vendors need to help publishers find solutions. Our 30 years in this business and nearly 20 years in India means our staff understand publishing and the needs of publishers. That foundation is very helpful, but technology is playing a bigger role every day. Now that we're part of Macmillan, we will have access to their large technical team, and will be augmenting our own staff and infrastructure as well." Services-wise, ICC provides the full project management with particular emphasis on technical subjects and complex layout. Going forward, both Malhotra and Johnson see substantial opportunities for one-stop shop services as customers increasingly require Web publishing services, product testing and help in developing work flows.
"Cost control and effective job planning are paramount to publishers. At ICC, upon receipt of a project or inquiry, we run a meticulous evaluation that assesses the work hours needed, estimates the turnaround time, gives the cost breakdown and other variables crucial to our client's decision making. That way, our client is aware, up front, of their involvement in terms of time and money. We find that you cannot overemphasize the importance of preparation, organization and communication throughout the whole production cycle," says Malhotra.
This focus on fundamentals, according to Johnson, leads to most effective real-time awareness of job status and keeps problems at bay. "We are a customer service organization, and part of our mission includes providing a genuinely positive experience to our customers. A well-planned and executed project can create a great feeling of satisfaction for everyone involved, and that's always our goal."
At ITC (International Typesetting and Composition), people aspects are managing director Nishith Arora's main concern. "Without properly trained people who are happy to work in our offices, we only have technologies, which are nothing more than mere commodities. When ITC talks about adding value, we start by making sure our people are in the position, professionally and personally, to go that extra mile. Our recruits go through a three-month mentoring process before working on 'live' projects. Even then, stringent monitoring and evaluation of quality is conducted. At the same time, we make sure they enjoy their work and look forward to learning new things and improving themselves." While ITC's workforce of just over 350 is considered small for the industry, it enjoys a solid reputation within the el-hi, business and professional publishing community.
Says Florida-based editorial services manager Ben Kolstad, "One of our strengths is the ability to manage large book projects involving multiple contributors. The 1,200-page Fabozzi's Handbook of Mortgage-Backed Securities with 68 contributors is one recent example. It required copyediting tear-sheet revisions for 17 of its 54 chapters with the remaining chapters copyedited to match, and there were over 530 pieces of art, many of which were created, redrawn or relabeled. We completed the project within three months." Accelerated schedule aside, ITC worked through two direct hurricane hits on its Ft. Lauderdale operations for this book! "Our onshore/offshore model and extensive project management capabilities have worked wonders, and this is exemplified by one college title on the history of the evolution of economic thought. We managed the project entirely from India, using U.S. copy editors and proofreaders. The two-color design wasn't a challenge, since we are used to complex full-color work; the tricky part was meeting the schedule, and here electronic delivery and onscreen proofing won the day. Increasingly, authors are reviewing PDF files, effectively slashing turnaround time and dispatch cost. Of course, there are still many who are reluctant to abandon printed proofs, and we accommodate them too. Our goal is to deliver high-quality final products in whichever work flow the authors and publishers are most comfortable with."
Besides adapting and customizing print content into Web deliverables—using XPress-XML, InDesign-XML as well as 3B2-XML solutions—ITC also offers permissions management and photo research. "InDesign has become more popular in the school segment, and we have started to use it selectively for college, business and professional titles. In fact, a major client is talking about a complete switch to InDesign. Whichever work flow is chosen, our operations are such that we are able to flex our muscles and put on our thinking cap and adapt to changing customer demands and wishes quite easily," says its New York—based sales and marketing director, Jane Stark.
Operating out of eight solutions centers in Asia, North America and Europe, 5,000-strong Innodata Isogen offers the entire spectrum of content-related IT and BPO services. Approximately 80% of its revenue comes from the publishing sector, and of the work done, close to one-third is generated by its Noida and Gurgaon production centers. Says marketing v-p Al Girardi, "Very few publishing BPO providers have our size, scope and ability to substantially increase production. But what really differentiates us is our specialized subject expertise and the sheer depth of experience accumulated in the last 18 years. Take editorial services: we have over 500 subject-matter experts with higher degrees in engineering, law, business, medicine and science. That enables us to deliver high-end editorial services to clients with sophisticated and very demanding customers."
For one STM publisher, an Innodata Isogen team copyedits its technical science journals, with some articles written by nonnative speakers of English. The documents are edited in XML and returned to the publisher sometimes within 24 to 48 hours. For another client, a leading electronic database publisher, the team abstracts and indexes more than 100 years of historical records for a database that enables medical professionals and researchers to easily search for and retrieve material. "We digitize the journal articles, write abstracts, and compile index entries from more than 9,000 medical journals, over 2,500 books, as well as conference proceedings and related papers," says Girardi. Innodata Isogen also helped a large online retailer digitize millions of book pages so that customers can browse the books and their contents online. "We mobilized a team of 2,000 to work on scanning over 200,000 books. Despite a very tight holiday deadline, stringent quality requirements and the sheer amount of scanning and counterchecking involved, the project was completed on time at 100% accuracy. Our client rejected not a single image."
"We can help clients save money at each point of the content supply chain. But more importantly, by analyzing the entire production chain and how its components interrelate, we can engineer dramatic and sustainable increases in production efficiencies." Innodata Isogen recently launched an on-demand composition platform and has already signed up a leading professional and business publisher as a charter client. "This platform allows publishers to generate multiple content deliverables—from high-resolution print materials to online Web PDFs—and reduces composition costs by 40% besides slashing three to four weeks off the typical cycle time."
Weighing the impact of publishing BPO, Girardi says, "It's a powerful yet disruptive paradigm that will continue to shape how providers define themselves and how they create value for customers. At the same time, client expectations are rising, and they expect business process expertise from the providers, not just cost savings."
Housed in a new five-story building in Pondicherry, Integra is working on expanding its 850-strong workforce to over 1,000 within the next couple of months. For Integra, being the largest employer in town comes with heavy social responsibilities. "We try to strike a balance between work and life by having career development programs in conjunction with many fun activities, often involving family members," says co-founder and joint MD Anu Sriram. Unlike other vendors, Integra goes for fresh graduates, offering them intensive training to make them employable instead of poaching them from competitors. "We have better success in retaining them through loyalty. In addition, people stay on because their families are here and they prefer life in a small town. It's a different picture in cities like Chennai or Delhi, where people go for the money."
Since its 1994 inception, Integra has bagged several IT Exporter awards from the Indian government and charted an average 40% to 50% growth in the last few years. To sustain the expansion, founder and CEO Sriram Subramanya is reinvesting the returns to improve the company's publishing services. "Cost savings aside, publishers are looking to partnering vendors who can provide one-stop services with an emphasis on project management and copyediting. For Integra, the strength of our service lies in our end-to-end project management capabilities supported by a Web-enabled tracking facility." In its predominantly TeX/LaTeX- and XPress-based work flow, about 40% of the projects—65% books, 25% journals and the rest ancillary products—are done on 3B2. Last year, Integra processed over 750,000 pages. "By far, our biggest frontlist project is an 8,668-page encyclopedia comprising nine volumes, one subject index, over 200 chapters, 240 contributors and 15,000 chemical structures. The time frame given was 10 months, with which we successfully complied. Best of all, according to the publisher, we are the first company to deliver error-free SGML/XML files for any of their projects," says Subramanya. As for its biggest backlist title, it is also an encyclopedia, of 15,626 pages.
"Speed to market is another crucial factor in the highly competitive publishing industry. Two years ago, we had four to six weeks to produce the first proofs; now we get three weeks maximum. Because of this significantly reduced turnaround time, we have formed a dedicated 80-member technology team whose primary function is to automate and improve existing processes, and to be on a constant lookout for new technologies which will improve our internal efficiencies." Integra has recently started the six-sigma quality assurance process and is looking into other quality certifications. As Subramanya puts it, "The quest for quality—make it great quality—is an ongoing process."
As a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S.-based Cadmus Communications—a leading publishing services company serving the educational, science and health publishing markets—KGL (KnowledgeWorks Global) has an enviable edge in this intensely competitive industry. "Over the years, Cadmus has built proven technology tools and processes which work well in the global market. Our Global Integrated Pagination System (GIPS II), for example, is unique in that it allows us to work and use it anywhere in the world including, if required, at a client's office," says president and COO Atul Goel.
Unique to KGL also is its extensive use of a cottage industry/freelancer model. "We employ a significant number of associates who are unable to work outside home for various reasons. We train them extensively in-house and then deploy them as part of our workforce. This model gives us the flexibility to scale our operations according to business demand and allows these associates to earn their living while meeting their personal commitments." Quality checks, regular feedback and training are par for the course in such a model. "The final deliverables are processed and audited in-house before they are dispatched to our client. The kind of automation that we deploy in the distribution and management of work with freelancers is unparalleled, certainly in India. Our customers really like our model, and it is transparent to them as well."
In August 2005, KGL acquired U.K.-based Elite Typesetting and, in so doing, inherited Elite's biggest client, Taylor & Francis, which in turn provides a major account in Europe, a market it had been trying to break into. "We moved 76,000 pages of Taylor & Francis's projects to India within 90 days while supporting the company through a major work flow change from SGML to XML Schema. Changing the work flow for a customer we had no prior experience with was a major challenge. Many of our projects are equally massive in scale and complexity: take for instance the conversion of 1.8 million engineering references from unstructured hard-copy input to proprietary coding for Elsevier, or conversion of 300,000 pages to searchable PDFs and XML headers for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology."
For KGL, its significant presence in the U.S. and a proven track record have made the transition from domestic to India-based work flow much easier and comfortable for its clients. Right now, 70% of its sales come from STM journals, but things are changing. "Developing our book business is a major initiative for us, one which we believe has a high growth potential. So far we have successfully completed complex projects in an automated batch pagination work flow, using XML. Internally, we continue to expand our capacity in both Mumbai and Chennai. We are building unique high-end copyediting and XML-driven book pagination capabilities while continuing to grow our European and American journal work."
Transforming print content into static and animated Web pages is one Lapiz specialty. "We provide a comprehensive solution, from analyzing the print content to structuring the template and navigational features, creating the style sheets to meet both print and electronic output specifications, and testing everything for browser compatibility," says CEO Indira Rajan. "We have just completed one K—7 project for a major U.S. publisher in which we created students' and teachers' editions for different subjects, in accordance with U.S. national and state curricula. It totaled 40,000 pages covering over 60 books in both English and Spanish. We worked on full HTML/XML format and went through the alpha, beta, release and final versions, and built in extra proofreading rounds as well as engaging a language expert for the Spanish edition. We also provided cross-media support by turning the online content onto CD-ROMs."
For another client, Lapiz developed an interactive science and mathematics course—where students aged 7 to 16 can take the online assessments and have their scores stored in the database—using Flash animation and SQL database on the ASP browser. "Making the Web content interactive was crucial: for example, if an assessment test has descriptive questions, the questions are changed to multiple-choice problems. We designed the graphic interface to allow the test administrator to add, delete and modify the theory and assessment questions easily. So far we have created 300 Web pages with about 500 illustrations and animations for this course."
Lapiz also offers indexing and abstracting services to online database publishers. "Just recently, we received a project requiring specialized knowledge in subjects such as pharmaceutical chemistry, chemistry and biochemistry. Complicating it further were the source articles written in English, German and even French! For such projects, we applied many in-house tools to ensure accurate data capture, nonconformity tracking, validation checks and so on."
Then there is digitization service for magazine and journal publishers consisting of an end-to-end solution of scanning, image cleaning, PDF/XML creation, and reference linking. "We even offer hosting of the digitized content on our server," says Rajan. "You can say that we are a market-driven company: we see what our clients want, and we develop the expertise required to deliver the goods. The feedback from our clients testifies to our success in meeting their requirements. Most of them said that our skills cannot be improved on." With such endorsement, it's not surprising to see Lapiz recording a 20% growth last year and poised to expand its 300-strong publishing division soon. At present, 75% of Lapiz's publishing projects come from North America, but Rajan has plans to open an office in London or Continental Europe, which will ensure a shift in its sales distribution.
Looking at the company's colorful and spacious workspace, and a dining hall that doubles as an entertainment/exercise venue, it's not surprising to hear Santosh John, v-p at Laserwords, say: "We are people-centric. In order for our 700 employees to work and contribute to this company, we have to take care of them first. Our adoption of a mentoring/buddy system has helped many new employees find their home here. We try to identify a trainee's strengths as well as weaknesses during the training period; and based on the analysis, we help them to choose a position which is most suitable for them."
The company has definitely come a long way since its establishment in 1987 as a two-member team. It now offers an A-to-Z list of publishing solutions encompassing project management, copyediting, indexing, data conversion, keyboarding, programming and new media development. Naturally, its corporate brochure boldly announces that the company is "taking on the many avatars" and moving "on the wings of inspired technology" to greater heights. And new media is one of those "heights." Says John, "This segment focuses on online education and CD-ROM development. Our subject-matter experts team up with our programmers to prepare content for Brownstone, WebCT, BlackBoard and other Web-based homework management and grading systems. Besides creating algorithmic versions of questions so that students see different sets of quizzes every time they access the site, these experts also validate the content before transferring the files onto the respective platforms. As for CD-ROM development, we capitalize on our expertise in XML technology and in designing intuitive graphical user interfaces as well as scripting functions. These CDs are systematically tested prior to release and they are copyright-protected using our proprietary tools."
While most of its industry counterparts are venturing headlong into Europe or North America, Laserwords charts a different course. It went down under and now has a four-member Sydney office offering mostly production support to existing clients like the Australian National University and the subsidiaries of existing clients such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and Wiley. "We see Australia as a big potential market. Publishers there are beginning to understand what publishing BPO is all about and how it will affect them in terms of cost savings, workload reduction and creation of new revenue streams." In the meantime, its sales offices in the U.S. and U.K. operate an onshore/offshore/hybrid project management process. With a capacity to handle over 70,000 pages per month (of which 80% are books and 20% journals), Laserwords is currently working on increasing its internal efficiencies and investing in its infrastructures at both Chennai plants.
Back in 1990, when Macmillan realized that the money was in journals and that not many were capable of automating and making journal production a seamless task, it plunged into it. The result? In 1998, only 2% of its revenue came from books. It now counts the who's who of journal publishing—Elsevier, John Wiley, Blackwell, Wolter Kluwer, McGraw-Hill and Taylor & Francis—among its major clients. "But we wanted to do more with our technologies, tools and highly trained manpower," says managing director Rajiv Beri. "So we relooked at the book segment in 2004, and what we saw were lots of synergies and opportunities." That, of course, launched its book division, which started with just 30 people but is now a 250-strong operation housed in a four-story building.
Last June, it acquired Chennai-based Charon-Tec to boost its typesetting capacity. "Building on our journal production expertise is critical to our success in book projects," says technical director Debasish Banerjee. "Our expertise has always been in STM subjects, and that's where our focus is at this moment. But by the time this report comes out, our book division will be fully equipped to handle college textbooks and major reference works. Work flow—wise, we have adopted True XML-first, which ensures that the print product and its online version are one and the same."
As to Macmillan's short-term plans, Beri says, "We are looking into building long-lasting relationships with American book publishers and taking on projects which involve added value and higher service levels. At the same time, we are looking at the hitherto unexplored segment of KG to Grade 12, which requires higher design capabilities and creativity levels. We are also going after high-end copyediting services, not just for STM titles but for social science subjects as well. To this end, we intend to increase our copyediting staff to 100 and hire specialists for the different subject areas." Presently, its book division has over 50 copyeditors specially trained by professionals hired from the U.K. Adds Beri, "The model for book production has changed since we first appeared on the scene. Lately, copyediting has become a deciding factor in outsourcing to India."
But Macmillan is not just about books and journals; it is also into directory publishing (which involves updating and managing full databases) and creates over 1.5 million ads annually. Another division deals with catalogue production, mostly for American clients. The company also offers a range of technology-driven products and services through MPS Technologies, its wholly owned subsidiary. Products include PublisherStats (for data analysis), ScholarlyStats (for analysis of online content usage), BookStore (an online repository for digital book content), and Fulfillment Services (which integrates with client systems to deliver real-time e-commerce). There is also emacmillan, a software services unit which provides publishers with interactive multimedia development, e-learning system development and general application development services.
At Newgen, PW gets the scoop on, well, SCOOP (SCan, OCR, Online PDFs)—its fast and economical approach to digitizing legacy content. "Let's start with some numbers from one recent project," suggests general manager for business development Mala Morris. "It has 4.3 million pages—with input dating back to 1891—weighs nine tons, contains over 2.1 million images and takes up 2,840 gigabytes, and we digitized everything within five months. We utilize a two-pronged PDF/XML work flow in which the first PDF layer retains the look and feel of the original document, while the second, hidden PDF layer contains the automatically extracted OCR text—which makes the document searchable—and the XML format appropriate for further content manipulation and archiving."
Newgen went global in 2004 when it became part of the Carlyle Group, and last year it acquired U.S.-based G&S Book Services. "We have grown very rapidly in the U.S., which now accounts for 40% of our total revenue. As a result of this expansion, we're looking into adding to our present 20,000-square-foot production space most probably with a new facility in the Export Processing Zone in Chennai." The company has come a long way since its early days: "We started with 60 employees doing SGML-based typesetting in 1996 and moved into the export market with Gordon & Breach as our first client. Now we are a 600-strong company with three facilities in Chennai, Bangalore and Austin in Texas offering the full spectrum of publishing services."
Presently, 55% of Newgen's projects are managed from manuscript to print and e-deliverables. For Morris, project management is a rather fuzzy term. "There are as many definitions of project management as there are publishers! But the objective remains the same: to increase the production capacity for more titles without increasing manpower at the publisher's end. What is critical to project management is a mutual understanding of the work flow requirements, the roles each party plays, and an open and seamless communication to ensure each task is completed according to schedule." And Morris should know, since her team has just finished one project involving more than 1,000 contributors, as many illustrations, 5,100 pages in five volumes, and delivery of 32 batches of files over a three-month period. "We're talking about a turnaround time of eight months from the receipt of the first batch of edited material to print-ready PDFs and online XML. The key lies in the initial project planning." On the average, Newgen copyedits 1,500 books and 6,000 journal articles in a year. "Going forward, full-service project management and editorial expertise are key focus areas for us," adds Morris.
With its New York office soon to be opened, Planman is shifting from being U.K.-centric—90% of its clientele is British—to seeing more North American activity. Says senior manager for business development Amit Vohra, "About 65% of our revenue comes from the publishing sector with the rest from other BPO transactions. The publishing projects, 70% books and 30% journals, are handled by our 200-strong Okhla publishing division."
At Planman, part of India's largest multi-interest consulting and business services corporation, its e-paper solution for the newspaper publishing industry is unique in the marketplace. "We are the first India-based company to offer an e-paper solution that addresses conversion of both current and archival content for the Arabic newspaper market. We are currently contracted by a leading U.K.-based newspaper publishing group to convert about 1,500 pages daily from 17 tabloids. The project cycle time is tight: the PDFs would be FTP-ed across at around 4 a.m. Indian time, and we have a four-hour window to deliver the XML files. So we structured the work flow to have most of the XML tagging and special characters converted automatically, and at a very high accuracy level. We also created the digital edition for Web publishing using customized XSL/T, which is then transferred to a user interface specifically designed by our Web development team."
For one monthly project of two secondary-level textbooks, Vohra's team takes on the design and prepress tasks. "We have about three weeks from receipt of edited manuscript to first InDesign-based PDF proofs. Each title has over 250 illustrations, and we often have to either redraw or color according to the artwork brief provided. Upon completion, the pages would go to our on-site project manager for approval before they are FTP-ed to our client. We have four days to incorporate the changes, if any, before printing the second proofs." Planman also offers e-book conversion, abstracting and indexing, nondestructive book scanning, photo research and syndication liaison, as well as content development.
Operations-wise, the company is comparatively small, but therein lies its strength. "It allows us to personalize our service to suit each client's needs. We have the advantage of knowing up close and understanding our client's projects and the markets they serve, and being able to conduct our own research to help them work better and generate new products using existing content. By the same token, our team presents a cohesive single-control operation, thus streamlining the work flow, eliminating redundancies and keeping costs low. We are now focused on further developing the relationships we have with the existing clientele, increasing our international presence and strengthening our publishing services capabilities."
Part of an equity fund company which counts TH Lee Putnam Ventures and the Singapore government as its major stakeholders, SPi has over 24 production centers around the world; the main ones servicing publishers are in Pondicherry (through its acquisition of Kolam Information in November 2003), Delhi, Chennai, Hanoi and Manila.
"Our Pondicherry facility—together with the Delhi and Chennai centers—provides the complete range of services from the manuscript level up to e-deliverables," says strategy and market development v-p Punit Dhandhania, whose team produces more than 750 books, encyclopedias and major reference works per year. "Our facility is the largest supplier—and the first offshore company to handle copyediting and project management services—for Oxford University Press. Our abilities in dealing with non-English languages such as Greek, French, Polish and a little Hebrew and Cyrillic have been a major plus in this relationship. Naturally, when OUP started its first online product, Oxford Reference Online, SPi was selected to help them convert over 150 titles from print to XML format." Through the years, the Pondicherry facility has also developed from scratch several of OUP's DTDs and was the first company to put OUP titles on XML-first work flow, starting with The Oxford Bible Commentary, which contains thousands of hyperlinks.
The facility also provides XML structuring and page composition services to another major client, Kluwer Law International. Says president and COO Frank Stumpf Jr., "This partnership—which started in 2002—revolves around loose-leaf documents on constitutions and areas of laws in different countries. We work on two publications, the Netherlands Business Legislation and the International Encyclopedia of Laws (IEL). When Kluwer decided to use XSL/FO technology to reduce the cost and turnaround time of typesetting, we helped test the templates and recommended improvements to the work flow. These templates are currently being used to create PDFs for IEL."
In the next year or so, SPi expects to transfer simpler tasks and projects from its Pondicherry facility to Vietnam in order to focus on higher-value-added services. "The way we streamline the operation is to ultimately have our Indian and Philippines centers handling project management and editorial services while our Vietnam plant takes on conversion and imaging/OCR processes. The Pondicherry plant will also offer new services to clients, one of which is help desk solutions to assist publishers in their product-ordering process." Meanwhile, relocation to a new purpose-built state-of-the-art 12,000-square-foot building has started. "It will accommodate over 600 specialists dedicated to SPi's book publishing clients. Our decision to consolidate and expand our production facilities in India has been driven by the growing volume of our book business in recent years," says Stumpf.
What, if one may ask, is the magic formula that makes Techbooks one of the world's 50 best-managed BPO vendors according to The Black Book of Outsourcing (Brown & Wilson)? Says president andCEO Ranjit Singh, "It's about the people that we have: an experienced senior management team with entrepreneurial background and highly skilled content professionals who are focused on customer satisfaction."
At Techbooks, publishing revenues account for 70% of its total sales, with fairly equal shares between el-hi, professional and journal segments. "Our sales are predominantly North American, but there is significant growth in our European and Australian business in recent years." To meet this growth, Singh has added over 500 professionals to his workforce last year and expects to see an additional 1,000 to 1,500 people in the next 12 months, mostly in its Indian production centers. "We provide project management services from any of our global offices in the U.S., U.K. or India, with the production completed at our New Delhi or Pune centers." Techbooks recently completed Practical Neurology DVD Review using front-end XML, which allows simultaneous print and DVD delivery with the DVD offering full text, assessments, quizzes and video. A middle-school mathematics project was more complicated: It came with client-supplied InDesign templates, which Techbooks' Delhi production team had to verify first. Then they modified or created the technical art, XML-coded the manuscript, built the math structures and ran the 6,000-plus pages.
A typical project at Techbooks looks like this: front-end XML using LaTeX, InDesign or XPress, running between 200 to 14,000 pages with thousands of illustrations and a turnaround time from receipt of manuscript to e-deliverables of four to six months. Tools for expediting such complex process are therefore crucial. "PowerEdit is one such tool: it normalizes author files and performs checks on matching of figures and captions, punctuation, preferred spelling, reference style and cross-referencing. Many of our clients rely on this innovative copyediting solution to reduce the cost and time associated with routine editorial cleanup."
Singh is very optimistic about the future of Indian publishing BPO: "In view of the expected 25% to 30% growth over the next few years, we are working on the necessary acquisitions and internal investments in order to offer the most robust set of content services available to our customers." And that makes the case for its latest acquisition of e-learning company Maximize Learning. "Outsourced e-learning services are a rapidly growing segment with broad application in the corporate, government and education markets. This move demonstrates our commitment to the strategic requirements of our customers while expanding our reach among Fortune 500 companies. We want to offer a broad range of content-related services and provide greater value to our customers as they look to outsource a larger portion of their document services."
Part of the $22-billion Tata Group, this content services provider wants to change the way the world learns with its SimBLs, StoBLs and GamBLs (respectively Simulation-Based, Story-Based and Game-Based Learning Objects) solutions. And it just won the Notable Computer Software for Children Award in the U.S. for its interactive Alphabet Track CD-ROM developed for Granada Learning. "It teaches the English alphabet to young dyslexic children and comprises a series of interactive and engaging activities that could be tailored to suit learners' needs," explains head of design innovation Manisha Mohan. Then there is the prestigious British Educational Training and Technology (BETT) 2006 Award won for CD-ROM-based Simulation Explorer, also a Granada project, consisting of simulations that represent both real and imaginary situations for students to try out things that are difficult to do in real life.
Another product, created for Hodder Murray, was nominated for Best Product in the Science Key Stages 3 & 4 category at the BETT show. "For this Science Interactive Assessment CD-ROM, we provide teachers with a unique and fully interactive way of setting assessments. Not only does the CD eliminate the inconvenience of manually marking paper tests and analyzing results, it allows more accurate evaluation too." TIS also employs its technology and expertise to promote learning, and a good example is the one-of-a-kind Brain Teaser, a fun exercise book for children with learning disabilities. "In this project, we utilized our instructional design and visual communication expertise to create a product which encourages, enables and empowers such children to be all that they can be," says Mohan.
But the company hasn't always been into publishing products. Says head of the corporate marketing group Rajesh Khandagale, "We used to be heavily involved in the corporate market. It wasn't until five years ago that we moved into publishing, and now we are focused on high-end solutions and online media. Publishing now represents 50% of our total sales; and out of this, about 84% comes from North America. Our services are primarily in three main areas: software solutions, original content or courseware development, and digitization of legacy material." With about 1,000 people stationed at its two production centers (Mumbai and Kolkata) and seven other locations around the world, TIS is working on increasing its European sales. The recent acquisition of two Tertia Group companies in Germany and Switzerland is key to this long-term strategy. "With our strong simulations portfolio—over 160 SimBLs on diverse topics—and Tertia Edusoft GmbH's proprietary management simulation line, TOPSIM, we are going to reshape the e-learning and simulations industry," adds Khandagale.
Part of the India Today Group—the largest magazine publishing group in the country with diversified interests in television, music, book club and education, which counts New York Life International India Fund as its main shareholder—Thomson Digital is busy putting finishing touches to its brand-new facility in Mauritius. Says COO Vinay K. Singh, "We are among the first companies in the multilingual segment to establish an offshore production facility. Going forward, we are planning other facilities in lower-cost Eastern Europe for other languages. The fact is, while India has a pool of language experts, it is inadequate for high-level copyediting and content development services. So setting up offshore facilities, say in Mauritius for French or Poland for German, becomes an attractive proposition." Meanwhile, Singh is setting up an office in Germany to service primarily STM publishers and building a dedicated Spanish-language team in Noida.
Book production, roughly 550 titles per annum, occupies 40% of its capacity, and two recent titles were especially memorable to Singh. "We had a client that had moved to a new DTD standard and needed its 10,000 legacy articles to migrate simultaneously to this standard and onto the Web. Further complicating the project was the presence of multimedia components in old formats and SGML files. The other project—a six-volume 4,000-page medical encyclopedia with 2,500 pieces of artwork requiring both print-ready PDFs and XML pages—was challenging because the publisher had fallen behind schedule amidst extensive coordination between authors and information sources. But we were able to deliver both projects despite the short lead time given."
In addition to adopting an InDesign/XPress work flow for book projects, Thomson Digital also offers 3B2—of which it was one of the earliest adopters and currently the largest user in India—and TeX/LaTeX services for complex journals. "We are experienced and flexible enough to adopt new work flows as required: our three-decade-long experience in servicing the educational/STM segment has guaranteed that." Books and 1.5 million pages of journals aside, the company also services museums and libraries. "Such projects are usually complex, as they involve a host of legacy data on paper, canvas, film, video, audio and other materials. It's often a challenge to make sense of everything and to digitize, cross-reference, abstract, catalogue and index each item. Fortunately, our subject-matter experts armed with our six-sigma and ISO quality standards are able to provide the services and quality level required."
Commenting on the company's 70% Europe-based sales, he says, "This is due to exponential business growth from our European clients and not through any particular sales strategy. In fact, we are investing heavily in strengthening our U.S. sales with teams on both coasts. Future acquisitions within and outside of India are also very likely in the foreseeable future as well."