On Planet Content Services, your asset is sliced, diced, spliced, structured, dechunked, formatted and channeled through a variety of platforms. In between, it also gets animated, fattened (or trimmed) and slicked up for optimum results. That's Content Transformation 101: (Over-)Simplified, skipping the veritable alphabet soup teeming with mostly three-letter acronyms (XML, PDF, DTD, CSS, OCR, TeX-get the drift?)
Understandably, it's hard to retrofit a print-centric model into one primed for multichannel publishing and capable of absorbing the slew of new technologies bombarding the industry. But you don't have to go the whole nine yards into XML universe right from the get-go and break out in hives. Logically, not every publication needs to be deep-coded to the nth layer. (Okay, now take a deep breath and relax.)
The most important thing is this: you can depend on your vendor to hold your hand, wipe your brow and add value to your content. And once you decide to jump into the outsourcing wave, you are in fact in excellent company (literally). Top SSTM and educational publishers-e.g., Elsevier, Thomson, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley/Blackwell, Wolters Kluwer and Taylor & Francis-have long tested the water. As to what drove these publishers to India in the first place, Pradeep Gupta, chairman of CyberMedia-a specialty media house that also publishes Global Services, a monthly magazine on outsourcing-sums up the factors perfectly: "Escalating production cost, and the need to keep it down, was the primary driver. These multinational publishers are also attracted and assured by the mature publishing industry here. Add a high-quality English-speaking workforce at comparatively low costs to the equation, and they get both cost advantage and competitive edge." These strengths, however, do not mean that the Indian publishing BPO is spared from challenges. "Current outsourcing services are still low in value addition, and the industry is characterized by low-cost production and stiff competition within a saturated market. I think the usage of IT is also not as innovative as it should be, and this has resulted in less than optimum levels of efficiency and effectiveness."
Asked about India's rise as a KPO (knowledge-based process outsourcing) hub, Gupta says, "A GlobalSourcingNow report estimated that global KPO will hit $17 billion in 2010, of which $12 billion would go to India. By then, India's KPO workforce is expected to grow to 250,000, 10 times the current headcount. Naturally, many BPO [business-process outsourcing] companies are now referring to themselves as KPO firms, even though only 20% of their work can be considered KPO-related." Much needs to be done before India can claim to be a KPO hub, he says. "For a start, we need a larger pool of specialists who are capable of consistently delivering high-quality work. Continuous, domain-specific training that is quality-centered is crucial, as is leveraging India's IT prowess. In addition, maximizing the level of automation in the knowledge creation process-a tough call in itself-should be a major goal in any KPO firm."
Currently, value addition in the knowledge creation process is the key to grabbing a bigger slice of the content services pie. It means having the capabilities to, say, take a chapter out of a k-12 title and, using the base content, create a batch of interactive lessons, write up a whole test bank or ancillary items, or produce a teacher-training video from scratch. The possibilities are, frankly, endless. While the larger vendors are climbing the value chain ladder as fast as possible, smaller companies offering specialized products such as e-learning and animation are sprouting. In short, there's something for everybody.
Meanwhile, the spate of high-profile M&As-Macmillan/ICC, Infomedia/ ITC, Value Chain/DPS, to name a few-points to a fast-developing and maturing industry. Most vendors now offer a hybrid outsourcing model. For newbies to the publishing BPO scene, such a model affords them the comfort of monitoring their projects through their vendor's local office while the bulk of the production is done in India. It's a win-win situation great for overcoming any outsourcing jitters.
In reviewing the following 22 vendors, PW focuses on complex projects they have handled, new technologies applied and plans for the near future. Use this review as a starting point in your search for the vendor(s) you need, and remember to exercise due diligence-reading the company's literature, examining sample products, visiting the production facility, etc.-before signing on the dotted line.
It's natural for PW to ask the question that is on everybody's mind: Why the new name? President and CEO Ranjit Singh explains: "In the last 20 years, Techbooks has been a trusted partner for the publishing industry. To build on this success, we made a strategic decision to apply our content transformation expertise to other markets, such as legal services and the financial and automotive industries. We view the organizations in these industries as "publishers" that have an extraordinary amount of content needing to be captured, digitized, structured and distributed. This has broadened the scope of our services and, as such, we created a new name, Aptara, to reflect these new capabilities and offerings."
Few in the publishing industry have not heard of Aptara's PowerSuite. It comprises 12 different solutions that range from a Web-based manuscript submission platform (which supports more than 256 formats) and a workflow management system to e-learning tool and much more. Recently, the company set up a Web-based authoring solution for a large medical publisher using its proprietary authoring tool, PowerXEdit. "Prior to implementing PowerXEdit, the legacy data-on paper and in various application-were first converted into XML. Once that was done, more than 50 authors, along with the reviewers and managing editor, were given access to their respective chapters. This workflow allows authors to directly edit in XML without even having to learn the language. At the same time, a change tracker tool enabled the reviewers and managing editor to either accept or reject the changes. This XML-in/XML-out workflow has effectively reduced the production cost and cycle time," says Singh. "Presently, more than 300 authors are using our PowerXEdit tool."
For one journal publisher, Aptara created a unique solution that compacted the manuscript-to- 'live' cycle time to under 10 weeks. "We used multiple Power tools-PowerReview, PowerEdit and PowerProof-to seamlessly integrate the reviewing, XML-ing, editing, proofing and online publishing process. Our client saw a dramatically shortened time-to-market and significantly lowered production cost."
On the business front, Aptara has recently completed its purchase of Whitmont Legal Technologies, marking a big step into litigation support and electronic data services. "Recent amendments to civil procedures are transforming the way organizations manage their electronic data, and we see an opportunity to help meet these new standards more cost effectively," says Singh. "Going forward, we will keep our eyes open for acquisitions that allow us to offer new services to existing customers as well as serve new vertical markets."
At newly ISO-certified Cepha-an Infomedia company-no project is too tough, as exemplified by a 400-page, design-intensive, bilingual English-Arabic title requiring both composition and XML coding. Says senior manager of production Shree Harsha, "Firstly, the manuscript's old handwritten Arabic had to be converted into Universal Unicode Standard. Secondly, we had to build up our Arabic language capabilities in order to understand the material and know the appropriate placement for the illustrations and graphics. We overshot the schedule by a month for the first proofs but made up for it at subsequent stages."
One complex XML-first title involving 250 contributors, 25 chapters and a seven-editor team was also completed recently. Full-service projects like this are nothing new at Cepha: it saw a threefold growth in this segment over the past year. "Further along the full-service value chain, we provide journal-issue management services, where our in-house managers select articles for a specific issue. Our client provides the guidelines, and sometimes the brief contains just the page count of the issue. To expedite the process, we have developed an issue compiler to assist us in article selection," says director of operations Hymanand Angara. "Having an experienced team that understands the articles and knows the best sequence for a particular issue is crucial in issue management."
Electronic-only journals, with a typical cycle time of between 24 and 36 hours, are also becoming commonplace here. "Once a journal is approved, we have about 12 hours to move it online-a deadline we have successfully met 100% of the time since we started this service 10 months ago," says general manager of technical operations M. Senthilkumar. "The deliverables comprise both the full-text and the abstract versions, but if RSS feeds are required, we can deliver them simultaneously, too."
Over in the rich-media e-learning department, Team Cepha is having fun mixing the old and the new. "For one revised multimedia product, we had to replace old video slides with content taken from the new printed material. The challenge was in synchronizing the voice-over throughout the whole video," says Senthilkumar. "Another project required us to add the author's unfinished files-both audio and video-into a DVD, and we made sure neither the quality nor the flow was compromised by the additional content."
Client projects aside, a Cepha Training Center offering diploma-level premedia courses is in the works. "The goal is to create a new talent pool and, at the same time, arrest the poaching that is so pervasive in our industry," says Angara, who is planning to kick-start the program this June.
DCS BPO (dcsbpo.com)
Two points differentiate DCS, a newbie to the publishing BPO sector, from other vendors in this review: its forte lies in multilingual composition, and it works predominantly with translation houses. "Our clients are also mostly Europe-based, and this is purely by chance. In a way, there is less competition in the marketplace and we find the time-zone difference most advantageous in terms of communication and interaction with our clients."
Working with translation houses provides its own challenges. "The projects are mostly technical manuals and financial reports, and seasonal by nature. They require a much shorter turnaround time than books or journals. For smaller projects, we may have to turn them around within 12 to 24 hours," says v-p of marketing and sales Sreedhar Krishnan, whose team has worked with three of the top 20 translation companies on the Common Sense Advisory in the last two years. "The volume itself may range between 10,000 and 15,000 pages during the peak season, and we are usually given 10 to 15 days to send in the first proofs, and another five to seven days to submit the second, corrected proofs."
Says Krishnan, "Our composition work is done mostly in Framemaker or InDesign and at times XPress, since these pages are to be finalized in print-ready PDF/PostScript." One recent project came from an engineering company that wanted to convert and digitize its multilingual, multiutility vehicle technical manuals. "The languages were predominantly Eastern European, and we formatted about 2,800 pages per month using Framemaker; the full project was completed within six months." Another project was from a large computer peripheral manufacturer, which had its technical manuals translated into several key European languages. "The original files came in several formats-Word and Excel, mostly-and we converted them into print-ready PDFs using InDesign. Within two months, we delivered 8,000 pages."
In November 2006, DCS was acquired by DSM Soft, a major geospatial/engineering data services company. Says DSM Soft's managing director Ramesh Ananthakrishnan, "We have also acquired two U.K.-based mapping firms, and we intend to capitalize on our low-cost competitive advantage and leverage DCS's content/composition services to add value to existing product lines. As for the CAD/GIS industry itself, it's a huge market and immediate opportunities lie in its mostly legacy content." And that chalks up another differentiating point for DCS: service offerings in a totally new market segment that has few players.
Custom publishing is hot at diacriTech. "This is our fastest-growing product segment in the past year. For such projects, the real test is in meeting the ultra-short turnaround time. We have to work with files that are done in a variety of applications and use a combination of workflows to get to the final output, which is usually in PostScript/PDF format. Style consistency is crucial," says v-p A.R.M. Gopinath. "If the customer has implemented an XML-based workflow, we are then able to automate a significant portion of the production." Gopinath and his team also generate the table of contents, index and bibliography based on the new pages.
NIMAS-compliant [National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard] products are making regular appearances lately. "We have been doing a lot of such titles that require narrative descriptions, for instance providing audio files that contain directions to accompany maps. Over the last 12 months, we have delivered audio files in major languages such as English, French, Spanish, German and Italian." At the same time, more full-service complex projects, such as a recently completed 2,600-page full-color major reference work, have landed at diacriTech. Adds v-p Mahesh Balakrishnan, "The complexity of this project was mostly in dealing with its 43-author team, whose members hailed from around the world and residing in different time zones, and working around their vacation schedules. We also had to contend with the author team's variations in the English language used, file format and art quality. For this project, four project managers were assigned to coordinate the work process. In the end, we delivered the book to the publisher two weeks ahead of schedule."
With a phenomenal 2006, during which the company tripled in size and had a 60% year-on-year growth, diacriTech has embarked on a major expansion program. "Our fourth production center will be operating soon. Marketwise, we are convinced that North America still demands a great deal of content and KPO services, so this region will be our focus this year," says Gopinath, who also started working with Chinese publishers two two years. "The main challenge is primarily in communicating with the Chinese authors. Other than that, their expectations are very much in line with those of other customers, i.e., quality work delivered on time at reasonable prices."
Adds Balakrishnan, "The demand for situation art is growing, as with medical illustrations, which is our forte. We are also seeing increased demand for knowledge-based content creation services such as developing question banks and testing the answers, something which we are very familiar with."
EON Premedia (eonpremedia.co.in)
Listed as oneof the 2006 Top 10 Happening Companies in India by Business Today magazine, 15-month-old EON has been actively carving a niche for itself in the content transformation space. This company, nominated under the Global Entrepreneur Scheme sponsored by the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry, has an interesting coterie of sponsors and management personnel. CEO Suveen Sahib, for instance, has an FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) industry background and was previously the CEO of Himalayan Waters and director of Danone Waters (South Asia). Chairman Ranjan Kapoor, head of the billion-dollar WPP Group and an icon in the Indian advertising industry, is one of the sponsors. Sahib has also roped in specialists such as Lalit Bhagat (from Aptara), Bushra Rashid (from SPi) and Alen Balija (from Attic Media, U.K.), all known for specific domain expertise in the content services industry.
"Naturally, the biggest driver of EON's growth is our credible and diverse sponsor team, whose members have strong track records in enterprise value creation. We also have a best-in-class management team with innovation and lateral thinking at its core," says Sahib. "At the same time, we're focused on content convergence, multimedia composition and technology application in providing customer solutions instead of adopting a pure outsourcing approach." EON's adoption of an informal work environment focused on team dynamics-as opposed to a regimented workshop structure-is another factor propelling the company forward.
Presently, the majority of EON's business comes from Europe. "We also have a strategic partnership with HCL Technologies, a $3-billion IT group and a dominant player in media publishing and entertainment in North America." It's worth noting that Karan Puri, head of media publishing at HCL, is also the co-founder of EON and one of its sponsors.
EON's expertise and brainpower-both in front of and behind the scenes-has been instrumental in pushing through some challenging projects in recent months. "For a major U.S.-based customer, we created from scratch a robust elhi business focused on complex mathematics and built up the capacity to several thousand pages within four months." Internally, EON developed an automated XML platform for XPress within four months from conception to implementation. "But our biggest achievement to-date has been our ability to grow from a five- to a 130-member multiskilled team managing diverse verticals within just 12 months." This growth has prompted Sahib to relocate his team to a new 20,000-square-foot facility in Noida. "Currently, we can accommodate up to 400 people on a three-shift basis, and the plan is to double it to 800 in tandem with our projected revenue growth."
Hurix Systems (hurix.com)
For this Deloitte Technology Fast 50 India honoree (twice in a row) and Red Herring 100 Asia finalist, nothing is too challenging. And a recent project received on film with scant specifications from a major publisher is a perfect example. Says associate v-p of business development Harish Iyer, "The films were of an old literature series which the client wanted to revise, and some pertinent information, such as fonts, was not available. Complicating the workflow further were the special characters and phonetic symbols used throughout the series. We carried out copy-dot scanning followed by OCR of the text before flowing it on an approved design templates. Our team then tried to match the fonts as closely as possible and inserted the special characters. To ensure accuracy and text quality, we put the new pages through our stringent in-house QC audit not once, but twice." Iyer's team converted the films within two weeks and revised the series in time for the client's 2007 sales campaign.
Meanwhile, editorial versioning is on the rise at Hurix. "This is a knowledge-based service that is required when a publisher wants to adapt a bestselling title in one region for sale in a new region or market, e.g., selling a popular mathematics textbook from Singapore in the U.S.," says executive v-p of business development Srikanth Subramanian. "It usually involves taking the original content and adapting the language, idioms and illustrations to suit the new target market. The team must have a good understanding of the differences in English usage in the various regions of the world, as well as the different cultural, academic and classroom environments where the material may be used. The latter is crucial when reworking illustrations: a classroom in the U.K., for instance, looks different from one in the U.S. Knowledge of the different educational standards and requirements as well as pedagogical approaches is imperative in such projects."
Says CEO Subrat Mohanty, "Hurix's ability in delivering integrated multiple-format services is driving our transformation into a content services company catering to the dynamic information and media industry. We're now looking at partnering with organizations across the publishing service value chain in areas such as learning management systems, animation, simulation, assessment, automation and next-generation learning analytics." The first step has already been taken: dedicated development centers for these areas have been set up and are busy at work. "These centers are aimed at elevating Hurix's domain-specific expertise and enriching our portfolio," adds Mohanty.
"Necessity is the mother of all invention," says president and COO Nizam Ahmed when talking about one novel project that found its way to IBH last year. "The client urgently needed 2,000 pages, which were mostly in hard copy and PDF, converted into appropriate formats for people with hearing and visual disabilities. While our client has executed similar projects in-house in the past, their workload at that particular time was heavy; they also needed to outsource it fast in order to have it ready for the new academic year. We were given 30 days to turn the project around. Seven people were deployed: they spent a total of 1,000 man-hours to complete the project within 20 days, much to our client's delight." The deliverables included printed copies in Braille and files in audio/MP3 format.
For another project, Team IBH went artistic. "We had to produce 283 pieces of artwork based on photographs within 13 days. Compacted schedule aside, our illustrators had to correctly render the physical features, especially of the face, of people from a certain ethnic group. For the publisher, the target audience-in this case, children from the same ethnic group-must be able to identify with the characters and relate to every element in the illustration so as to make the content credible and, therefore, conducive to learning. We used the client's existing material on an African ethnic group and recreated the artwork to portray people and settings in Pakistan. With a team of five illustrators working on this 152-page title, we beat the deadline, wrapping the project up within nine days."
IBH is also going into new services, and online filing of statutory forms with the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) is one of them. As to how the workflow goes, Ahmed says, "First, we convert the document into a specified format of either ASCII or HTML and then validate it using EDGARease. Errors are duly corrected to render the document SEC/EDGAR-compliant. Upon our client's approval, we file the document online." Last year IBH also ventured into legal services (which include transcriptions, EDD and litigation coding) as well as indexing and abstracting. "We receive audiotapes, PDFs and archived e-mail for transcription. Transcribing provides an alternative medium of storage. The document will also become readily accessible via the computer, and be securely stored in a database," adds Ahmed, whose team has almost completed its ISO 9001 certification process.
Innodata Isogen (innodata-isogen.com)
KPO is the focus at Innodata Isogen: the new honoree on Dun & Bradstreet India's Top ITeS & BPO Companies list has just launched two new business lines-Research & Analysis and Technical Writing-that complement its strengths in that area. Says Jan Palmen, v-p of publishing practice, "In Research & Analysis, for instance, we are currently rendering editorial support to a global database provider of cultural and trade information. To enhance the content of the database, our team researches and writes articles on topics given by our client. Such service is great for publishers entering the research business or for firms seeking to leverage the economies of scale made possible through working with an offshore provider of knowledge services."
Providing KPO services on a large scale to publishing projects is nothing new at Innodata Isogen. An ongoing collaboration with one publishing house, covering almost 17,000 journals, is but one example. "These journals encompass medical breakthroughs, drug developments and all other fields of science. On our part, the team decides which material needs to be indexed and then creates the abstracts-both activities drawing upon the editorial skills and expertise of our subject matter experts," says Palmen. "Aside from helping the publisher slash editorial costs by half, we also reduce the time required to review, index and post new information online from three weeks to just seven days."
Right now, Palmen and his team are busy helping one major U.S. newspaper publisher improve the searchability of its archive in order to facilitate online subscription or pay-per-view transactions. Innodata Isogen has already converted the legacy data-more than 150 years' worth of newspapers with millions of articles-to PDF. "Improving searchability is the goal here: we have to deep-code the articles with metadata. Indexing the pages expeditiously and cost-effectively is imperative, so we developed an automated indexing tool that can achieve a high level of accuracy. In the current workflow, our content architects validate the result after the auto-indexing and enhance it by inserting relevant terms and key words to help readers find the exact article they are seeking."
And speaking of conversion, Innodata Isogen's deal to digitize Simon & Schuster's backlist has been in the limelight recently. "In the first year, we are digitizing and converting hardcover titles and those in HTML and XPress into XML. Naturally, the key focus in this multistage project is on XML, as it will enable our client to move its content online," says Palmen, adding that several thousand titles have been converted thus far as the production is stepped up to full speed.
People, process and technology-that's the mantra at Integra, and for co-founder and COO Anu Sriram, her focus is firmly on the "people" part. From initiating a star performer award and an employee engagement initiative (which includes holding three-hour sessions with management and 25 randomly selected employees) to organizing leisure and entertainment activities to promote employee interaction, she is relentless in her efforts to improve the staff's social welfare and life skills. She says, "We are the first company in the industry to introduce variable remuneration. It's essential to reward great performance and, at the same time, inspire our people to set higher standards for themselves. Indirectly, we elevate Integra's overall performance and create a highly motivated and quality-focused workforce."
For founder and CEO Sriram Subramanya, the biggest move in recent months is the formation of a partnership with Baring Private Equity in November 2006. "It's the best decision in the interests of our shareholders, clients and employees. Integra needs access to more capital and to professional guidance in growing further, adapting to global challenges and meeting increasing customer demands." Meanwhile, over at its new $4-million, 60,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art, eco-friendly facility-the first of its kind in Pondicherry-850 employees are hard at work on complex projects. Full-service project management is becoming a norm here: Team Integra recently wrapped up a 4,500-page encyclopedia within the stipulated 120 days. "For this title, we processed about 4,000 images, which were 100% done in spot colors; 80% of the images were also redrawn and relabeled. Another major reference work project ran up to 10,000 pages, and this time, we had 240 calendar days to turn it around. We processed and relabeled 9,000 images."
Adds Subramanya, "Archiving and asset management is yet another unique solution that we provide. Our proprietary digital asset management solutions provide complete archiving services with easy accessibility and retrievability, as well as assure the security of data."
Overall, Integra employs a high level of automation in its workflow to ensure fast turnaround and accuracy. "You can say that technology is our key focus: we have been investing an average 5% of our annual sales in technology. At the same time, we have the capability to add 1,000 worker at short notice. Clients are always looking for rapid scalability to meet urgent demand and large volume, and we want to make sure we have that capacity in place," says Subramanya. The new production facility can accommodate 1,500 people round-the-clock.
Full-service project management is ITC's forte. In 2006, it completed 330 full-service titles-40% of its business-and chalked up a 177% annual growth. Operations director Waseem Andrabi recalls two exceptional titles: "The first was an engineering book with 2,400 manuscript pages, 425 figures and 360 complex tables with equations throughout, and we had to liaise with more than 80 contributors and an exceptionally fussy author team. Our copyediting and proofreading team had to work on the same style sheet simultaneously. In the end, the author team said the experience of working with ITC was one of the best they had in book production!" Another project, A History of Modern East Asia, posed a different problem altogether. "Midway through the production process, the title was bought by another publisher. The deadline was extended by only a couple of weeks so that we could adjust to a new house style, workflow and production personnel."
Says Andrabi, "Our greatest achievement has been winning over authors who are resistant to an electronic workflow or perhaps even to the very idea of offshore production. Most authors have adapted quickly to the PDF workflow and found the experience positive. The only adjustment we would make in a few cases is to provide hard copies and have them returned to our Florida office, a process which more closely resembles what authors are accustomed to." The need to gain better understanding of different work methods and cultures has seen several ITC project managers make extended work visits to the client's office. "It also allows the publisher to know, and be comfortable working with, our team," he says.
ITC moved into el-hi and assessment in 2004 and has since dedicated a production floor to this segment. "We recently handled a large program for a California-based assessment publisher, and one of its program managers was on-site at our Noida facility to work with our staff. The tight schedule simply didn't allow us the luxury of e-mailing and waiting for answers."
Since its acquisition by Infomedia in April 2006, ITC has been leveraging the group's strengths. Cepha, another Infomedia company, has been sharing its 3B2 expertise with Andrabi's team. "We were able to master 3B2 much faster than we would have on our own. So far, we have done 75 titles in 3B2, including design-intensive full-color ones. We're now planning to implement MySAP-based integrated ERP solutions, which have been successfully installed at our parent company, to boost our real-time Instatrak project management platform."
The sale of Cadmus, KGL's parent company, to Cenveo is the biggest news at KGL. "It catapults the combined entity, with revenue exceeding $2.1 billion and a workforce of more than 10,000, to a leadership position in the graphic communications space. Cenveo will be able to leverage Cadmus's global content services model and its dominant position in the publishing industry," says KGL president and COO Atul Goel. "For KGL, there are immense opportunities, and I see two major possibilities: Cenveo can use our offshore production capabilities for back-office operations, and KGL can cross-sell to Cenveo's large customer base." As we speak, Goel is aggressively going after the B2B magazine market by offering design, typesetting, conversion and digitization services.
Meanwhile, complex and large-scale projects are making regular appearances at KGL. "There was one project for a major educational publisher that involved coding of very complex mathematical equations and rendering of chemical structures. Another project was a full-service title for a prestigious U.S. society where the composition involved complex pagination, equations and artwork. Stringent quality requirements and compacted turnaround time were part of the challenges in such projects."
But its star project must be the one that required conversion of engineering references from 1969 all the way back to 1884. "There were more than 1.8 million records, and the biggest challenge was data inconsistencies: the structure of the records changed completely from decade to decade. Application of automation was, therefore, limited," says Goel, whose team had to deal with a significant amount of foreign-language material as well. "We did lots of research on the Internet to find missing information. We had a dedicated team of 30 full-time associates and 100 cottage-based workers on this project. There were constant training and feedback sessions for the associates to pass on new information on record variations the team had encountered. There were also weekly conference calls with the customer to determine if the delivered files met their expectations and quality standards. Though our customer had laid down specifications right at the start of this project, these had to be modified as the project progressed. We worked together to redefine the specifications without upsetting the schedule or affecting the quality."
Quality is, quite naturally, Goel's major focus these days. "We intend to use Six Sigma methodology to create value differentiations for KGL. For instance, we're looking at offering much shorter turnaround time for all production work than what is the norm today." The 10 projects he selected for Six Sigma quality benchmarking are expected to be finished in September.
Lapiz Digital (lapizdigital.com)
At Lapiz Digital, a down-to-earth principle-"Don't assume anything. Ask questions"-is the key to its success. "Good communication with clients is crucial to the execution of any project. We must understand specifically what clients need and know precisely what we must do to meet their requirements. Making assumptions on what they are thinking or what they need is a grave mistake," says CEO Indira Rajan, who leads the 600-strong company.
This practical approach, coupled with stringent quality practices-Lapiz, by the way, is one of the first Indian content services companies to attain ISO 9001 certification-has been instrumental to its rapid growth. Its elhi projects, for instance, grew 70% in the past 12 months. Says Rajan, "We're seeing many customization projects, bilingual titles and Web- or computer-based training material from the elhi segment. There is also a significant increase in trade titles, fiction and nonfiction alike, which mostly require composition services." Asked to pick two of Lapiz's most complex projects, Rajan says, "Our star project is a 21,000-page reading program which we converted into Web pages within five months. The alpha version was delivered to our client within four months. Surprisingly, despite its size and complexity, this project was smooth sailing from start to finish. Much of the success I attribute to our communication skills and our ability to fully understand the scope and requirements of the project."
Rajan and her team have just finished a 10,000-page reprint project for one elhi client. "The schedule was very tight and, as is common in our industry, the file-to-printer date stayed even if the manuscript got delayed. The project was further complicated by the requirement for a Spanish-language edition. But such challenges are common in elhi products. Customization projects, for instance, require conformance to different national, state and even district standards, thus pushing the complexity level another notch higher. For NIMAS-compliant products and e-book titles-two segments that have been growing fast at Lapiz in recent months-the different accessibility standards mean having to reengineer our workflow and establish specially trained teams to work on them."
At the same time, Rajan is also seeing more reading and mathematics products on her production floor. "This is a direct result of the No Child Left Behind Act. Overall, the convergence of content and technology has created new products especially for elhi, a segment in which Lapiz has a solid reputation and proven expertise."
Globalization (and localization) is the word at Lionbridge: adaptation of products to meet different linguistic, technical and cultural requirements is what it does best. Says Robin Lloyd, v-p and general manager of its Indian operations, "Let's use one recent project for a leading Web site as an example. Our team took thousands of small content chunks and created multilingual versions for global publications. To localize this massive amount of content, we had an integrated global team-in 25 countries spanning the U.S., Eastern Europe and India-working round-the-clock to expedite the process. We would receive, say, 20 new files through our Web-based submission platform, and these flowed to whichever global center was online. From there, the files were quickly analyzed and prepared for localization: they were routed to a global network of native-speaking translators and then on to another Lionbridge center for editing and production work. The whole process was highly automated and seamless."
Many people mistake localization for translation. "In Lionbridge's book, localization encompasses project management, graphics design, software development, composition and marketing. Post-translation, both content and graphics must be adapted according to the linguistic nuances and culture of the target market," explains Lloyd. "Having an exceptional project management workflow that ensures effective communication across geographic barriers and different teams, and quality input from everybody, is crucial in large multilingual localization projects."
A walk through Lionbridge's Mumbai production center reveals ample clues to its major clients, which include the world's biggest educational publishers. "We recently developed every element of a commercial learning solution for a client. Aside from developing and maintaining the LMS (Learning Management System), we also created the e-learning courseware titles, which cover hundreds of individual lessons, animation, audio files and tests. By developing both the learning platform and the courseware, we're able to optimize the overall solution for maximum learning effectiveness. To top it off, we also created the user manual which ships with the product. This is just one of our typical content-plus-code solutions."
Recently, the 4,300-strong Lionbridge worked with one computer peripheral company to convert its user information-found mostly on data sheets and technical documents-into short instructional videos. "This fully demonstrates the evolving concept of technical writing as we know it. For such projects, we utilize an entirely different approach to information design and multimedia production. Naturally, the visual demos are much more effective than the dry technical text," says Lloyd. Technical writing, needless to say, is another Lionbridge specialty.
Macmillan India (macmillanips.com)
This is truly a one-stop shop for content transformation and delivery now that its portfolio also boasts full-fledged fulfillment services. But the most exciting news from Macmillan is its online book repository, aptly named BookStore. Says technical director Debasish Banerjee, "We kick-started it early this year with two small Macmillan imprints. Soon after, Boersenverein, the 6,000-member German publishers and retailers association, came in. It is currently loading its titles into the system and the public launch is slated for the end of this year."
The best part about BookStore is that publishers retain control of their content, including control of the business model, the level of content made available for free, the look and feel of the site, and the range of distribution channels employed. Adds Banerjee, "We provide a very powerful administration tool that gives publishers real-time control over their site. We're also working with several major search engines to refine operating standards and increase accessibility to online content. We are also a proponent of and a contributor to the emerging Automated Content Access Protocol, which provides a machine-readable set of rights and permissions for search engines and other content aggregators to follow when indexing content." To enable users to maximize its capabilities, BookStore is packaged with the necessary support and training.
And clients, of course, can tap into the expertise of the 3,000-strong company on anything that is content-related. Nothing, it seems, fazes Macmillan. "While we can't say we have seen it all, we have definitely seen a lot of complex projects and challenging demands during our 30-odd years in the industry," says managing director Rajiv Beri, whose team managed one eight-volume 258-chapter encyclopedia on medicinal chemistry from copyediting to indexing to permissions management. "Our team had to draw and resize more than 3,000 chemical structures for this 7,529-page project, besides generating multiple indices from source files that had many inconsistencies. We delivered preflighted files as well as XML, WebPDF and online graphics for all volumes. It is one of our most complex titles to date."
Over at ICC Macmillan, the last 12 months were action-packed. Says senior v-p of book division Neeraj Malhotra, "We had 280 people at the time of the acquisition; today, we are 620 strong. Macmillan has invested a lot in the infrastructure and provided us with the wherewithal to become much more competitive and cutting edge." Segment-wise, k-12 is Malhotra's key focus for the year. But why venture into the supposedly toughest segment of all? "You can say that it's a natural progression: as a company matures over time, it develops the skill sets and experiences required to move into elhi. Of course, it's a different ballgame: besides experienced project managers, one also needs paginators who treat page makeup as a science and an art." As to the extent of its success in this segment, well, its recent appointment as preferred k-12 vendor by two major North American publishers says it all.
Newgen Imaging (newgenimaging.com)
At Newgen, conventional wisdom bites the dust, especially when it comes to complex fast-track titles that are supposedly not feasible for offshoring. "Take the example of one 4,000-page professional title that requires updating twice a year. We have changes, corrections and new material coming in round-the-clock from authors via fax, e-mail, FTP and even instant messaging," says Maran Elancheran, senior v-p of sales & marketing. "The corrected pages have to be returned for approval in less than 15 minutes on average. During that quarter of an hour, the changes are converted into XML, paginated using 3B2, quality-checked and sent out. The previous record for creating a new edition onshore was three months; the first title offshored to Newgen was completed in five weeks. For the latest edition, we took only four weeks to Web upload."
Perhaps such efficiency is due to its adoption of a cell-based work process. Explains Elancheran, "In the conventional typesetting model, a book passes through groups of coders, paginators, proofreaders and QC staff. A 10-chapter book may have 40 people working on it. Five years ago, Newgen switched to a structure comprising client-based teams of 20 and 30 people. Soon, as our core clients grew with us, this arrangement was made impractical because each team became the size of a small composition company. So we got 'cellular.' Now, only four people work on any title: the coder finishes the first chapter and passes it to the paginator, who gives instant feedback to the coder if there are problems or errors that affect his part of the work, and so on along the chain. In other words, each person 'pulls' material from the previous person. This method works fantastically in terms of quality and productivity." The cell-based process is fully showcased in the honeycomb-like workstation arrangement at Newgen's new 40,000-sq.-ft. production center.
In terms of service, Newgen has also started offering value-added services to its clients. "For instance, we coordinate the print manufacturing processes with printers, binderies and component suppliers. We conduct pre-delivery assessment of manuscripts for technical issues, style problems and artwork quality. We help clients develop content for textbooks, manage their editorial freelancers across the globe, provide technical support and even offer subscription management services. Recently, we added design to our portfolio: clients can now rely on us to provide situational artwork or illustrations to go with their content. They can also work with our sister company, Mumbai-based Learning Mate, on e-learning and animation solutions," adds Elancheran.
Planman Technologies (planmanconsulting.com)
Planman's threefold growth in publishing projects over the last 12 months is no accident. "Basically, toward end of 2005, we identified a potential segment and we aimed for it. We expanded our graphics and illustration capabilities and gave our designers and artists intensive training in publishing requirements. What happened next was a surprise: our new capabilities started pulling in full-color elhi projects in bigger volumes. A case in point: in January 2006, we were doing about 800 to 1,000 pages per month for one client; today, we're delivering an average of 5,000 pages. Another elhi client has also increased its volume to about 5,000 pages during the same period," says v-p of sales Amit Vohra. "The expansion has resulted in more editorial and other developmental services being offered to make up an A-Z range of project management support." Thus said, Planman gets projects involving illustration and creative services aplenty. "We recently completed one 252-page full-color book in which 184 of the 268 pieces of artwork had to be created from scratch," says director Sourav Chatterjee, who has 50 illustrators and designers among his 800 staff. "Another project involving copyediting and typesetting of 229 full-color pages required approximately 200 illustrations."
On the editorial side, Planman is taking on writing of technical reports and conference proceedings. "The latter are time-critical projects allowing little to no margin for error or delay. Upon receipt of the project, our team makes a detailed analysis of the client's requirements and prepares the style sheet," says Vohra. "Next, we check the formatting, generate the abstracts, keywords, references and headers, and produce the author index and table of contents. The files then go through a final quality audit before being uploaded."
Over at its newspaper publishing section, its imaging team handles image archiving and data processing from microfiche, while another 500 personnel convert legacy data to XML. So far, over 400,000 pages of newspaper content have been converted, and these projects come from mostly European publishers. But Planman does not stop at just conversion. "Take the case of the Manchester United soccer team photobook: it was not in our client's original plan, which was just to archive the newspaper pages. But the potential for such a book became apparent as the project progressed, and we brought it to our client's attention," says Chatterjee. "Helping clients create new revenue streams from their content is one value-added service that Planman offers. As the enabler in the content transformation process, we are in a great position to help identify the opportunities as they arise."
PreMedia Global (premediaglobal.com)
The story of PreMedia Global unfolded 18 months ago when Beacon Graphics, a leader in journal and professional segment in the U.S., merged with Chennai-based production services supplier PreMedia. Soon after, Massachusetts-based Pre-Press Company-the largest development and production house serving the American college and school market-merged with the newly formed PreMedia Global. During this period, PreMedia also acquired Utah-based WestWords, which serves the college and school segment.
Needless to say, PreMedia Global is a force to be reckoned with in the college and school segment, and a 20,000-page school ancillary program that took just four months to complete-from writing to PDF delivery-is one example showcasing its strength and capabilities. Says director Rick Vayo, "This was one of our most challenging projects, one in which we utilized all areas of our resources: we provided project management, writing, editorial review, design, art direction and illustration, and offshore production as well as final file preflighting and delivery. It shows not only the strength of our combined entity but, more importantly, our ability to deliver a complete and comprehensive package encompassing all facets of development and production. This ability allows the publisher to have all aspects of a program done under one roof with a single point of contact."
Over in the professional segment, PreMedia Global was recently contracted by an American professional/reference publisher to produce more than 100 titles per year. "The challenge here was the publisher's desire to achieve near-100% automation within the XML workflow-something its previous suppliers could not attain," says Vayo. "Within the first few months, we achieved more than 90% automation and were able to pass along significant cost savings to the publisher. Further innovation and cost reduction have prompted the publisher to increase its project volume with us; we are now in discussion to produce nearly all its publications. This is a perfect example of BeaconPMG's technical expertise and experience in automated XML workflow.
PreMedia Global is fully focused on the U.S. publishing market and its revenue comes from elhi (35%), college (30%), journal (20%) and professional publishing. Says Vayo, "We see ourselves now, and even more so in the future, as a content resource-a one-stop solution for publishers-as opposed to a production facility. Whether we write, edit, code or paginate, our services are geared to developing and delivering structured content in all forms."
Scope e-Knowledge (scopeknowledge.com)
At 20-year-old, 450-strong Scope, information and research is its business, and in the hands of three MBA graduates from IIM-Ahmedabad-arguably India's best business school-the company is forging into various niche segments. One outstanding representative product is its proprietary taxonomy in organic chemistry. "We started with 50,000 terms, and expanded it to 150,000. The work is continuing, as this is a very dynamic field," says CEO R. Sivadas, who is now developing it into a multilayered taxonomy complete with synonymic, lexical and morphological variants. "This pre-built taxonomy is currently integrated into the back-end architecture of a leading information provider."
Scope is also hugely successful in developing technical lexicons, especially when translation into English is involved. Says COO Vijayalakshmi Rao, "We had one project in which we first translated the German techno-commercial documents into English and then constructed concise abstracts. We created a German-English engineering lexicon and complemented it with online technical glossaries and dictionaries. A panel of language and domain experts was then formed to ensure correct usage of technical terminology. In the process, we built our own Contextual Translation Memory tool to facilitate the translation work, maintain consistency and reduce human errors." In another project, Scope created a chemical properties database, which entailed exhaustive search of resources and extraction of relevant data. "For this work, we developed an automated software program with built-in pattern-matching algorithm, which increased productivity five-fold."
Complex translation and indexing projects are regular fare at Scope. "Let's look at one recent project as an example. It involved translation of research journal articles from Chinese to English, and besides indexing and providing the appropriate English title and abstract, we had to create keywords and select relevant chemical substances and text terms based on our client's guidelines. Language issues aside, these research papers were highly technical, being in the specialized domains of physical chemistry, applied chemistry and biochemistry. The publisher also had a very strict qualifying criteria and quality level," says president Chandu Nair. "We established a network of translators with specific domain knowledge and translation skills, and set out to synchronize the external translation process with our internal workflow." Over in the area of patent research, Scope is at the top of the game: it has trained patent engineers to review and analyze patent documents, and then abstract the content into XML format.
Nearly 70% of Scope's projects are publishing-related, with some 60% coming from the U.S. Quite clearly, in the much coveted and rarified KPO space, Scope is a major player.
Aside from making its way into TheBlack Book of Outsourcing 2006, SPi is ranked among the top 10 in two Global Services 100 categories: best-performing BPO providers and leaders in human capital development. The company excels in innovative services, and three of its latest offerings are ingenious. Says president Frank Stumpf Jr., "In recent years, STM publishers have been publishing more research papers from non-native speakers of English, especially those from China. However, these authors often have their papers rejected during the peer review process simply because of their weak command of English. Our Web-based Language Polishing Services helps them overcome this challenge. Authors can now submit manuscripts online for evaluation, and once the price is agreed on, one of our editors will work with the author on the manuscript. We have also built a password-protected tracking system that allows authors to obtain real-time project updates." So far, more than 1,000 manuscripts have been "polished"; 30% of those are from Chinese authors, and one out of four is a repeat customer.
The other two services-Back-Office Customer Service and eHelp Desk Solutions-are good news to cost-conscious publishers. "Today, many publishing houses are finding it difficult to meet the rising expectations of customer service. Since customer service is not a direct revenue-generating center, obtaining approval for additional staff or budget to upgrade its services is an uphill battle," says Stumpf. "We have developed a unique system to undertake back-office customer service functions for publishers. These statistics demonstrate our capability: we process 11 types of book return amounting to 325,000 line transactions per year, as well as 77,000 claims from 107 subscription agents." Similarly, eHelp Desk Solutions, a 24x7 service, is an enhancement to existing internal support capabilities at any publishing house. "We process about 3,500 e-mail queries and 100 phone calls per week, and we're now planning to increase our voice-activated support capabilities."
Production-wise, SPi's Pondicherry personnel relocated to a new three-story facility last September. Dedicated to book and major reference projects, the facility houses more than 500 specialists working on approximately 850 titles per year, or 750,000 pages. "New services offered from this facility include beta-testing of multimedia and e-products, which frees up our clients' precious in-house resources. In total, we have four production centers in India, contributing 30% to our total production volume." Ambitious plans continue to be unveiled at SPi: besides earmarking $100-million for expansion, it's also moving to ISO 27001:2005 information security certification.
Thomson Digital (thomsondigital.com)
Impressive is the word that hits the mind as one flips through Thomson's design portfolio. In fact, its Design Studio is in the process of adding one (big) feather to its cap: completing a 10,000-piece creative project for one of the largest educational publishers in the U.S. under a tight deadline. Says COO Vinay Singh, "We also did a high-end art project for a Swedish publisher that required meticulous attention to details and historic authenticity. We rendered 25 complex illustrations-digitally produced but given a hand-drawn effect-depicting ancient events and locations. A lot of inhouse research and analysis went into making sure we got the details correct. Currently, we're working on one coloring book for an American client that has 300 line drawings of racing cars and drivers in different actions. For this and the Swedish project, getting the specifics right-the facial expressions, costume, background elements, etc.-is crucial, so that the illustrations convey the intended message and look authentic."
Says Singh, "Close client relationships have made it possible for us to place our creative team at our clients' offices and work directly with them. This has been very helpful in bridging the gap between the local taste and knowledge of our personnel and our clients'. At times, selected team members will work on site for 60 to 90 days." Being extra choosy during the recruitment of its creative team members has paid dividends. "Our reputation in the industry allows us to pick the best-those with exposure to international projects or who are extremely talented-for our Design Studio." Presently, Singh is looking at recruiting a creative team and acquiring a small- or medium-sized content services company in the U.S. within the next six months.
Saleswise, Thomson Digital is still pro-European, with the region contributing more than 70%. "We have increased our market presence in North America by bringing on board several senior-level sales professionals to target the el-hi segment. In the past 12 months, we added at least four major and twice as many medium-sized accounts, which will shift the current sales ratio significantly. We also have three project managers working out of our New York office now."
Back in Delhi, its inhouse software team has successfully developed a proprietary content management system called TFMS (Thomson File Management System) and effectively rolled it out across its five production centers. "TFMS is an integrated XML-based composition and content management engine that provides total flexibility, reduced turnaround time and multiformat delivery. It is designed to shave 30% to 50% off the usual turnaround time and thus provides publishers with a much-needed edge in this competitive industry," adds Singh.
Value Chain (value-chain.biz)
One novel solution offered by Value Chain is photo research and categorization. "We're working with an educational publisher to identify and source images for their online products. Our team sources the images, validates the rights, incorporates the necessary metadata, crops the images to size and writes accompanying captions. This is essentially an image library project, which requires not just sourcing and clearing rights but also determining relevance and indexing." Presently, Daniels and his team is working with U.K.'s leading wholesaler, Gardners Books, to promote all its titles and digital content. The service exploits industry standards such as ONIX (Online Information Exchange) and EDItx. The first publisher to sign up was Taylor & Francis, which has more than 16,500 eBooks digitized by Value Chain. "We are able to automatically render our XML front- and backmatter into compliant tagged data that can be exported as rich metadata to support both physical and online content distribution."
The 450-strong Value Chain production team is spread out in three different centers: KPO activities in Pune; technology and development in Bangalore; and a digital factory in Coimbatore. "We have converted and digitized well over 20 million pages with less than 20 defects per million characters, i.e., 99.998% accuracy. About 90% of our business comes from the publishing industry, and 55% of our revenue is derived from the U.K. The U.S. market contributes approximately 35%, but we fully expect this figure to grow rapidly within the next few years," adds Daniels.
It may be a new name in the industry, but Vikatan is definitely not new to the content transformation business. Says Srinivasan B., managing director of the 80-year-old Vikatan Group, which has a diverse print and media portfolio, "Each month, our group publishes and prints over two million copies of magazines on lifestyle, personal finance, sociopolitics, automobiles, education, etc., with a readership base exceeding 5.5 million. On top of this, our publishing division produces about 180 book titles per year, mostly on education and social themes. All our content is created for full portability across multiple platforms-online and mobile inclusive-and our production team has been satisfying our internal customers all these years. Now, we want to leverage the synergy within our publishing and production divisions to offer content management services to everybody."
Vikatan Publishing Solutions was among the first few Chennai vendors to work with Adobe on an InDesign/XML workflow. So far, it has converted two million printed pages into XML and completed 100 STM journal projects. CEO A.R. Nallathambi and his team have also pioneered an in-house technology capable of turning mathematical equations into searchable XML/MathML objects. "Recently, a client which had a project involving massive mathematical equations that were saved in image form-i.e., not searchable-decided, upon seeing our sample solutions, to adopt our technology. It took us two months to go through the various formats utilized, such as LaTeX, PDF, Word etc. in that project. We have since re-engineered the tool, expedited the workflow and further improved the accuracy. It can now be used for any STM titles."
One complex project requiring full-service management from a Canadian educational publisher recently found its way to Nallathambi. "We relooked at the manuscript and reorganized the study material-for grades 1-5-into three sections: puzzles, multiple-choice and illustrations. Our editors then developed appropriate questions and solutions for the first two sections. For the last and most challenging section, our illustrators used photographs sourced from various digital stocks to create appropriate artwork. We then coordinated the peer-review exercise before furnishing the final file." Another title-this time from a financial journal publisher-required editing of Word-based manuscript pages, composition in XPress and delivery of print-ready PDFs within a very compressed production schedule. "Dealing with short cycle time is nothing new: our internal customers have made sure it's second nature to us."
Earlier this year, Vikatan partnered with a Dutch firm to target the Benelux region, and plans are brewing to form partnerships with U.S. and U.K. firms to further expand its market and overseas representation.