My co-worker on the project, a talented and thoughtful designer, travelled all the way from Jaipur to oversee the production of the book. He has been a Pragati enthusiast for years and it was difficult not to be bitten by the bug. In fact, thanks to him, I got a free tour of Pragati.
We moved quickly away from the well-lit, air conditioned front office and pre-production departments to check the progress of our own project at the printing department. It was a huge space — like a massive shed. It was dark and noisy. Machines hammered away their jobs rhythmically and alarms of various pitches went off from one machine or the other. Machine operators in teams of 5-7 went about their work with a sense of purpose. No air conditioning here and lighting just where it was needed. I reminded myself that this was the center of all the hard labor; this was where the actual job of offset printing was done.
My idea of a machine till then was a desktop computer. But these machines were giant machines — some running the length of a few hundred yards. Pragati has invested in cutting-edge printing machinery from Japan and this entire space is dedicated to Komori and Mitsibushi machines. Seeing these machines in action and seeing the results they produced, made me feel like a star. Get my autograph! I have seen the wonders they produce — works of art, nothing less. And then there are the men behind the machines. Cut to a snippet of conversation around the production of our book. There are a lot of pictures in our book – most of them black and white.
Designer colleague: The images are not there yet. I want some more warmth in these pictures. You understand?
Pragati staff 1: Yes, we can certainly rework these. I think we may get better results if we increase the amount of yellow a bit and also mellow the cyan a notch.
Self: (Thinking): Warmth in a black and white picture? Sure. I know exactly what you mean. Yellow and cyan in that picture over there? It may seem odd to you, but I see only black, white, and few shades of grey!
After more than an hour of trying to get warmth into the black and white images, we have a few prints to compare. By this time, there are at least 6 of the best brains in printing at our workspace, helping us make up our mind. They are trying to make sense of which greys are warm. There’s some sort of deadlock. Designer colleague is sticking to his guns that the output can be bettered. I keep nodding my head, not very convincingly, I am afraid. I found all the prints to be more or less the same. Thank God I did not attempt to become a designer, ever. Then something interesting happens. One of the Pragati staff says it is best to compare in daylight. We are in a dark space, remember? All of us troop out into the daylight with these huge sheets of paper. Then they start the discussion all over again. It was interesting to see all these men haggle over the many shades of grey. If you think men don’t have a sense of color, think again. I’m told there were a few hundred other issues that had to be sorted out — from the binding to the front cover of the book and from the embossing on the front cover to the details on the back cover of the book. Eventually, all things were sorted out and the book went to print.
Whether in the pre-production department, the production or printing department, or the post production departments such as packaging and binding, each and every employee wears the Quality badge like a badge of honor. Each one whom I listened to, and each one whom I saw at work, worked with a commitment and a zeal that was almost infectious. It almost seemed that each department was waiting to spot a snag that the previous department in the chain of production overlooked. But most of all what was truly amazing is the willingness of the staff to satisfy the customer. No compromise.