I look forward to Sunday mornings at the beach. It’s when my mobile gets into sleep mode and my senses awaken — to experience the cool air, the sound of the waves crashing against the shores and the teasingly slow sunrise.
I saw him jog past me. He seemed familiar. ‘Was it…?’ “Jonathan?” I called out. He turned around. It was indeed him. “Hey,” I reached out to him enthusiastically. Jonathan and I graduated together, but our interests took us along different directions.
“How about a coffee?” I asked as I led him to the nearby café. He seemed to be in two minds, but decided to follow me. A blast of nostalgia hit me as I reminisced the good old days, the funny incidents and the not-so-funny exam results that would hit us at the end of each semester. He nodded absent-mindedly from time to time, with a vacant expression on his face. The conversation would simply not get going, despite my best attempts.
“Listen, are you running late for something? Or is there a problem?”
He sat silently for a while and then opened up.
Jonathan was a third generation publisher, having inherited the press from his family. Business was dwindling, with increasing competition from the big names and leading online distributors muscling out smaller players like him.
“I can’t match their infrastructure,” he lamented. “Technology has brought in so many advances, but what do I do with my existing processes? Besides, everything costs… I can’t afford a large team. And I’ve tried outsourcing specific parts of the process, but either they can’t match our requisite quality or they can’t keep up with the timelines or they’re too expensive… And trying to coordinate with all of them is so stressful that…” He shook his head and lapsed into silence.
Apparently things had gone from bad to worse in the past few weeks. “At this rate, we might have to shut shop soon,” he sighed. “Who knows, we might be working on our last title.”
Before I could respond, his mobile rang. It was from his office. “On a Sunday morning? Jonathan, what’s going on?” I asked. He motioned for me to stay silent, listened for a few seconds and got up abruptly. “A publishing consultant is waiting to see me,” he said grimly. “I’ll catch you later.” “Hey, wait…” I couldn’t complete my sentence. He was gone.
Work kept me busy for a while and I didn’t get to see Jonathan for over a month. It was on a Sunday morning when we bumped into each other again. “Ah, that’s smile is back,” I commented. “Good to see you go back to your old self. How’re things? How’s work?”
“Couldn’t be better,” he grinned. “You know that publishing consultant I met last month? He recommended a content services platform that explained how it could take care of all my publishing needs.”
It was my turn to smile. “You know…” He wouldn’t let me finish. “They had the entire range of products that I could use for my publishing. You know what the best part is? I didn’t have to change my existing systems either. They made sure that their publishing solution worked around my existing process. That was a relief.”
“Look, I know…” He was still not done. “I had been toying around with a new idea of adding AR to my digital titles for training programmes. But when one’s fighting for survival, where’s the time to innovate? Hey, you know what? They made it possible for me. This has got me new clients and I have enough work to last me for a couple of years more… at least.” He laughed.
“So all’s well?” I asked him. “Aaahsome,” he said in his typical style and for a brief moment, I was transported back to college.
“I’m happy for you,” I told him. I felt pretty good too. There are few things in life better than sitting face to face with a customer and listen to him gushing about your product.