Decoding the secret behind Jagati’s ICQC success

This year, Jagati Publications made a record of sorts when all its 22 print centres entered into the coveted International Color Quality Club (ICQC). Rahul Kumar finds out how the publisher of the Telugu daily, Sakshi, pulled off the feat

19 Sep 2018 | By Rahul Kumar

Hyderabad-based Jagati Publications entered the club for its Telugu daily Sakshi. Considering Sakshi, it’s perhaps not a big surprise. After all, the company launched all 23 editions of the newspaper in a single day on 24 March 2008.

Sakshi also has the distinction of being the first regional newspaper to be designed by the world-renowned newspaper designer, Mario Garcia. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, released in December 2017, Sakshi is the second-largest circulating newspaper in the Telugu states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh after Eenadu with a circulation figure of more than 1.09 million.

It’s 22 print centres are located in Balanagar; Nacharam; Mahabubnagar; Nalgonda; Warangal; Nizamabad; Karimnagar; Khammam; Srikakulam; Visakhapatnam; Rajamundry; TP Gudem; Vijayawada; Mangalagiri; Guntur; Onglole; Nellore; Tirupati; Kadapa; Anantapur; Kurnool; and Bengaluru.

The ICQC quality evaluation includes an evaluation based on objective measurements made on a print test element that participants must print every day of a specified week per month for a period of three months from 22 print locations. In this, out of 66 samples, Jagati received 100% mark for 64 samples. The rest two were close to 100%. 

Setting a benchmark
Jagati, however, did not enter the competition to win accolades, or to be a part of the haloed club, but to streamline its operations, to setup a quality benchmark for the company.

It started during the previous cycle of the competition, when just one print centre for Sakshi attempted the INCQC guidelines. 

PVK Prasad, director, operations, Jagati Publications, explains, “Last time, while working towards INCQC, we found a huge difference in quality in a few months time. We also managed to bring down the quality tolerance level, as the mindset of the workforce, colour consistency, and other things improved considerably.”

Even before entering for the ICQC, Jagati was confident that it was offering a quality product. However, going through the process of ICQC took it to a completely different level. “From the level of the machine man to the man in-charge of the plant, the approach changed completely after we implemented ICQC practices,” he adds.

(l-r) TK Suresh, PVK Prasad and B Gouri Sankar of Jagati Publications

Starting quality control
Prasad says he studied the ICQC requirements, discussed it with his colleagues TK Suresh, CGM, operations, and B Gouri Shankar, general manager, pre-press and quality control, and established an in-house quality club — Sakshi Internal Quality Club — to conduct pre-checks.

“We organised multiple tests for each production sites, even for those which were performing well,” Prasad says.

And then the results of the experiment took even Prasad by surprise. “We did not plan to enter all our 22 plants for the ICQC-2018-20 competition. We were planning to apply for 10 to 12 centres. However, when the results of our in-house tests came in, all the centres performed well and we found it really difficult to choose one centre over the other,” he says.

So, Jagati’s core team came together and decided to take it as a challenge and decided to apply for all the 22 centres. After all, it has never been done in the history of Indian newspapers or perhaps globally as well. 

“At Jagati, we believe in teamwork. Our team members have work experiences of around three decades and they put in extraordinary efforts for ICQC. As a result, we have standardised our process,” he says.

Starting quality control
He explains why this standardisation is so important. “For example, we get the same advertisement for all our centres, and if one centre prints better than the other, we are answerable to our advertisers. So, standardisation was the need of the hour,” he says.

He has a point. After all, all Jagati’s printing presses are the same, the newsprint is the same, consumables are the same; even the plant layouts are identical. Then why should the output quality be different from plant to plant?

Jagati is strict about creating this kind of identical print centres. “For example, if we print the front page on newsprint from Kondopoga for one centre, then the same paper will be used at every centre. Printing blankets, rollers, printing inks all are same at all centres. We do not even change the paper for short runs and internal pages. You will find the same quality at every page and in every edition,” he explains. 

Traditionally, it is assumed that quality concerns are higher among the English language newspaper publishers, while local language newspapers can succeed even with low quality. This is one of the reasons why traditionally English dailies have been more expensive than local language dailies. 

This is, however, not the case in Telugu-speaking states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Here, quality production is important even for a Telugu newspaper. 
So quality was the major concern even when Jagati started publishing Sakshi. At a time when no other Telugu daily was printing all-colour pages, Jagati went with all-colour and also implemented several innovations. “At that time, all-colour pages and best printing quality was our USPs. Our advertisement sales department shared that we were getting more advertisements because of our printing quality,” Prasad says.

Best practices
PVK Prasad, director, operations

We are strict about training our workforce. We organise seminars/conferences with the help of Wan-Ifra and our vendors, and also with the help of our experienced staff members. It is a continuous process and we have dedicated classrooms for that. We have trained our staff in such a manner that if a senior person is not available, the second line of command can take the lead, and if the second line of command is not available, then next line of command can complete the task. 

We do not compromise on quality. Yes, cost is an important component but quality is our focus. Another important aspect is the integration and coordination among all departments, whether mechanical, electrical and prepress. You cannot get quality production without implementing best practices of maintenance procedures in the printing press. Thus, the maintenance department also plays a major role.  

Starting early
So, quality parameters were already in place. As such, the people on the shopfloor did not know that they were going for ICQC. They were just informed to follow the instructions for quality production, which they were already doing. 

Prasad says setting up the in-house Sakshi Internal Quality Club paid off, as the company had already made the required changes before the implementation of ICQC. “We have a core team to look after the internal quality club, which has been there for many years. After applying for ICQC, we developed a second line of command as the first line was busy in implementation. Plus, we also needed to make sure that day-to-day operation of the newspaper production is not hampered,” he explains.

Achieving consistency
Quality print production and repeat advertisements are the two biggest benefits of ICQC, says Prasad. “And this happens because of consistency in quality production. When we print one full page advertisement in one location, the same quality is produced at all centres. If your advertisers are happy, your revenue stream will remain smooth,” he says, adding, “We do job works for around 15 newspapers, big and small, including The Times of India, The Indian Express, Mint, among others. We can confidently state that if someone wants job work for both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, then he will come to us first. We even received a best printer award from Times Group,” he says.

The company has two printing presses in small print centres and three to four machines in big printing centres. All the presses are from Manugraph — Hiline Express and Cityline Express.

According to Prasad, another benefit of the exercise has been the increased knowledge base of the workforce. “The knowledge-base of our staff at the shop floor has improved vastly. Earlier, the print production in-charge would check the print quality through naked eye. Now, he knows that there are many parameters to check quality. Now, the press people know what is happening in the pre-press. Again, the pre-press people now know how a press operator can produce such kind of quality,” he says.

The reason for this change is simple. “It has been a continuous process and if one person works in a particular manner for a long time, it becomes a habit,” he explains.
The company uses TechNova plates across its 22 print centres. Prasad also mentions how the company received value-added services from TechNova all through the process. “Since we are using the printing plates from TechNova, we did not have to worry about the quality and availability in the pre-press. The TechNova team was with us from day one,” he adds.

Playing with colour
Coming to the actual print quality, Prasad says, the company first conduct tests to define the densities, depending on printing ink and newsprint. “We have defined the density of each colour for each printing unit. Most of the time, the densities are the same, as newsprint and printing ink are the same at all the printing centres. 

“Each print production site generates a quality control report everyday and on the basis of the report, we examine the print quality. We check colour densities, dot gain of each tower, ease of operator and several other points,” he says. “We generate two reports per day, one colour quality report and another general print quality report. Simultaneously we also generate and maintain an accumulative report – combination of colour quality and general print quality report.” 

The bar is set at 75%. If any copy goes below it, the copy is examined and a report is sent to the concerned printing unit. Primarily, before going into production every day, the people in-charge go through the daily report. No one can start production without studying the reports. 

 “We have a quality control team in Hyderabad. Its job is to evaluate the copies printed at all the 22 centres on daily basis. If there are some major laps from one particular unit, the team travels to that unit, sits with the production staff and does the needful,” says Prasad.

Considering colour
B Gouri Sankar, GM, pre-press and quality

Teamwork and combination of pre-press and press under one roof and synchronisation between both the teams are our secret of success.  We have 55-Agfa CTPs and 20 Cobalt CTP machines in pre-press. 

Our first edition on 24 March 2008 was printed with colour bars. Since then, we have been printing colour bars. It shows our concerns for colour and quality.
All the Jagati locations have D50 lights at image editing and the console of the printing presses. All changes are done under that light, so there’s no confusion on quality because of lighting.

All the monitors are calibrated, so more than 80% output is matched with the original. 

For dot gain correction, we follow an online app from and it is maintained regularly. All of these are not just for ICQC, but also for regular print production. Also, dot gain is checked regularly and corrected as and when required. 

Harnessing the elements
With internal quality control in place, how did the company manage external elements, such as change in weather, among others?
Prasad explains. “We use two types of printing inks. They are classified on the basis of temperature in seasons. We use summer inks in high temperatures and winter inks in low temperatures by adjusting viscosity. We cannot control humidity, but we try to open newsprint rolls just before printing, so as to avoid accumulation of moisture in the newsprint.”

It also changes dot gains according to weather. “We have adjusted the press curve. It is also done by individual centres and for this we have an online application. Even on day-to-day basis, dot gain varies according to temperature,” he adds.

For newsprint, the company has large warehouses region-wise, from where it is transported to the print centres as and when required.  
As the print centres are at different locations, maintaining the behaviour of water is another pain point. To solve this issue, the company has installed industrial RO system at every plant. 

Another hurdle is dust. For this, the company has opted for preventive maintenance and uses a net curtain, plastic flaps and so on.

Quality challenges
As Prasad explains, all parameters cannot be implemented in a single day. It takes time. One has to work on standardisation. Printing presses have to be aligned and consumables have to be properly defined. Again, newsprint plays a major role. 

“We cannot ignore registration. We invested in the Techkon register software application to maintain registration for all the centres. We have installed the Techkon register app on our apple gadgets. We do not want to take any risk on registration,” says Prasad, adding, “We did not change anything for ICQC. We just lower the tolerances.”

Talking about competition to control quality, the company also conducts an internal competition among the 22 print centres, where each centre does its best to come on top. Prasad says this internal competition has certainly helped prepare for ICQC.

Pursuing the goal
To achieve any goal, the first thing you need is the freedom to pursue that goal, says Prasad, adding, “Our top management wants quality and we are given 100% freedom. If you have a free hand, you can do a lot of improvements.”

Working with vendors
TK Suresh, CGM, operations

Our vendors have helped us since we started the in-house Sakshi Internal Quality Club (SIQ) initiative, from printing plates to inks to fountain solutions. 
Newsprint: We prefer to use Kondapoga for cover page in all locations with better LAB values. 

Printing inks: Setoff was difficult for us, especially in black. We discussed it with ink manufacturers and they made a special ink for us. Our logo is a combination of cyan and magenta and there was a trapping issue. We worked with them and both the issues were taken care of. 

Printing press: There was an issue of colour banding with our printing presses. For that we needed to adjust cylinder pressure settings. We have checked pressure settings on our own since our mechanical team is capable. Our team is so efficient that we can relocate a printing press on our own. The core team has remained the same for years. 

Rationalising quality
The rationale is simple. Advertisement is the main source of revenue for a newspaper. Quality production and innovation gives a newspaper publisher an edge to sell the product better. It’s especially so in today’s media landscape when print has to compete with the digital media.

Prasad says, local language newspapers are growing and quality is important to maintain the momentum. “We are the first newspaper in India which uses UV curing on coldset printing presses. We print our magazines with GEW-UV curings on coldset press,” he says. 

Vendor Speak: TechNova
Talking about a gradual journey towards perfection, TechNova, the country’s biggest supplier of printing plates and consumables, has been with Jagati Publications since its inception. This partnership has resulted in not just supplying Agfa CTP devices, VioStar Plus and VioGreen Plus CTP plates, fountain solutions, press washes and press-care products, but also in sharing of application knowhow.

Amit Khurana, chief operating officer, Newspaper Group, TechNova, explained, “The VioStar and VioGreen CTP plates processing standardisation was a joint exercise we carried out with the help of Jagati’s highly experienced pre-press team.”

Similarly, fountain solutions standardisation to suit the treated water, specific conductivity requirement, printing ink, etc was an extensive effort of Jagati’s knowledgeable press team and team TechNova. “In fact, this area of development is an on-going exercise as per requirements,” he added.

Khurana said development projects are always challenging, but they become enjoyable when carried out with learned members. “It has been a pleasure working with the Jagati team, especially because of their openness and acceptance of frank critical observations. This has been possible mainly due to a fantastic working culture established by PVK Prasad, the production director.”

He highlighted that these empowering working conditions have resulted in TechNova formulating customised fount solutions and press-washes for Jagati. “Our quest for more improvements in founts offering will keep progressing,” he added.

And the entire process has been a learning experience for TechNova as well. “The collaboration with Jagati has definitely enhanced the competence of our team members to cater to the needs of the Indian newspaper industry in all terms, be it quality products, JIT services, application support, and so on,” said Markandeya Kattula, general manager, newspaper group (south zone), TechNova.

Kattula said the ICQC recognition is a huge achievement, befitting the quality standards of Jagati. “It achieved top-notch recognition by creating history, which is truly laudable,” he said, adding, “We are immensely thankful for having our space in Jagati Publications as a valued vendor partner.”