River Valley Technologies Typesetting and more â€Ś
Left: Fishing in the backwaters. Right: Jitha with parents.
About us For twenty years we have worked quietly but tirelessly to perfect our text processing system. In this brochure we tell you a little about our work, and also share some photos taken in and around our homes. We hope that one day you will visit us and see that it is possible to live simply, retain traditions of 5000 years, and yet to produce technical systems that are second to none. Staff and management of River Valley Technologies
Cover: Our office complex, opened in 2009
What we do Our core activity is typesetting mathematical books and journals for academic publishers. ! What we receive: Authorsâ€™ electronic files, e.g. TeX, Word, graphics, multimedia. ! What we do to the files: Copy edit, check style for math, references, clean up or generate graphics, etc. ! What we deliver: XML/MathML, PDF, rich PDF, HTML, etc. ! What makes us unique: We generate PDFs fully automatically from XML/ MathML.
Left: Local fishermen go out in small boats at night and return at dawn, selling catch to market traders on the beach. Right: Anjana and brother, Abilash, with mother.
Left: Dhanya (centre) with parents and brother. Right: Sheeja (left) with family, including daughter, Sana, with her favourite doll.
Where we live We live and work in Kerala, one of the most attractive and progressive states in India, where the literacy rate is close to 100%. We enjoy extensive worker rights and social services, an egalitarian society, and also beautiful tropical surroundings. Kerala is well known for its beach resorts, relaxing backwater voyages, and the ancient science and medicine of Ayurveda.
Our principles Do the right thing technically, ethically, and morally; bottom line will be fine Don’t rely on written agreements; make sure there’s trust Advertise your working methods, even to competitors Portray the true image, even if not always positive Aim at creating a community that will outlive you Customer is usually right, but not always Use free, open software when possible Don’t spend what you don’t have
River Valley offices. Top: Staff and management work in the same open-plan office. Left: Bridges allow accessibility to all parts. Right: guest houses with water lillies.
Top: Company founders, Kaveh Bazargan (left) and Radhakrishnan CV (right). Bottom: The founders, before partnership, with their respective teams in London and in Trivandrum.
Kaveh Bazargan moved from Iran to UK as a child. He trained as a Physicist at Imperial College, London. As the Collegeâ€™s very first user of the TeX typesetting program (1983), he used it to typeset his PhD thesis. In 1988 he founded Focal Image Ltd, offering a typesetting service to academic publishers.
Radhakrishnan CV (known as CVR) studied chemistry. He worked in the shipping industry in Delhi for several years until he was suddenly diagnosed with a debilitating nerve disease and given at most five years to live. In shock, he resigned from his job, and returned to Kerala to spend his remaining years.
In 1996 (well before the â€˜outsourcing frenzyâ€™) he travelled to India to investigate the emerging typesetting business, a trip that would transform his business and his life! After visiting several large companies, he came across the small team at River Valley Technologies who seemed natural partners. In 1997 the two companies decided to work as one. KB now lives in London and travels frequently to Trivandrum.
To maintain his sanity, he decided to learn programming, thinking a computer might be his sole companion. A respected mathematics professor suggested TeX, assuring him it would keep him busy however long he lived! CVR soon founded River Valley Technologies, and offered a local typesetting service. Thirty years later, having fought off the disease, he is a world renowned TeX programmer and a leading proponent of free software.
XML-first – our toughest challenge Publishers rightly demand both PDF and XML from suppliers – PDF for ‘now’, and XML for the future. A problem with XML is that it is very difficult to check for content, because, unlike a PDF file, it cannot easily be proof read. For this reason it is imperative that when we generate the XML, we can guarantee precise fidelity with the PDF. Some ten years ago we decided that the only reliable way to achieve this was to produce the PDF directly and automatically from the XML. This way, checking the PDF would be equivalent to checking the XML. We knew this would be hard, but it proved even harder than we thought, especially with heavy mathematics. But we did it, and now every single page of PDF that we produce, even for the first proof, is generated 100% automatically from the XML file – a true ‘XML-first’ workflow. We believe we are the only company on the planet with this technology for complex text. We have yet to check other planets of course.ʐ
Our new offices Our dream has always been to build a harmonious community, keeping the best of traditional life, but incorporating the latest technology. In 2006 we purchased four acres of rural land (16,000 sq m) outside Trivandrum. With a team of eco-friendly architects we have recently realised our dream. In 2009 we moved to our new campus. Here are some highlights: ! Room for growth to 500 staff ! Self-sufficient in water by rainwater harvesting in 60m pond ! Self-sufficient in organic vegetables grown by our staff ! Biogas from food waste to provide at least 50% of cooking fuel ! Canteen run by a womenâ€™s empowerment group â€“ www.sewa.org ! Extensive and innovative use of bamboo in construction ! On-site eco-friendly sewage system (anaerobic baffled reactor) ! Minimal use of air conditioning ! Full accessibility for wheelchair users ! WIFI internet access throughout ! Conference room for up to 80 people with webcasting facility ! Sport facilities: Volleyball, badminton, yoga, kayaking ! Guest houses for visitors
It’s not just text… Information is not just about text. It could be in the form of video, audio, animation, or a combination of all. The multimedia extension to XML, namely ‘SMIL’, allows any media, e.g. text, video and audio, to be held in one document, with all the reusability advantages of XML. We are working towards a scenario where a publication can be any combination of these media. For instance a PDF file might have an audio button next to an equation, in order to clarify that equation. Our multimedia department has recorded hundreds of academic presentations at conferences. These can be seen at www.river-valley.tv.
Left: staff perform the traditional Thiruvathira dance on our annual day in December. Right: Satheesh (front) with mother and brother.
Left: Anju, one of many Christians at River Valley, with home-made Christmas decorations. Right: Ceena (in green) with family.
Kerala is lush with diverse fruits and vegetation. It is the spice capital of the world. Clockwise from top: Tea plantation, jackfruit, pineapple.
Why free software? People are surprised that we use almost exclusively open, free software (usually licensed as GPL – www.gnu.org). One consequence is that we are not dependent on the software supplier for upgrades, and we can extend the software when needed. No one ‘owns’ the software, so we can plan for years ahead with confidence. But it’s give and take. We freely distribute much of the programs we write. As other people use these, they debug them for us too, so it is a win–win situation. Examples of free software we use are: TeX, XSLT, Python, Java, GNU/Linux, PHP, Apache, Perl, SVN, CVS, Postgres, MySQL, Mantis, GForge, Mailman, Emacs, Vim, and many more…
eBooks We favour ePub as the ideal format for publishing eBooks. ePub is a comprehensive XML specification, and standardizing on this single open format will make it easier for all in future. Our XML-first technology is ideally suited to rendering ePub on the fly, and we are working hard to implement it. Our strategy is to use TeX as the rendering engine. As part of this programme, we recently succeeded in porting TeX to the iPhone.
Our clients Our main clients are Elsevier, IOP Publishing, and Nature Publishing Group. In total we handle around 200,000 pages a year. We like to work with clients as partners, and to develop a long-term relationship. In 2009 we celebrate 20 years of continuous â€˜partnershipâ€™ with IOP!
Mijimol (centre) with mother, daughter (right) and niece.