The making of Clean India Journal
Our Editor Mohana insists that I tell a story here about the birth and growth of Clean India Journal, as the publication is celebrating its 15th birthday this month.
A short or a long story?
Maybe a short one… but then, that is the challenging part – to put in a capsule all the excitements, learnings and challenges we experienced from 2005 in building up India’s premier publication exclusively on cleanliness, hygiene and facility services. This was at a time when the concept of mechanised cleaning was not a norm and glorifying the cleaning process was a far cry.
2005 was also the year India’s first Clean India Show was launched by Virtual Info Systems Pvt. Ltd (VIS) in a very modest way at the Nehru Centre, Worli, Mumbai. So in 2020, the Show too entered its 15th year of being a catalyst for the cleanliness movement in India.
The beginning of Clean India Journal was over a cup of coffee at the same venue after the show, which was a huge success. My first meeting with JP Nair, Managing Director & Publisher, VIS, was brief. I wondered then, how a person could share a collective vision in a very short time, very clearly and decisively too. He specially spoke about four industry friends — Abhay Desai, Vinay Ruparel, Vinay Deshmukh and Anil Sethi — who stood steadfast, motivating VIS to do the Show that later led to the magazine as well.
Two things were clear: There was consensus among the equipment and chemical suppliers and facility service providers that there was a genuine need to have a platform to create awareness about the importance of professional cleaning, and to reach out to end users. That was also the time multinationals were bringing with them international norms for cleaning processes and Cleaning as a sector was waiting to take off.
Secondly, it was necessary to take the cleanliness aspects of the built and external environment seriously for India to keep its place in the global growth. The time was ripe & right; joining the group of supporters included Jolly Kochery, Om Sabu, Debtosh Chatterjee, Saji Sebastian, Debasish Behera, R. Ramaswamy, Ashok Khemlani, Vivek Mata…(the list is really long!)
So it was certain that we had to go forward. A publication for the cleaning sector seemed imperative. An unassuming tabloid? A monthly magazine? Glossy and glamourous? To be released on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday? The months of germination were filled with anticipation and doubts among the cleaning sector. Sure the magazine should be attractive, informative, and above all, convey the right kind of message.
The seed was sown. The ensuing nurturing days were filled with planning and getting the right kind of image for the cover. Jhaadus and mops predominantly represented cleanliness then, and to some extent today as well. I worked from home, not because there was pandemic but because I chose to. There were still handwritten stories from me, physically passed on to Prakash Kuttappan, the all-rounder in the team!! The first issue was created at Thomson Press, Mahim with most of us crowding there! It was fun though. One fine morning, there was this front-page picture of actors Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta engaged in sweeping the road at Bandra Reclamation as part of their cleanliness initiatives. Our art director helped us in transplanting the visual with the backdrop of Hotel Taj Mahal at Gateway of India. Perfect setting for cleaning India! When the magazine was finally out, they said, “Cleaning is indeed glamorous”.
However, team Clean India Journal realised that the expectations were high and we had a huge responsibility of providing the right kind of forum connecting the cleaning solution providers and the end users. The decision makers were on either side and to be given equal importance. The second issue of Clean India Journal did have businessman Adi Godrej on the cover.
A couple of issues and more insights, more confidence, more supporters…Clean India Journal patted itself on its back for facilitating the take-off of the Indian Cleaning industry and being called its voice. The team expanded and we shifted to our office in Mumbai’s Goregaon East. And this marked the significant journey which we are continuing jointly with the Indian Cleaning Industry.
During the initial days, I could not get to see our Chairman Jayaram Nair much. He was mostly out of the country and WhatsApp had not yet made its appearance. It was a question of working remotely through telephone calls and emails. Editorially, we weathered many issues to keep the deadlines and get credible reportage.
It would be difficult for many to believe how we brought out a few issues when I had to be in the UK for a couple of months. Every morning, I would run to the Blackpool library and start using the pre-booked (one hour) internet connection. Mohana would be ready to come on chat. Often, Prakash too. After one hour, I would go to the counter and rebook an afternoon slot and again book for the next day. This Hide and seek continued until I was caught for double booking and extended usage. I was asked what my profession was. I said I edited a “Cleaning magazine” back in India and was just coordinating with my team. I told them the magazine was dedicated to cleanliness. “We do cover technology for city cleaning and would love to do a story on how Blackpool is kept so clean.” That worked and I did meet the civic authorities to collect the information. The article was published in Clean India Journal. And on my last day, I gave a big thank you note to the library staff. For months, I missed the long walk to the library building and reading books in between my computer slots. There are many stories within the story, and I suppose that is the way it is.
The journey of the annual Clean India Show which turned international in 2007 and that of Clean India Journal has been a collaborative one with a strong mutual partner — the Indian Cleaning Industry. The growth of one helped the other. The presence of the magazine in International Cleaning Shows gave the Indian Cleaning Industry a wider reach and acceptance. The Show and the magazine paved way for international cleaning companies to enter India and understand the market. Swachh Bharat though came in after a decade, boosted the need for cleanliness, hygiene and better sanitation.
Covid -19 has also taught us that FM companies have a big role to play in containing the spread of the virus and bringing back confidence at workplaces and other facilities. The magazine has managed to keep pace with the technology and has explored the digital and social media platforms thanks to our hardworking IT, design and back up teams — to give wider exposure to companies and their solutions. VIS and Clean India Journal is what it is today is because of the strong family bond we have been nurturing within the organisation. Thanks to Jayaram for holding us together through ups and downs, among mood swings and tantrums and of course, with occasional coming together of the family.
Conferences, workshops, discussions, round table meetings and the recent webinars…all add value to the effort we are making to see that the right solutions are made available or rather understood by the solution seekers.
Now operating from a new office in one of Mumbai’s suburbs, the magazine’s focus is how to reach out to a larger audience and tell them, there are technologies, products and processes by which this pandemic can be fought, so that anxiety and fear about infection can be reduced, right from residences to transport modes, schools, offices and other facilities. More power to us!