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On Phuket, digital publishing produces stars of the screen

Phuket's Screen Stars Join Britney, Victoria, Paris

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Photo Album Above: Contender for Phuket Business of the Year 2009

WOULD you like to work with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham and a whole lot of other celebrities?

Phuket may have just the job for you.

The real world of the holiday island collides with the world of modern digital publishing at, perhaps appropriately enough, Slaughterhouse Intersection, in Phuket City.

The crossroads was named for its recent past, as the sad final destination for generations of local chickens.

These days, chickens no longer go to meet their maker around here.

Instead, the focus is meeting deadlines and on the future global workplace, with GSL Digital Production occupying a low-key corner.

While the concept of a global economy is now being subjected to intense debate, Phuket workers have been the beneficiary of a no-barriers approach to modern publishing.

Labor costs on the island are a fraction of those in Germany (and just about everywhere in the West, for that matter) so in the era of the Internet and modern technology, digital specialist businesses have been riding a boom on Phuket.

In terms of representation on the island, GSL is a mid-sized firm, having grown from eight staff to 80 in a few short years. (And another 10 were hired while we were mulling this article.)

There are four or more German-based firms now operating on Phuket in the same industry.

The largest has a staff of about 180, according to GSL Mananging Director Andreas Daefler, who took Phuketwan on a whirlwind tour of the business.

''Everything these days happens on-screen. We only get bills in the old-fashioned way,'' Mr Daefler said. One of those bills, incidentally, is for Internet usage.

If you think your Internet broadband fee is a little on the high side, try handling one for 200,000 baht a month.

But then, that's how important the connection with the rest of the world has become in no-limits digital publishing.

For someone raised on the print business as a words and pictures factory, with clanking machinery and an army of workers in overalls performing various skilled tasks, the modern publishing world is simplicity itself, all screens and silence.

It's also an object lesson in how aspects of Phuket's hidden economy should help it to weather the global financial storm.

Mind you, the one thing that hasn't changed is The Awesome Deadline.

With a client base in Germany and increasingly the US too, the calm appearance at GSL's neat offices, where modern masterpieces adorning the walls, is not an accurate guide to the inner turmoil.

''Nobody really leaves,'' says Andy Daefler. ''They like the environment here. We pay well, and treat people well.''

To meet rolling international deadlines, the staff work two shifts, 6am-3pm and 2.30pm-11.30pm six days a week.

Staff salaries start at 8000 baht a month and can rise with additional skills to about 20,000 baht within four or five years.

Simple tasks of enhancing images through a process known as ''masking'' eventually develop into crafts that require a deep understanding of the properties of colors in print.

Catalogue work is growing, along with magazines, and of all things, print-on-demand book publishing.

Under this rather amazing recent development, old books are given new life at a low price whenever an individual places an order online.

Rather than shortening the future for books, digital publishing appears to be resurrecting some titles from relative obscurity.

People with good English and computer skills have a good start at a digital publishing job. And a candidate who also speaks and reads German can probably expect an excellent salary.

For anyone thinking of joining Paris, Britney and Victoria, the best initial contact is via email at jai@gsl-digital.com.

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