Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vyomesh Joshi--VJ. Visionary, Innovator, Friend

About the time I was leaving the University of Missouri and moving to Seattle, Vyomesh Joshi, or VJ as he is known to just about everyone, was starting his time at HP as a research and development engineer after graduating from Ohio State.  This began a long career with the technology giant which appears to have ended today as part of the restructuring of his Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) into the PC Group under former Palm CEO Todd Bradley.  I can't help but feeling the loss of a great supporter of the printed page from Blurb's biggest equipment supplier--a person who believed that the "physical world was just as important as the virtual".  VJ's mantra of "How can I make a difference" will be missed by me personally but I'm sure we will continue to cross paths given our love of ink-on-paper and passion for innovation.

I first met VJ at IPEX, the UK-based printing show, in 2006.  Blurb still had not come out of R&D but we had a very early version of our Booksmart software that was capable of making 10x8 hardcover books with dust jackets.  Blurb had been working on some early business development deals including one with Major League Baseball and I had created my very first book, Mariner Memories, as a proof-of-concept for the project.  Todd Cromwell was then in charge of HP's Indigo division in the US and he asked me if I would like to meet VJ.  "Sure", I thought.  "I'll meet this suit and maybe it will help us at some point in the future."

So with my book in tow I met VJ.  Those of you that have met him know how engaging he is, but lots of successful folks have this trait.  What I didn't expect was for him to take my book like a kid seeing his first toy, deduct that what he was seeing was the future of color self publishing, and asking if he could use my book during his press conference that was coming up in a few minutes.  In my mind I was thinking "this free PR will pay for my trip to Birmingham" but it was the start of a great relationship between the two of us and our companies.

Over the coming years VJ had a soft spot for Blurb.  He and our founder Eileen Gittins became close as well.  He was clearly looking at our company as an opportunity to drive printed pages to HP-manufactured hardware but it was also about the love the intersection of printing and technology.  He was always quick with congratulations when we made a market splash (excuse the HP pun), always interested on what was coming next, always willing to make introductions to anyone throughout HP that would benefit Blurb.

My favorite story that helps to understand the mind of VJ was in early 2010.  Blurb holds a yearly "Print Partner Summit" at our offices in San Francisco where we invite in all of our global print fulfillment companies along with selected suppliers to talk about the year past and looking toward a successful new year.  VJ offered to come to San Francisco and spend the day with us.  This may seem like a simple thing, but when you run a nearly $30 billion business taking time is always a challenge.

Wanting to take full advantage of his presence I had set up three meetings for him, with our Executive Team, a full Blurb "all hands" to address our rank-and-file, and the keynote for the Print Partner Summit.  VJ arrived right on time and asked if we could find an office to chat for a bit before the meetings began.  He asked what specific points I thought would be important for each audience, which I gladly gave because like any good manager I had my own agenda that I wanted him to support.  As the first meeting began, VJ was able to seamlessly weave my points into his loosely-created presentations.

He was absolutely perfect.  His enthusiasm infected everyone that was there that day, even if we thought custom wallpaper was a bit of a stretch.  His ability to merge his agenda and mine was so flawless that it was undetectable to anyone besides the two of us.

Changes are inevitable in any business, especially in the technology sector.  I hope that the vision I have seen from VJ continues in the newly reorganized IPG.  But I know that I have a friend for life, a kindred sprint in the printing world, a man without who my business may not exist today.  Cheers VJ!

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