Documentary channel

Documentary ‘Machines’ explores the drudgery of industrial labour in a Gujarat factory

Rahul Jain’s film is set in a huge textile factory in Surat, where workers sweat for their livelihood over 12-hour shifts.

In Rahul Jain’s documentary Machines, human beings are often indistinguishable from the groaning pieces of metal that they operate over lengthy and stultifying shifts, day in and day out.

There is the moment when the textile factory worker puts his hand right into a machine to extract fabric and seems to disappear into it. As bales of cloth tumble off the assembly line, they eclipse the scrawny workers. The grease from the machines mingles with human sweat as the men work 12-hour shifts without bonus or holidays under a thuggish supervisor, who declares that “I am the union”.

Jain’s debut feature has been shot over six months over a three-year period. Machines will be screened in the Indian competition section at the Mumbai Film Festival (October 12-18). “The utter dehumanisation of labourers in our country’s unregulated working sector is one of the primary perspectives of the film,” Jain said. “They do indeed become machines in the labour they make, but what hurts most to them is that they are not paid properly. In art and films, what is not said is just as important as what is said.”

Play
Machines.

The observational documentary is designed as a mostly sensory experience interspersed with short interviews with the workers. Jain and cinematographer Rodrigo Villanueva rarely leave the massive factory, whose overwhelming greyness is relieved by splashes of colour created by industrial dyes and the finished textiles that roll off the machines. The deafening noise works as a background score, and the silent movement of the bodies across the factory floor create their own rhythms, sometimes hypnotic and at other times soporific.

Is it night or day? It is hard to tell. In one sequence, a worker who barely looks 18 fights to stay awake besides a conveyor belt, effectively conveying the banality of industrial labour.

The film aims to be a timeless visual essay on labour that creates a universal experience from a specific instance. There is no voiceover, little explanatory text and no references to the larger labour situation in the rest of India. Details of the factory’s location – in Sachin in Surat, Gujarat – and the intended markets for its prolific produce are scant.

None of the workers is identified by name, which makes their individual stories hard to separate from one another. They are united by their impoverishment, which has pushed them out of their homes in faraway states to make a living in Gujarat, and their collective ability to be deployed as workhorses.

“Names are forgettable, and also identifiable,” explained Jain, who grew up in Delhi and studied filmmaking at the California Institute of the Arts. “I feel it is the things that people say that stick in our hearts and minds at the end of the day.”

Machines. Courtesy Dogwoof.
Machines. Courtesy Dogwoof.

Jain’s debut film has been compared to the German documentary Our Daily Bread, about the industrial production of food, and it may also remind some viewers of Faricha Pacha’s brilliant My Name is Salt, a feature-length documentary about the hard work that goes into salt production in Kutch. Jain cites among Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age, the acclaimed photography book by Sebastiao Salgado, as one of his key influences.

The 72-minute film has been shaped out of 600 hours of footage. Although Jain assiduously strives to delink the film from current economic policies in Gujarat or the rest of India, Machines becomes a meditation on the human face of the Make in India campaign – one that is exhausted and sullen.

Audiences around the world might be startled at the pre-Industrial Revolution working conditions that prevail in the textile factory, while Indian viewers will probably be served a reminder that labour reforms have not reached many corners of the country.

“The film took three years to make, and nothing has changed there since,” Jain said. “I think many of the audiences will be in for a shock, but many might be bored and think this is so casual. But art for me is about what is normalised in our everyday lives but still feels odd or unreal. It is the artist’s job to be able to re-frame and create a new perspective of seeing the world. I tried hard to do this and hope it works.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.