Nitin Shah: BMPA's Google-bhai - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 19 Oct 2018

Popularly known as ‘Google-bhai' in the BMPA circles, Nitin Shah of Award Offset Printers & Packaging is the go-to-man for all things print.

Shah is modest and talks very little about his contribution. He is happiest discussing the people who helped him grow within the BMPA and in his business in Navi Mumbai and Silvassa. Now, appointed the president of BMPA, he has his task cut out.

In this Sunday Column conversation with Noel D'Cunha, Nitin Shah shares his plan for the next 12 months

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What is your big vision for print in the next 12 months?
Ever since I joined BMPA seven years ago, I have observed that printing is not recognised as an industry nor is printing considered as a manufacturing process. That’s one of the reasons that print is not part of the Make in India initiative. My big vision for the next 12 months will be to give an impetus to the movement of getting printing recognised as an industry.

I would like to add when Goods and Service Tax (GST) was implemented in India, each and every industry participated in the discussion of implementing the tax structure. There was nobody from the print industry.

Hence, I will give it my best shot. If I do not succeed, I would at least try to make it easier for my successor to get it.

The Indian print business with over 1.8-lakh small, medium and large firms/companies is huge. How does the industry status matter?
I think the size of the industry should not matter. The printing industry should not be considered as a service industry. Ultimately, a huge Capex is involved in setting up the print plant and whatever is converted in these plants, 60-70% is raw material cost.

So what are the benefits?
If you have an industry status, representation on various forum, government or private, becomes strong.

How?
Take, for example, the World Business Conference. A small example. Have you seen anyone from our print industry representing India at the conference? Does our print industry have any representation in the global industrial level forums? No. Besides, representation on global levels, there are business benefits too. The benefits that are available to the manufacturing sector in India under the Make in India initiative can be availed by the print industry too.

Will you be working with other associations/Federation?
Yes, surely. The All India Federation of Master Printers has also taken up the matter with the government, and there are members like Arvind Mardikar with good connections in the present government, with whom I will also be working towards achieving our vision of industry status for printing.

But Nitin-bhai, this industry status business has been work in progress for quite some time. Where is the bottleneck?
I understand the required documentation has been submitted to the government, and the matter is being pursued. We still do not know where is the bottleneck, and that’s what I along with my industry colleagues, will be working on finding and solving.

Who is your core team at the BMPA and what are their strengths?
Faheem Agobatwala is an old hand at association matters and has been a past president too. He will be the secretary. The treasurer is Tushar Bhotica, who is very good as far as laws and finance are concerned.  There are two vice-presidents. Iqbal Kherodawala is one. Kherodawala has been involved in educational and awareness activities of BMPA plus a key member of the Share-to-Benefit Forum.  The second vice-president is Milap Shah, who is tech-savvy. BEAM and BMPA’s website activities are overseen by Shah.

Are there any new faces in the managing committee?
We are planning to co-opt a couple of members into the committee, which will be announced before the month-end. However, I know what you are hinting at.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that it’s the same faces that are on the managing committee the association for years, and it’s just not us. But it’s hardly the fault of these members. We invite other members to be more proactive, take interest in the activities of the association.

You said you joined the association seven years ago. How did you get involved?
Exactly, nobody told me to join. I attended a few meetings and I found it interesting. It gave me a chance to interact with a lot more people. One of my memories of those meetings was the camaraderie between the members, and how I was initiated into the fold. The same camaraderie continues.

As a president, I will have to spare at least two hours of my time per day for association activities. It’s not as easy as it seems to become the president of India’s most popular association. I’ve seen my immediate predecessors work and I have some big shoes to fill in.

The work will involve planning of Print Summit 2019, attending to administrative work of the association, interacting with other print association and allied industries associations, exhibitions and shows, and the like.

What are BMPA’s expectations from this government about print?
The AIFMP is working with the backing of its member associations, and we as a member are keen to form a common platform for GST. Today the challenge for the printers is the GST. Every product has a different nomenclature and the slabs of taxes are different. Take, for example, carton. A carton is a carton, whether it is a paperboard or corrugated. The moment you mention corrugation carton, the rate of duty is different. Again, on labour work, it is categorised as service, so the tax is 18%.

We are working on streamlining it with the government, and are hopeful of a solution.

What’s your typical customer?
We are into producing packaging for pharma, retail and food industries.

Which new print markets do BMPA members serve?
We have put our minds on a new project – Global Reach Programme. It’s spearheaded by Faheem Agboatwala and Mehul Desai. We have mooted a proposal for the members of BMPA, the printsellers. We are seeking joint ventures with overseas buyers. There are many overseas buyers who would want to purchase prints from other countries. We would like to offer the panel of BMPA printers for such buyers. There are certain criteria that the printers need to fulfil. Agboatwala and Desai are working on the project. The next stage will be scrutinising the printers’ capabilities, meeting the print buyers and match-making. It’s going to be a huge opportunity for our printers to enter into global business.

Nitin Bhai: What’s your USP?
Being plus one on ideas and delivering it. Before a customer asks, we are ready with a solution, and also fulfil it.

What equipment below 10k is something all printers should have?
Unfortunately, there’s no equipment which I can recall costs below 10k. Only desk-top printers are available, but they are general print devices.

What’s been BMPA's proudest achievement in the past few years?
We have been able to narrow the gap in communication and definitely professional skills through platforms like Share-to-Benefit, Seekho Aur Samjo, and Carton Forum. Printers have started picking up the phone and discussing it with each other.

For example?
Collective buying is one. Second, there are printers who have started working on a use-equipment model. For example, I have an equipment which the other does not have, but the other printer has the customers whose jobs he cannot serve with his existing equipment. We work jointly for that customer. It’s a win-win situation for both of us. It helps reduce competition, as well as Capex pressure.

Will it work, because every printer we meet talks about margins, cut-throat competition?
It’s a talk in every industry. Today the world is growing, the requirements are also growing, and so are the suppliers. The competition was there fifty years ago, it’s there today, and will remain fifty years later. But if you are quality conscious, price conscious and if you run your business ethically, whatever is the competition, you will survive.

Would you walk out of a deal if it does not work in favour of your business?
We have declined many print jobs if it is not sustainable. If any company has to grow, they have to take into account their current working as well as future plans. If you are not able to function with a margin of at least 10% you will not be able to survive for long, leave alone grow. 

With that kind of margins, how can you manage rejections?
In the good old days there were fewer print players but competitive. However, the onus was on timely supply, quality was secondary. Today the situation is very different. The customers want their prints yesterday, and quality has to be top notch. This has led to bringing in technology that is fast and accurate, eliminating or detecting errors, which means also most zero rejections. Those who cannot manage this kind of technology upgrades will perish under the burden of rejections.

You have been talking about technology, buying such equipment too. For a equipment, say a press, which cost around Rs 5-crore plus, what kind of job feeds does it require to breakeven?
If you are talking about an offset, it depends on which press do you have – a UV or conventional. It should produce at least one-lakh sheets per day on conventional and around 80,000 sheets on UV, for it to achieve a breakeven in about seven years. The more it produces, the fewer years it will be for the breakeven.

Further, there are printers, particularly in smaller towns, who are opting for a four-colour press with coater. Wouldn’t an offline coater, which is available at one-fourth of the cost, be more affordable?
I see it this way. What would bother me – a one-time cost or a recurring cost? For me it would be the recurring cost. So, if most of my print jobs are with the coating, an online coater would make more sense. Print is a tricky business. You have to deal with the different range of substrates, run them at different speeds. Running them online means, I am reducing my cost on an additional set of personnel to run the offline machine; reduce waste when moving the printed sheets to the coater, and then have it registered; save on electricity of the additional kit, plus space; 

What’s your team’s favourite print conference?
Print Summit. And if you invite the entire committee to the PrintWeek India Awards, it would be our other favourite event. 

Programme for Seekho Aur Samjo (SaS) at GIPT and SIES.
Iqbal Kherodawala is the coordinator of Seekho Aur Samjo programme.

GIPT and SIES are two printing colleges in and around Mumbai. Every alternate month we the Seekho and Samjo programme, in which students of these colleges, as well as managerial personnel and operators working on print shopfloors, are invited to participate. Here we discuss print shopfloor topics, mostly related to machines and materials. It’s a printer-driven activity, and it’s mainly hands-on. The teachings here come from experiences.

In addition, we are planning to hire a mechanical and electronic engineer, who will be on BMPA’s payroll. The two will visit one print company in an industrial print estate and invite other print companies’ executives and discuss troubleshooting at the shopfloor. We will also look into providing the services of the two engineers services on an individual basis at a later date.

A small note about Crisil index for print industry and what Sanjay Patel has achieved
Cardex and Pridex are the two indices developed by Sanjay Patel. AIFMP in association with Crisil launched these indices, which reflect the fluctuation in the commercial and packaging printing segments’ costs within the printing industry such as raw materials, finance, selling and administration.

Cardex is an index for carton packaging and Pridex for commercial printing. It’s been hard work for him. Crisil publishes the details every quarter. And while the two indices are available, it’s still at a nascent stage, and not being used as widely as we expected because according to my information, two or three in a hundred are using it. That’s not an ideal number. For Cardex and Pridex to succeed, all the stakeholders will have to work basis these indices.  

Cardex and Pridex are very good tools which the print-packaging companies must use, refer to these indices to form a cost structure and prepare the quote. The prices will be higher or there could be a reduction, depending what the indices’ number reflect. There will be uniformity in pricing and in the long run it will benefit all.

BMPA’s Carton Forum curated by Tushar Bhotica
Most of the print owners are members of the Carton Forum, because many are engaged in commercial printing as well as packaging converting. And like the Share-to-Benefit Forum, the Carton Forum is also growing in popularity thanks to Tushar Bhotica. Technical, industry standards for price and process, financial health and related issues, tax matters, vendor support, and skilled manpower, among others are discussed on a one-to-one basis.

Highlights of the international industrial study tour
It’s a delegation of 20-25 print CEOs who visit international print equipment manufacturing plants where we see firsthand machines being manufactured. These are the machines which we are using. We see how they are manufactured, the set-up, best practices that are followed at the plant, which we can implement in our own print plants. We also get a glimpse of where the technology is heading towards, and helps analyse and plan our future investments.

These international industry study tours also include some beta sites where machines of these companies are installed. So, we get to learn how these print companies manage print operations.

And believe me, I have seen many of those who are part of these study tour implement what they see. I have seen printers from Vasai implement things they learned during the tour.

The young and tech-friendly vice-president Milap Shah is streamlining BMPA’s digital presence. How?
Yes, there’s more information on the website now, and regular updates on what’s happening in the print industry including government regulations for print companies.

More about BEAM?
It’s part of BMPA’s digital presence. It’s a bundle of services, which operates via the EDM Push, website updates, SMS, and WhatsApp.


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