RV Maheshwari: From canvasser to packaging major - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 20 Jul 2018

Stock-listed packaging firm Orient Press has delivered a strong share price performance, with robust operating gains supplemented by a slew of installations.

RV Maheshwari explains how the new deals will strengthen the company's competitive positioning in India. And how print and packaging offers opportunities to anyone who is prepared to put an effort into developing the business.

The Sunday Column focuses on how the Rs 230-crore turnover company has evolved over the years.


PrintWeek India (PWI): What the update on Orient Press (OPL)?
RV Maheshwari (RVM): It’s a Rs 230-crore company today. We expect our turnover to reach Rs 280-crore this year.

In 2016, following a void in carton production division, there was a dip in our sales. However, in the last two years, the business has picked up again. We have invested in a flexible plant in Greater Noida. It’s a Rs 25-crore investment.

We have acquired big tracts of land for our plants. We have 13-acre land in Silvassa, four-acre land in Tarapur, 5,000 sq/ft in Lower Parel, in Noida, and we had planned two plants, one for flexible and another for cartons.

PWI: What’s your role in the company?
 In the early days, I used to handle commercial printing, but now I handle finance and plan future business strategy. Also, I focus on finding solutions to those units which are not performing well. Orient’s production is managed by my younger brother.

PWI: You began as a canvasser, way back in 1967, isn’t it?
 Yes, we began as Orient Printers. It was a partnership firm, which specialised in printing of visiting cards, letterheads, and bill books among other commercial print jobs.

In 1980, we started printing operation with a letterpress installed in a gala in Pragati Industrial Estate in Lower Parel. The investment then was Rs 50,000.

In 1983, we entered the offset domain, and in 1987, Orient Printers became a private limited company. However, since there was already a press with that name, we changed the company name to Orient Press.

PWI: So from a Rs 50,000 investment in 1980 to Rs 75-crore investment in flexible and carton packaging in 1994-95, you also roared by printing public issue forms, launched an IPO in 1993?
 At that time, it was perhaps the largest investment, and never before had a firm which invested Rs 50,000 to begin with made so much investment in a span of 15 years.

That was a boom period of public issue. At that time there were only a few printers doing public issue jobs

It was a profitable business. We made lots of profits. Since then Orient Press has emerged as the number one printer in the domain of public issue printing. We still continue to do it, but the requirement has come down from the high of one-crore to just 10-lakh forms.

PWI: Oh?
 While we were the number one public share form printers, we also had an eye on the trends in this space, which was moving towards online; and that in times of come, the demand would decline.

That was one of the reasons, we diversified into packaging in 1994-95.

PWI: You are one of the few stock-listed print companies. Is there any pressure from the shareholders running the business?
RVM: No. We started our shares with Rs 60 and after two-three years it was valued at around Rs 200-225. As a company, we are into commercial and security as well as packaging. And when I say packaging, it is carton as well as flexible. I am not sure if there’s anyone doing all three.

The commercial division produces books, IPO/FPO application forms, annual reports, computer stationery, puzzles, jigsaw books and more. In the security printing space, Orient is recognised by the Indian Banks Association and other accrediting authorities.

Our client base space corporate companies both from the public as well as private sectors.

PWI: The market is upbeat on Orient at the stock market. What’s your reaction?
RVM: People know Orient Press for being a printing company, but 75% of our turnover is packaging. 

PWI: Benefits of being a stock-listed company?
RVM: Being a stock-listed company it gives much visibility to the company.

PWI: Is the public issue form printing still a viable business?
RVM: Yes, it is viable still now. 

PWI: That’s reduced printing, so how do you still continue?
 Same set of machines are being used for printing textbooks, answer booklets etc, so when forms are not there we are using it for other purposes.

PWI: What was the rationale behind setting up of the Noida flexible plant?
RVM: Flexible packaging has a great future. This year our sales in the flexible packaging touched Rs 120-crore. For next year, we have set a target of 20% growth.

PWI: In packaging, how does OPL overcome the shortcomings associated with sub-contracting like inferior quality, delays in delivery etc and also to meet the increasing demand?
 In packaging, we don’t go for sub-contract because our packaging jobs are for the food industry and cater to big brands. In printing, we do engage in sub-contracts.

PWI: Today the Silvassa unit specialises in line cartons besides multicolour cartons, display cartons and cartons with micro-flute. It was also a plant which was destroyed by fire in 2008?
 Yes, the whole plant was destroyed. In 2009, we started with a new unit comprising of a Roland six-colour UV press, a Heidelberg press as well as Bobst die-cutting machines. Over a period of time, we have not done too much investment at Silvassa. Its, however, a BRC certified plant.

PWI: You have invested in rigid-box making?
 In the carton segment, we have started a new vertical, rigid-box in our Silvassa plant. At present, it’s a semi-automatic operation. We have ordered an automatic machine for making the boxes, which will be installed by this month end.

We have studied the rigid-box making segment. Pragati is one of the leading rigid-box making companies. And there are few others in the South. Rigid-box making has caught the imagination of the packages because there’s a demand from mobile-making companies. Most are in the North. We have invested Rs 4-crore and in the first year.

PWI: There’s a label printing company NL Packaging?
 Yes. One of my sons, who returned from the US a few years ago, wanted to set up his own business. He started NL Packaging which prints labels for lamitubes. We invested first invested in a Taiyo flexo press and last year we invested in a 10-colour Gallus flexo press.

PWI: There has been an increase in the price of key raw materials prices and other packaging and printing segments. What is your take on that?
RVM: The effect of the rise in price stays for one or two months. Sometimes we benefit from that and sometimes we incur losses too. Regular clients are ready to accept the rise in prices. I am sure the clients are also aware of the market price of the raw materials.

PWI: You introduce Orient as an ISO 9001-2015 certified leading printing and packaging house of India. But as a packaging major, there are global and local equivalents (US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in the UK; and with special reference to print, the European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA) and tried and tested ISO)  that needs to be followed. What do you adopt?
 We have ISO 9001, BRC. Our exports are mainly in the Middle-East and African region. Here we do not encounter any kind of regulations followed in the Europe and America. 

PWI: Any audits performed by the client companies?
RVM: Yes, P&G audited our facility and suggested we implement a few software.

PWI: Which inks do you use?
 For flexible packaging, we use a solvent as well as solvent-less inks. We mainly use inks from reputed ink suppliers.

PWI: In your opinion, what is print’s main challenges today – there’s a notion that digital is forcing print to become obsolete?
RVM: Digital is a good investment but only for short-runs. Most of our jobs are long-run. A few years ago, there was a notion that there will be no printed newspapers, everything was available only on the digital media, but the production of the newspaper has kept on rising.

PWI: Plastic ban - will things improving, stagnating or declining for packaging? A progressive position needed on plastic usage?
RVM: In my opinion, plastic industry catering to bags, bottles etc will get affected, our industry won’t be affected. India’s packaging market is always going to increase. Every year there is a growth of 12-15% in the flexible packaging industry. There may be substrate modification like printing on paper for packaging. 

PWI: But if the materials change, will you be able to run them with the existing machines?
RVM: Our printing machines can run paper as well as plastic substrates and we are also open to modify the machines if required.

PWI: How can print company play a role in tackling environment concern?
RVM: We have a recovery system. We recycle the wastage from cartons. Setting up of recovery system is expensive. In Europe, if you have a good recovery system, then you can get 50-100% subsidy for your business, which unfortunately is not happening in India.

PWI: Your perspective on Indian packaging industry?
RVM: It is very difficult to sustain for new players in the flexible packaging industry. Here you have to invest first and then create a market. 

PWI: Are you open to mergers or takeovers?
RVM: If there are good offers, we will think about it.



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