In February 2011, I first visited the Dhote Offset Technokrafts (DOT) unit. The Dhote brothers, Tushar and Uday, had invested in the third digital press, a Xerox 4127, to improve the productivity and efficiency of its short-run book printing operations. They were also in the process of implementing SAP. This was in their Jogeshwari unit.
In all, the Dhotes housed an offset and digital printing set-up, plus an office and administration desk across five units and two suburbs; Andheri and Jogeshwari. Considering the space constraints, real estate prices touching sky high, and the scale of operations of the company, the Dhote set-up was typically Mumbai.
Cut to 6 April 2015. It’s a public holiday. The PrintWeek India team receives a warm welcome at the Dhote unit. Only, the suburb is Goregaon and the unit is spread across a two-storey facility; a sprawling 15,000sq/m site. The orange hue is judiciously used across the reception desk and the director’s office. A range of new equipment adorns the shopfloor and the plant is super busy.
However, what remains unchanged is the meticulous planning and shopfloor space utilisation.
The jobs are keyed in at the sales desk first. Then it is forwarded to the pre-press section, followed by the press, the post-press facility and finally to the ISO standardised stocking unit. It’s been two years since the operations have begun at this unit.
Tushar explains the two-stage, long due expansion. “It took us more than two years to locate the ideal place for operations. In the earlier set-up, in spite of the SAP in place, we felt a lack of control in our activities, a lot of duplication of human resource, and a lot of wastages. We wanted to establish and fit in the existing setup into a common facility and develop a smooth and effective workflow for operations.”
During the two years of the making of the unit, Tushar spent most hours of the day to plan the most “logistically sane” operating unit.
Looking ahead, looking back
The print legacy of the Dhote family dates back to the late 1920s, when printing as a professional business was first taken up by Shri Bhaiyasaheb Kashiram Dhote, the brothers’ grandfather.
Today, the third generation printers in the family, Tushar and Uday have come a long way.
In 1993, Tushar opted out of the slow-moving traditional beedi packaging business. He was soon joined by Uday, who was juggling between practising as a chartered accountant and spending hours at the press. And in June 1996, DOT was incorporated as a private limited firm.
“We started in a modest 300 sq/ft area and with a two-colour Dominant machine, which had only one unit in working condition. Our initial years were spent into establishing workforce, training, and creating a suitable working environment and the necessary infrastructure.”
Today, the Dhote setup includes two Ryobi, three Xerox, SORD presses and a fleet of post-press equipment to complement and support the print volumes. The operations for thermal lamination, wet lamination, UV and case-making have now been invested in-house, in Mumbai. Plus, there’s the Bengaluru unit, which houses two monochrome and one colour Xerox and a range of post-press kit.
Mid-way in their success story, two incidents had a major impact on the Dhote brothers. In the 2005 deluge, which paralysed almost the whole of Mumbai, DOT’s printing operations were affected for six months. The equipment housed on the ground floor of the building were damaged. However, interestingly enough, the financials and turnover did not take a toll. In fact, according to Uday, the financial year (FY) 2005-06 was better than FY05.
“Our top-line was not affected. This was with the help of our network of nine to 10 printing presses, who supported us to print until our press was functional again. With the in-house CTP system, we supplied the plates to these printing units. Our human resources; machine operators and production staff were deployed to these presses for supervision,” says Uday.
As it turned out, this was an opportunity for the company to upgrade its technology. The two Dominant presses were replaced with Ryobi, one in 2007 and the second in 2013. “The Ryobi opened up a new avenue for the quick print market. The equipment is a good value for money for short-run offset prints.”
But the profits were impacted and the balance sheets were tepid in 2009.
We continued to invest in new equipment and technology with debt finance and LC. We were dealt a huge blow in 2009 when the Japanese Yen took a beating in 2009-2010. We had to settle the LC at 40% higher Yen
According to Uday, both the fluctuation of Yen when the Ryobi loan was crystallised and the existing consolidation of space and resources have had a huge impact on the business.
Shri Bhaiyasaheb Kashiram Dhote (the first generation) was a Maths teacher and found the urge to print the books by himself. He started a small press in Nagpur in the late 1920s. With the help of his younger brothers, he established a litho press in 1932 at Gondia, then Bharat Litho in Calcutta, Bombay Fine Arts in Bombay and Shakti Offset in Nagpur, soon becoming the largest chain of printers in Asia specialising in bidi wrapper printing.
They controlled 90% market share in the segment in the 1960s. His strategy was to buy large sluggish printing units and convert them into sustaining units for each of his family members. He died in 1964 at the age of 61 years. Soon after his death, the family business started disintegrating into nuclear businesses.
Vasant Dhote, the duo's father (second generation) studied and worked in Munich (Germany) for a few years before coming to India in 1956. He was instrumental in bringing in the first four-colour reproduction by creating separations in four-colour process and making deep etch aluminum plates.
Even today, the Dhote name has a national reach with presses in Mumbai , Nagpur, Kolkotta, Pune, Nashik , Sinnar, Bengaluru and Raipur. But the businesses are isolated and do not have a common vision or purpose.