A forthright businessman, an explorer, spiritualist, NS Manku, is known as the post-press man of India.
Digital book manufacturer, MN Pandey of Avantika Printers, says, “NS Manku of New Delhi-based Joy-D-Zign is one of those industry luminaries who has created and supported book finishing in India. Even the smallest kit designed by his company, Joy, has helped book finishing to scale new thresholds.”
On the other hand, Manku says that such comments overwhelm him and that his two decades of contribution to the industry is a result of his philosophy to take life as it comes. “I enjoy the journey every day and feel proud in providing basic equipment to the industry.”
This conversation with Manku began during Pamex – and was filled with his signature-style candour.
Ask if exhibitions are critical for businesses to grow, NS Manku says, “The compulsion to participate in exhibitions comes from organisers or their associates. It is because of these compulsions that we exhibit. Otherwise we believe that instead of spending money in exhibitions, the price advantage should be shared with our customers.”
“We try to keep a low profile as far as exhibitions are concerned. We also try to keep our temptations as low as possible because while the costs multiply, profit on the machine does not change,” he adds.
Monotype memories ...
Manku’s tryst with printing dates back to his early career as a pre-press professional for Monotype. He spent 23 years in the company being responsible for the typesetting machines and graphic arts segment. He was the first instructor and demonstrator for teaching camera handling and platemaking, colour separation, etc. Later, he moved to Bengaluru as a service and quality control manager, and then to Kolkata as a system and training manager.
In 1985, he resigned from a burgeoning career in Monotype in pursuit of his dream to make “an indelible contribution to the print industry”. Manku says, “Initially, we started with plastic injection moulding machines. After spending some more time in market research, I realised that post-press is an area which held a lot of potential and scope for innovation.”
He began by trading post-press equipment but the feedback from his customers compelled him to explore the opportunity. And so, he set-up his own post-press equipment manufacturing business. He, in fact, admits that he “burnt his hand in dealership.”
The road to binding
Manku says, “In the 1990s, perfect binding was a new thing for the Indian book binders. People were not aware that certain preparatory jobs should be done before adopting perfect binding, such as preparing a book-block. And more often than not, the blame of a badly bound book was thrust upon the machine quality than the wrong or missing processes.”
“We kept searching for a solution to this issue but all efforts were in vain. Then, an Englishman informed us that signatures have to be pressed before gathering, to eliminate air between the blocks and to improve the binding. And voila! It worked. I went to every nook and corner of the country to see how book binders work and in what conditions,” he adds.
On closer inspection, he ascertained the problem areas where machines could help ease the pressures off the binders’ shoulders. “The exercise bore fruit as we understood the nuances of a good book production machine and started working on the design details of the signature pressing machine,” he says.
A bundle of Joy
After six long years, Manku established Joy-D-Zign in 1995 as a partnership company between Manku and his partner Kanwaljit Singh, a mechanical engineer. Manku says, “From day one our objective was not to copy others machines and are proud to say each Joy machine is one of its kind.”
“Our customers informed us that most of the book binders wanted machines with lesser footprint, less power consumption, run on single-phase power supply, with ease of operation and competitively priced. Based on these parameters, we kept making changes to our design and introduced machines at regular intervals,” shares Manku. Book-block preparing was the main game in those days. Handling signatures, preparing book-blocks and finishing the hardcase-bound books, these were the distinct areas to which Joy latched on.
From 20 machines to many more ...
Initially, in its 900sqm facility, Joy was capable of producing only 20 machines a year, which was far short of meeting the demand generating from the positive reviews of its machines. Thus, the facility was first expanded to 10,000 sq/ft, and then to 45,000 sq/ft area. Manku says, “The space gave us confidence to cater to any size of customers and also to make inline machines. Today, you name any book printer in the country and he is sure to possess at least one of our book binding machines. Silverpoint, Pragati, Jak, New Jack and Thomson are among few of our big customers.”
Manku says, “Business is good if you do it with orientation and conviction. If you are doing business because you do not have anything better to do then it’s a futile exercise.”
He is also a firm believer in destiny. “I took this as my destiny and I am destined to do what I am doing. Whatever we have done, we did it on our own resources,” he says, adding that he is “allergic to loans and interest payments.”
Long live the printed book
Manku is quick to dispose off the obituaries written about print. “There are rumours in the market that printed books will cease to exist. According to me, book printing is never going to die. Volumes and quantities may change, varieties may be added. We are in a better place as far as books are concerned because literacy rate is very low here,” adds Manku.
“The present market indicates problems for big online binding machines from overseas players because of shrinking volumes. And printers who are running these machines will face the brunt of economic viability because volume is decreasing day-by-day and labour is a scarce commodity,” indicates Manku.
He adds, “We have to be happy that today we have technologies which can print books according to our exact needs. Also wastage has come down to single digit.”
Manku states that everyone needs fast delivery of the machines. “If a printer decides that he needs a machine today, then he expects it to be delivered yesterday. We always keep improving ourselves with our customers and keep an eagle eye on their demands.”
“Automation is well accepted by a certain segment of the market but overall the penetration is very low. Traditional binders are not becoming professionals and their knowledge levels are limited to book texts taught in institutes. We train the operators of our customers at our facility,” he adds.
Joy-D-Zign: 3,200 installations
Joy-D-Zign has installed more than 3,200 machines worldwide till now. Manku shares, “We do not go overseas by choice; overseas customers come on their own to us. Our own country is very big and vast; we manufacture 20 plus models and over 350 machines each year.”
“We have no competition with anyone; we are innovators who would keep offering solutions to the binding industry irrespective of the viability of the venture. It gives us immense satisfaction when our equipment is recognized and creates value to the user.”
“Today, 27 players in India have copied our machines, we would have been happy had they added value to them rather than just replicate ditto; such blatant infringement should not be encouraged as it is not good for industry. More than 90% of our business comes directly to us and rest from very old associates.”
Nevertheless, Manku adds, his spirit is undying and he believes in carving his own destiny, “I never predict my future. Each day is a new day for me and I am ready for it.”