How some printers have a lot of fun - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

17 February 2018

Six master printers and what they do when they are not minding their press.

All of us have hobbies. Some of us abandon these hobbies as we age or pretend to be busy.

But for some, these hobbies are the sum total of life. “It was sports in my teens. I loved horse-riding and cycling,” says Khushru Patel. Today he is a professional equestrian. “It’s very serious. I am 54 now, training to compete in nationals.”

In this Sunday Column, we share the madness of six master printers.


G Venugopal, Sterling Print House, Kochi

Popularly known as Bombay Venu (like Bombay Ravi, the music maestro), G Venugopal of Sterling Print House, Kochi, found his voice while studying mechanical engineering at a Mumbai-based college. His father sings well and one of his cousins is a professional singer. “I trained for two years, but it was not very professional training,” Venugopal admits. Print was my focus.

Kishore Kumar is his favourite singer because the man and his singing resonate with what he is. “Kishore-dada too was not a trained singer. And there’s a strange celebration of all emotions.” His top five songs are all Kishore Kumar specials – O Hansini, O mere dil ke chain, Kiska rastha dekhe and Kisi baat par mein. Incidentally, they are also composed by Pancham da, another genius and my idol. On long drives, through the pristine greens of Kerala, he loves to hear the song, Ek roz main tadapkar.

Venugopal is comfortable with the d-scale when singing for his band, Aalaap, which was formed two years ago. He prefers to sing a long, recorded d-scale song during the practice sessions. Even though he can, he hasn’t rapped as yet.

Like his singing, Venugopal entered print with an engineering degree and no experience of print, except that printing was a family business. But he finds a similarity between print and music. “Both demand a lot of passion.”

At present, he is busy strengthening his pre-press facility. His plans for 2018, he is seriously contemplating an investment in post-press kit. The gold at the NAEP last year was his “award moment”. And he promised us that he will sing on the PrintWeek India Awards Night. But for that he requires “a lot more riyaz”.

Manohar Rodrigues, Phase-D, Mumbai


There’s something genuinely educating about running, some things that you learn, says Manohar Rodrigues. Printing and retail branding, the line of Rodrigues’ wide-format business involve creativity. “It’s a skill I develop ed during my childhood when I took part in a number of sports, running was one of them,” he says.

Today, running is his passion. He runs marathons, wherever he can, across India.  And, he hosts award events for all the winners. “My hobby has shown me a way to live life to the fullest. Being a very serious full marathoner, I have learnt one thing, no matter what, one has to touch the finishing line, no matter how.”

Completing the first full marathon was the best ‘wow’ moment of his life, says Rodrigues. It was the 2014 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon.

And there is a therapeutic value to running. “I start my day early, go out jogging and running. It’s become part of my practice regime,” says Rodrigues. “I had read somewhere that our brains work a million miles a minute all day long. I agree. When I reach my workplace, my body is ready to move quickly, my brain is much more relaxed, and generally, I am ready to run millions of miles.”

Running has helped Rodrigues make new friends and “getting to know people with like-minded thoughts and skills in the business too. He explains, “Some business leads have been done while running.”

Khushru Patel, Jak Printers, Mumbai 


Master printer, Khushru Patel is a professional equestrian today. Not surprisingly, horse riding and cycling were the two sports activities he excelled in, winning the second rank in an inter-school tournament. While cycling fell by the wayside, horse-riding became his craze, and something to look forward to after a gruelling week at the press.

Patel trains young people and himself at his farmhouse in Lonavala, a get-away hill-station, 90 kms away from Mumbai. The hobby has led Patel to delve deep into it. “It’s very serious. I am 54 now, training to compete in nationals,” he says.

When you are an entrepreneur you set goal s and stick to it. Patel practices during weekends, loves to set goals and compete in endurance events. “I am training for nationals, so are the kids who I train,” he says, adding, “I won gold in last year’s 40 kms Endurance State Championship and my students have got national plus many state medals.”

Patel explains the history of the race. He says, “Endurance riding was first developed in the early 1900s as a military test for cavalry mounts. Horses were required to go on a 5-day, 300 mile (483 km) ride carrying at least 200 lbs. The cavalry test became a civilian sport in the early 1950s.”

He feels there is a lot of similarity between endurance and running a press. To do endurance, it would take about three months if one had hills to work on; otherwise, four months would be ideal. He mentions in his office, “It is very important NOT to overtrain, or to drain the horse's resources so that it is too fatigued even before it is entered in the ride.”

He discusses the average speed to ride with a fellow rider. Should it be eight kms per hour or 12 kms per hour? Whatever the speed, one thing is clear, a rider is conditioning muscles and bones for endurance, and a crucial part of a conditioning program is a period of rest to allow the body to recover and become stronger. Kushru Patel signs off, “You should never-ever run your horse into the ground thinking it is training. Keep in mind that your horse has only so many miles in it, and to needlessly use it up in training is a waste of your horse. Better to do a bit less and have a fresh horse, than too much and have a drained horse.”

It's true for a printing press, too.

Sebastian Thomas, Print It, Kochi


Thomas started cycling about five years ago. He had a cycle which wasn’t suitable for long rides. “It was discouraging, as I could not keep pace with my friends.”

A couple of years ago, he acquired a new cycle, Merida, and he is now enjoying cycling.

Thomas says, he gets a lot of inspiration from the various cycling groups in Kochi, but has never joined them for any rides so far. He rather enjoys browsing through their achievements on Facebook. “I love taking pictures while cycling, which I may not be able to do while on a ride. And I also still fear that I may not be able to keep pace with them.”


Thomas has cycled 70 kms in one go, starting at 4.30 am and finishing at around 9.30 am. “I aimed to do 100 kms, but had to stop, not because I was tired but I had a function back home. It was my daughter’s baptism on that day.” He adds, I want to do the 104 kms on 25 February, but unfortunately I have not been training enough. “However, I have until 23 February to decide.”

Thomas finds a similarity between cycling and printing. “Both are a struggle... with the ups and downs. But we have to keep pedalling. Even if we have to compromise on speed, we have to remain focused and outlast the competition.”

Cycling for Thomas is an enjoyable hobby. “Enjoy the journey, not the destination,” he says, connecting joy with the business of print. “We have to start enjoying the process of printing rather than admiring just the final output.”

Faheem Agboatwala, Hi-Tech Printing Services, Mumbai


Right now, he is zipping at 180 kms on the Alps. This is Faheem Agboatwala who loves cars and off-roading in the ghats with a jeep or an SUV. “It not only takes you to different and quiet places but also teaches you how to get out of sticky situation,” he says.

The man who has done a  BMW M training besides being the no-nonsense chairman of the Share-to-Benefit Forum of the BMPA, read about cars and collected dinky versions of them in his teens. That hasn’t changed except that the reading, as well as the size of the scale models, has become bigger. A visit to his cabin in Mazgaon means a one - hour gyan session on car history.

This includes tips like “All large car manufacturers allow you to visit their factories and see the production process with prior appointment, remember to book well in advance. The Porsche Stuttgart factory is super cute and old school – highly recommend. If you are doing Germany then go to Stuttgart and see the

MB Museum as well as Porsche Museum – you can easily spend one day each in them.” In Zurich you can do pretty much anything, want provided you're prepared to spend while in France there is http://www.citedelautomobile.com

Faheem Agboatwala is also an expert on romantic roads for newly- wed honeymooners plus Dolomite mountains which are arguably the finest driving (twisty) roads in the world.


A year ago, Agboatwala’s Hi-Tech Printing Services installed a brand new Komori GL 629, a six-colour press, which he hand-picked. He is enjoying the experience, but says, printers lead stress-filled lives. “Hence all work and no play makes you dull and lifeless. Pursuing a hobby is most important. It gives the entrepreneur some ‘me time’,” he says.

And so, one can sense his joy when he says, “Cleaning a single model car can take two to three hours, but the joy of seeing a freshly cleaned vehicle is on another level.” Then he offers a pedigree cup of coffee with roasted beans which he has sourced from another planet. But that mon ami, is another story.

Amit Shah, Spectrum Scan, Vasai


Not until Amit Shah crossed his teens did he get interested in hobbies. “I was not focused on anything so did not have specific hobbies,” he says. “After that, gardening, reading and cooking got stuck.” he says.

About 10 years ago, he took up marathon running. Since then Shah has completed 18 half marathons.

Running has become a passion, cooking remains a Sunday chore. “It is a very good stress buster, and my wife is happy to,” Shah says with a chuckle.

Marathon running is a serious stuff. It involves a three-session-a-week practice, besides Sunday. “The day starts at 5.30 am, travel to either Worli seaface, Bandstand or Juhu, all in preparation for the marathon.” And he is amazed with the speed, determination, and agility of the professional marathoners at the Mumbai event. “They whiz pass you,” he says, determined to emulate the feat one day.

In his print business, Shah’s company defies all definition as it unfurls one game-changing technology after another. He enthralled a 700+ crowd during the recent Print Summit with his ‘in-the-face’ presentation of the way printers manage their business.

Much of Shah’s success, he says comes from the attitude of meeting challenges head-on. “Participation in marathons is a great morale booster. It teaches you to reach your goal, one step at a time; stay positive, no matter how steep the run is; and do it consistently.”


PS: Do you know a fellow printer who has special skills or talents? Please share your experience on my email ID: noel@haymarketsac.com

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