Q: How has your journey been in the last decade, particularly the last 12 months?
Rahul Zaware (RZ): We started in 1999 and at that time we were the seventh company in Pune to get a four-colour press. Till 2007 when telecom companies were our major clients, it was more like paper and print. An then we saw the industry shift to niche jobs. I think in the last decade the industry in Pune has moved to more niche jobs and improvement in quality. A client who visits USA or European markets and sees a product there asks for similar quality and more importantly for quality finishing. Gone are the days when it was just about the CMYK prints. Today there’s spot UV, aqueous coating and texture coating. Section-sewing and perfect-binding have also come a long way. And die-cutting is in a different league.
Q: What was the next component of your journey?
RZ: The client has started asking for better quality and will not accept any variations in print, as they would have in 2001-2002. They are well aware of the consistency in quality and about the colour output, and therefore, our focus is to have everything under one roof.
I would like to share an example. Today, we have multinational companies which are demanding labels from us and they are extremely colour conscious. Their demand was that delta E value should not be greater than two. We generally produce our print with the delta E value at three, which is exceptional and in accordance with ISO 12647/3. For this particular client we had to do a lot of experimentation, especially with the ink, to get the required parameter that was demanded.
Q: What about the 12-months gone by?
RZ: In the past six months there have been major achievements. We got the Heidelberg Suprasetter CTP and a brand new Heidelberg SM 74 five-colour press with Prinect workflow. We embarked on a major government project of skill development where we delivered printed material to 1,593 schools – in skill development sectors of automobile, healthcare, IT, retail, security, tourism, telecom, agriculture, media entertainment, banking and finance, and physical education for eleven different subjects and four different levels. We printed 94,800 books in two months and 10 days with section-sewing and perfect-binding on the books and aqueous coating on the covers.
Manufacturing has increased in India and there are new opportunities which were not there few years ago. There are new kinds of niche jobs in the market, and not many are able to do it because they lack the expertise.
Q: Your major investment has been in the pre-press and press. What’s in the post-press? The workflow starts with pre-press and ends with the post-press...
RZ: Yes, the pre-press and press are the brains and the heart of a printing process. I describe my post-press unit as the arm and the limb. When it was time to invest in new machinery we ensured that our pre-press and press departments were taken care of. Once that was settled we have now decided to get a modern post-press machine that is dated 2000 and after. We have invested in a Muller Martini stitching machine, a folding machine, Polar Mohr cutting machine, a Heidelberg cylinder platen die-punching machine, and a new Alpna aqueous and UV coating unit.
We are also investing in a Muller Martini five-clamp perfect binding machine.
I believe, post-press is where the money is. There is no money in print and that’s a fact. If we have a print job of one lakh copies nobody is going to give me more than Rs 500 per thousand sheets even if we say that we are running it on a 2017 Heidelberg machine. It’s only the pre-press and post-press capabilities that will help to sell a product.
Our further plans will be to replace our used post-press kit with new ones and complete the workflow.
There will be a paradigm shift in the way we print. For us, print will not be an art but a science. We are working on this and it will be our mantra of success.
Q: This is huge investment... are you creating a market?
RZ: No, I am not. We already have a steady stream of clients. I would like to inform you that in the last four months, we have clocked a print run of 90 lakh impressions on the new Heidelberg and have already output around 13,000 plates on the Suprasetter CTP.
In the commercial print market, you need to be known as a niche finishing provider. I would reiterate that our finishing capability is the driving force behind a client choosing us over somebody else.
Q: What according to you are the challenges a commercial printer faces?
RZ: The problem for commercial printers is the ups and downs of jobs. There is no regularity of the jobs. Even if you have constant jobs to the tune of 35%, you take care of your operating expenses. Once that is achieved, a commercial printer’s success is assured. This is what we have been successful in, doing magazines and books, which gives us the regular sustenance.
The other problem is the credit system. We have made a conscious decision of either taking advance or delivering against payments. And for our very loyal customers we have kept a credit period of 30 days although, we ensure that the payments are received within 25 days. That is how we are able to manage the cash flow.
Q: You cater to both commercial and packaging requirements of your clients?
RZ: Yes, 15% of our business is packaging. That’s where the Heidelberg cylinder machine comes in. We are also planning to invest in a pasting machine. Packaging is here to stay and it will grow further.
We have a steady clientele for commercial print for the last 16 years, and in the next five years, we plan to move outside Pune because with the growth we expect in packaging, we will require bigger space, both for production and stocks.
Q: How do you ensure that the return on investment is quick and not a burden?
RZ: With the new investment, we have also been able to lock into annual corporate orders with five to six clients. These are huge volume clients where every month we stock their goods at our end and distribute them across India as and when the requests are made from their marketing departments. The inventory of print material for these companies is managed by us.
Q: With this arrangement are you defeating the print-on-demand segment with your own little strategy?
RZ: I would not say that because here the minimum volumes are around 5,000 copies of 16 to 32 pages. For me, print-on-demand is where the volumes are not that high. What we are doing is, timely delivery to the customer for which we are building some stock that is required to be delivered to the customer.
Having said that, we are ready to bring in digital printing equipment at any moment and with our Prinect workflow in place we will have the ability to calibrate the digital press with our offset press.
Q: Print is not dead?
RZ: The digital medium may be here to stay, but I would not say that print is dying or dead. In the 1960s, print was declared dead and then again in 1980s and later in 2000 with the advent of internet it was announced that print will die. The saga continues...
Q: What has been the impact of the workflow on your company’s output?
RZ: With the Prinect workflow we have become extremely confident about our speeds. The time period from the initiation of the job to producing plates and to printing those plates on the press, is done in 15 minutes. We demonstrate this to our first-time customer whenever they visit our plant. We take his photo and by the time he has had his cup of tea over a discussion on how we manage print his poster is printed and ready to be presented to him.
We have broken the Heidelberg record by producing 69 sets in a 10-hour shift by changing over jobs in 10 to 12 minutes. This was possible because of the connectivity Prinect provides between the pre-press and press.
Q: The future will be won by companies that embrace partnering. Almost every big player has hundreds and hundreds of print providers and suppliers. One mantra you follow to select your partners?
RZ: I am all for having a long-term relationship with our supplier. We have forged that relationship with Heidelberg. Today, if anything happens, I just have to make one phone call and help is on its way. And Heidelberg has strengthened this relationship by allowing us to use its logo on our visiting cards as our technology partner. While we are branding Heidelberg, Heidelberg also adds an edge to our brand. Our relationship with our suppliers is one of channel partnership.
Q: The key to printing 90 lakh impressions in four months?
RZ: I think without the Prinect workflow in place this would not have been possible. We are continuously running the Heidelberg SM 74 at 15,000sph and it is the the fourth print that is a sellable one.
It’s a complete joy when you have the technology. You are confident of delivering your commitments.
Q: Everyone is talking about competition and shrinking margins. Are we going to see a shake-up of sorts?
RZ: I’ve been hearing about a shake-up for the last seven to eight years and nothing has happened. I see only new investment happening.
Take the example of newspapers. The number of inserts, for that matter colour inserts, that we get today is far more than what we got seven to eight years ago.
Today, Pune’s population is over 48 lakhs. The population is growing and the spending power is growing simultaneously, so an opportunity for print will always be there.
Q: You talk about relationships, is there anything that your customers have told you that made your re-think?
RZ: A couple of my German auto industry clients suggested that I invest in equipment which sticks to certain standards and allow me to deliver to their standards. We did a pre-investment survey with our clients and fellow printers before finalising our equipment.
Q: You are now a 360-degree service provider?
RZ: Yes, we have tied up with an IT service provider to develop applications (apps) for mobile phones. So we offer the app, a 3-D presentation and a printed brochure to our clients like the builders. With our offering, we are adding value to our print business.
Q: The next five years?
RZ: As I said, our plan is to move towards a complete workflow, process-based line, from placing an order to pre-press to post-press. Our future plan includes moving to a new place outside Pune, which will comprise of both commercial and packaging segments of Zaware’s business.
Infrastructure and equipment
8,000 sq/ft of space in a three storey building
Heidelberg SM 74 five-colour press
A 18x25-inch four-colour press
An eight-up A75 Suprasetter CTP
Cutting machine, saddle stitcher, folding machine, lamination machine, UV finishing lines