Dachepalli Publishers: A peek into textbook publishing

By 10 Jun 2019

Despite the slow growth of print in the market, competition getting tougher and the rising cost of producing print, it’s not all doom and gloom for the textbook publishing industry. Hyderabad-based Dachepalli Publishers, which publishes a wide range of educational and academic resources from scholarly works and higher education textbooks, to school courses and digital resources for teaching-learning, continues to benefit because of the growth of education

Kumar (l) with brother Rushikesh

D Vinod Kumar, chairman of Dachepalli Publishers is of the opinion that the growth in education is triggered by a better standard of living, and fewer children. “Earlier there were large families, but few went to school. Today there are small families, and parents ensure that their children get education.”

Dachepalli counts 1,000+ distributors across India, some are Dachepalli clients for over three decades, and the one-lakh schools it serves continue to remain strong.

“It’s looking fine,” says Kumar. Even though eBooks have dented some segments of the publishing industry, Dachepalli has benefitted from WHO’s recommendations to schools to adopt printed textbooks and parent’s preference for the printed media. “There was a perception that the Internet would kill printed textbook usage. But that has changed,” says Kumar. 

Kumar is of the opinion that overload of technology and internet usage is not good for children under the age of 14. “Especially in education, the student has to spend long hours learning a subject and use of gadgets for long hours will affect the vision of young pupils. Psychologists have also said learning through gadgets is dangerous for young brains.”


With a laugh, Kumar says, “Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have raised their kids tech-free. Despite spending their life creating two of the world’s biggest technology empires, they took a fairly strict view on gadgets when it came to their children.”


He adds, “There is a reason why eLearning is not a big hit in the market yet. If it was, all publishers would have converted our business to online education rather than print.”


A section of Dachepalli's warehouse

Dachepalli converts 10 tonnes of paper every day equivalent to 1-lakh textbooks per day on a slew of offset presses – web and sheetfed presses at its 75,000 sqft site printing plant and a 45,000 sqft site in warehouse, located in close proximity of the printing press, in Hyderabad. The printed textbooks are distributed from the warehouse.

Dachepalli was established in 1908 by Kumar’s grandfather Kistaiah Dachepalli as a small retail outlet outside Secunderabad railway station.

Kumar says, “The Nizam invited us to establish a publishing house in the old city of Hyderabad close to Charminar, and we started publishing books in Urdu for the schools under the Hyderabad dynasty. Later, we also published books in English when the British Raj started and then Hindi medium when Hyderabad became a part of India in 1948. Gradually, as demand for books in Telugu grew, we started publishing books in Telugu too.”

As the business grew, Kumar’s father and his two uncles joined the business and started new branches. Today, it has regional sales offices at Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh with independent warehouses, catering to the growing needs of schools.

The growth of business also prompted starting new companies converting Dachepalli Publishers into a group. “People needed modern names,” he said with a smile. Hence we started Apple Book Company about 20 years ago; School Book Company 30 years ago; and the latest Orange Leaf Publishers around 10 years ago,” says Kumar. The Group has recently started a premium brand – Pelican Publishing House, which publishes high school books and activity-based learning products.

Besides, there are 70 marketing managers across the country, 450 people at the plant. A majority of the marketing managers are working with Dachepalli since the last two decades, who provide inputs and feedback, which Kumar says, he implements. “Merely printing books will not do. As a publisher, we have to ensure quality material is provided to the children at an affordable price.”

Factfile

Location: Plants at Hyderabad’s Cherlapally area - (75,000 sqft - production unit and 45,000 sqft – warehouse)

Speciality: Textbook publishing and printing

Equipment: Two web offset and three sheetfed (4-colour) presses; Konica Minolta KM 3060 digital printing press; two Muller Martini six-claim folders; two six-clamp Welbound perfect binding machine; five cutting machine; five Welbound three-knife trimmers; TechNova (FFEI Viostar ) CTP; consumes 2,000 plates per month

Plant operation: Two shifts per day – printing staff; post-press runs in three shifts.


A publisher printer
Dachepalli’s core business is school textbook and caters to one-lakh schools pan India. The company outsourced printing work to a print company in Hyderabad, which was around 10% of its volumes. The rest of the 90% was distributed among printers in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi.

The company now is being managed by Kumar and his brother Rushikesh, and their sons, Harish and Abhinav.

“When we outsourced, the production was not in our control,” says Kumar. “We had to depend on the printers’ availability of machine slot for our emergency stock requirements.”

Five years ago, in 2014 Kumar decided it was time to get printing in-house. “As soon as our children entered the business, we invested in the existing 33,000 sqft space and sheetfed offset presses, and post-press machines. We also invested in the 45,000 sqft distribution office.”

By bringing the printing and finishing in-house, Dachepalli brought total control of the job – from design to finish. “Added to this, we have strict timelines and when we did not have printing in-house, we were let down on occasions. On-time, in-time supply of books is our motto. We just strengthened it.”

Now 95% of Dachepalli’s textbooks are produced in-house, 5% are produced at a press in Delhi and some in other states.

Recently, the company also installed a Konica Minolta KM 3060 digital printing press which also helps in manufacturing single book supply. “We have editors and proof readers in-house and all over the country, copywriting, copyediting the textbooks. We compose the page print-ready, take a digital print and send it the editors by email. It has made the process smooth and quick.”

More print than eBooks
In 1999, Dachepalli did a business turnover of Rs 15-crore. Today it is doing Rs 100-crore. One of the reasons for the growth of Dachepalli is the rise in printed textbooks.

Worldwide, the growth in eBook revenues, according to the Association of American Publishers, was a mere 3.8% in 2013, compared to “unprecedented” growth in 2012. According to Nielsen BookScan, a retail sales monitoring service, number of paper books sold globally went up 2.4% in 2015, including at bookstores and online retail.

At Jaipur Book Mark 2015, organised on the sidelines of Jaipur Literature Festival, the organisers estimated that Indian book market is worth US20 billion, while noting that eBook sales have contracted by as much as 20% the previous year. 

“The decline in sales of eBook sales boosted printed textbook sales. And the WHO recommendation to schools and parents’ insistence on printed books as it is more healthy way of learning than a gadget further pushed our turnovers,” says Kumar.

We will be participating in the Chicago Book & Paper Fair in June 2020. We will be looking at the chain of schools in the US, around 35,000 schools in 45 states, for producing specialised and customised books.

TechNova Viostar CTP: fires 2,000 plates per month

Increasing growth pace
Since 110 years, Dachepalli has been only in the business of textbooks, but it is now eyeing the notebook segment, and is set to launch an IPO to provide a fillip to its plans.

Kumar says, “We have schools which require textbooks, notebooks, stationery, shoes, uniform etc. Textbooks are only a mere 10% of their requirement, and out of the rest 90%, 40% is notebooks. With the IPO fund infusion, we are planning to invest in a notebook making plant. I don’t need any new customers. We already have one-lakh schools as our customers, and even if we get 10% of the orders for notebooks from these existing clients, we should easily get to the 
Rs 150-crore mark.”

Kumar informs that it has already finalised a deal for acquiring an automatic Line O Matic machine; a 75,000 sqft site in Cherlapally, Hyderabad, where the new machine and notebook plant will be set up, as well as manpower to run the plant.

Dachepalli also has an ERP system in place, where orders can be placed and delivery can be tracked. For example, a dealer in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, with a network across Tamil Nadu, can order textbooks to be directly dispatched to the place the dealer wants it to be delivered. “Our distribution to schools is 100% through dealers. The ERP system makes the whole process easy.

Kumar has two more plans for the Dachepalli Publishers group. One is launching an App – Spring Times of India, and producing low-cost versions of textbooks for villages. “If we want divine peace in this world, we should start educating children across the villages of India,” concludes Kumar.

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