During the lockdown and later the pandemic months, we had to increase our printing rates. We had to do this, strategically. We produce a lot of commercial printing (mainly, job work) on paper and cardboard. The raw material prices skyrocketed. As a result we had to hike our prices. This impacted our job orders with our customer base.
We witnessed volatility in the education sector as the print run decreased by 40-50%. Likewise the jobber work was affected due to loss of sales and volumes.
The point is, due to the pandemic, the commercial print market in Uttar Pradesh has been at the receiving end. There has been a fall in print quantity due to corporate cost-cutting by the customers. This has resulted in fewer orders. Quite a few print firms have shut down in the city or reduced their staff by 30%.
The overall quantity demanded by the customers and education publishers have fallen by 50% due to price hikes in print coupled with a pro-digital policy.
Brief history about Kohli Printers
Our printing press is known as Kohli Printers. It was started in April 1989 with two treadle printing machines. It was founded by me with the blessings of my father, Late Prem Nath Kohli, who helped me set up the business. By 1993, we bought a single colour Dominant press. Subsequently, we bought another single colour machine in 1995. That's how we had two presses.
As work progressed, we invested in a two-colour Dominant press in 2003 and a four-colour Dominant press in 2011. Finally, in 2017, we switched to a five-colour Komori Lithrone offset printing machine.
Our printing press is located in our own building, Kohli House, situated in Ram Tirath Marg, Lucknow near the Commercial Tax Office. Our press area is 2000 sq. ft. on the ground floor.
Our total strength is eight people. Our machine man is the oldest serving member in our print family. He has been with Kohli for the past 30 years.
We started printing bill books, cash memos, visiting cards, etc on our treadle machine.
One investment which was a turning point was when we bought a Komori Lithrone press in 2017. This gave us print clout and the confidence to cater to top customers in Lucknow.
Looking at the two pandemic years
During the lockdown in 2020, my first priority was to save my family and myself from the infection. Since productivity was nil, and print activity came to a standstill, I devoted my time helping my family with household chores. I devoted my time to television watching for entertainment purposes to distract my mind from all the tragedies.
The past two years have been tough. One lesson I have learnt is: Set a limit to your credit work. This is not the right time to invest any more money in the print business.
The Covid situation has taken a brutal toll on the print business in Lucknow. There has been a 40% fall in the quantity demanded by the customers. This has resulted in fewer number of orders. This has impacted our P&L.
Other than the pandemic, print volumes have dipped due to the WFH policies of schools and colleges as well as banks and financial institutes. Plus the 45th meeting of the GST council which increased the GST on print and packaging items from 12 to 18% has severely dented the fortunes of innumerable small print firms.
Presently in Lucknow, there has been an effect on printing run lengths which has decreased and short-run has moved to digital print.
Today, most of the print companies in Lucknow are trying to survive on bare minimum expenses.
A sense of pessimism prevails. Print firm owners are not keen to expand their business. Also, they are keeping the workforce to a bare minimum. Because no one knows what will happen tomorrow ...
The only solution in the present situation is, more and more educated (and enlightened) people should invest in our industry; and revitalise its fortunes.
Trivia about Lucknow
The original name of Lucknow was Lakshmanpur. According to the popular legend, Ramchandra of Ayodhya, the hero of the Ramayana, gifted the territory of Lucknow to his devoted brother Lakshman after he had conquered Sri Lanka and completed his term of exile in the jungle.
Therefore, the locals say that the original name of Lucknow was Lakshmanpur, popularly known as Lakhanpur or Lachmanpur.