A tribute to the five who contributed to our industry - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 14 Jan 2017

Xerxes Sapur Desai. Bal Krishan Khindria. PS Thomas. Arun Gandhi. GVSR Raju. These men appeared on the Indian print scene with little fanfare. They defied stereotypes, went on to make progress for themselves as well as others.

In this Sunday Column, we pay homage to five persons who contributed to our industry.

(l-r from top): Xerxes Sapur Desai, Bal Krishan Khindria, PS Thomas, Arun Gandhi and GVSR Raju


Xerxes: The Tata Press man who made Titan

Xerxes Sapur Desai is the man who was instrumental in founding the watch-making division of Tata – the Titan. He was not only the founder, but also Titan’s greatest advocate. Over the years, his guidance and dogged pursuit for perfection helped make Titan a household name and a market leader.

At PrintWeek India, Desai will always be remembered as the man behind Tata Press. For one thing, Desai came up with the idea of Titan when he was the managing director of Tata Press in 1970s. It was a long road from planning to fruition, when the Titan factory was set up in Hosur, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, in 1986, with support from the Tamil Nadu government. By the mid 1990s, Titan became a household name. Today, Titan is the world’s fifth largest manufacturer of timepieces.

A great visionary, Desai, charmed his way during his leadership at Tata Press. In spite of the fact that he did not come from a printing background, he converted a government-looking press, a professional one, by bringing in new technology. He brought in the Harris web press at a time when no one thought of getting web presses for commercial jobs

There are many other firsts to the credit of Tata Press, which can be attributed to Xerxes’ leadership. Tata Press was the first to introduce Scitex imagesetter, first to diversify into the business form segment among others. Xerxes’ concept of Yellow Pages in the telephone directory printing was path-breaking.

Desai passed away on 27 June 2016 at the age of 79.



Bal Krishan Khindria: A lot to learn from

For more than 40 years, Bal Krishan Khindria, founding partner of Delhi-based Memory Repro Systems, was at the forefront of change. He witnessed the shift from hot metal composing to photocomposing, film setters, DTPs, scanners to CTPs, and, on printing side, from letterpress to offset.

Khindria joined Monotype in 1970 as a liaison-cum-sales executive. It was also the place he met NS Manku of Joy D-Zign, who he said was a great teacher. He worked or ten years here, before starting Memory. At Memory he sold re-melting furnace for the mono/slug casting machines, developed by his partner. The machine was used to melt the typeface metals at a measured temperature. Khindria’s Memory sold the machines for two years in which time he was convinced that the time for ‘hot metal’ was over, and soon, printers would have to shift from letterpress to offset.

He turned to manufacturing pre-press and post-press equipment and by the 1980s, Memory had four factories in Noida, each with 500 sq/yrds area, manufacturing everything from exposing frames, contact printers, FRP sinks, processors, cameras to plate punches.

Few months before Khindria passed away on 21 November, 2016, he has signed a contract with Brüggen, Germany-based chemical manufacture to market and sell its products in India. He had also launched new products and are trying to catch up with the changing dynamics of the market. “Packaging and specialised finishing is the future,” he had said.

Here is a man who began when printing was not considered a respectable business; it was called chhaapakhana, he had said.

Khindria’s motto in life was passion, hard work and honesty. He had this advice to give to an aspiring printer: “Enter the packaging industry. The future is in packaging." And his advice to manufacturers was to focus on their skills.


PS Thomas: Why he matters for Kochi

Here was a man who has touched various industries, and succeeded in most of them. A master disruptor, who always had an instinct for what is the next-best thing. He also had an uncanny instinct for what is no more going to be there; and what is going to take its place. A man whose career kicked off selling calculators and office stationary, went on to start a pre-press and CTP business, to investing in and creating a contemporary digital printing unit, and finally moving on to business in LED lights and solar panels.

Thomas passed away in October, 2016. “We may never see one like him in our print industry,” said Raju Kutty of Print Miracle, in a tribute to a man who was “ahead of his time”.


Arun Gandhi: The man who revolutionised CITO products in India

Arun, along with his partner Arun Gandhi, spread the good word about CITO creasing systems to Indian converters. Today, the German-based firm is a diecutting and creasing leader in India because of the time the team at Capital Graphic Supplies and AS Print Aids have invested in demystifying the process for the past 15 years.

Manish Jain of Options Printofast, says, Arun Gandhi was a karama purush. I had started the business with him in 1996-97 and discovered a new thing in packaging called CITO creasing matrix. Even today, we are associated with his company for various products.”

When interacting with Arun one never failed to sense the dedication and hard work towards the art of die-making. He made numerous visits to print plants, imparting technical training and trouble-shooting issues. Even conducting workshops to showcase the final outcome after using Cito products.

Arun passed away on 12 May in Delhi and this is what Ajit Diaz of Pio Printers had to say, “He always gives a patient hearing to our issues before giving his opinion about how to solve the problem. This is a great loss to the printing and packaging industry.”


GVSR Raju: The digital print’s brand ambassador

The news of GVSR, as he was popularly known, sent shock waves in the print industry. He was only 42 when he died due to a massive heart attack on 2 July, 2016.

During a career spanning over two decades, Raju worked for Thomson Press, Xerox, HP India, before joining Ricoh in May 2016 days before Drupa 2016.

Raju was very knowledgeable when it came to the production printing segment. He was well known in the industry for his technical skills and ability to bring out the best for the customer. “He was very approachable and gave effective solutions even in the most difficult situations,” said Balaji Rajagopalan, the executive director, technology, channels & international business, Xerox India who knew each other for more than two decades.

GVSR’s most memorable came during Drupa 2012, where he led the first deal for the Indigo 10000, which was installed at Mazda Imaging. Roy Eitan, general manager and director, HP Indigo and InkJet Press, Asia Pacific and Japan, and a former colleague of GVSR shared this picture below, taken after the first HP Indigo 10000 deal in India. “You took our business to the next level. You will be missed,” he had said.



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