Why Chhattisgarh textbook printers are thinking inline binding - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 16 Feb 2020

Touted as one of the fastest-developing states in India, Chhattisgarh was born on 1 November 2000.

The Sunday Column looks at the textbook publishing industry in the state and its implications for book factories (Editorial inputs from Dibyajyoti Sarma)

When Vikas Kapoor took over the printing business from his father (late) Shriram Sunder Kapoor, his focus was to increase capacities to address the huge seasonal demands for government textbooks. This is because, located in a central state like Chhattisgarh, Techno Prints has the locational advantage of tapping nearby states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Textbook corporations of each of these states have tweaked their rules so that you get more book work if you can turnaround the jobs faster.

“We have always beaten the deadlines given to us. Be it an election kit for Chhattisgarh that had to be completed in 15 days, or a 1,200-MT textbook printing job that had to be completed under 90 days,” says Kapoor. He feels the capacity of the factory is only as good or bad as its capacity to address what the market demands. “You need good machines from reliable suppliers, a solid team to maintain and run them well; and a process that ensures the workflow is smooth," he adds.

An industry expert who requested anonymity confirms that Chhattisgarh's textbook corporation tenders about 12,000-MT for their annual book printing requirement. This number is expected to get a boost.

Demographic trends support the high growth rate of the book industry in Chhattisgarh. The adult literacy level in the country, now at 74%, is projected to hit 90% in 2020. This is expected to continue feeding demand for books. In this sense, the Chhattisgarh government’s expenditure on education and educational resources should boost the demand for books even further. Meanwhile, Youth and children constitute a strong readership base.

 
Vikas Kapoor of Techno Prints with the Bindwel Freedom>4K perfect binder, that is inline ready

Chhattisgarh has a vibrant publishing industry with leading educational printers like Ajay-Ankit Prakashan, Yugbodh Prakashan and Prabodh & Co being some of the leading educational publishers in the central belt, based in Raipur. As these publishers have in-house facility for printing, the commercial printers are mainly dependent on the government tender jobs from within the state plus the neighbouring states.

Chhattisgarh: A book market
Nielsen estimates the book sector (in India) is now worth USD 6.76-billion. Led by educational books, the sector is set to grow at an average compound annual growth rate of 19.3% until 2020. The numbers hold true in spite of what naysayers say about the book publishing market.

Vinutha Mallya, a publishing consultant says, “Nielsen’s survey among urban consumers shows that they buy more educational books than trade books. The educational books sector, which forms 70% of the book market in India, is the bulwark for the publishing industry."

When PrintWeek travelled to Bilaspur in 2019, the Lok Sabha by-elections were underway. A local voter said, for Chattisgarhis, there are two priorities — health and education. A lot needs to be done in one of India’s poorest states with a large tribal population.

The official data states that the drop-out rate among girls after Class IX is 68% and for boys, it is 30%. The drop-out rate among the tribals and Scheduled Caste (SC) categories is higher. The state government gifts children with free bicycles and books, but there is “a huge paucity of teachers in the schools. Additionally, the schools don’t have proper bathrooms and the hygiene standards of the midday meals are very poor," reveals the data.

Chhattisgarh has languished below the national average. If one studies Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report or National Achievement Survey, one realises the big picture is: capture a baseline of learning levels for 30-lakh students in 50,000 government schools. This means, “revamping instructional support programmes and plugging learning gaps and enabling stakeholders to deliver quality education.”

In the past year or so, the Chhattisgarh government has been working on a set of initiatives to improve the quality of education. This includes teacher training and professional development and high quality teaching-learning materials, as well as textbook development and textbook publishing and distribution programmes.

The textbook project is ambitious, but if the implementation matures, it will require the help and support of A-grade book print factories in Chhattisgarh.

Book trends in Raipur
Raipur boasts of 20 leading publisher-printers and textbook printers in Raipur and not more than ten commercial printers. According to the All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP), however, the total number of printers in the state is 253.

The government in Chhattisgarh opened its doors for the private sector to set up industries in the state with a slew of tax incentives in backward blocks, transport and power subsidies and 100% exemption from state GST for specific industries. These moves have been boosting print consumption in the state.

Rahul Uppal and Shubham Adalka run Sharada Offset Printers, another leading textbook printer based in Raipur. The printing press was established in 1991 by (late) Anil Adalka. Uppal believes in the same principle as Kapoor of Techno Print — the market demands need to be addressed immediately and opportunities do not wait forever. “You can never end up having the perfect capacities, as the demands keep varying. That is when we realised that it makes sense to work together with others, and Techno Print has been our long-term associates. We plan capacities together and also have drawn out long term plans to expand our business in printing," he adds.

 
Rahul Uppal of Sharada Offset with the company’s 4K binder ​

The expansion is because of the requirement of high demand for quality education books. To understand this, one needs to rewind a bit.

There is the National Council for Education Research and Technology (NCERT), an autonomous organisation under the ministry of human resource development, which is the single largest publisher in the country. The publishing programmes in Chhattisgarh are driven by SCERT and CGBSE, the two agencies that work in the state.

Government agencies, whether central or state, do not have adequate in-house printing facilities to meet their demands. So bulks of books published every year by these agencies are printed at private printing facilities. For this, the agencies invite tenders from private printers. This is where capacity building at a textbook printing facility comes to play as you have more chances of winning the tender if you can deliver more number of copies in less number of days, that too at a baseline cost.

Traditionally, textbooks produced by the central and state governments’ school boards dominated the schoolbooks segment in the country. Today, private publishers have more room in the higher-education books segment.

To cater to both segments, Techno Print and Sharada Offset have the firepower. The firms have a fleet of 4 Hi web offset machines, supported by sheetfed presses for printing covers, gatherers, perfect binders from Impel-Welbound and three knife trimmers.

“We can print and fold lakhs of signatures using the high-speed printing machines, but since binding is individual processes, any downtime or delay in one process affects the entire flow,” says Kapoor. “The need of the hour was a fast machine that could also turnaround faster, something that could be connected inline with the gathering and trimming stations."

Books and Impel-Welbound
Anil Kumar, sales director with Impel-Welbound, has seen the print industry in the newly formed state of Chhattisgarh being established from ground zero. “We had some of the biggest buyers of machines and adhesives in the country, based in Chhattisgarh in those formative years. We made the right decision of having a service centre in Raipur, as many of the operators were new into the trade, and this required long-term support in training and maintenance. Ajay Offset-Ankit Publications group was one of the first printers in the country to go for our 12-clamp WB 3600 binders, many years ago. When we suggested the Bindwel freedom > 4K inline binding solution to Techno, they saw long-term value in the investment,” he explains.

Sharada Offset followed suit and both the machines got installed before the new textbook printing season began in 2019.

Says Rahul Uppal, “We have interacted with Anil Kumar and his team of service engineers for a long time. The Impel-Welbound team helps us get the best technical solutions, be it for their machines or for bindery in general, with a long-term view. We also buy hotmelt adhesives from Henkel, supplied by Impel. When we deal with them, we can outsource our worries in bookbinding to them."

The Bindwel Freedom >4K adhesive binder has 12 book clamps that can be centrally adjusted in a single action, has multiple options for milling and gluing, A pre-melt tank and pump that ensures continuous supply of adhesive for binding, separate side-gluing with head and tail cut-off, round-pile type cover feeding system, downhill delivery on to a conveyor that lays the books flat before sending to a trimmer. The binder produces up to four thousand books per hour, at a floor space and energy consumption less by 25% compared to used imports. It can be connected to a signature gatherer and book block feeder in the inlet and to a trimmer from the outlet.

Adds Anil Kumar, “The Bindwel freedom series from our Bangalore factory helps reduce space requirement by up to 50% and labour by up to 70%, when connected inline. The biggest cost in bookbinding is not adhesives or machines, but labour, space and energy. The investment in such a machine is smart as it brings down per book cost aggressively."

Good news for the humble textbook
As Chhattisgarh is creating high-quality teaching textbooks and developing publishing network, there is increasing pressure on the book print firms.

During a confabulation with PrintWeek, Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins India, had said, books are agnostic to economic and cultural changes. He said the country has the infrastructure and the wherewithal to print good looking quality books. At the same time, he argued that the stakeholders should not get complacent about what they have achieved and should work towards building a foolproof system, which is future-ready.

He said the industry is yet to tap the advantages of technology in their supply chain to make the entire process smoother and faster. Thanks to an efficient process, book printers in Chhattisgarh are allaying their concerns about turnaround time.

As mainstream political parties are realising the importance of education and health reforms, it is good news for the humble textbook.

12 facts about Chattisgarh

  1. The Chattisgarh textbook corporation tenders about 12,000-MT for their annual book printing requirement
  2. The textbooks have to be printed within the state; the book work is allotted on the basis of tender
  3. The formation of the state created opportunities for local print firms
  4. Textbooks publishing based out of Raipur was rated higher than other parts of the state, including in the day and age of Undivided MP. Even today, the Madhya Pradesh market relies on Agra-based publishers, in addition to those from Raipur
  5. For printing, before print capacities were built in Chattisgarh, the publishers used to rely on printing in Nagpur and Agra
  6. Textbooks are distributed free, along with uniforms and midday meals in Government schools
  7. Free education schemes run from class six to 12 has ensured better enrolment and retention
  8. The biggest advantage of the state is the availability of labour
  9. Proximity to the neighbouring states of MP, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
  10. More than one million students attend secondary schools
  11. A new industrial policy has divided blocks into four categories — A, B, C and D with D being the most backward blocks. The policy has promised 100% state GST exemption for industrial units set up in D category blocks
  12. A transport grant would be given to exporting units in Chhattisgarh to make them more competitive as there is no port facility

 

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