​Metro and the unlimited potential of print - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

The Surat-based company responds to the changes in the traditional print mindset in Gujarat, with a thoughtful new work process.

Read more about Birju Talati and his ​​focus on print integration in the Sunday Column

07 Mar 2021 | By Noel D'Cunha

Just when the textile industry in the city of Surat was preparing for the wedding season, Covid-19 struck. The city, known as the hub of textile printing, which had supplied clothing worth Rs 10,000-crore a couple of months ago before the lockdown, was waiting for the payment to arrive, found close to Rs 9,500-crore stuck, with no possibility of it coming any soon.
“Our primary business is catering to print requirement of textile industry. Since it was severely affected during the pandemic, there was little work,” says Birju Talati, partner at Metro Printers in Surat. “But during Diwali and the subsequent marriage season things have improved, more than expected.”
However, Talati says business could have been better. “Had there been different business verticals in Surat, apart from the textile business, there would have been decent business during the pandemic too. There were opportunities in print-related products for medical and FMCG, which we printed to a certain extent.”
Talati adds, “Hence, diversification is a must.”
And not surprisingly, Metro has diversified from being an offset print service provider to a digital print supplier. It has even gone a step ahead to become a book printer and a manufacturer and supplier of sublimation paper and eco-friendly paper bags for eCommerce operation. The digital operation operates under the banner of Badal CMYK Print while the sublimation paper business under Metro Tech.
“With the kind of setup and manpower we have, we indeed are a one-stop-shop for a customer. Whether a customer wants to print one book or one-lakh books, Metro has a solution to meeting the customer expectations in terms of quality and delivery time,” boasts Talati. 

(l-r) Bharat Kyada and Talati

From little, things grow big
Metro has an association with Junagadh which is renowned for the poetry of Narsinh Mehta - the 15th-century poet-saint of Gujarat. It’s in Junagadh where Metro was first established in 1992, before expanding to Surat.
“The business in Junagadh was very limited, it still is. I wanted to run… and I saw a good running track in Surat and have been constantly on my toes since we moved to Surat for business expansion. The opportunities in Surat are tremendous and we are exploring these for  past some years,” says Talati, who says that in the entire Junagadh district there is only one four-colour offset press and that’s Metro, catering to commercial print. “This unit caters to almost all print requirements at Junagadh.”
Apart from the printing press, there’s more to Junagadh. One can see the Asiatic Lions in the jungle. “There are no boundaries set for them and they roam around freely, sometimes even reaching one's backyard. The people seldom develop fear for these lions,” says Talati. “There’s the Mount Girnar, another famous spot in Junagadh. There are many devotees from all over India that turn up to ascent the famous mountain for a pilgrimage.”
In Surat where the operations started from 2006, Talati manages the business with partners Bharat and Akash Kyada, and a team of 70+ personnel. The company was equipped with a Kodak Trendsetter thermal CTP, Komori LS526, Komori LS429+coater and post-press kit, before it decided to add a brand new Komori GL437+coater.

Metro Tech dysublimation operation

“The print runs in Surat are short as that is the requirement of the customers in Surat, but with more number of SKUs. The print run for a job is typically around 1,000 sheets and although the print runs have not been affected much before the pandemic and now, Talati says, the number of jobs had certainly reduced significantly during the pandemic. “However, since Diwali, there has been a steady growth in business and I believe we’d be back to normal by May,” he says and cites that as the reason for the new investment in offset and digital. In the current scenario, Metro prints 70+ jobs per day.
Talati also says there’s a reason why he has opted for a brand new Komori. “We trusted Komori right from the start. We had invested in a few refurbished Komori presses before this investment. I don’t remember those presses breaking down, primarily because of the timely maintenance by the Komori service team. This made it very easy to make the buying decision when we decided we’d opt for a new one.”
Now that Metro has installed the new Lithrone, Talati is seeing a real difference in the Komori technology. “Yes, having a new Lithrone press has changed my perspective and the way we print jobs with a faster turnaround. I think I should have taken this decision very early,” says Talati with a tinge of lament.
Going digital with NexPress

Tushar, Rajan and Jignesh and the two units of NexPress at Badal CMYK Prints in Surat

Digital printing might not be an area that would seem like a natural fit for this offset specialist, but that is exactly where Metro went.
The company invested in a Kodak NexPress SX3300 digital production press towards the end of 2018 and placed it under the banner of Badal CMYK Print, along with a set of post-press kit. Tushar Usadadiya, Rajan Kyada and Jignesh Bhut, who also happen to be partners, manage the digital print business. Within a couple of years, they bought another NexPress SX3300 citing a growth in their business.
“When we took the decision to go with Kodak NexPress, our primary aim was to match offset like print quality. The print samples that a NexPress produces match the offset presses that we have. This was a major point while investing in NexPress. Also, the print size that one can get using a NexPress perfectly matched our requirements,” explains Talati.
With NexPress, the company caters to the textile catalogue segment as well as short-run commercial jobs. Within textile catalogues, there are several sizes that customers demand and all these can be printed using a NexPress. “Apart from these, we print short-run jobs for walk-in customers. Now with two units of NexPress, we are targeting to reach a large number of good customers. Fortunately for us, there has been a pull in the number of jobs printed using digital setup rather than marketing about it. Currently we print approximately 10-12 thousand prints on daily basis. However with the addition of the second NexPress, we are also exploring the possibility of targeting other segments through digital printing,” says Birju.

Akash Kyada next to the new Komori press

Tackling plates demand
As with Komori, Metro has been a Kodak loyalist. The company has a Kodak platesetter, deploys the Prinergy workflow and uses the Sonora plates, for its publishing requirements but plans to go Sonora for all jobs it prints.
“We did thorough research while buying the CTP four years ago, as making trouble-free plates for our requirements was the main aim. We wanted to have a CTP with minimum stoppages and maximum output capability – a workhorse. Kodak is a leader in the CTP segment in India and it matched all our expectations and requirements. Since its installation four years ago, there has not been a single breakdown.”
Prinergy in combination with Preps is put to use for the complex imposition of jobs. Preps helps in creating these types of jobs quickly. “Sometimes we do jobs for digital printing using Preps and then print those using NexPress. The features available are very unique and make life easy in pre-press. Any corrections in the file are also highlighted by Prinergy software thus eliminating wastage of time and resources,” explains Talati.
Continuous technology investment

Metro has diversified into different verticals. It has a team that manages each of these verticals. “If one of the vertical is not performing, the others help to achieve the set targets. With the kind of setup that we have, we can cater to a variety of jobs from customers and deliver those in time which is an essential requirement these days.”
And in that, technology has helped. Talati says, “We have always invested in new technology. In the past five years, if you check our investments, we have invested in a variety of machinery – be it investing in an in-house CTP from Kodak, a press with in-line coater from Komori, digital printing press by Kodak, and allied set of post-press machinery. We believe that investing in the latest technology helps in additional business and one should continuously pre-empt and invest or adapt to business needs.”
It’s essential to show clients that when it comes to providing value-added service, the company it goes to for its requirement is at the forefront of it. “We want Metro to be a renowned printer across India and a lighthouse account for our partners. Every printer in India should know Metro Printers from Surat. For this to happen, we are continuously improving ourselves and you will see the kind of investments that we would be making to make our 2030 vision a reality,” concludes Talati.

Birju Talati

One print job you love. Please describe one Metro job that you are proud of, for our readers…
Recently we printed a high-volume job focusing on local elections. The volumes were so high that it would have been difficult for any printer to match the delivery time expectations. However, with the kind of setup that we have, we could deliver the job with the best print results within the time limit given by our client. I would like to share that this is the biggest advantage of having every operation - prepress to post press - in-house.
Apart from this, we specialise in high-end textile catalogues which require optimum print results. This is something which we do day in day out.
One thing about a print hub like Kathodra in Surat that non-Surat-ians don't know?
Within a very small radius there have been a good number of installations of brand new equipment – be it pre-press or press. This has resulted in a good volume of printing done in Kathodra. One should witness the hush-hush at any of the printers during the day.


Talati: There are a variety of slabs for the purchase of raw materials and printed products

How do you unwind? 
I am a family person and like to spend time with my kids. After work, having dinner and talking about the day with my wife, parents and kids is something which I find very relaxing.
Favourite film?  
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
Favourite holiday destination?  
Favourite snack in Surat?  
Locho, khamani, paratha .
Favourite print/packaging factory?  
Metro Printers.
One suggestion to the Finance Minister about print?
Reduced GST rates for end-users. Common GST rates for the print industry. Currently, there are a variety of slabs for the purchase of raw materials and printed products. A uniformity in these will help the print industry.


Rohan Kulkarni of Kodak discusses Kodak kit at Metro

Rohan Kulkarni

Installed in January 2017
Kodak Trendsetter 400 CTP
Kodak T-MDE Plate Processor
Kodak Prinergy Connect along with Preps
Digital printing press:

  • NexPress 1: NexPress SX3300 Digital Production Press
    Installed in December 2018
  • NexPress 2: NexPress SX3300 Digital Production Press
    Installed in January 2021

Specifications of the product: 
Kodak NexPress
The Kodak NexPress is a five-colour digital cut-sheet production press that provides output quality that rivals offset across an unmatched variety of job types: commercial print, direct mail, publishing, photo products, packaging and other high-margin applications. NexPress excels at a short run and personalised jobs on a wide variety of substrates. The press can support sheet lengths up to 1,295 mm and paper thicknesses up to 610 microns or 530 gsm. NexPress also allows a choice of 12 fifth imaging unit solutions for digital enhancements including speciality inks, plus custom spot colours and matte and gloss finishes.
Kodak CTPs
The popular Kodak platesetters are designed to meet the challenges of today’s business environment. Based on the same trusted technology that printers have depended on for over 20 years, the platesetters have evolved to help printers adapt and grow. Kodak engineers have added several new features, such as more automation, faster speeds, and significant power savings, which make the platesetters a smart investment for  businesses.
What does it do?

At Metro, the NexPress is used to print textile catalogues and short-run commercial printing jobs. Due to the fast turnaround time for printing, it is easy to cater to a large number of clients who require high quality, short-run prints.
At Metro, the CTP is used to make plates for in-house print requirements.  
What is unique about it?
NexPress is an incredibly versatile machine that delivers a powerful combination of image quality, consistency, and low running costs. These presses give customers the flexibility and confidence to move shorter run jobs to digital without sacrificing quality. NexPress presses also provide new growth opportunities using thicker substrates, longer sheet sizes, and digital embellishments. Thanks to the easy-to-switch NexPress operator replaceable components and the NexPert operator support system, Kodak customers can perform 90% of press maintenance. So customers are empowered to control quality, productivity and costs, and to manage service schedules and maximize uptime.
Kodak CTPs are equipped with industry-leading Squarespot imaging technology plus new features, such as more automation, faster speeds, and significant power savings making the platesetters a smart investment for the business.
Thermal platesetters are known for delivering incredible accuracy and stability. Kodak platesetters take that even further: with patented Squarespot imaging technology, available only on Kodak Platesetters, customers get unmatched stability, reliability, and accuracy, resulting in fewer plate remakes, less time adjusting for variables, and excellent print quality. This technology delivers dependable accuracy regardless of plate emulsion sensitivity, processor variation, and laser power. The new Kodak Mobile CTP Control App lets the customers monitor their platesetters remotely with an Android or IOS device.
 When was it launched?
In India, NexPress was launched in 2008 with the first machine sold in 2008 as well.
The Trendsetter CTP was launched in 2002 and has continued to be a popular choice of printers across all segments.
What market is it aimed at?
NexPress is aimed to deliver exceptional print results across all print segments - commercial print, direct mail, publishing, photo products, and packaging.
The Kodak CTPs are a popular choice across all segments too - commercial printer, trade shops, offset packaging, publishing, newspaper. Depending upon the type of customer, there are specific models that suit their respective requirements. Owing to the finest reproducible resolution possible, Kodak CTPs are a popular choice for security printers too. 


Metro Factfile

Metro Tech plant in Surat

Established in Metro Printers in Junagadh in 1992; Metro Printers in Surat in 2006; Metro Tech in Surat in 2017;  Badal CMYK Print in Surat in 2018
Speciality Book printing, catalogue, booklets, leaflets, brochures, packaging, paper bags
Equipment A brand new Komori GL437+coater, a Komori LS526, Komori LS429+coater, a Komori heatset press, and a Harris coldest presses; two units of Kodak NexPress SX3300 digital production; Kodak Trendsetter thermal CTP, post-press equipment from Muller Martini; Welbound WB2500 and a three-knife trimmer; and a range of other finishing machines.
Employees 90+


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