“I am surprised we still talk about SOPs,” says Purnendu Sen

Purnendu Sen, a printing master, has planned and implemented quality newspaper production as the technical director at The Times of India group. Now retired, Sen had a lively interaction with B S Kampani, the president and MD of Toyo Ink during Ink Association’s (AIPIMA) international conference. During the hour long tete-a-tete, they touched upon presses, ink, paper and Sen’s first love – Indian newspapers

10 Jan 2013 | By PrintWeek India

BS Kampani (BSK) : When will water-based flexo machines be used for newspaper printing in India and what kind of speed can be achieved?
Purnendu Sen (PS):
This is an old question. Italian Cerutti had displayed a machine producing a full speed newspaper press way back in early 1990’s. But the same could not be implemented due to economic reasons. Investment was too high and the returns earned did not commensurate the investment done. Imported machines like Cerutti, achieved less than 1% wastage way back in the 1990s. But today in modern newspaper plants in India, we have achieved less than 2.5% using automated handling systems. However, an automated reel handling system is an investment intensive system – and therefore may be a deterent for small players.  

BSK: Globally, the gravure-printed publication is a declining market. In a country like India, would print firms still be interested in the same technology?
PS: It is very difficult to convince an investor or risk-taker in India. The run-length of magazine printed in India is far too low to sustain such an investment. However, I see a huge potential and future for gravure in packaging. For example, in India, with local-made gravure machine, the total project cost can be very low. One can set up a new gravure plant with an investment of Rs five-crore in Indian machinery, not with machines like Cerutti, etc.

BSK: What is the future of inkjet printed plates for offset in newspaper segment?
PS: It’s a good option for small newspaper; the implementation of anti-dumping duty on import of digital plates from China not withstanding. And the duty imposed was considered minimum due to the huge user base in India. The data about newspaper segment is really extraordinary. There are almost 78,000 registered newspaper employing several thousand people. So all these 78,000 newspapers will use and buy CTP plates and machine; and majority of the small newspapers will continue to use inkjet plates simply because of cost. And cost involves both, variable as well as equipment.In Sivakasi, people have found a technique wherein they re-grain and re-use inkjet plates. So yes, inkjet printed plates has a large application base, but to make it suitable for large players, the run-length of plates has to improve.

BSK: To satisfy the newspaper industry, what are the precautions to be taken by an ink manufacturer?
PS: The general tendency of a printer is to first blame the ink manufacturer, then paper and then additives, and so on, when something goes wrong. It is sad that we are still talking about standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the print industry. And this happens not only in India, but also in advanced countries. However, if you recall, when people like me entered the print industry four decades ago, we were witness to the initiative of Pranav Parikh under whose leadership a team was formed with the mandate to lay down the SOPs. The job was done satisfactorily (with the help of BMPA) and a printed document was created. I am surprised that we still talk about SOPs.

BSK: As press speeds go up, what are the parameters the inkmakers should consider for making top-grade inks for newspaper printing?
PS: There are a host of parameters. First comes the press design, particularly  dampening system and inking system, type of fountain solution used, ambient temperature etc. Paper used and pre-press itself has seven to eight parameters involved. 

BSK: When one has to change paper grade, as an inkmaker what changes should I make?
PS: As an ink maker, other than inks they have to look into parameters like screen lpi (line per inch), total area of ink coverage, solid density, ripping algorithm, total dot gain, print contrast, etc.

BSK: How do you see UV printing applications in the Indian newspaper industry?
Everywhere you go there are experts talking about UV printing but when it comes to actual application there are very few who use it with vigour. I would put it like this, if the demand for heatset print is very high, then using conventional heatset presses is a good solution. But when it comes to an occasional use, UV inks in newspaper and publication segments, can be considered because today we have perfected UV technology. However, whether for large or occasional print requirement, we need to do micro-cost analysis with great details covering costs like power, roller, blanket, changeover times and ink, etc.

BSK: What is the trend considering the heatset machines are being replaced by coldset machines fitted with LED lamps, hybrid inks, etc. Everywhere space is a constraint. Do you see a trend where a single machine does the work of two machines with same quality – the concept of combination press?
Quality is just one of the aspects in this. The economics involved is very high – one is the unit and second is cost per sheet of newspaper production.The concept of a combination press was ushered in newspaper when there was a demand for some pages to be printed by heatset and some by coldset process. However, the investors did not find it an ideal process, because it included huge investment. Newspaper printed by heatset on a daily basis is very expensive and is not affordable, except in oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE.Interestingly, in India, I have personally installed a press which is a heatset-coldset combination, without a heating system. Let me explain, the machine is capable of printing both types, with a suitable reel-stand and print unit from a design perspective. All one needs to do is to add a heating technology to it. Therefore, this is not something new. We already have it in India.

BSK: There is much more attention on the environment; and re-cycling of paper is in focus. Do you anticipate any kind of printing problem with recycled newsprint? 
PS: There are two aspects involved in recycling of paper, one is mechanical and other is chemical property of paper. Mechanical quality means winding, tensile strength and tension control, and these are better in recycled paper. Chemical properties with terms of absorption, rub resistance, etc are some issues in recycled paper but form a very negligible part, which can be addressed by working with the ink and resin manufacturer.  Also there is no difference when we consider newspaper. Recycling of newspaper is a must.

BSK: How do you see the growth of newspaper in India... 
PS: The obituary of newspaper was announced in 1980, when CNN was launched on 1 June, 1980. Ted Turner, founder of CNN, addressing a huge gathering said that from tomorrow printed newspaper will start dying. It’s been 32 years since – and I am sure newspapers will continue to be printed for decades to come. 

But the western world is reporting negative growth of around 3%...
Which western world are you talking about? There is a western world beyond America and UK. For example, take the German newspaper market. The newspapers I saw 35 years ago are still being printed. Not a single newspaper is dead. One should not read such surveys and studies because there is a life beyond such studies and America. In America, newspapers are still using PS plates. They did not change technology and did not move to four-colour printing even when colour televisions were introduced world over. Hence no one was interested in giving black and white advertisements.

American press owners have killed American newspapers.The Levisohn report stated that the press owners, politicians and journalists have made the UK citizens victims, directly or indirectly. This is the reason why a 167-year old Rupert Murdoch group newspaper was closed. In India too, the electronic and printed media need to do some soul-searching. If this continues we are bound to fall.

Interestingly, in India, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting conducted a survey for increase in FDI proposal for newspapers. It clearly stated that except UK, US, the rest of the world has experienced sustained growth. KPMG also reports that newspapers will persist. Digital is decades away from influencing the Indian newspaper segment.