"The expanse of opportunities thrown open by print made everything easy," K C Sanjeev

K C Sanjeev, chairman and managing director, Welbound Worldwide, in conversation with Sachin Shardul of PrintWeek India

13 Mar 2014 | By Sachin Shardul

Sachin Shardul: Where did the idea come from of launching a business aimed at manufacturing post-press kit in India? Especially at a time, when it was a non-existent market; unless it was high-end equipment from Muller Martini and Kolbus or manual labour for binding?
KC Sanjeev:
I started my career as a printer, working for my uncle's press in a village close to Trivandrum. The first offset printing machine that I operated was a Swift mini offset. The company , Swift, saw some drive, passion and capability in me that they offered me a job for sales and service of their products in Kerala. I was much part of the team that saw the movement of print migrating from letterpress to offset, in the most literate state in India. I saw the expanse of opportunities thrown open by print, and typically offset printing, that made everything easy. I also took part in the evolution of typesetting, in the state, when letterpress moved to desktop publishing. That's when I met my partner, P Sajith, who represented a Hyderabad-based software company.  In 1988, I realised that pre-press and press are moving in directions that will simplify and speed up the process of print. All these,  while binding remained manual, slow, inconsistent and was instrumental in undoing whatever the earlier processes and their advancements did.

We set out to develop and manufacture a binding machine that provided automation for the process of book production. A tool that empowered the book binder to deliver good quality binding, much faster than before, at a reasonable investment with high returns. That's how Welbound was born.

Sachin Shardul: Welbound's growth has been focused on organic growth. Are you tempted to get involved in a M&A?
KC Sanjeev:
We have always worked with partners, in most cases much larger companies than what we are. In the beginning , it was Hindustan Lever ; then came ICI India, in both these cases world's leading manufacturer of adhesives, National Starch being the back bone. National Starch was taken over by Henkel, the world's largest adhesives manufacturers. Since then, we have a partnership with them. We also have partnerships with Wohlenberg and Guk.
While our partners helped our growth with auxiliary equipment or consumables, we focused on our in house research to develop products that have attractive costs of ownership and at the same time deliver products that are globally acceptable.

Sachin Shardul: PUR is one trend which looks promising. What has been your experience with customers? Is it harder to rely on technology as a USP nowadays?
KC Sanjeev:
PUR is the future of bookbinding. It is a boon to book production and machine manufacturing  : be it be due to thermal stability, durability,  solvent resistance, perfect lay flatness and ability to handle a wide range if substrates. It has freed the commercial printer from having to limit themselves with the grammage and type of paper used as well as the process of over coating; it has also freed the bookprinter from the bottlenecks in work-flow caused due to thread sewing. Affordable technologies that can make the impossible - possible, in quick time are the real winners. No doubt on that.
Sachin Shardul: You have an interface with Guk, Wohlenberg and Vijuk. What have you learned along the way? How can India better its manufacturing processes?
KC Sanjeev:
Guk and Vijuk is a partnership now, with the owner being the same. I would rate them very high on their manufacturing capabilities, typically related to turned components with very high levels of accuracy. They also have taken folding paper to a very high level, where they fold a newspaper sized sheet to a format that fits a bottle cap. I would rate their engineering and manufacturing at very high esteem; I also rate them very high on managing the product life cycle. Wohlenberg has some of the best solutions in book binding and this is a very efficient organisation that has invested heavily in design and development and gone ahead in optimising these designs with respect to manufacturing.

They have the best gatherer for any binders, plus the quick binder is a wonderful product, the Lucro, the made for india perfect binder. They also have very specialised solutions for soft cover binding. We have learned a lot from both these companies and the partnerships, be it design, development, standards, manufacturing, product life cycle management and so on. India has already learned these tricks in developed industries like automobiles; and the other industries will follow suit.
Sachin Shardul: Welbound has a project with ISRO. In what way has that improved manufacturing efficiencies in the past years?
KC Sanjeev:
We have been an approved vendor partner of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO ) for many of their SLV projects and also for the prestigious Chandrayan and Mangalyan projects. Our support was acknowledged and lauded during many occasions, by the ISRO team. What ISRO experience has given is different from our other partnerships. This is not about manufacturing efficiencies, but about  developing skills to develop components that are really 'rocket science compliant'. This was one of the cornerstones for us to embark on the journey of developing an indigenous PUR solution, that requires similar, high level of skill sets.

Sachin Shardul: Any important projects you are embarking on? What's the vision for the next five years?
KC Sanjeev:
We understand the motion of paper and the way adhesive works, if you look at our whole range of products and services. We will work on projects that include these key strengths, across printing, converting and packaging. These would include machines and services. We already have expanded our relationship with Henkel, where we have extended our services for enhancement of efficiencies in workflow to the users of Henkel adhesives. We understand that, in this value chain there is hardly any scope for any one to reduce their prices. But, we can offer services that will reduce the customer's cost-in -use, and it is here we will play the key role. We have expanded over service networks, and we have towns like Vijayawada, Kolhapur, Raipur, Meerut, Guwahati as our some of our new service centers now. We will deliver specialised application service support that is unparalleled in this industry, in India.