The first-generation entrepreneur

Bengaluru-based Ramya is an ISO 9001:2008 certified firm and has been approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) Quality Management. A look at this award winning firm.

28 Nov 2013 | By PrintWeek India

Profiling Ramya Reprographics'  managing director, R Narendra, is daunting. To project him as a 42-year-old first-generation born entrepreneur who broke the glass ceiling in the Indian printing industry will be an understatement. He is a ‘smart’ printer, ever since he cut his teeth in a tough profession. Today he has achieved innumerable laurels  through hard work, professional commitment to quality, timely delivery and customer service.
By a simple quirk of fate, Narendra took to the printing line at a young age when he smudged his hands for the first time with black ink at a letterpress in the neighbour’s courtyard, located in the southwest suburb of Bengaluru.
Unlike boys of his age who spent their  free time in sports or pursuing other hobbies, Narendra, the eldest son of a blue-collar worker at Bosch (formerly Mico), worked at a press during the summer vacation while schooling.
“During three-month summer vacation, I had my first exposure to printing work, its machinery and the value chain involving paste, lead composing, rebinding of used books, cutting, sorting and folding paper,” Narendra recalls with a tinge of nostalgia. 
After completing his 10th class Narendra opted for a diploma course in printing technology at the government institute S J  Polytechnic in the city centre; instead of pursuing his  dream of joining a professional degree college to become an engineer or a doctor, later.
As luck would have it, this  was prudent advice by his uncle, then an assistant director in the Government Press in Bangalore. This uncle, inspired Narendra to opt for an offset course rather than letterpress, which was becoming obsolete, thanks to evolving technology that redefined not only the industry’s future but also changed its business.
“Opting for the offset course was a timely decision that shaped my destiny as it laid foundation for keeping pace with the rapid changes in the industry and adapting to customers’ requirements in a highly competitive and unorganised sector,” he states.
The economic hardships of being a part of lower middle class family made Narendra’s foray into the printing line a struggle in the initial years, as he had to study during the day – and work part-time in the evening at Panama Printers in order to supplement the family income plus fulfill his education expenses.
Fire in the belly
The fire in the belly, however, fuelled Narendra’s ambition to set loftier sights and utilise every opportunity that came his way. He mastered the tricks of the trade through practical experience and long-term domain expertise.
Though armed with a diploma, a young Narendra had to start from scratch, working first as a machine helper at the reputed press, Mytec on Lalbagh road in the Garden City for “a royal salary” of Rs 285 per month in the late eighties.
With one-year of experience, he became a supervisor at Sudin Offset on Bannerghatta Road in the southern part of the city. He worked for three years, honing skills to run the show, and manage people who form the core of a press unit.
Having got exposure to managing men and material, Narendra left Sudin to join a small-time advertising agency to the west of Chord Road in the city’s suburb as a production manager. He gained experience  in the various facets of the industry from pre-press to post-press sections in 1992-93.
“I had an opportunity to move out of Bengaluru to work at Jets Multimedia, a sister concern of Profad Advertising agency in Madras (Chennai), and learn about film production, multimedia and web offset,” Narendra says.
Working for a year (1993-94) in Chennai, where the industry is enterprising and thriving. This was partially due to the printing legacy of the British in the Madras Presidency. This legacy sowed seeds of entrepreneurship in Narendra whose career turned a full circle starting from letterpress, offset; and culminating in web offset and multimedia.
But the transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur was neither easy nor smooth. Narendra faced stiff opposition from a conservative family and sceptical relatives who thought he was “mad to even think of venturing into a godforsaken business where cut-throat competition would ruin his life.”
However, gut-feeling and the right instinct, propelled Narendra into the business. This meant selling off the family asset in the city to raise seed capital and secure a term loan from the Karnataka State Finance Corporation (KSFC). The public sector firm, agreed to fund his venture Ramya, a hybrid of his parent’s names –Rama Reddy and Ammaya – after many a bank turned him away as he had “mere production experience with little exposure to marketing.”
Humble and modest beginnings
And in this way, from a humble and modest beginning, Narendra the entrepreneur, never looked back. Since 1995, he grabbed all opportunities – and challenges. This plus, the emergence of Bengaluru as India’s IT hub and cosmopolitan city, led to a growth in services and allied industry.
What stood out during those years of earning and yearning to learn was Narendra’s devil may care attitude towards cash.
“Prior to starting on my own, wherever I went and whomsoever I met, criterion was to learn instead of earn, which is equally important to sustain and run a business. I considered every job offer an opportunity to learn and did not bargain for money or incentives. In fact, I used to do one shift for salary and other shift to learn more or new things to keep abreast of the rapid changes in the field,” Narendra asserts.
The basic premise of working in double shift was if ‘x’ could learn ‘a’ in eight hours (one shift), then ‘y’ can learn ‘a plus’ in other eight hours (second shift). In other words, exposure to the job, problem solving and people was two-fold, each complementing the other.
The journey, which began in 1995 with a single colour offset machine in a 2,400 sq/ft premises, expanded to five single-colour offset machines, which made Ramya the only press in the city having five machines running at one time.
As orders grew, business expanded and clients kept returning, Narendra had to opt for a bigger premise every five years, in order to accommodate more machines and a larger workforce. As a result, he shifted his old and new machinery to three locations before settling for the next decade in six-floors swanky premises spread over one lakh sq/ft  on the city’s outskirts off the National Highway 7 to provide end-to-end printing solutions under one roof.
With domain expertise in the production process at every level, Narendra built an ecosystem for promoting and marketing at his modern to engage clients across verticals. Even without he had no formal exposure to modern management theories, he and his marketing and production team have been able to attract the attention of clients ranging from multinational to realtors.
Keeping in view the unfolding opportunities and business potential, Narendra has forayed into packaging, a sunrise sector in the industry, by setting up Aryan Print Pack, as a subsidiary of Ramya.
Global standards
As one of the leading offset and digital printers in India’s tech city – Ramya has set global print standards and a client base that makes others sit up and notice.
With best-in-class machinery that measures up to international processes, Ramya caters to host of clients in verticals spanning multinationals, real estate, IT, retail, manufacturing, food processing and automobiles.
“For over decade, our collective professional expertise has been making a big difference to our clients in showcasing their products and services to their customers,” says Narendra, a first-generation entrepreneur, who revolutionised the art of printing into a creative process.
The modest-nineties which began with with a single colour printing machine and 10 employees, transofrmed itself into one of the top five print firms in the city. The reason is: Ramya’s  ability to offer superb control over workflow. This is supplemented by a production process that has made the company produce multiple orders with its quality-hallmark and delivery, at competitive cost.
“To make our production value endearing to customers, our marketing team gives a quotation within 15 minutes of order enquiry using the latest estimate software,” asserts Narendra, a qualified print-master, who ensures his team is on the top of the game when it comes to “planning, production and above all, marketing”.
Equipped with the latest multicolour offset machines, the company has an in-house design unit and a production system comprising plate-making, section stitching, punching and cutting machines, which are powered by 24x7 generators in case of interruptions from the state-run power utility.
“Our dedicated team of 300 people with expertise in creating, designing and printing is inspired by the company’s vision of superior quality and complete customer satisfaction,” claims Narendra.
Ramya is one of the few presses in the city to have imported printing, pre-press and post-press machinery, including three Heidelberg Speedmasters (SM)-74 with built-in coaters from Germany, four-colour Komori Lithrone with online coater from Japan, two Screen CTP machines, Apple systems, Proteck cutting machine and Canon 7000VP for digital printing.
“We believe that great printing is always a perfect matrimony between science and art. A number of global recognitions bear testimony to the highest standards of quality we have set. With rapid technological changes in the industry and evolving customer demands, we stay ahead of the growth curve by adopting a ‘customer first’ approach,” points out Narendra.
Printing is a science
According to the company’s philosophy, printing is a precision science and a mix of human skill aided by technology. “Our approach at every stage of production is driven by our belief to do best and our passion for perfection is determined by our compulsive eye for error-spotting to ensure the end product goes beyond the original vision for the printed material,” observes Narendra.
Similarly, Ramya believes in integrity and transparency in all dealings to maximise customer satisfaction and maintain industry margins. Fair practices at workplace, minimising paper wastage and other green measures to reduce the impact on the environment are part of its core values, which sets it apart in the industry.
In dealing with people, which is its human capital, the founder is of the belief that the company is as good as its people and vice-versa. “We give utmost importance to our people and empower them to constantly learn and grow in the organisation with job satisfaction and a sense of ownership,” says Narendra with pride.
To keep abreast of latest technology and processes in the industry, the company regularly upgrades the knowledge and skills of its workforce to be on par with its peers worldwide. ERP solutions are used for entire operations.
“As a team we upgrade our knowledge to be on par with international standards and be cost-effective, consume less time but maximise impact. Our knowledge management practice is designed to deliver better, faster information dissemination across departments,” concludes  Narendra.

Ramya at a glance

Founded in 1995
Specialty Wall and desktop calenders, brochures, leaflets, hang-tags, folders, ID-cards, paper carry bags, annual reports, books, catalogues, magazines, directories, collaterals (letterheads, business cards, envelopes), invitations, certificates, posters, photo-books, product stickers, manuals, diaries and large-format printing
Equipment Four-colour with inline coater Heidelberg SM 74, Komori L29 and Dominant presses, Canon 7000 VP, Epson large-format proofer and Screen CTP, fully computerised Proteck cutting machines, Horizon folding machine, Horizon perfect binding among other machines. 
Ramya is an ISO 9001:2008 certified firm and has been approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) Quality Management, validating its process-driven approach and quality standards.
As one of South India’s largest print solution companies, Ramya won the Bronze Asian Print Award in 2011, SAPPI Print Award at Taipei in Taiwan in 2010, silver medal at the sixth Asian Print Award in 2008 in Singapore and became a life member of the Karnataka Offset Printers Association (KOPA) in 2009.
The company has recently forayed into packaging printing, a sunrise sector through its subsidiary, Aryan Printpack to service food processing and perfumery industries.