27 newspaper plants across the country

HT Media’s Anjan Majumdar, talks to Rahul Kumar about the nuts and bolts of newspapers, and how HT’s experiments with technology have paid off.

17 Nov 2014 | By Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar (RK): Please let us know about your printing plants in India?
Anjan Mazumdar (AM): We have 27 printing plants across the country. We are in the process of adding more plants for our English dailies in the Delhi/NCR region as well as other parts of India. Right now, we produce 30 million copies per day for our titles. We are planning to set up small print plants with Indian web offset printing presses in remote areas for local editions. 
RK: What are the new developments in the Indian newspaper industry on the technical front? 
AM: Right now, innovation rules the market. For instance we have started flap (half false cover), we have started perforation, gate fold, french windows. We are among the few newspaper printers and publishers in the country who had adopted FM screening which is primarily used by commercial printer. By opting for this technology we are saving approximately 22% on inks.
RK: Does size (broadsheet, Berliner or midi and tabloid) of newspaper really matter for printing process?
AM: Yes, the size of newspaper industry directly means the cut off size of printing presses and whenever you buy the printing press cut-off is one of the major parameters to opt. For broadsheet you can go from 578 to 533 mm cut off.
When you print a berlinear then you will require a 630 mm cut off machine. It is the one time step and you will be playing around it the whole life. 
RK: What are the differences between a foreign-made web offset printing press and an Indian-made? 
AM: Indian printing press manufacturers are catching up with their foreign counterparts. If you compare them feature to feature, you will find that they are at par with most of the industry standards. As far as manufacturing and quality production parameters there may be some gulf between Indian and overseas manufacturers. In terms of metallurgy, structure of the machine and options, Indian manufacturers are coming up with good machines. We do not see any other major issue with the web offset printing press manufacturers in India.
RK: Do Indian press manufacturers meet your demands?
AM: The Indian web offset manufacturers do not have the confidence of manufacturing double-width (4x1) printing presses as they have on single-width (2x1). See the recent installation in the industry, no one imports single-width printing presses from overseas. In fact some of the Indian web offset printing press manufacturers are world leaders. 
RK: What kind of initiatives are taken by you for the technical developments and being from a printing background what kind of privileges do you have?
AM: I have had the privilege to head very big printing facilities in more than three decades of my professional life. I am always in favour of opting for latest and good technology to save your production cost in the long run. Good quality production can create a difference between you and your competitor’s products. Cost quality and suitable technology, have always been my forte. 
Being an early adaptor of latest technology we are always keen to educate our staff. 
RK: Being one of the early adopters of 4x1 printing press, what kind of advantages do you see? Why will printers shift from 2x1 to 4x1 format printing press?
AM: Single width double circumference (4x1) printing presses provide direct saving on printing plates thus you save directly on your running costs. In our recently installed TKS we are using single blanket so we are saving on it. In our earlier presses we need to buy metal blanket but in this press we use conventional blankets, which is much more economical and easily available. When the number of printing plate changes the quality of production also differs. Single printing plate is always better because you have to manage fewer variables. The chances of falter directly increase when you have multiple variables to manage.
RK: The revenue of newspapers and publishers over the years has seen a considerable fall in advertising spend. Is there some pickup in the market and will it sustain? As far as technology is concerned.
AM: Present times are slightly challenging but our company is doing well through innovation. Being technically correct we can save production costs by implementing several technologies and opting for latest technology equipped with automation. Since our advertisers are very demanding so we have to develop in-house innovation. We have found the right balance to survive and grow in these trying times.
RK: Is there any threat to newspapers from the new medium of information, especially in India? Should the technical team of HT Group be worried about the newspaper market?
AM: According to me, new mediums of communication and information are not a threat for newspapers because print all over the western world has managed to survive, while in India it has grown. Electronic media is growing very quickly but I do not know what will be its impact on newspaper. Entry of multiple news channels was supposed to bring down newspaper circulation, but the circulation of newspapers has grown instead of going down.
We are feeling the heat because our advertisers have more options now. Advertising budgets always depends on market condition if the market is doing well then advertisers will spend more. Whenever the market takes a nose dives, most of the companies will reduce their marketing budget. It is a difficult time as marketing budgets are shrinking and the number of competitors have increased. You have to be up to date to match the competition of new media; younger generation is adopting the newer media.
Being a media company you need to diversify with multiple medium of communication, information, entertainment and education. You must have an FM radio station so that you can catch your reader during their commute, mobile versions of your news and entertainment so that readers can get instant alerts and you must have a television channel. We must maintain contact with our target audience by engaging them with different media throughout the day and in the morning when they can get up they get a full digest of news through the newspapers. This is how you can cover the entire life cycle of a person in terms of media. Newspapers will continue to be the main source of information.
It is time of multiple media; it is difficult to survive only through one media.
RK:  The Indian print market is touted at USD 24.1 bn. What is the share of newspaper printing in that pie?
AM: The newspaper printing would have a share of more than 60% in that pie since newspapers and magazines are growing in India. Right now growth is healthy in the newspaper segment since India is among a handful of countries in the world that shows double digit growth in newspaper publication and printing.
RK: What sort of modifications are we seeing on the productions shopfloor? 
AM: We have used CTP for a long time, so there is nothing new for us in that area. Digipack – digital inking is a new thing in newspaper. The fountain systems are also the turbo and spray dampening. A lot of things are happening to facilitate advertisement growth; we can put or paste something on newspaper through our mailroom systems. A lot of changes are happening in terms of delivery and mailroom system because a lot of zones are being created. People are investing in inserters and other equipment, which can give you zones. We are printing millions of copies and it is impossible to manage all of them manually, hence automation has become paramount. Robotic control of newspaper printing also saves newsprint and reduces wastage considerably.
RK: One great print job that you’ve produced which showcases the strides that print technology has taken?
AM: Our first priority is to produce neat and clean copies of our dailies within the stipulated time so that these copies can reach our customers in time. So each copy of every title is a great print job for us.
Yes, we can provide innovative jobs also but it depends on cost because every innovation comes at a cost.
RK: What about the printing technologies like water-based flexo and digital (inkjet), will they be ever used for newspaper printing in India? What will be the success rate for it?
AM: .Water-based flexo has been used in USA and other places but could not succeed. Both are totally different technologies. Digital is used for specialised and personalised printing. If I want to send personalised newspaper for 100 CEOs of this country then digital will come into play. In USA, it has been used by very large newspaper houses and in India it has not been used because it is not very cost-effective. Digital is a very successful option for short-run and personalisation.
RK: For flawless production and satisfaction of the newspaper industry, what are the precautions to be taken by an ink, paper and printing press manufacturers?
AM: Ink manufacturers must manufacture printing inks suitable for Indian environment. Printing inks and fountain solutions are two things which are affected by the environment. It has to be custom-made as per Indian running condition.
Newsprint is a pain-point for each and every newspaper printer and Indian newsprint manufacturers have to go a long way. Each and every newspaper printer has to have an in-house paper testing lab.
Printing press manufacturers have to be cost-effective; and reliable makeready and clean-up have to be quick so that we do not waste our capacity.
RK: What is the future of inkjet printed plates for offset in the newspaper segment?
AM: It is a viable preposition for small newspaper houses whose print run is small but for people like us it is not suitable.
RK: As speed rises, what are the parameters the ink, paper and presses makers should take into consideration?
AM: Maintenance is very important. Rather, it’s preventive.
RK: How do you see UV printing applications in the Indian newspaper industry?
AM: UV printing is done by some small newspapers instead of heatset to avoid the higher cost of buying and running a heatset printing press. Basically it is used to give a glaze effect on the newspaper.

Newly installed TKS at HT Media
RK: 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?
AM: The biggest challenge for heatset printing presses come from UV, but I do not see many newspapers are using it. Some of the newspaper printers are printing their front and back pages on UV only.
RK: 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?
AM: Mostly we produce our newspapers on recycled newsprint due to environment concerns. Within the company we have reduced the consumption of paper and we are using up to 90% recycled paper. The trouble with recycled paper is that it all depends on the recyclability of the fibre and used paper. Some of the Indian newsprint manufacturers have good set-up to recycle the paper but most of them do not. Some of the overseas newsprint manufacturers have very good facility to recycle the paper so they produce good quality recycled newsprint.
RK: What is the key to HT’s growth and expansion plans?
AM: Our very innovative, dynamic and fair leadership has played a very important part in our growth. We have also made very smart decisions and controlled our costs skillfully.
RK: What will be the role of a technical team in combating the price war which has broken out in the print media?
AM: Technical team can control the cost of production by implementing their own methods. Very soon you will see that the price war will come to an end and cover prices will go up. In previous months, we were hit very badly because of the devaluation of rupee. In order to counter this fluctuation we are planning to use Indian newsprint instead of imported newsprint to cut our cost. 
RK: Will mergers and acquisitions make any impact on the printing facilities of the companies?
AM: Mergers and acquisitions are happening and more will take place as the market consolidates. Recently, Jagran acquired Mid-Day and Nai Duniya.
RK: Waterless offset, will it be a viable process in India?
AM: Waterless offset is being used in parts of Europe, but it is hard to see it making a mark on the Indian market. Even abroad it is not very popular among newspaper printers. 
RK: What is the suitable speed of a press for Indian market?
AM: Nowadays you have presses which can print 1,00,000 copies an hour. Ultimately it depends on your requirement. 
RK: Waste in newspaper printing presses is a big concern, how difficult or easy to manage it? And please share your initiative to prevent it.
AM: It all depends on your vision and plans. It is preventable, if you want to prevent it. Material handling and production planning are two key areas that need to be controlled in order to cut down wastage. You will find that wherever the quality is under par the wastage will be higher.
RK: What are your future plans? Any important project you are embarking on.
AM: We recently installed TKS printing press and had started production on it. We are increasing number of our printing plants and capacity, and number of colour pages too. For local and hyperlocal editions we are setting up new plants and opting for contract printing.
RK: The government has purposed 49% FDI in print media.
AM: I welcome it but do not see any major change because of it.

About Founded in 1924, HT Media is one of the largest media houses in India which has a presence in print, internet and radio
Hindustan Times, Hindustan, a Hindi daily, Business Daily and Mint. Apart from the three dailies, they publish two magazines in Hindi, Kadambini a literary magazine and Nandan a children’s magazine
Post-press machinery Reckoner VDP 65, Fine Coat 65, Fine Coat 80, Repetto 65 V2, Checkmate 65