Ahmedabad Has Never Had It So Good - The Noel D'cunha Sunday Column

My young colleagues, Rushikesh Aravkar and Anand Srinivisan, both print technologists from SIES in Nerul, are on the train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. One of them informs me, the first train from Bombay was extended to Ahmedabad in 1864. And thus began the surge of this ancient city into a mega city.

22 Feb 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

I recall attending the 600th birthday of this great city in 2011. Among India's major cities, Ahmedabad in terms of antiquity, is second to Delhi. This Manchester of the East was founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1411. When one walks through the streets, to soak into the jharokas and chabutaras, and the city’s unique pol settlements of the zinat- ul- bilad  (city of beauties), one can see the influences of the Delhi Sultanate, Mughals, Marathas, Rajputs and the British.

My two Gujarati guides in these travels are: Ratnamanirao Jote’s Gujaratnu Patnagar: Amdavad penned in 1929; and Maganlal Vakhatchand’s Amdavadno Itihas, which was penned in 1851.

Printscape in Ahmedabad
It is the Ahmedavaadi printers, who I have met, that provide the printscape of this metropolis.

These are: Vijay and Chirag Shah of Chirag Offset, Mudresh Purohit of Surya Offsset, Naresh Desai of Nextgen Packaging, Pravin Patel of Shree Printwell, Falit Pandya of Print Vision, Ashok Adlakha of Canpac Trends, Mahendra Patel of Satyam Scan, Anand Kothawala of Online Packaging, Dheer and Yogesh Parikh of Gujarat Offset, Minesh Patel of Shreedhar Offset, Rakesh Surani of Sonal Xerox, Vaishal Thakore of Creative Printers and many others.

The conversations are plentiful.

Lots of theories, and conjectures and forecasts, and cups of tea.

Vijay Shah predicts the Ahmedabad print industry will continue to grow in spite of the new machines and outsiders in the print industry.
This has translated into 80 web offset presses (coldset) in the last 18 months to cater to the growing demand for books.

Plus there have been 40 sheetfed four-colour presses which have been installed in the last three years. The latest is a five-colour coater HUV Komori which is being installed at Le Griffe

Many of the printers I spoke to expect 50 per cent of the growth to come from elections for the Lok Sabha as well as the five state assemblies in key states.

Thanks to the development in Ahmedabad, medium and small companies have launched small campaigns in print and outdoor. In addition, there is organic growth and new advertisers, which account for the remaining growth.
This includes print in multiple formats; and so there is a boost to digital with 80 high-end and mid-segment digital devices which includes an Indigo and Nexpress; Rakesh Burani of Sonal Graphics with four + one retail outlets for digital printing.

The city has seen a healthy CTP trend with 17 thermal units, 13 violet, and a recent boost to 14 CTCP units. The total plate consumption is: 12,10,000 sq/mtr in the whole of Gujarat; of which Ahmedabad consumes a majority.
Yes sir, growth is in the air.

Print production hub
Ahmedavaadis take great pride in the julta minaras. Only two other cities in the world boast of a shaking minaret. They are: the 14 century mosques in Isfahan and Oshtoorjan in Iran.
This is a historical fact.

But what very few know is, Ahmedabad was an important production centre for paper. Manufacturing started during the reign of Ahmed Shah and continued for the next four centuries.

There were three varieties of papers which were manufactured. This included: Saif Khani, Mahmud Shahi and Murad Shahi. Of this Saif Khaani was considered the best for its exceedingly white and glossy quality. The community which was engaged in paper production are called Kagadi. 
I make some enquiries. I am directed to Kagadiwad. My rickshaw man is triggered by this search for a clue. But our investigations are nullified. Sadly, very little is known about the paper-making skills of this community.

This is a pity. And as one senior printer said, part of the general apathy towards "one's own mother tongue and Indian creations".

As linguist, scholar and Padmashri Ganesh Devy, stated while speaking to the media on The United Nations' (UN) International Mother Language Day: "How many youngsters today can name 10 poems written by Gujarati poets? How many know of the literary work being published in Gujarati? How many original works on scientific subjects are being written in Gujarati? We need at least a few universities to have departments dedicated to developing Gujarati."
In all this there is a glimmer of hope
A printer tells me about a former NID student, Satya Purohit who has created a multi-script Gujarati font family, which is "clean, legible and modern".

The Kohinoor multi-script font family which supports five Indian languages including Gujarati has been developed by Purohit for a firm called Indian Type Foundry, co-founded with Dutch typographer Peter Bilak. According to reports, these fonts have a large number of characters (672 per font) which are necessary to write correct Gujarati liguistically and typographically. Most Gujarati fonts come with a limited number of characters (150-200), which is not enough to write Gujarati properly.

According to me, this is a big step. I feel this should go hand-in-hand with the installations and expansions which shall continue. At times, with typical Gujarati ingenuity a six + two colour press be transformed into a four + four perfector on one's own shopfloor. Or stories of a printer who rejects a client's design and provides eight new designs which are superior. Or a print firm that scores 34 out of 35 in the audit rating of an MNC client; the one point it loses is for "price". 
But then, pricing (especially print pricing) requires a thesis.
Till next week, Avjo!