Amitabh Luthra: The man who serves print in Kolkata - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Printers Supply Co, the company Luthra helms, started out as type founders, till the 1990s. It moved and majored in post-print finishing for both book-binding and packaging before adding flexo presses to its bouquet of print supplies offerings.

In this Sunday Column, Luthra says that it’s the molten lead and printing ink in the Luthra veins and arteries, that’s the template for his company’s success

15 Sep 2018 | By Noel D'Cunha

Luthra: "We are seeing high growth now for digital printing in the East of India"

How did you get into printing?
Born into the industry as a third generation entrepreneur, molten lead and printing ink supposedly run in the Luthra veins and arteries.  

Printers Supply Co is an established brand with decades of ops. How much has Printers Supply changed in the last few years?
The change is unrecognisable. We started out as type founders in the initial throes of letterpress, hanging on to the dying technology with tenacity until the 1990s after which we graduated into offset and majored in post-press finishing equipment - both for book-binding as well as packaging.

The new century saw us entering the exciting world of narrow-web flexo presses and now digital printing equipment.

A hundred installations of Konica Minolta (KM) in the past two years? What is the profile of customers in this space?
It’s 70 installations in about two years, and it was possible because of the aggressive pricing of the entry-level KM machines coupled with the recent restrictions on refurbished colour printers into India. The Bizhub range offers great print quality and is being widely accepted by quick print jobbers as also bigger print houses for the low cost of ownership and great print quality.

How do you see the digital print market evolve in East India?
It’s a bit like the old story of the shoe salesman who found great potential in the island where no one wore shoes. East India has a very knowledgeable customer profile and with the growth across segments, the volumes of sales for all new technology shall be growing too.

We are seeing high growth now for digital printing in the East of India due to the slow initial start.

What would be the strengths of Kolkata?
Kolkata is a wonderful city to live in, especially now under the current government which is sparing no efforts to regain Kolkata's lost glory. 

In a few words: low cost of living, easy availability of skilled workers, great connectivity with all major industrial centres across India and the neighbouring countries, this makes it perfect for a hub to cater to the SAARC region.

Why do the Kolkata print and packaging industry have such a low profile image in the Indian market?
This I understand is changing - the lack of manufacturing industry in and around Kolkata was a deterrent for many years until now which led to a negative image being developed for the print and packaging industry. 

PrintWeek India visited eight factories during its recent Kolkata trip. And all of them are on a buoyant growth path. What are the changes you are seeing in your beloved Kolkata in the past few months?
Now with quite a few e-retail majors such as Amazon, establishing a base here we are seeing huge investments coming up in the print and packaging sector too. We also have companies such as ITC, Ruchi Foods, SAJ Foods, Dream Bake, and Haldiram among others setting up factories for food packaging in this region. All this shall add to the growth of the print packaging industry in this region.

Who are the players we must look out for? You mentioned three names during a conversation, including the diary player...
The diary player present at the FPTA event was Niranjan Choudhury of Adwell International. He and his brother Narinder have set up a large facility of over 60,000 sqft on the outskirts of Kolkata over the past few years with all automatic finishing lines in-house alongside their printing facility. All this over just the past five/six years, prior to which they were outsourcing the entire job for diaries from various printers and book-binders in the city.

Just about all the established players are on a high growth path with all their major investments the subject of PWI’s special reports over the past couple of years. 

With a nifty team in your Kolkata and other offices, Printers Supply Co is handling global suppliers from India. What is the process in terms of business planning and tech support?
We have separate verticals defined within our organisation for the different product segments we handle. Each vertical has a sales as well as a service team with an established chain of command. 

My own major involvement currently is with Edale with whom we are making fast inroads into the all India market for flexo presses for labels and single-pass carton production. 

Edale supports us 100% and has appointed a factory trained engineer to be based out of Kolkata and cater to the service requirements of all SAARC countries.

Our existing and now enhanced service capability is a major confidence booster for potential as well as existing customers and automatically helps us in our sales.

The strategy Printers Supply Co has is, interesting relationships and partnerships with customers. What is the business model you follow?
Owing to our three generation old partnership with the printing, packaging and book-binding industry since 1948, we enjoy a high level of confidence with our customer friends and we spare no effort in ensuring that the trust reposed in us is fully justified.

Our business is built on the foundation of relationships and we sustain our sales even though the so-called 'dull seasons' thanks to the healthy number of repeat orders from existing customers as also the referrals we get through the same source. 

On the flip side, we are also grateful to our suppliers for the tremendous back-end support provided.

In one word our business model is "Dosti".

While the Indian industry is growing, in which segments (for example, flexo print for corrugation/board) do you think we should be more vigilant?
While the entire print industry is already very bullish on packaging what will define the leaders from the followers is the manner in which CEOs address production efficiency in their plants.

This is where flexo printing for mono cartons in a single-pass with all finishing options looks to be the next big thing for producers of folding cartons for the pharma, cosmetic and FMCG segments.

Flexographic printing offers much higher colour consistency, richer ink depths and is already heralded as the ideal way forward for the packaging industry.

Flexographic printing machines also offer a wider range of substrates that can be printed upon. The Edale FL5, for example, can run anything from 12 microns to 600 microns. 

Your dream bit of kit?
Undoubtedly the Edale FL 5 + FDC - an amazing machine capable of producing high-quality mono cartons with as many embellishments as you can think of in a single-pass, using just two operators in the shortest possible space. 

The next show we will see you at the Printers Supply Co stall? 
Surely, we are there at Labelexpo India 2018 in Noida later this year as well as at PrintPack in 2019.