J B Khanna Pictures: A legacy of four generations

If the growth of Chennai-based J B Khanna Pictures is an indication, the demand for religious and spiritual pictures is increasing each day. The prominent festivals such as Janmasthami, Ramadaan, Pongal, Ganesh festival, Dasara, and the forthcoming Diwali, are the peak seasons for these prints published by J B Khanna Pictures. The company claims to have a stock of more than 1000 religious picture designs.

22 Oct 2015 | By Shripad Bhat

About 100 people work in J B Khanna's 100,000 sq/ft print facility in Chennai. During the peak season - August to December - the company runs their press in three shifts, and the rest of the year in two shifts. The company has registered a turnover of Rs 12 crore for the financial year 2013-14. 
In the last couple of years, the company has invested about Rs 10 crore in new machinery and expansion, that includes Grafica’s Cylinder press, (a fully automatic screen printing machine) with inline UV and screen making set up, new five colour H-UV press, robocut paper-cutter, and a shrink packaging machine. In addition to their existing pre-press, CTP, new four-colour offset with coater, polar cutting machine, lamination machine and other post press facilities.
Established in 1957 by Jagannath Khanna, as a picture trading company, J B Khanna Pictures boasts of to be a dominant player in the religious pictures market. It has now moved into various segments of non-religious pictures too. Their product portfolio include Yoga charts, 3D posters, multi-foil posters, and posters across religions and occasions, charts, and wall posters.
A legacy of four generations
Imagine the kind of feeling that these entrepreneurs get from their involvement in a family business of printing and publishing exclusively gods pictures (religious and spiritual) /nature /scenery pictures for four generations! “It cannot be explained, it is just within us,” says Rajesh Khanna, one of the partners of J B Khanna Pictures.
Why did you set up an in house screen printing unit?
We have all the facilities in-house (pre-press to post-press). No job is taken out of the press for doing any pre-press or post press on job work as it leads to leaking of trade secrecy and there is also logistic convenience given the volume of our printing. We have full control over the jobs in every stage. 
Adding value 
This year we adopted advanced screen printing process to apply UV special effects on gods pictures in a big way. Advanced screen printing has added new dimension to our gods picture printing and publishing business. We regularly use gold and silver glitter, crystal UV, micro emboss (3D reflective), and other new age UV special effects. 
I firmly believe that advanced screen printing is the only way by which you can achieve innovative UV effects. The amount of UV deposition that you can achieve in screen printing is not possible either by digital or offset online/offline UV. Digital technology today can print special effects but it turns out to be an expensive move. Currently, only seven percent of our jobs are in UV and special effects. There is still a bigger scope to use various UV effects. It all depends on how much knowledge you have (about varnishes, mesh, screen making etc), how much creativity you can do.
Earlier, we produced only glitter application with manual screen printing. Now with UV glitter there is no spill over problem while handling the print. The prints look brilliant and shining due to the mixed effects of glitter and gloss UV. The concept of value addition is much effective in pushing our sales.
Why did you go for Grafica?
The main reason, we preferred Grafica because of their service and technical support, is good. With one single call they oblige and attend to our service requests. Their combination of domain knowledge and technical support is a major plus point.
What’s your business strategy?
We felt that when there is a demand for our products, then we should be able to fulfill else others will grab the market share. With this strategy in mind we discarded multiple old machines and invested in high speed advanced automatic machine. Two advanced offset presses, with less manpower, meets the production of 4-5 small and second hand, low-speed machines. As a result of our investment in advanced machinery, we have achieved 25% growth and reduced manpower by 25%. So, automation and upgradation of printing facility led to better productivity and meet demand in volumes. Automation also gave us easier controls over quality.
Our market and distribution network
Our products come in the size range of 2” x 3” upto 40” x 60” (wall size) printed on 80 to 300 gsm paper, especially art, MG, chromo, matt, etc. India being a land of multi- religions/multi faceted spirituality, with over one billion population, the demand for gods/religious/spiritual pictures, and other general picture is bound to grow further. Our product offerings are library-type; we have always stocks of pictures of numerous variety and sizes. Customers have a wider choice to select from. 
Our photo frame pictures are sold through dealers, photo frame shops all over India.  Besides India – a niche market – our pictures are sold in Nepal (via Delhi dealers), Sri Lanka, Kenya, etc. Ours is basically a direct market involving our own design creation, printing/publishing, and sales in the market. Often we make pictures for temples as per the design and order of temple trusts which involves perfectly matching the original image of a deity of a particular Temple. 
Even today, we maintain the quality legacy of our forefathers. We do not indulge in using cheaper paper and inks to make fast bucks; we procure inks from renowned suppliers and use good quality paper.
Ultimately, design sells
As per the latest trend and customers’ fondness, our design studio churns out a wide range of designs and print and sell. Besides inhouse designers, we hire freelance artists from all over India. Earlier in the 1980s or 1990s, no. of designs created would go up by numbers (50 to 100 in ten years), and the same designs were continued to be in the market for a long time. However, now it is 10 to 15 designs per day. Sometimes designs are in or go off the market, but we have to create new designs all the time. That’s the trend in the market and challenge for us to be more creative.
Until 1985-86 only gods and religious/spiritual pictures were being designed and printed. But from 1987-88 onwards we started designing, printing and publishing non-religious pictures such as babies, scenery and nature pictures. Since then, we then we achieved more than 100% growth, year after year, which means people are fond of other pictures and art as well.
Gods’ pictures have sentimental value
We have a showroom in Chennai which is for wholesale and retail market. We don’t deny even if a smallest size, single picture is asked for; because customers are coming with religious sentiments. In one instance, we had to send a single Picture to USA, costing just Rs 150, but the customer did not mind spending about Rs 3000 for getting it shipped to US. People respect gods pictures so much with sentimental value; we have seen in our showroom people preserving 20-30-year-old gods pictures below the new ones in the same photo frame.
So, the value (price and market demand) lies in the originality of a Gods picture. The moment we try to artistically alter the originality, the product does not remain in the market for long. As per our experience, our pictures sold maximum which have originality in its essence. Yes, we use glitter (gold and silver) only over the ornaments spots in the pictures, so that it looks real. 
About J B Khanna Pictures
Being a pioneer of laminated posters/gods pictures in India, J B Khanna is a family- run printing company, spanning four generations (And five generation will also get ready). “J B was derived from my grandmother’s name, Jamnabai Khanna; our grandfather, Jagannath Khanna who is still alive at 94 years, is a great inspiration to all of us,” says Rajesh Khanna.
“We are originally from Multan then a part of undivided India (now in Pakistan). Our forefathers started our family business in 1940's. My grand-father, late Thirathdas Khanna started calendar trading business at Dobhi Talao, behind Metro cinema in Mumbai (then Bombay). Later, my father Jagannath Khanna came to Chennai in 1953 and established our current business in Chennai (then Madras) in the name of J B Khanna in 1957 as a trading company, which is now known as J B Khanna Pictures,” informs Ashok Khanna.
In 2013 the family was split into two but both are carrying out the same line of business - gods pictures for photo framing.
Jagannath Khanna’s two sons - Giridharilal Khanna who has two sons (Rajesh and Rakesh) and Ashok Khanna who too has two sons (Sanjay and Sunil), now all jointly run the business. The two duo veteran-mentors look after the accounts of the company.
1953: Jagannath Khanna migrated to Chennai started trading of religious pictures in in then Madras.
1957: A trading company was registered
1960: Started publishing gods pictures for photo frame (printing outsourced)
1987: Set up our own printing press to print Gods pictures with a refurbished machine Akiyama Press / and added one more refurbished machine and other related equipment.
2000: The company took a big turn by setting up own CTP, perhaps first in Tamil Nadu. They followed it up by installing:
1) New four colour with coater Mitsubishi offset 
2) Polar cutting machine. 
3) Wen Chyuan lamination machine
2014: New five colour H-UV Komori Press, first in Tamil Nadu
2015: Grafica’s fully automatic Cylinder press with inline UV and screen making set up / and added the country’s first Robocut paper-cutter from the Japanese manufacturer, Itotec, and deployment of Shrink Packaging machine.