Bengaluru firm aims print growth

Tholasi Prints, a family business has evolved and witnessed kaleidoscopic changes from its early days as a commercial printer. Now it has evolved into publishing and packaging, finds Sachin Shardul.

29 Nov 2013 | By Sachin Shardul

One is caught off guard during a visit to Tholasi Prints office in Malleshwaram. The fascade says: Hotel Basil. This was the first time I’ve seen a print office in a posh hotel. After being escorted by the staff to the office, I was ushered into a big and elegant boardroom where the three Tholasi directors were seated. 

Tholasi’s corporate office in Hotel Basil in Malleshwaram
Most printers state “printing ink is in the blood”, but in the case of Tholasi Prints, chairman, Nataraj Tholasi it may be untrue. The Tholasi family have a stake in the hospitality services and now publishing.
Formed in 1984, Tholasi Prints was “the dream” of two brothers, Nataraj Tholasi and Raghavendra Tholasi to create a printing business that provides quality. The journey began with a single-colour Heidelberg MO. This was “perhaps” the first brand-new Heidelberg press in Bengaluru.
A proud man, Nataraj says, “In the eighties, buying a Heidelberg press was considered to be a big deal. It was considered to be the Rolls Royce of the industry.”
In 1986, the firm invested in a brand new four-colour Heidelberg MOV; “again was the first in Bengaluru” says Nataraj. The family business has evolved and witnessed kaleidoscopic changes. From its early days as a commercial printer, it has evolved into publishing; as well as packaging.

Tholasi’s journey started at the first unit in Malleshwaram
Tholasi says, “In three decades, Tholasi Prints has metamorphosed. Our industry caters to multiple niche segments, every market has its day” Tholasi is seeking its niche. But Nataraj is guarded about the type of niche, “because once you find one niche, everyone else chases you and kills it. We are always on the look-out for anything that puts added value into the business.”
While speaking to PrintWeek India, Tholasi shared an anecdote. He says, “The firm decided to invest in a Heidelberg SM 74 and when the machine arrived at the Malleshwaram plant in the evening, we had to wait till late in the night so that there would be no traffic on the road while shifting the machine inside the unit. For this we had to block the road from both the sides. The best part was that the nearby residents were amazed to see what we were trying to do. As they had never seen the unloading of a printing press. The shifting went on till early morning and we had a difficult time moving the machine inside the unit.”    
A blueprint of Rs 20 crore
Bengaluru-based Tholasi Prints is in an expansion phase. The commercial print firm has plans to expand its printing business with an investment of Rs 20-crore in new 25,000sq/ft plant and brand-new machinery.
Tholasi says, “Tholasi Prints has maintained its profit margins. If I am asked what the next investment is, I always say: something better. Not something that keeps the status quo; it has to be something that improves the offerings to customers and also boosts the productivity.”
Tholasi has two plants in Bengaluru city and the third plant is being readied. The new plant will be up and running by May 2013. The new plant is being designed keeping the packaging segment in mind which the company plans to venture into.  
Tholasi says, “We are already running out of space in our two printing plants located in the city. The new plant which is located in Peenya industrial estate will be ready by May 2013.”

The new 25,000 sq/ft plant in Peenya Industrial Estate
The commercial printing firm has plans to foray into packaging with a CD 102 Heidelberg press and investment in a die-cutter and folder-gluer machine.
He adds, “We are traditionally a commercial printing firm but we are also planning to venture into packaging segment. We see tremendous growth opportunity in packaging. For the post-press operations, we have not finalised the manufacturer.”
One reason is, the commercial print market has saturated; and the market has been sluggish since 2010. The city of Bengaluru has seen a slowdown in the number of CTP systems installed. The total number of CTP devices in the city is 121. Three years ago, Bengaluru was touted as the fastest growing CTP city.
Generation next
In today’s times, where most of the younger generation prefer non-print options, Nataraj Tholasi and Raghavendra Tholasi have sons who are young and full of entreprenuerial energy. More importantly, they are actively involved in the day-to-day operations.
Most of the decision for investment in technology is conceptualised by Vivek Tholasi, Varun Tholasi and Gautam Tholasi.  
Tholasi says, “My brother and I, we both have worked hard and it is time for the younger generation to take the business forward. The younger generation is capable and we know that they will take the company to a newer height.”
Some of this can be witnessed at the new plant in Peenya. The younger one has been instrumental in taking the decision to invest in the new plant and the latest technology.
Publishing vertical
Besides having commercial printing business, Tholasi Prints has diversified businesses which include two hotels, and publishing. 
The company publishes What’s up Bangalore, a city based lifestyle magazine which is popular with star hotels and international visitors to the city.” 
Tholasi says, “We have a dedicated editorial team for the magazine who work round-the-clock to feature the latest update and happenings in the Bengaluru city.”
Print CEOs in Bengaluru whisper about the slowdown and are wary about making predictions. But with Tholasi Prints and its “forward-looking” directors guiding the way – with support from the new generation – it seems a certainty that the future will be prosperous.

Established 1984
Specialty Commercial printing and publishing
Heidelberg CD 102, SM74, single-colour MO and four-colour MOV, DaiNippon Screen 8300s and 4300s, Welbound 2000 six-clamp perfect binder, Purple Magna and Pratham folding machines, Redlands envelope-making machine, case-makers, Shanghai Electric guillotines and Eureka guillotines and an array of other post-press equipment 
Staff  150