S Chand breaks the lakh textbooks per day barrier

Rahul Kumar spends a day at S Chand’s new textbook production facility at Sahibabad, and experiences first-hand how the book publication and printing group is propelling growth with a range of pre-owned machines.

19 Jan 2015 | By Rahul Kumar

Himanshu Gupta, joint managing director, S Chand Group has got his mojo. The main reason for it is, books. It’s been a rocky road for the printed book for local publishers. Two decades into the internet era, it’s still unclear whether Indian consumers have appetite for eBooks or online.
Gupta who is at the helm of the 75-year-old company has realised there is a hunger for books — and I don’t believe this is unique to the India market — for true well produced local books. This is why when you step into its facility and corporate headquarters at Mohan Cooperative Estate in Delhi, you realise why S Chand is a leader in the textbook publishing segment. It is one of those rare success stories in India, of a publisher and a printer. This is what Gupta stresses on when we meet him at his office. The company’s new plant at Sahibabad Industrial Area, Uttar Pradesh, is a step forward towards this expansion plan.

 One of the biggest textbook printing plants in the region
Sahibabad: where books are back with a bang
To begin with, the Sahibabad-based book factory is one of the biggest printing facilities in Delhi/NCR in terms of area, number of machines working under one roof and paper conversion.
The pre-press facility is equipped with a very large-format (VLF) Kodak Trendsetter, plates from TechNova and software to synchronise the entire production. The print segment is loaded with 10 KBA sheetfed printing presses, and two Goss web-offset printing presses. The jewel in this line up is the KBA 162A, a 162cm printing press, first of its kind in the country. The post-press facility is also equipped with multiple cutting machines and book line from Kolbus, TSK, Muller Martini, Welbound, and other small kit. On cards is a plan to bind every single book with PUR technology.
Apart from the impressive collection of equipment, S Chand has been very pro-active with its measures for environment, air circulation, safety of staff, especially from fire, at the new plant.
The Sahibabad plant can produce 1.75 lakh books per day. Currently, the company is printing around one lakh copies, and will increase the number to 1.4 lakh per day, which will continue until 30 March. In the next financial year, it plans to utilise the full capacity of 1.75 lakh books per day.

“We have all the flexibilities as we have no job work. We work for group companies, Vikas, BPI and Saraswati,” says Harish Mishra, senior general manager (operation) S Chand. “We opted for the Goss machines because they are heavy-duty and are suitable for our 24-hour production requirement. Both are twin towers. The recent one is fully equipped. We are also equipped the earlier machine.”

Goss presses are equipped with multiple automatic features
Master of the pre-owned
With a capacity to produce around two-lakh textbooks per day in round-the-clock operations at two locations, Sahibabad in Uttar Pradesh and Rudrapur in Uttrakhand, S Chand is equipped with 13 KBA sheetfed printing presses, two Goss web-offset printing presses and Orient printing presses from The Printers House (TPH). Interestingly, however, except TPH and KBA 105, all printing presses are pre-owned. Even the finishing line is powered with secondhand machines from Muller Martini, Kolbus and TKS.
Both the plants together convert around 100 tonnes of paper per day. The paper is sourced from the major paper mills in India. The Sahibabad plant has a capacity to store paper for a 20-day operation.
“Yes, all our printing presses are refurbished. However, all the machines are young, which are supplied and maintained by Indo Polygraph, the Indian representative of KBA for sheetfed,” says Mishra. “We did not find any difference between a brand new and a pre-owned printing press. So, there is no financial intelligence in investing more for the same work, which can be done on more economic printing presses.”
Mishra reiterates that new printing presses do not make any business sense for the volume the group has, especially for textbook printing. “Profit margins are on the lower side and there is a huge pressure on numbers, by the day. So, we have to maintain that equation as well,” he says, adding that with pre-owned machines, the company is running ten printing presses under one roof.
Following the recent installation of the country’s first 162cm printing press, KBA 162A, the company is planning to invest in another printing press with the same configuration. According to Mishra, it is a misconception that a printing press of this configuration cannot be operated in India. “We wanted to break this misconception,” he says. For this, however, the company had to make some arrangements.

For example, it invested in a very large-format (VLF) Kodak Trendsetter and arranged for plate requirements with TechNova. “Handling paper of this format was not an easy task. We have made arrangements for that as well,” he adds.
To complement the KBA 162A, the company has a Goss with a 578 mm cut-off which is equipped with an auto splicer.

Harish Mishra manages the production of more than one lakh textbooks per day
The KBA loyalist
With 10 KBA sheetfed printing presses under one roof, S Chand is the biggest customer of KBA in India. Mishra, who spends more than 12 hours a day in the plant, says, “KBA printing presses are sturdy, reliable and fit for our need. Open technology is the main attraction. We can buy parts of the printing presses from anywhere from the local market like Chawri Baazar, so our production does not stop and we can run them round-the-clock. Our dependency on KBA for spare parts is very less.”
He says the printing presses are supplied and backed by Indo Polygraph. “We have an annual maintenance contract (AMC) for all the presses. We also got our staff trained from them. So, whenever we face any breakdown, our staff is capable enough to handle it. We call the supplier only in case of a major emergency,” Mishra adds. 
Besides the offset technology, the book publishing company also has digital cut-sheet printing presses from Canon, Canon 6010 for colour and 1135 for mono, for short-run books production. This in-house digital printing facility gives the group the strength to produce from a single copy to millions copies of any title. “We have thousands of titles. Sometimes there is a requirement on a very urgent basis, especially for short-run books. We are ready for it,” says Mishtra, adding, “Digital printing is not viable for textbooks printing in the country, but to provide a complete solution, you have to have the entire process under one roof.”

Himanshu Gupta (l) and Harish Mishra at the plant inauguration
Rise of S Chand
Since Himanshu Gupta, the third generation of the family business, joined the group, S Chand seems to be soaring, especially in textbooks production. Gupta, an alumnus of SP Jain, Mumbai and ISB, Hyderabad, is capable of taking quick decisions backed by business bravado. The recent developments at the group are solid proof of it.
“Our joint managing director is personally attached with the project. He visits the plant and has meals with employees and talks to them. It is an advantage for us. His presence and interference has been very helpful for production. He knows the people and intricacies of shopfloor management,” Mishra says.
A believer in high growth, Gupta has been keeping an eye on the company and other acquired companies of the group, Vikas, BPI and Saraswati. This stems from his belief that a single company cannot grow much. One needs to create a group, or join hands with others.
 Welfare and safety
“We treat our employees like family members,” says Mishra. “We do not want them to stagnate in the same position for years. We provide trainings to impart professional skills. Whether it is KBA and Welbound, we have arrangements with most of our vendors for hands-on training,” says Mishra.
Green initiative was an integral part of S Chand’s expansion plan. “Initiatives for environment are our responsibility,” says Mishra. “In our new plant, we have made arrangements for this. We have an in-house water treatment plant. We do not send even a single litre of water into the open without treatment. Even our kitchen water is sent for treatment.”
Another important initiative is the plan to opt for solar energy to run the air-conditioners. For air circulation in the plant, the company is also sourcing equipment from Mexico and Italy.
“We were instructed to construct a 75,000-litre water tank for fire safety. We ended up having a water reservoir of 1,50,000 litres. We work on zero manual causality principle,” Mishra adds.

The PUR plan
The spine and the binding of a book is the most important part of printing. For, the pages must not come apart when one opens the book. “Being a technocrat, we always believe in the best. We found PUR to be the best adhesive for books,” says Mishra. “Since we do not do job work, the high cost of a technology is not a big issue for us. We are on our way to product 100% PUR books. Right now, we are doing a combination of hotmelt and PUR. We want to give our customers the very best.”
In-house maintenance
To utilise a machine to its full capacity, there is also a need for skilled operators. Mishra says S Chand has developed its workforce in such a way that they are capable enough to solve problems, whether it is electrical, electronic and mechanical. “Over the years, we have hired fresh engineers. We train them gradually,” says Mishra. He sums up, operators — not merely the machines — must be the focus of any pressroom strategy."
Growth path
The company’s expansion plan is a clear indication that the textbook printing industry in India growing at a good rate, though the numbers many vary. The establishment of the new plant and other changes are the clear indication of a new command in the company. This is also visible in the company’s professional approach to the work, where employees are treated like business partners.
S Chand does have a 75-year old legacy, but its future plans and business ethics are totally 21st century.