Gen X in Meerut eyes growth path

New Heidelberg SM 74 with Suprasetter A106 CTP device all set-up and further expansion plans in the pipeline, SK Offset are set to grow with their young turks at helm.

11 Apr 2013 | By Supreeth Sudhakaran

Approximately 80kms from Delhi is the famous Meerut (UP) market that is renowned for its locks and lockers. In fact, a large number of business persons flock to Meerut market in search of sturdy and reliable lockers. Meerut is also a house of large number printers who have been sustaining on commercial and book printing jobs won from both UP and Delhi. However, most of these printers are dependent on refurbished presses to convert the jobs. 

A few months ago, Meerut-based SK Offset became a talking point after it decided to break away from the shackles of refurbished press deals and instead installed Meerut’s second new Heidelberg SM 74 backed by a Suprasetter A106 CTP device at their printing facility. 
“Most of the printers in Meerut believe that new presses won’t be able to generate enough return on investment since the market is highly competitive. However, when we decided to expand our operations, we realised we can churn more revenue from the quick make-ready time that the new presses offer,” says Pradeep Agarwal, director, SK Offset.
“The machine was inaugurated on 12 December 2012 (12/12/12). It was by sheer accident that when the machine was fully installed, and when we put in a calendar job of Lord Ganapathi, we realised that the date was 12 December,” says Agarwal. In our country where dates hold special importance based on numerology and astronomical arrangement of stars, the date was not only unusual but also very auspicious. 
SK Offset offers services for printing annual reports, brochures, calendars, catalogues, coffee table books, corporate stationary, hardcase books, hang tags, journals/newsletters, leaflets/flyers, magazines, posters, soft cover books, etc. 
To complete these jobs, in addition to the SM 74, the printing facility of SK Offset houses two Planeta Super Variant, and two four-colour and one two-colour Akiyama presses. The postpress is powered with a fleet of lamination, die-cutting, folder gluing and corrugation machines. The binding department of the company is only a block away from the print-centre, and is equipped with perfect binders, wire-o-binders, saddle stitching machines, in addition to several three-knife trimmers and folding machines. SK Offset is also planning to install a UV curing and coating machine in the near future to render coatings on monocartons.
In pre-press, the company has both traditional plate-making system and a new Heidelberg Suprasetter 106A thermal CTP that bakes around 1000 plates and converts around 350 tonnes of paper a month. 
Younger, the better
SK Offset has been in the book printing business since 1977. Very similar to the story of many successful printers, SK Offset too was started by late Pawan Kumar Agarwal and his brother Pradeep Agarwal with a meagre investment of Rs 2000. Starting with a treadle press, the Agarwals have believed in expanding the company inch-by-inch. The treadle press is still preserved and kept on the shopfloor. “This treadle press reminds us of our humble beginning. We are now because of what we could produce on that machine,” remembers Pradeep Agarwal. 
Today, the company has new line of young directors in their early twenties, Priyanshu, Shalabh and Ayush Agarwal, who under the mentorship of Pradeep Agarwal, have been assigned with the responsibility to handle sales, marketing and operations of the company. “Catch them young, but only after understanding what their aspirations are. There is no point assigning them roles which they won’t be able to handle,” he says. 
Each of the three young directors has been assigned different roles. While Shalabh, who is sharpening his skills to be a chartered accountant, helps in managing the financial side of the business, Priyanshu and Ayush had always showed interest towards the marketing and operations side of the business.
The young directors have been doing their bits in taking the operations to the next level. Priyanshu, who is more vocal of the three, did not hesitate before explaining the short ambitions SK Offset plans to achieve. 
“In Meerut, there are many printers who specialise in book and commercial job printing. While, people claim that they want to capture the market, what we believe is in creating the brand name. The industry has been changing its way of functioning and we believe in adapting to it. Only once, SK Offset becomes a reckoning name in the minds of print buyers, would we be able to ensure long-term revenue and profit cycles that can be constantly ploughed-back to increase the overall capacity of the units,” he says. 
Future: beyond books, beyond India
The company, which has been constantly knocking a 15% growth rate since the new generation has took over, and is now gearing up for the next phase of expansion under the leadership of the young Turks. 
Meerut is also home of several packaging printers who largely do monocartons for FMCG companies. “SK Offset had once been part of the packaging printing business but due to higher demand from the commercial and book printing segment, the company decided to step out from the packaging printing field,” says Priyanshu.
However, when the company decided to install the SM 74 press at the facility, it was quite conspicuous that SK Offset might once again try a hand at packaging segment. “Yes, we have been planning to add packaging printing as part of our offering from some time,” clarifies Priyanshu. The three directors have been meeting a list of long-term clients and trying to ascertain a USP for this side of the business. 
“Although, people claim that packaging has been growing at 15% year-on-year, we believe it to be around 10% or so. Still, packaging is a promising segment in the industry, where we wish to have our presence; especially, since we have been catering to the segment in our early years of operations,” he adds. 
Future is perhaps packaging – under one roof
 “Packaging segment has been beckoning us from sometime, and with a bigger team of over 150 employees, we are sure that we would be able to add packaging as a growing arm of our business. We are also planning to install a 28x40-inch size press in Meerut; a first-ever. Our blue-print for the future includes, NCERT book publishing tenders, monocartons printing, export segment for books and shifting to a new facility,” adds Shalabh.
The company has recently purchased a new land where all the divisions of the company will be shifted. “The thought process behind having all the operations under one roof can be easily justified by a simple statement: Whole is always more than the sum of the parts. When we bring different divisions under one roof, it builds synergy, brings down cost of logistics, and improves inventory management,” explains Priyanshu. 
The need for consolidating the operations is also necessary as the company plans to take a leap towards packaging and in book exports. “We have been planning to tap the book exports market. Our study indicates, Africa and Latin America have emerged as promising markets for those who deal in book exports. Educational literature export is a thriving business model that is practised by several of our fellow printers too. In next couple of years, we plan to make exports to have a double-digit share percentage in our total productivity,” adds Shalabh.
As the new management charts its growth and expansion plans to thrust SK Offset to the more competitive stratosphere of established commercial printers, they rely on the four pillars of printing business that their mentor has taught them— understanding trends, instincts, enthusiasm, and self-belief.