Growing steady in blockout printing

Paharganj-based Colourmate Digital, one of North India’s earliest players in blockout print, has been growing exponentially in the last five years. Rahul Kumar investigates how.

20 Oct 2016 | By Rahul Kumar

Established in 2000, the first generation printing company Colourmate Digital has increased its blockout production capacity five times in the last five years, from 2011 to 2016. Sandeep Bhutani, one of the partners at Colourmate Digital, says, “Today, we can manufacture 5,000 blockouts per month. In 2011, our capacity was 1,000 to 1,500 blockouts.” Now, the plan is to cross the 8,000 mark.

But what is a blockout? Blockouts are a combination of multilayer printed acrylic sheets and LED light panel behind the printed sheets. Light comes from the multicolour printed area and the dark area blocks the light. “Most of our blockouts are two to three feet and for indoor applications. Size varies from time to time,” says Bhutani. “It is slim and looks beautiful.”

Gandy Digital, the Canadian wide-format equipment manufacturer, played a role in Colourmate’s growth. “Demand increased, and and so did the need for quick delivery. Time is the key in promotional campaigns, so we replaced our existing Gandy printer with a new true flatbed printer. It had to be a Gandy because there are not many options in the market, and we were using the company’s products. The Gandy machine is fast, robust and the after-sale service is good,” says Bhutani.

The Gandy printer is equipped with Ricoh generation four heads. The company uses original printing inks from Gandy.

In blockout, multiple layers of printing means first layer of CMYK, then special colour or white and then black to block the light. Those layers of printing and effects can go up, according to the demand of the job.

Why digital? “Almost 90% of our production is special jobs and it cannot be done through screen because it is tough to match the registration multiple times,” says Bhutani, adding that the requirement of neon and pantone colours is negligible in digital.

“We have UV printers and can print on almost every substrate. Normally, we print on MDF boards, sun boards, sunbeds, cloth. Most of our jobs are for close view, niche application and best quality indoor applications,” he says, adding, “We do not work directly for the brands, but we have worked on lot of beverages and cosmetics campaigns. Most of our jobs are of six-colour.”

For indoor blockouts, a manufacturer has to give guarantee as assurance of quality. Typically, this guarantee period is of two years.

Right now, the wide-format printing company located in the Paharganj area of Delhi has seven printers from Gandy, HP, Seiko, Roland and the Chinese manufacturer Jumbo.

In the capital, Paharganj is the main market for signage and blockouts, and the market has been evolving in last 30 years. Earlier, the area constituted small shops, now it is a proper business district. Around 80 printing companies operate from here, with 450 printing machines running round-the-clock. The beauty of the Paharganj print district is that not a single firm has all the required machinery in-house. There is a space constrain, and it doesn’t make much business sense either, especially when there is someone else to perform the job next-door. So we have different shops doing different jobs – printers doing print, laminators doing laminate jobs, fabricators who fabricate.

“When we get a big order, we all come together and execute the order. Together, Paharganj can execute any kind of order, notwithstanding quality and quantity,” Bhutani says.

The word ‘mate’ in Colourmate has a unique significance, as three friends, Gaurav Kathuria, Sandeep Bhutani and Nitin Grover came together and built the company. No, not just friends, they are cousins and they started operations in their homes.

“When we started, we had one printer, one operator, one computer and three owners,” says Bhutani. “This helped, as we learned everything on the job.”

The company is growing at 25% CAGR from the last 15 years. “We have 50 people at Colourmate and they are our strength,” Bhutani says.

According to Bhutani, growth depends on production and number of jobs created. Turnover is a useless base for growth, as high turnover never means profit. “We are in the wholesale market. Drop your price by 2% and your turnover will go up to ten times. I know many people who are reporting huge turnovers and then investing from their pockets. You must be satisfied on the increment in the number of machines, quantity of converted media and employee retaining capacity,” he argues.

In the business of blockouts, time is of the essence. “We work for promotional and marketing activities and mostly those take place at the last moment. If a company wants to launch its scheme or product on 1 April, then they want to display the blockouts and other material on 31 March night. This puts a lot of pressure on us,” Bhutani says.

Colourmate prints and manufactures the blockouts while logistics and installations are handled by the agencies.

“It’s a team effort. A single company cannot handle it,” he says. He gives the example of Airbus, the manufacturer of aeroplanes, which manufactures different parts of the plane at different sites and assemble those parts somewhere else. “If we will do all the things on our own, we will not be specialising in anything. When you handle such operations, you have to be an expert of your field,” he adds.

Now, Colourmate wants to manufacture 8,000 blockouts per month. Also, a plan to upgrade the existing equipment, both printers and finishing, is on the cards.