Gujarat’s manufacturing: growing for a decade

How the economy has reshaped printing in Gujarat. A look at how structural tweaks and manufacturing plants of companies point to growth. A report by Noel Marshal D’cunha, Anand Srinivasan and Rushikesh Aravkar

12 Jun 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha & Anand Srinivasan & Rushikesh Aravkar

Gujarat, it has been reported, has outpaced the national economy in recent years. It is also reported (State Planning Commission; Bloomberg; national statistics) that the state’s economy grew about 10% a year between 2002 and 2013 while the country’s economic expansion slipped from near double-digits to 5% levels during this period.
And ever since the chattering classes have cosied up to Gujarat, some people believe that the state is occupied by companies with large factories, where hundreds of workers grind away in assembly line, in order to mass produce a wide array of products. The industrial sector, though comprises of over 4,50,000 micro, small and medium industries, at present.
The number of Indian print manufacturers may not be high, but with newer technologies and a changing business climate, manufacturing in the state is evolving and diversifying. In 2005–06,Stovec Industries closed operations when it was not able to survey the dumping of PS plates, after which, TechNova stepped in to take over the plate unit few months later. TechNova upgraded the plant and it still continues to supply PS plates from Stovec’s Ahmedabad plant in Narol. Of late, the state, though not in the print equipment manufacturing space, has seen a number of multinational ink manufacturers, like Sakata, Toyo, DIC, Flint, Organic Coating, invest in new plants.
“We have around 50 number of print equipment manufacturers in the state,” says Narendra Parmar, publisher of Raj Publications, which publishes the monthly Printing Samachar magazines in Gujarati and Hindi. “After Faridabad and Coimbatore, Ahmedabad is perhaps the largest print equipment manufacturing hub, with diverse and broad range of companies in different print equipment segments.”
Among the notable manufacturers present in Gujarat are Line O Matic, Photokina, Excel Machinery, Ratan, Vipul Industries, Pelican, Rajkot Offset Machinery, Sudarshan, RK Machine Tools, among others. These manufacturers produce machines for exercise books, label printing, die-cutting, plate-punching, folding, cutting, and stacking, and also consumables like inks, chemicals etc.
Parmar recently organised a print trade show, Print Pack Sign Digital in January this year, with most of the local manufacturers taking part. “What the show offered is a platform for these local manufacturers to display their products. But I also think that the state authorities are offering services which is strategised towards business growth,” he says.
Manish Panchal, managing director of Kohima Machine Tools, manufacturer of Ratan paper folding machine, and a member of IPAMA for Gujarat, agrees. “Energy, for example, is a source most manufacturers use a lot,” he says. “One of the biggest reason for Gujarat becoming a favourable destination for manufacturing companies is the continuous supply of electricity in the industrial areas, which perhaps is not available in any other state,” he adds, continuing, “What we think is, the government is supportive and the nuisance value is less in Gujarat.”
Signs of well run businesses
According to reports (State Planning Commission; Bloomberg; national statistics), Gujarat accounts for 5% of India’s population but 16% of its industrial output and 22% of its export. McKinsey, a consultancy firm was upbeat about Gujarat, when it praised Gujarat’s industrial march, when compared to other states. Printing equipment manufacturing is excited about catering to the requirements of the Indian print industry.
“Gujarat’s manufacturing is a leading industrial sector in India. The reputation of Gujarat print equipment manufacturers as a competent force has gained grounds,” says HT Hirpara, general manager of Line O Matic.
Established in 1991 in Ahmedabad, Line O Matic has emerged as a pioneer and leader of exercise-bookmaking machinery. The company has three plants. The one seen in the picture is the headquarters, which also houses a plant in the 54,000 sq/ft campus. The other two plants, which produce tools for manufacture of exercise-book making machines, operates from a combined 73,800 sq/ft site. The company has over 1,500 installations worldwide.
“Our machines are heavy duty compared to say the Chinese machines,” he says. “We have cornered a sizeable market in the African nations and are getting good response from the South American markets too.” And the reason for this success is Line O Matic’s machine cost. “Our star products RB 104 and RB 120 reel-to-book machines are low investment machinery compared to German machines and are parallel to, if not better than, any similar type of machine being manufactured in the world and is supplied at an affordable price,” says Hirpara. The company has a combined installation base of 70 machines in India and 30 worldwide, of its RB kit.

Ink Manufacturers 
DIC- DIC’s plant in Vatva, Ahmedabad manufactures news black inks for circulation in publication houses throughout India. The Vatva plant was established in 1998 and is spread across an area of 90,000 sq/ft. 
Flint Group- Established in 2001 in India, Flint Group started its operations in Savli near Vadodara, Gujarat in 2012. The Savli plant manufactures liquid inks for labels and packaging sectors. 
Organic Coatings-  The five decade old company recently shifted its operations from Mumbai to Vadodara. It produces 250 tonnes of inks for commercial, packaging and newspapers per month.
Toyo India- Toyo’s Indian operations was started   in 2006 and The factory in Greater Noida was inaugrated in 2008. The company is setting up a plant in Dahej, Gujarat with a Rs 150 crore investment.
Sakata Inx India- Sakata Inx started its operations in India in November 1998 at its Bhiwadi plant and later on in 2009 set up a 20 acre manufacturing plant in Panoli in Gujarat. The Panoli plant manufactures Gravure inks while the Bhiwadi plant has the capacity to manufacture 9,000 tonnes of offset and gravure inks.
A different operandi
Gujarat’s print canvas too has changed in the last four to five years, with the trend of book works shifting from sheetfed to webfed. This has translated into 80 web-offset presses (coldset) in the last 18 months to cater to growing demand for books, besides 40 sheetfed four-colour presses which have been installed in the last three years. The latest is a five-colour coater HUV Komori which is being installed at Legriffe Offset.
Changodhar, 25km away from Ahmedabad has emerged as a big-ticket printing hub, with a number of packaging plants being set up to cater to the growing demand in the segment. After a number of pharma companies set up base in Gujarat, packaging and label printing started to thrive.
These changes came as a boon, which the print equipment manufacturers were looking for.
Mark Engineering, the Ahmedabad-based feeder specialist, marked a successful 2013 with the installation of 12 machines, which is a mix of all types of kits from its portfolio of six lines of products. This includes lamination machines, case-makers, feeders and stackers, among others. The company is set to launch the variable data printing machine along with the automatic top gluing machine and hot-melt top gluing machine in 2014. When the PrintWeek India team visited the facility, its latest product, a variable data printing machine, was undergoing final trials. The machine caters to applications such as numbering, mail addressing, barcoding, and personalised cheques among others. 
A start-up, Mark Engineering came up after Parimal Varma, director of the company, and his brother Vasant saw a necessity for automating the manual-fed processes such as coating and lamination, while working in their family business of manufacturing manual printing presses. “There are many processes which require sheets to be fed manually thereby making the final product susceptible to errors and reducing the efficiency. We saw an opportunity in modifying the feeders of offset presses and integrating them with these machines,” says Varma.
Mark Engineering boasts of its flagship range of feeders which can be fitted to any press with any configuration between the sizes of 18x25in  to 28x40in.
Print equipment manufacturers catering to the packaging and labels segment too received a boost because of the influx of pharma companies and the overall growth in the packaging segment in India. Pelican, which was established in 2006 in Rajkot, started with manufacturing shack-type flexo machine and has since developed narrow web gravure line, multi-colour CI press and electronic line shaft rotogravure.
RK Machine Tools in Ahmedabad, which was established in 2000, recently expanded to a 10,000 sq/ft site from its earlier 3000 sq/ft plant, to cater to the increased demand for label printing presses. The company specialises in manufacturing of customised label presses. It began manufacturing flatbed models, before moving to flexo towers in 2007. “We used to sell Chinese flexo towers, but developed our own models. We converted their four-colour machines to six-colour,” says Raju Thaningasalam, proprietor of RK Machine Tools.
The USP of the company’s new flexo tower, RKF 320, according to Manoj Patel, chief executive at RK Machine Tools, are quality and the ability to print on any media, PVC, silver foil, etc. “The biggest differentiation in our machine and that of the imported ones from Europe is cost,” says Raju, likening his product to that of an expensive stainless-steel watch model, which costs as much as a small car, while another, which looks identical, costs little more than a petrol tank, but which tells the time equally better. “The only difference in our machine and that of any foreign machine is the production speed.”
Jitendra Patel, managing director of Vadodara-based Excel Machinery, says his company is a pioneer, having introduced the automatic die-cutting machine in India. The company’s flagship product, Maxima EXB 35, which was launched in 2005, has since seen 67 units installed in India. Some of the key users of Maxima are Yamir Packaging and Canpac Trends in Ahmedabad; Color Point and Dot Graphics India in Vadodara; Gurgaon-based Grand Prints; Shri Nijanand Graphics in Indore; Sain Packaging in Rai (Delhi); Hyderabad Security, Hyderabad; and BK Impression in Bengaluru.
In the last three years, Excel has invested more than Rs 2-crore in expanding its plant, both in space and machinery. “In terms of precision and performance, we are not far behind the European machines, but in terms of value and return on investment, we are certainly a better option than most Chinese machines,” says Patel. “With the automated machine to manufacture machines, we will not only improve on quality but also ability to produce 25 machines per year, up from the 18 we used to produce.”
A post-press sketch
Manish Panchal of Kohima Machine Tools, says, “I’ve been in the print industry for the past 25 years, but the past three to five years have seen some rapid changes in the print sector. The print industry is strengthening post-press facility and is looking towards the local industries to tide them over.”
Print CEOs too believe that for them to succeed a strong post-press is a must. “Everyone knows the cost of printing, no one knows what post-press can deliver. I’ve got two folding machines for one offset press, and that’s to ensure that my offset machine capacity is not idle,” says Falit Pandya of Print Vision in Ahmedabad. Mudresh Purohit, director of Surya Offset and president of Ahmedabad Printing Press Assocaition, agrees. “Most top printers in Ahmedabad have adequate post-press facilities, but need to strengthen it further,” he says. Vijay Shah of Chirag Offset, which caters to the commercial, book as well as packaging segments, says, “If a print job received today is to be delivered tomorrow, a strong post-press operation becomes a key. If one does not have that, it would become difficult to survive.”
Besides improving its paper-folding machines, Kohima has also launched an online web stacker last year, which Panchal says has helped his customers to automate the stacking process and give quality bundling.
Vipul Industries is another company which is an accomplished manufacturer of plate-punching machines. The company has lost count of how many machines it has supplied, both to domestic as well as overseas customers, some of which come back to India with presses imported into India. The company has recently expanded its operations and products. It has built a stacking machine, seven of which have already sold.
Spot the difference
One of the recent trends in print industry is the growth in volumes of cutting machines in the presses. Now, almost all established presses have at least three cutting machines installed. “The trend, which has shifted from long-run jobs to short-run jobs, has driven the demand for cutting machines,” says Munjal Panchal, managing director at Mohansons India.
Mohansons has been manufacturing cutting machines since 1990 under the brand name ‘Sudharshan’. “At that time, there was a considerable difference in Polar cutting machines and our machines, particularly in terms of technology. Now the difference has been narrowed down because we have added new features, technology, production capacity and speed to our machine. The only difference which can be seen is in the metallurgy.”
The company manufactures around 50–55 machines per year, and considers itself the largest manufacturer in India. “The USP of our machine is speed and accuracy, and these are two major factors that people look for in a cutting machine,” says Panchal, claiming that Sudarshan’s star cutting machine, SPR-H, is capable of cutting TechNova PS plates.
Besides Mohansons India there are two more companies manufacturing cutting machines: Kohinoor Engineering Works and MD Engineering.
These cutting machine manufacturers face a challenge from second-hand cutting machines, which are bundled with presses. “When an Indian print company goes to buy an imported printing press, this kit is bundled to make the deal attractive. In fact, not only old cutting machines, old post-press machines are also sold at very low cost.”
A guarded approach
Print equipment manufacturing in Gujarat is gaining in importance, even if it is in limited spheres of the print segment. A decade of regulatory and efficient operations has brought it to the forefront.
In a bid to gain foothold in the Asian market, international companies have acquired or started operations in China. And these companies will increasingly become indistinguishable with their low-cost products and the services. Manufacturers in Gujarat, indeed in India, will have to guard against becoming complacent.
The other concern is competitive pricing, which has been every industry’s biggest bane, and one which puts industry in a precarious position, at times forcing manufacturers to compete with rivals on unfavourable terms. With raw material cost on the rise, it may not be easy for manufacturers to deliver products at cheap rates, and as usual, the customer, whether it is the manufacturer or printer, the buyers of their respective products, will have to foot the bill. Success is not guaranteed, if Gujarat’s print manufacturers fall prey to pricing pressures.

Kohima Machine Tools
Connected with the post-press industry for the past 25 years, Kohima Machine Tools manufactures semi-automatic and fully automatic post-press machines under brand name of ‘Ratan’ exclusively for commercial and notebook industry. The company’s expertise is the paper folding machines which seen 2000 plus installations. Recently the company  launched the online stacking and bundling machine for web machines. The company is capable of manufacturing 50 machines a year. 
Line o Matic
Established in 1991 in Ahmedabad, Line O Matic has emerged as a pioneer and leader of exercise book making machinery. The company has three plants. This one in the picture is the headquarters, which also houses a plant in the 54,000 sq/ft campus. The other two plants, which produce tools for manufacture of exercise book making machines, operates from a combined 73,800 sq/ft site. The company has over 1,500 installations worldwide.

Mohansons India
Mohansons India, the Ahmedabad-based cutting machine manufacturing company was established in the year 1990 by Mohanlal Panchal. The company manufacturing semi-automatic and fully automatic cutting machines under the brand name ‘Sudarshan’. The in-house state of the art CNC equipments helps the company to manufacture 50 machines a year.  The company has 450 installations in India and has exported 200 machines.  

Photokina chemicals
Photokina Chemicals was founded in 1985. The company is a blend of manufacturing and distribution capabilities for the screen-printing industry. It operates from a 43,000 sq/ft site in Changodar, Ahmedabad and has 125 OEM companies, dealer network of 450, and capability of allied manufacturing and custom package conversion system. Its product range includes screen fabrics, chemicals, emulsion, stencil films, frames, squeegees and handles among others. 

RK machine tools
Established in 2000,RK Machine Tools is an all stop shop for accessories in label industry. The company recently expanded to a 10,000 sq/ft area from its earlier 3000 sq/ft plant to cater to increased production. The company specializes in manufacturing of customised label presses. They started their manufacturing in the label industry with the flatbed model and then  progressed into manufacturing flexo towers in the year 2007. RK machine tools has installed 800 machines in the past 13 years.

Vipul industries
Ahmedabad-based Vipul Industries has core expertise in manufacturing of plate punching machines. Established in 2003, Vipul industries’s business is majorly into exports, 70%. With a working capacity of 10 people, the company manufactures 15-20 punch machines in a month as and when the order comes. Total installations of the company is around 150 in India.  Other businesses that Vipul industries is into are web stacker machines, rubber rollers, creasing machines to name a few.