How company in Gadag makes print lucrative

BGS Publications completes 80 years in 2024. The journey that started with the Late Sri BG Sankeshwar is helmed by the third generation who are continuing the legacy of serving society with quality books at very affordable prices in every corner of the state. Basavanneppa Sankeshwar talks to Manjunath Naragund as part of PrintWeek’s Big Interview series

17 May 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

The Sankeshwar Printing Press factory in Gadag


Manjunath Naragund (MN): Gadag has a huge print legacy. What is the place that Sankeshwar Printers occupies in Gadag?
Basavanneppa Sankeshwar (BS):
In Gadag, the majority of printing presses primarily focus on commercial printing. Sankeshwar Printers stands out as a unique establishment, engaging in both commercial offset and digital printing and a publication with a legacy spanning 80 years. We offer comprehensive solutions to our customers, covering design/DTP, printing, binding, and finishing, all under one roof. Sankeshwar Printers is a customer-oriented, employee-centric, environmentally friendly, and socially conscious company.

MN: What about your customers?
: One group of customers, mainly the book distributors, purchase our published books, while the other consists of commercial printing customers. In the realm of publication, we regularly introduce new titles under BGS Publications based on their requirements and adapt to changes in the current conditions.

MN: Do your customers ever surprise you with interesting new jobs?
BS: On the commercial printing front, if a customer wishes to publish work according to foreign standards, we strive to meet those standards within a limited time period.

MN: Interesting. How much do you listen to your customers?
: We always believed in providing good customer service and that’s the reason why our customers always come back to us. We believe that our customers are the greatest source of learning. Yes, if they have asked for timely supply, we will deliver on time. Customers tell us about new innovations that we try to adopt.

Basavanneppa Sankeshwar with his father (Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar)

MN: One tip you picked up from a customer?
Earlier we used to print answer papers and pinning was done to bind them, so it used to take a lot of time. To save time, for the first time in the North Karnataka region, we introduced spine gluing technology from Baumer which reduced labour, cost and time.

MN: Kudos on the recent investments (Bindwel, Kodak, Komori). What was the driver for this investment?
Since we have our own publication, where we are publishing books. Also we produce dictionaries and calendars. And from year to year, this business has been growing. Like a black and white TV transformed into a colour TV, similarly publications are adopting colour versions. That is why we wanted to produce good quality books in a colour form. Most importantly, instead of publishing 2,000 to 3,000 copies and selling them at a higher price, we print 50,000 copies and sell them at a lesser price so that it reaches a larger group. Moreover, we wanted to venture into commercial printing. That is why this combo of Kodak CTP, Komori printing press and a Bindwel@2500 perfect binding machine.

MN: Your previous presses were a Ryobi baby offset and a Komori Sprint. Why the Komori Lithrone GL 437?
Previously, we bought some local and used machines, but the problem we faced was the lack of reliability in those machines. Many times, we faced sudden machine breakdowns, whenever we had any urgent printing job work. That is the main reason we went ahead with a brand new printing machine. With hundred years of expertise in the industry, Komori’s efficiency, quality, reliability and service cannot be matched with its competitors.

MN: What are the advantages that you saw in this press configuration?
The Komori Lithrone GL 437 with maximum size of 25 x 37 inch is apt for printing books. Even commercial jobs up to 350 GSM board can be printed on this machine.

MN: How was the installation process?
Engineers from Komori India travelled to Gadag to install, and everything went perfectly well. They completed the entire installation process within ten days. On 12 January, we unloaded the machine and on 22 January, we had our first printing trial.

Chakrapani Vemula (Komori regional sales manager-South India) handing over the Komori Lithorne G37 Machine to Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar

MN: How were the press trials?
Since the installation of the machine, we have carried out multiple printing jobs, including our own publication books as well as other commercial jobs with varying sizes and GSM. Komori engineers provided extensive training to our printers for around 15 days. Since then we have printed more than 5-6 lakhs impressions.

MN: What type of books do you produce on the Bindwel?
Mainly, we have our own publication, and in addition, we offer book binding services to other printers and publishers. Initially, we used Welbound’s (now Bindwel) single-clamp binding machine. Now we have upgraded to a six-clamp binding machine. Previously, we could bind 2,500 books per shift, but with the new six-clamp machine, we can achieve our targets in one hour. This efficiency has allowed us to complete a day’s work within an hour. Due to this we can ensure timely deliveries.

MN: Share one book project which was a challenge?
Recently we received an order from Sahitya Prakashan, Hubli, which was quite a challenging task. However, we were able to meet the standard of print quality due to the recently purchased Komori machine.

MN: How did the idea for a finishing department develop?
Previously, book binding in the finishing department was time-consuming as we had a single clamp machine. Since upgrading to a six clamp machine, our book binding process has become more efficient, allowing us to increase more output.

MN: So Sankeshwar Printers offers competitive prices as well as innovative solutions to your clients, now?
Yes. Ten years ago, we received an order for 1.5 lakh DK Bharadwaj’s Standard Pocket dictionaries which were distributed throughout Karnataka. Initially, the plan was to transport the order to Bengaluru for repackaging. However, we proposed a more efficient solution. We suggested delivering the dictionaries directly to Kalaburgi and Belagavi through a truck. The client provided a list of 250 schools, and we meticulously packed and loaded the order directly to these schools from our facility. By avoiding the detour to Bengaluru, we saved nearly 10 days of transit time.

MN: Most impressive.
Yes. This not only reduced logistical difficulty but also spared our client the burden of shifting books from Gadag to Bengaluru and then repacking for distribution to Kalaburgi.

MN: Describe your work plate-making process? What is your plate schedule?
BS: Since we purchased the Kodak CTP, our schedule is more flexible, and plate-making has become easier. Now, we share plates with other small printers, something we didn’t do before. This transformation has turned us into a printing cluster, equipped with advanced machinery, and positioned as a reliable service provider for small printers.

Basavanneppa Sankeshwar and Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar with the staff members

MN: I see. Which standards do you follow in the CTP department?
Kodak has prescribed the standards. Now we have upgraded to the new technology. Instead of chemicals for processing plates, we have switched to eco-friendly process-less green plates. Most printers in and around Gadag are still reluctant to use these process-less plates. However, we are among the first ones to adopt them. This change has significantly reduced our chemical usage.

MN: Do you have daily targets? How many plates per day?
We don’t have specific targets. We print based on the jobs.

MN: What is the ratio of proofing? What do you do for colour management?
For colour proofing we are using the combination of Print Link and PCC software. Kodak’s Prinergy offers the Print Link software which generates a Print Producation File. Komori’s PCC Software uses the ppf file for colour separation and to maintain the exact colour ratio of the print job. It ensures that the CMYK colour combination present in the print job is accurately measured and sent to the Komori machine. This way we maintain precise colour consistency in our output.

MN: What are the difficulties that print firms in Gadag face and what do they immediately need to be addressed?
The main difficulty is that they are lagging in technology, compromising on quality by not upgrading. To achieve good quality, they need new machines and updated technology. In the digital age, people want pictures, not just information. Earlier we used to buy books for information, but now there’s a demand for activity-based books. That’s where many local presses are lacking.

MN: Any solution to this problem?
Yes. Now we have created a platform to help not just our press but all printing units in Gadag. It’s about facilitating tasks for everyone and developing together. The heritage tag Mudrana Kashi Gadag should stay alive. When entering Gadag through three routes, you can see the Welcome to Mudrana Kashi Gadag board. We want to carry forward this legacy.

MN: What do you think about the present state of print in India?
Technology has changed due to Covid, people are leaning more towards digital devices like mobiles and laptops. Mobiles are considered to be a disruptive technology, affecting the print industry like many other industries such as watches, clocks, cameras, and calendars. But the print industry is expected to bounce back.

MN: One thing our industry needs to do to raise awareness about ink on paper?
Currently, there is a growing need for print as parents face difficulties managing screen time for children, impacting their mental and physical health, their concentration, writing and reading abilities. While there are major advantages to technology, there are also drawbacks. Print needs to incorporate these ideas, as I suggested earlier creating activity-based learning books for students. If there’s animation in digital formats, we can bring it to print using UV inks. This shift towards print isn’t just limited to books; it also extends to packaging products. How things are packed, for example, it may be a cake or a chocolate, it has become more important. Therefore, print is not declining; it is actually increasing.

The Komori Lithorne G37 press at Sankeswar Printing Press

MN: The most difficult print job you’ve produced?
There are many…

MN: What’s the coolest print fact you know of?
The use of UV ink is fascinating. UV coatings have been traditionally used for cover pages, and packaging boxes, and now UV inks are being used in activity-based learning books, magazines and newspapers for kids.

MN: One trivia about Sankeshwar Printing Press which no one knows ...
Most things are known, but one thing is certain, printers are always surprised when we introduce new machines or new technology. Our purchase of the Komori machine makes them wonder why we invested in such a big machine. Many big printers in Bengaluru were surprised; especially considering it’s an investment in a small city like Gadag. Nonetheless, only time will prove them wrong.

How do you unwind in Gadag?
During holidays, I usually spend time with my family and kids, attend friends’ and family members’ functions. That’s my way of relaxing.

One activity you love?
Walking with my pet dog.

Favourite Kannada book?
I don’t have any specific favourite Kannada book, but whenever any new Kannada books come for print here, I read them there itself.

Favourite spot in Gadag?
Replica of Sabarmati Ashram in Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat University campus.

Favourite snack at Sankeshwar Printing Press?
Girmit and Mirchi Bhajji.

Favourite book?
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francec Miralles and Hector Garcia.

Favourite sport?

Favourite sportsperson?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

An international print factory you visited which is a must see?
I haven’t visited, but my father (Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar) visited the Man Roland print factory in Germany in 2000.

One thing about Gadag no one knows?
Kappadagudda Hill, adjacent to Gadag-Betageri City contributes to making the city one of the places with the highest clean Air Quality Index (AQI) in India. It is known for its rich variety of medicinal plants and diverse fauna. I think, Gadag has significant potential for both tourism and wind power.

One print factory (other than Sankeshwar Printing Press) in Gadag you love?
Only Sankeshwar Printers (with a smile).

Which print consultant is on your speed dial?
My father Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar.

A lesson you have learnt from your team member
Team effort is more important; it’s important to grow together.


Sankeshwar Printers - Down memory lane
In 1940 The Late BG Sankeshwar started a book stall - Saraswati Pustaka Bhandar in Gadag. Later he expanded the business to Hubli with the support of his eldest son Channabasappa B Sankeshwar who opened a new book stall named Basaveshwar Pustaka Bhandar in 1942. Today his son, Mohan C Sankeshwar is running a commercial printing press in Hubli called Mohan Printers.
In 1944 BG Sankeshwar started his own publication. The first title was DK Bharadwaj’s Standard Dictionary and the Gadag Sri Basaveshwar Panchanga along with other titles. When his son, Dayanand B Sankeshwar joined the business in 1966, he developed the printing press, oversaw publication titles, did revision work as well as proofreading of dictionaries and other titles. Later he started his own letterpress types under the name Dayanand.

Type Foundry at Gadag

  • In 1962 BG Sankeshwar started his own printing press. His third son Vijay B Sankeshwar joined the family business in 1968. On cue, he extended English-Marathi Dictionary Publications and started printing unit under the name Vijay Printing Press. This was the time when the press invested in the latest imported printing machineries.
  • In 1976 Vijay B Sankeshwar started his own transport business under the name of Vijayanand Roadlines which further expanded into VRL Logistics. He along with his son Anand V Sankeshwar later ventured into various other businesses – VRL Travels (VRL bus services), VRL Media (Vijayavani Newspaper & Dighvijay News Channel), VRL Aviation (Chartered Flight services) and many more. Under his constant guidance and support both morally and financially, the firm has been growing at a very rapid pace.
  • In 1987 Sankeshwar Printers was incorporated. The promoters invested in offset print kit, section-sewing machines, and stitching and folding machines.
  • In 1990 The golden jubilee. A year later, the company implemented a computerised typesetting system.
  • In 1994 The associated firms BG Sankeshwar & Co and Mallikarjun Printing Press were merged with Sankeshwar Printers for effective management. The printing press was shifted to a location at Gadag Co-operative Industrial Estate with a built-up space of 8,000 sq ft. The company added arsenal by introducing a Manugraph four-colour web offset press and a Welbound perfect binding bit in 1996.
  • In 2003 DB Sankeshwar (after his retirement) along with his son Ravindra D Sankeshwar started a new venture of packaged drinking water called Omkar which was manufactured by Sankeshwar Ventures (India) in Hubli.
  • In 2016 Basavanneppa (Raju) Mrutyunjay Sankeshwar joined the business and later introduced Baumer’s automated online spine-gluing machine for the binding of answer booklets.
  • In 2019 The company expanded the factory space. And so, Sankeshwar Printers boasted of a Sigmarq 4+4 colour hi-tower web press, along with a 200 kVA diesel generator, 11 KV HT line, plus a staff bus to facilitate ease of commuting.