Jehangir Surti on the importance of commercial print

On 7 April 2016, the Mumbai Mudrak Sangh is hosting a Power-Lunch Round Table Meeting as part of the Printer’s Day celebration. Jehangir Surti of Prodon Enterprises heads the panel on commercial printing which will also have Vinay Kaushal, Pramod Parulkar, Ankul and Unik, Alok Munot, Niten Shah, and others. Surti shares his thoughts, 24 hours before D-Day.

06 Apr 2016 | By Jehangir Surti

The biggest challenge facing a commercial printer is that there is lesser printing happening today than maybe 5-10 years ago.

Due to the rapid advancement of digital presses both in terms of quality and pricing, the client has an option to opt for a lesser quantity unlike five years ago when a client would ask for say a quantity of 100-300 units but the printer would say it would make more sense to go in for a quantity of 1000. This is a challenge which if accepted can be turned into an advantage. 
Another concern is, the availability (or rather non-availability) of semi-skilled labour who are willing to work and make a career in a manufacturing environment due to better opportunities in the movie malls and .
More jobs (combination of digital and offset) with lesser values. This means one has to have more systems in place and a very good workflow to juggle your jobs, seamlessly.
The point is, no one wants printing to become a commodity market, so how can printers stop that from happening.
One has to keep improving and moving forward in terms of print quality, quick response to clients and fighting deadlines which keep getting shorter and shorter.
In all the industries where certain processes or best business practices reach maturity or progress ceases to happen (or is perceived that no progress is happening) it leads to a certain amount of commoditisation. The print industry is no different and if one does not want to come under the umbrella of a commodity market then one has to be at least partially different in providing quality consistently, sticking to deadlines , being a pleasure to deal with and being able to provide valuable inputs which eventually lead to a better product.
Use speciality papers whenever possible. It gives the assignment a premium feel. Also its provides printers a greater margin and more respectability. Recently we convinced a client who was using art paper to shift to a fine paper (Glode) which was marginally more expensive and they have never regretted the same. 
I strongly believe that many offset printers do not use their existing machinery in the best way in terms of quality or efficiency. Most often the reason being cited is that client's do not want to pay. In which case there is always a compromise in terms of quality.
Quality is never an accident it is the result of good planning being well executed.
Many people ask me what does Prodon do to retain our best customers?
First things first, at Prodon we are never the cheapest. Also we will rarely reduce our price substantially to get an assignment.
If we get certain clients on the basis of quality then it is imperative that the criteria is always met or exceeded. The quality benchmark is set by showing client's proofs and then adhering to them. Never promise more than you can deliver. 
If a job is executed well I believe in praising the client first for their inputs as this makes us a team. Furthermore, it makes them responsible for some of the blame when things don't always go as expected.
Often if in doubt we reprint certain parts of an assignment if a client's are not happy for a valid reason or we are not satisfied with the output.
I honestly feel that if we as a print vendor keeps improving the client should worry more about losing us than we worry about how to retain them.
All clients who are fair and don't haggle unduly over price are good clients to have in our portfolio. One never knows in the circle of life where a small client or a good designer with humble beginnings may eventually reach later in their working life cycle.
We have had the good fortune of seeing many of these success stories.
Does Prodon tell a client they had made a mistake in their job before printing it
I would always do so if I felt that the client's planning was not up to the mark. Often sitting and sharing the pros and cons of an assignment is extremely important to the ultimate success of the assignment. If one has the knowledge and does not share it with the client then we are the eventual loser's as the assignment will never be up to the mark. If for some reason I did not want to share my knowledge with the client I would at least incorporate the positive facet in the assignment and may not reveal a trade secret.
How does Prodon cope if we lose a major customer
If the client has exited the Prodon roster on price then there really is nothing to feel bad about. If the client has left on quality issues then it is sad indeed.
One can only do one's best and work sincerely. If the client is getting a better job elsewhere then one has to look deep within and raise their own bar.
Very often the failing and learning with a particular client teaches lesson's which are invaluable when one executes future assignments.
Importance of training for a small commercial printer
At Prodon, we keep doing testing and profiling of different papers. A lot of the pre press work is most important to the success of an assignment. I am shocked to see that most printers do not print and measure the colour strip.
Many historical print players have collapsed in the past few months, what is the best way forward for a mid-sized and small commercial printer
I have always seen that in difficult times, print shops start compromising on inputs and efforts. This finally leads to inferior quality. We have always stove to do the best possible and avoid taking any shortcuts in an assignment which will eventually affect the quality.
Also, in tough time's one must be very prudent in what assignments are being done and must not suffer as a result of non-payment from clients.
As today's offset machine's are very quick I feel there should be no over expansion in terms of people or equipment unless one is falling short of capacity or manpower while executing assignments with a good margin.
The offset presses of this century (2006 onwards) are extremely quick (in make readies) compared to the presses of the 80's or early 90's so actually the print capacity has significantly increased. I feel that for print runs up to 2000 impressions the time taken has become almost a quarter of what it would take on an 80's press.
Look for good client's who appreciate quality and are willing to pay a premium for the same. Go for quality and not quantity (unless of course it is economically sufficiently profitable).
One next-generation automation which "genuinely" improved productivity at Prodon
It happened a long time ago (2008) with the purchase of a new Mitsubishi Diamond 1000 - four colour plus coater. After that, it has been all small things to keep improving continuously. The machine is really very very productive and has helped us in achieving extremely high quality and we are yet striving to improve constantly. I feel that one should use these machines with all the features supplied, blanket wash cleaning , CIP files and measuring densities etc. It has been a very fulfilling experience to have a machine of this calibre. 

Prodon Enterprises winning the Social Stationery Printer 2015