KN Shivkumar’s story of grit, passion and ambition - The Noel DCunha Sunday Column

Rarely do we witness such a remarkable transformation in fiction or reality. Futura Digital’s owner is one such success story. KN Shivkumar's rags-to-riches story has all the components to motivate a new generation of entrepreneurs.

12 May 2024 | By Noel D'Cunha

KN Shivkumar, director at Bengaluru's Futura Digital, readily acknowledges that he was born into a wealthy family. "My family was involved in the wholesale business, specifically trading in rice, ragi, and wheat," says Shivkumar. He adds, "I was privileged to attend one of Bangalore's top schools, Kumaran Public School, and I didn't experience hardship until I was in the seventh grade."

Shivkumar said, "It was a challenging time for us, and we had to learn how to navigate the difficulties that he was facing." A division of the wholesale business led to the business’ downfall. 

As Shivkumar's family stared at a life of hardship, a relative assisted them by opening a small provision store to earn a livelihood. Everyone in the family contributed to running the store, including Shivkumar, who helped out regularly during his school years. Shivkumar was more than happy to share the burden of helping his family overcome this difficult time.

The beginning
When he grew up, Shivkumar was passionate about cars. He dreamed of owning a fleet of the most luxurious ones. His love for wheels led him to work at a two-wheeler garage. However, his relatives were not supportive of this and insisted that he work at their garment store instead.

Two years later, Shivkumar quit the garment shop and was drawn to a screen printing unit near his family's provision store. "I joined the printing business and was pleasantly surprised to find I had a passion for design and the print industry."

Shivkumar quickly learned the ropes, and in 1988, he and his brother decided to start their own screen printing business. They mortgaged their mother's jewellery to purchase a second-hand desktop for a princely sum of Rs 54,000. "I found an operator who taught me CorelDRAW, which allowed me to design and print bill books, visiting cards, and brochures for customers."

Shivkumar's company, Futura Digital, began as a set-up with black-and-white printers in 2000. The business quickly expanded to include colour printing, for which they received their first order from Siemens. After this success, Shivkumar's ambition and motivation only grew. Unsurprisingly, his role models are Dhirubhai Ambani and Steve Jobs.

Upgrading – the keyword
Shivkumar's business, Futura Digital, experienced rapid growth. He made sure to equip his enterprise with the best equipment available so that they could provide a complete range of printing services. This included everything from simple black-and-white documents to complex brochures using variable data printing and UV embossing. Futura Digital was always up-to-date with the latest printing innovations and technologies.

In 2010, Futura Digital became the first Bengaluru firm to install Canon's flagship digital press — the ImagePress C7000VP — in which the front end had Creo's Spire software. 

In 2011, Futura Digital became India's first company to install a Xerox 1000 digital colour production press. The Xerox press ran alongside two existing presses, the Xerox DC 5000 and the Xerox DC 700. 

In 2017, Futura Digital booked Konica Minolta’s JetVarnish 3DS, which was on display at the Konica Minolta stand at PrintPack India. Futura Digital also added Konica Minolta’s Infinite Web2Print to its repository. The JetVarnish 3DS was installed along with the iFoil unit in 2018 at Futura Digital's unit in Bengaluru.

In 2018, Futura Digital installed three machines from Konica Minolta’s printing solutions — the JetVarnish 3DS, the Infinite Web2Print, and iFoil One — in their unit in Bengaluru.

Shivkumar stays informed about developments from around the world by attending international exhibitions such as Drupa. 

Today, Futura Digital is committed to providing quality services and timely deliveries to its clients. It employs professional designers and provides its delivery staff with Ather, an EV 2-wheeler.

Futura Digital has the expertise and equipment required to guarantee that every project, regardless of size, is completed to the customer's satisfaction. Whether it's the pace and versatility of digital printing or the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of offset printing, Shivkumar’s company has got it all covered.

People matter
Shivkumar — the man behind Futura Digital — believes his employees are essential to his business success. He ensures that his remuneration model is fair so that his employees are well taken care of. "Having experienced tumultuous times, I believe it is my responsibility to look after my employees, whom I consider family,” Shivkumar says.

Shivkumar is confident that the print industry is here to stay and will continue to evolve in exciting ways. He says, “The rumours of its decline are unfounded and premature. Those willing to embrace new ideas, upgrade, and conduct business correctly will not fear change but welcome it."

Shivkumar concludes, "Futura Digital and its employees will grow and excel in ways that have not been seen or imagined."

(Courtesy: MMS, Mumbai. Adapted from the MMS publication - The Hidden Gems, published 5 April 2024)