Menaka Card: Tamil cinema's loss is a big gain for the wedding cards industry in Tamil Nadu

There's a Rajnikant film about a man's journey from rags to riches. This describes the journey of S Shangaralingam, chairman and managing director of Menaka Card, a 22-year-old wedding cards house in Chennai.

02 Nov 2010 | By Sriraam Selvam

Hailing from the remote village of Sankanankulam in the Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, his pre-Menaka Card travails could easily be part of Ripley's Believe It or Not.

"The village I was born was one of the most backward with nothing to offer my ambition. I had no choice but move to a bigger town," explains Shangaralingam. "Without my family's consent, I went to Coimbatore where I hoped to do a course in agriculture."

Print by chance
"For weeks, I went to every office in Coimbatore. My hopes of admission were dashed" he narrates. "I approached anyone, who could offer me help, since my money had dwindled. I was left with little or no option for survival" he adds.

One of these life-defining meetings led him to meet Muruganandan, a sub-editor of the Tamil magazine, Kaalai Kathir who also ran a book binding unit. Shangaralingam was offered a supervisory job.

"It re-defined my life. Muruganandan gave me hope. He offered a job. He was a mentor. This included getting admission for a graduation course. And identifying the print talent in me." That's why Shangaralingam took up a diploma course on print at Central Polytechnic in Chennai.

Destination Chennai
"The reason I came to Chennai was not print-related. I was crazy about the movies," confesses Shangaralingam.

His foray into cinema included a role in Uthiri Pookal. "But that attempt faltered, I resolved to develop my knowledge in screen printing and set up shop for business cards, letterheads in what is popularly called Kollywood-Kodambakkam," explains Shangaralingam.

Tryst with wedding cards
"The choice of becoming a full-fledged wedding invitation card printer was destiny," says Shangaralingam.

He hunted cards for his own wedding – and brother's wedding – in Anderson Street in Parry's locality in Chennai. This led him to design and print, on his own. "The feedback was phenomenal especially for my brother's wedding invite. There was no looking back," he says.

Today, the company has 1000 designs and 300 new designs every month. The price ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 500.

"I personally designed every card in the early days. Now we have a team of designers," explains Shangaralingam. "Even now every new design is approved by me. Also initiate new concepts with them" he quickly adds.

The brand boasts of more than 30 branches all over India and also in the USA, Canada, France and Germany.

Unique production set-up

Recently, the company set up a production facility in Shangaralingam's hometown: Sankanankulam. The one lakh sq/ft unit has a raft of kit. This includes a Heidelberg PM-52. "Our focus is on finishing; for which we have a range of post-press kit for hot foil stamping, thermography, embossing, UV coating," he states.

The unit produces around 50,000 cards everyday – and consumes 50 tons of paper every month. "Starting from a 225 sq ft office to the new production facility at Menaka Card, we have always stressed on being innovators. We were amongst the first to use pearl ink in the country, print on sun film etc" he adds.

Giving back to the society
"The idea of setting up the production unit in a remote location is an attempt to "give something to the place" I was born in, says Shangaralingam.

Menaka has a hiring policy with a reformist approach. "We have even employed ex-convicts with the idea of giving them another lease of life," he tells.

With a staff strength of 350, the company is a trendsetter for its advocacy of rural industrial development.

"There have been various milestones that I have achieved in life. But my greatest joy was when I bought my first pillow. Till then, I had slept amongst binding equipment. The pillow was a turning point in my life," says Shangaralingam, founder of the Rs 18 crore business establishment. And today, there is no looking back for Menaka Card.

Founded 18 June, 1980
Specialty Wedding cards
Location Chennai
Equipment Heidelberg PM 52, three GTO 52 single-colour presses, six TOK mini offset presses, two M offset presses, 13 platen foil stamping machines, cylindrical die-punching machine, Polar cutting machines and various folding machines
Staff 350

Profile of another wedding card printer
Marriages are created in heaven but they are designed by Meena Agencies

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