Odisha: An untapped market for print

Priya Raju braves the scorching heat to visit two print firms in Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack in Odisha, Print-Tech Offset and the Odisha Government Press, and explains how both the firms have become game changers in an otherwise sluggish market.

20 Jul 2016 | By Priya Raju

It is impossible to land at the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha and not remember poet Jayanta Mahapatra. As we step out from the air conditioned airport and trudge towards Cuttack with the sun blazing at 49 degrees Celsius, we remember a line from Mahapatra’s A Summer Poem: “Mornings of heated middens smoke under the sun.”

It was perhaps not so surprising. After all, Cuttack is where the master, a physics teacher who started writing poetry in English at the age of 40, has spent all his life. His Cuttack address, Tinkonia Bagicha, is a veritable shrine for Indian English poetry aficionados.

Talking about print in Odisha, a state which finds mainstream news space only when there is a cyclone or famine, beside the annual Rath Yatra in Puri (which incidentally started on 6 July), Mahapatra’s contribution is undoubtedly remarkable. He spent all his life in the city and yet put Indian English poetry in the world map. Not just that. Since the 1970s, Mahapatra has been editing and publishing the literary journal Chandrabhaga, from Cuttack.

Our journey to Cuttack is more technical. We are here to visit the Government Press of Odisha, which has recently installed a Heidelberg C92. With us is Bejoy Dev, general manager for Eastern India at Heidelberg, an expert with nearly two decades of sales experience.

Dev understands the DNA of Cuttack. He says the city, known for its famous silver filigree works, is laidback. This reflects in the attitude of the print industry as well. “The city for long has resisted investing in new equipment or technology, chugging along with their old machines,” says Dev.

In the recent years, however, the Government Press of Odisha and a private firm, Print-Tech Offset, have proven to be exceptions, with investments in brand-new Heidelberg offset machines.

Moving towards sustained growth
To curb illegal mining, the Supreme Court in May 2015 had asked Odisha government to stop operations in 26 iron ore and manganese mines. This brought the economy to a standstill. Today, however, the emphasis of the state is on leveraging its abundant mineral and other resources and promoting maximum value addition.

According to reports, the GDP of Odisha has registered a growth of 8.78%. The state, which was predominantly an agriculture-based economy, is in the transition towards an industry and service-based economy, which in 2015, contributed to 51% of the economy.

The print sector
The print market in Odisha is dominated by the secondhand machinery market. Also, it is concentrated in four major locations – Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Beherampur, and Rourkela. Even among these four, four-colour sheetfed presses are found more in Bhubaneshwar than the other cities. “Odisha, over the years, has seen a slow investment pattern. However, it is a welcome change to see few players opting for brand-new machinery,” Dev adds.

The print industry in Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack has evolved around the publishing segment, educational institutes, and the textbook market. The major publishers in the market are NBD Publication, TBW (The Book World) and IBD. While there is not much demand for commercial print jobs, corporates and educational institutes like Shiksha Anusang and KIIT, dotting the cities, form the major part of business for the print firms.

Rise of Print-Tech Offset
Bhubaneshwar-based Print-Tech Offset came into existence in 1996, to cater to the requirements of the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) and KIIT University. The press took off after it installed two Poly four-colour presses in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The two directors and partners of the firm, Brundaban Behera and Biswa Ranjan Nayak, are at the helm of affairs.

The firm needed to improve further when one of its clients, the publisher of the leading Odia magazine Kadambini hinted at improving the quality. “That’s when we seriously considered buying the new kit,” says Behera.

In 2010, Print-Tech Offset became the first printer in Odisha to install a brand-new press and CTP kit - a Heidelberg SM 74 and a Suprasetter A-75.

Today, the firm houses four presses from Heidelberg, two SM74, one SX52, and the latest addition being Heidelberg CS 92 sheetfed press, which was installed in April 2015. Behera adds, “Features like full automation, ease of operation, sturdiness and the considerable reduction in wastage are the reasons why we opted for Heidelberg.”

The firm targets to run production with 80% utilisation. It uses 5,000 plates per month and churns around 40-45 tonne of paper. Nayak says, “There is certainly a growth in demand. The print requirements, which were earlier outsourced to Hyderabad or Kolkata, are now catered by local firms.”

The Government Press
The Odisha Government Press at Cuttack has invested in three new Heidelberg press. The first, a SM74, was installed in 2008, the second one in 2014, and the latest one has been commissioned. The press caters to the printing needs of Government of Odisha, printing of standard forms to government offices, plus storage, distribution and sale of all government publications, among others.

Hemanta Kumar Mishra, director (technical) of the Odisha Government Press, says, “Heidelberg is a renowned brand with proven technology. When we first invested in the Heidelberg press in 2008, we could see the difference in quality, plus the performance of the machine was good.”

It was the machine quality, market feedback and the metallurgy of the machine that proved to be deal clinchers for Heidelberg. Mishra adds, “Also, we wanted to invest in machines of the same family, since it becomes easy for us to operate and maintain.”

The way ahead
Over the past 10-12 years, investment in post-press has been gradual, with only 3-4 machines coming to the city per year. The perfect binding segment is dominated by Welbound, with around 50 machines installed and 15 machines from other players. The CTP market, mostly refurbished, has been a combination of investment in violet and thermal technology, with violet dominating the market. A total of 35-40 CTP machines have been installed until date, with major requirements from satellite printing units that cater to the newspaper segment in Odisha.

The raw materials are largely sourced from Kolkata and local distributors’ stock papers.

While there has been an increasing demand for quality prints, extracting apt rates have been an issue. Behera says, “There is a huge scope for growth, but for this, the laidback attitude of the population, in general, has to change.” Odisha has a printers’ association, but it has not met in the past few years.

Packaging as a sector is gaining
traction in sectors such as marine exports and spices packaging. With the GDP of the state improving and robust growth in both the industry and services sector, the state is yet to leverage its full potential.

Print-Tech fact file

Established: 1996 in Bhubaneshwar

Area: 12,000sq/ft plus 2000sq/ft for storage

Employee strength:
71 employees working in two shifts of 8 hour

Printing machines:

Four high web offset, Sheetfed – two Heidelberg SM74, SX52, CS 92 and Poly 466

Press capacities:
2 lakh impressions per day on the web
4 lakh impressions per day on sheetfed

Heidelberg Stahl folding, Welbound Colt and 6-clamp perfect binding machine, sewing machine, case making with cold and thermal lamination, and foiling