Pre-press pioneers: Five firms who stand-out

Pre-press firms have disrupted the established print space in India. Technology guru, Kiran Prayagi, chairman of Graphic Art Technology & Education looks at the technology culture in these companies.

23 May 2013 | By PrintWeek India

Colour Dot, Chennai 

Colour Dot in Chennai was the first full-fledged flexo pre-press bureau established in 1986 by Rajesh Bakshi. In those days, the industry in India had almost no knowledge on what is flexo. Bakshi Saab, as he is known, is assisted by his brother D T Bakshi and son Dhaval. Colour Dot has been instrumental in converting hundreds of rubber stereo printers to photopolymer plates countrywide. Rajesh Bakshi is an experienced pre-press person and with scientific photographic background from Hindustan Photo Films. I worked with him closely on electronic colour reproduction at his sister company Scantec, Chennai. He loves a healthy technical discussion.

Colour Dot’s success is due to a strong focus on the requirements of printers by offering its expertise and experience to obtain the best results from the existing set of combinations. Though this sounds easy, achieving any measure of consistency in the printed results requires determination and a scientific effort to maintain standards laid down at inception, throughout the year, day-in and day-out.

Colour Dot’s Chennai  facility is dedicated to colour separations and graphic manipulation, and is a complete pre-press house providing services to flexo printers. It has also been engaged in the production and processing of pre-press products required for all types of printing.

The company is equipped with some of the best machines for processing plates. The pre-press firm produces range of photopolymer plates for thinnest form of computer stationery and label applications – to the thickest for corrugated board applications. Applications for multi-colour halftone printing and guidance to printers is readily available. Strict quality control is exercised at all stages of production. The kit includes high-end drum colour scanner, DuPont Cyrel Fast, and Esko CDI exposing machine, digital proofing, and Flex RIP for special colour separations.

The company offers a range of products suited to enhance multi-colour flexo printing are offered, such as doctor blades, double sided adhesive tapes, liquid inks, chrome and ceramic anilox rollers, etc. Scan Grafiks, a sister company, has posted significant growth over the decade owing to tremendous customer support and response, particularly to its range of international products. Colour Dots caters to customers which includes names like TetraPak, Master Extrusions, Dynaflex, Self Seekers, ITC, Multiflex, Canara Printers, Universal Print Systems, Best Labels and R T Packaging.

Comart Lithographers, Mumbai- Bengaluru

Comart’s history dates back to 1932 when the company started as Commercial Art Engravers by Framroze Poonawala. He used to collect rare art work from his customers during the day; riding on a bicycle and producing letterpress blocks after returning to his workshop. Later his three sons Burjor, Dadi, and Cyrus, all qualified from the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts, joined the business, and did most of the modernisation and also branched in to litho-offset and started Comart Lithographers. Today, the business is managed by Dadi’s sons Eddy and Freddy. I had the opportunity to work very closely with Burjor and Eddy on electronic colour scanners and colour reproduction.

Today, Comart is recognised as one of the largest pre-media and print company in India. The group of companies is headquartered in Mumbai with offices in Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Kolkota. The production hub in Mumbai has 20,000 square sq/ft of digital hub and connected to Bengaluru via a high-speed data network that easily integrate 300-strong workforce with client production facilities anywhere in the world. Comart’s core service offerings have traditionally been in the area of digital pre-press for advertising, publishing and packaging markets. The capabilities in print include digital short-run printing, commercial sheet and web offset and speciality print requirements for indoor signages and large-format outdoor media. Data services enable creation, storage, management and digital distribution of media and graphic assets. Comart also offers high-volume digitisation of archived media. The company has a dedicated team and infrastructure to handle back-office operations from layout and design, pre-press activities.

It has customers all over the world and includes names like Levers, Wal-Mart, L’Oreal, Raymonds, Zodiac, Conde Nast, Taj Hotels, Louis Vuitton, Vodafone, Forbes Group, Coca Cola, Mercedes, Nestle, Cadbury, Citibank, Cipla HSBC and Fidelity Investments. Comart also has a strong relationship with leading advertising agencies like Ogilvy, JWT, Grey (WPP group), Lowe Group, DY & R, Publicis, McCann Erikson, etc.

Shilp Gravures, Ahmedabad

Shilp Gravures is India’s pioneer and undisputed leader in electro-mechanical engraving, with a substantial market share of the flexible packaging industry. The company began operations in 1989 as a pre-press bureau for the gravure cylinder supplies. It had an inherent cutting edge, having been founded and run by a team of experienced technocrats, led by the visionary Ambar Patel. A visit to Shilp Gravures with my customers has always impressed me. What is striking is the technical details of each-and-every application which they seek before processing the cylinder orders.  

In 1990, the company set up the chemical etching facility for gravure cylinders; and in 1993 started the first and only electro-mechanically engraving unit in India. In the years that followed, Shilp Gravures always bought the world’s best technology and related softwares. Be it: Barco then, and more recently, Esko.

The company approaches its work practices from the creative end and that is what distinguishes it from all the other gravure cylinder suppliers in the field. All its activities and quality pursuits around that core knowledge that at the end of it all, it is part of a marketing and branding exercise. And that is the core mantra that has empowered Shilp’s rapid growth, and given it the confidence to visualise a global activity charter for the immediate future.

Shilp has in-house facilities including high-end unique Cruse scanner for life size scans, digital proofing facilities with Epson-Stylus Pro WT 7900 with StarProof, HP-5542 with KPG MP, Xerox-XC550 with a Fiery RIP, Barco imagesetter,. In addition, Shilp boasts of cold extrusion, copper and chrome plating units, copper and chrome polishing units, electro-mechanical engraving machines, laser roller etching, photo polymer platemaking using CDI machine. Furthermore there are special instruments for cell quality checks, proof presses for gravure cylinders, softwares include all standard packages as well as special purpose packaging applications and the latest colour management systems.

The number of gravure cylinders made every month are more than 4,000 through a combination of all the methods. The pre-press department is always fully loaded with the work for gravure and flexo forms preparation. Pre-press work is done from four additional locations Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Rakanpur (Gujarat).

Trigon Digital Solutions, Mumbai-Bengaluru

Trigon Digital is the youngest among the five companies in this feature – and shows what the young enterprenuers can do. Trigon dared to invest in a technology where no other company in India invested, though a need was felt long ago. The persons behind the company are Anil Namugade and Milind Deshpande, both well versed with the technology and industry’s need.

Trigon offers corporate companies a solution that begins with ideation and creation of packaging design, proofs and mock-ups on actual substrate, virtual stores, and three-dimensional PDF mock-ups up to the final printing of collaterals and large format prints. It is a journey that spans the distance from the concept to the collateral, from pre-press to the final print job.

Trigon stands for compliance, packaging vision, and its marketability. These services are geared to fulfil the needs of the packaging professionals, marketing staff, merchandising professionals, etc. The company also stands for high quality digital printing on a variety of substrates. It accurately translates the merchandising vision into collaterals that stand out and sell message to the target audience.

The company has infrastructure to provide proofing, mock-ups and print fulfilment in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Equipment includes Kodak Approval NX – the world’s most advanced digital proofing machine that can generate printing proofs on the actual printing substrate with metallic or full range of Pantone colours. Roland eco-solvent for large and wide-format printing, Flora flatbed UV inkjet printing, Epson inkjet proofing, Konica Minolta short-run digital printing solution, spot UV varnish solution, thermal lamination machine to reproduce superior quality of gloss and matt finish, conventional foiling and embossing machine, Kongsberg sample-making table for cartons, die-cut labels etc shrink tunnel to make shrink-wrap for containers. Spectrophotometer for colorimetric measurement, latest packaging related and colour management softwares, high-end Macs, PCs, and servers. Trigon has a highly qualified and talented team to accurately execute brand guidelines.

Unique Photo Offset , Mumbai

Unique Photo offset, earlier Unique Blocks was the first pre-press bureau I came across when I joined the printing institute at J J Institute of Art compound as a young first year student. When I was in the second year, Ashok Nerker joined as a fresh student and since then I got to know more about the company. Later, we studied at the London College of Printing at the same time; al though Ashok was one year senior to me.

Founded in 1960 by Rambhau Nerker, I have witnessed the growth of Unique Blocks to Photo Offset. Rambhau’s son Ashok Nerker kept up with the technology and is responsible for brand Unique. Now the third generation, who is involved for last 16 years is taking the league forward.

Company has been truly unique in its pre-press expertise for all the printing processes from letterpress, litho-offset, flexo, digital, etc. and in each of these, the team is well-versed from traditional techniques to the most sophisticated methods. Today, it is also the India’s largest and premier digital solutions house with a global presence. The customers, global as well as local players and include corporate giants in the business of consumer products, advertising, printing, publishing and the entertainment industry and rely on it for innovative brand imaging and digital solutions. To name a few customers, Barbie, BMW, Colgate, Idea, Kodak, Procter & Gamble, Siemens, Tata, Videocon etc.

The services offered by the company are design for commercial, packaging, web and interactive, brand building, pre-press scanning using high-end drum scanners, creative retouching, database management, flexo platemaking, digital as well as conventional proofing and also now offer flexography and litho-offset printing facilities.