Print in India pays homage to Hanumantha Rao

The founder of Pragati Offset, Hanumantha Rao, a “titan” of the printing industry and a celebrated award-winning printer, has died aged 91. He passed away on 2 March after a struggle with ill health.

07 Mar 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

Rao was born around 1925 and from an early age he was doing everything – from working in the fields to working as a journalist, acting in films with N T Rama Rao to participating in the freedom movement, for which he was jailed for three years.

In 1962, he started his printing unit, Pragati Art Printers, with a small letterpress printing machine after which he never looked back. He was responsible for laying the foundation for much of Pragati Offset's success in commercial print and packaging.
Even as the Pragati family convenes for a condolence meet this afternoon to celebrate the life of P Hanumantha Rao in Hyderabad’s JRC Centre, PrintWeek India dedicates this column to remembering some precious memories with the print fraternity in India.
Dev Nair, president, AIFMP 
He was a titan of the industry and had a huge impact on print. In many ways we see this as the passing of an era.
Kamal Chopra of Offset Printers’ Association (OPA) 
Hanumantha Rao was very popular among the people in print and his social circles due to his habit of working selflessly. The members of the OPA are distraught due to this inconsolable loss not only to his family but also to the people in print in India.
Anand Limaye, India Printing Works, Mumbai 
Whenever we talk about Hanumantha Rao of Pragati, a noble and respectable figure stands before our eyes. My memory takes me back twenty years, when I was the junior-most general council (GC) member in the All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP). I still remember the humble appeal he made – think and work for the small printers. “Guide them, help them to progress and let them grow,” he had said. His revolutionary thoughts would inspire any youngster. I was.
Sangam Khanna, Insight Communication 
A personality who set an example with his never-say-die attitude. The last time I met Hanumantha Rao was during my visit to Pragati Offset. He was on a routine visit, walking across the aisle of Pragati, a plant which he had started. As I noticed him, he would talk to the workers and liked to sit in an area from where he could see maximum activity. As I wished him and enquired about his health he told me that everyone in the family is concerned about him but he loves to come to the office. That’s the never-say-die attitude that I learned from him.
Harveer Sahni, Weldon Celloplast 
Hanumantha Rao, the founder of Pragati Offset was a man who grew from grass-root level and became a legend in his lifetime leaving behind a legacy for his enterprise to excel in print and for the generations to follow. The inertia for growth that originated with the inception of the enterprise by him has not only been carried forward by his two sons and grandchildren but has actually received further impetus from their passionate dedication to print. When I visited their home in 2011, it was indeed a very warm and eye opening experience for me. It was an ideal situation, with family bonding and respecting traditions.

There, I saw the proverbial, Athithi Devo Bhava, in practice; from the respect that the family bestowed upon me and my son Pawan that evening. 

Four generations in the same room in perfect unison. Hanumantha Rao’s great grand children were playing around while I enjoyed the evening with him, my friend; his son Narendra Paruchuri and his grand children. Hanumantha Rao took immense pleasure in telling me that his great grand children accompanied him to the press some afternoons after school. This was the amazing foresight he had, motivating the fourth generation as well. I am always sure that this enterprise will stay indebted to its founder in laying the path to continuous growth and excellence by personal indulgence.

Suresh Reddiar, ST Reddiar & Sons 
Hanumantha Rao garu was a doyen and a stalwart of the printing industry in India. He had great affection towards our family and me, which went back three decades. Whenever I was present for the GC meetings of the AIFMP at different places, he was kind enough to share hotel rooms with me, since we were past presidents of the federation. He used to advise me about his novel ideas in printing when we stayed together which are still fresh in my memory. The loss is irreparable and the void created by his demise can never be filled up.
O Venugopal, Anaswara 
My association with Hanumantha Rao goes back to the year 1997, when I met him during the NAEP awards function. When he gathered that I was from Kerala, his face shined beamed with a smile. He reminisced about his association with AK Gopalan, and his time in the Cuddalore jail with Gopalan. On another occasion, I was with Hanumantha garu at the Nepal airport, returning to our respective homes after the SAARC awards event. This was in 2000. As usual, Pragati had won loads of awards and Hanumantha was carrying them in a bag. The authorities thought the metal Hanumantha was carrying was gold, hence they stopped him. He told the authorities the metal is indeed gold, but in the form of awards for printed jobs. With a smile, the authorities let us go.
SN Venkatraman, ITC PSPD 
In his own way, he laid the foundation for building a printing house which has fast become an institution now. A true example of innate humility and substance.
P Raghava Raju, ABC Printing Ink
He was a self-made man, one who started from scratch. He was known to be a go-getter, and very good in public relation. His sharp business acumen and practical approach in involving the next generation to take decisions eventually led to Pragati becoming a nationally reputed printing house that it is today. At the core of his commitment was his desire for doing good to the Indian printing industry. 
Manoj Mehta, Manipal Utility Packaging Solutions 
Daddy, I used to call him. He is the Alois Senefelder of the Indian print fraternity. I had the best of times with him during the AIFMP governing council meetings. Just before the last GC meeting in Bengaluru, I received a call from Narendra, my friend, saying that Daddy wants to attend the meet, but only if you are there will I send him. I remember Daddy spoke very few words during the GC meetings, but put forth his points very precisely. His comments were always appreciated. We at AIFMP will miss him always. Nobody can take his place. Daddy has given the best gift to the Indian printing fraternity in the form of Pragati.
Fred Poonawala, Comart 
My interaction with P Hanumantha Rao was mainly at the All India Federation of Master Printers meets. He was an outspoken person at the federation and aired his opinions and objections with all the passion. He was a true gentleman, soft spoken and humble. He was truly committed to the well-being of the industry. Even when he was not in a very good health he would make it to the federation meetings, out of love and commitment and sheer will power to be there. I know his family was not happy with him travelling only because of his health. This just showed his commitment. 

He single-handedly created the association for printers in Andhra Pradesh and remained its only meaningful voice at the federation. I was extremely fond of this humble doyen of the industry but more importantly I felt he liked me too and always found time to chat with me. We became friends over the last 15 years. I missed his presence at the last few GCs. 

Shri Hanumantha Rao, we salute you for your contribution to our industry and for being a wonderful human being. 

Krupakar Rao, Mudrica 
My connect with Pragati happened way back in 1984, when I was a print canvassing agent. In 1987, I got a print job which would take not less than 10 print firms to work full time to finish and deliver it to over 1500 clients in a scheduled period. On request, within a very short notice Hanumantha Rao came and took charge of the situation, planned systematically, executed and delivered quality product in time to all the customers, while I got my expected profit. I was one among many customers who got such timely help. He made my day. Later in 1996, I started my own press in Vijayawada with the financial help of Pragati. One can believe in a principle and go about it in his life. By his actions, he can inspire the next generation. I have experienced this only at Pragati, where his vision and value systems stand as the key for the organisation’s growth and witness success on a global platform. He believed in giving 100% value to the customer and this, I believe, is the driving force behind team Pragati. I wish this journey of his always inspires team Pragati and the print fraternity as a whole.
Chandresh Haria, Pragati Group 
I have known P Hanumantha Rao for the last two decades, when I joined the Pragati family. I first saw him working on one of our building projects. At some 70+ years of age, when people think of retiring, here he was in complete charge of the site. After that he contested the AIFMP presidential election and won. I had the good fortune of being with him during a visit to couple of printer friends. It is here that I realised how deep was his desire to work for the printing fraternity. There are many occassions when he discussed print with me, keen to always know what is going on in the Mumbai print market and how few of his friends are doing. There was always a smile on his face, and that was admirable. And most importantly, he cared for every individual who worked for him and whom he knew. It's a big loss to our Pragati family, but he lived a really wonderful life.
Mumbai Mudrak Sangh pays homage 
The Mumbai Mudrak Sangh paid a two-minute homage to Hanumantha Rao at the start of its Printer’s Day celebrations on 4 March.