Rajnish G Shirsat Top 10 tips for a book printing firm in India which seeks global exports

Rajnish Shirsat attends Frankfurt Book Fair and comes up with a plan for Indian book printers.

29 Nov 2013 | By PrintWeek India

The five days of Frankfurt Book Fair 2013 attracted more than 7,300 exhibitors, from more than 100 countries and over 2,76,000 visitors. A visitor to FBF, Rajnish Shirsat of Mumbai-based print management firm, Radikal Enterprise, said, “It is one of the biggest global gatherings of publishers with a crowd from across the world.” Shirsat felt that the books showcased was impressive but the quantity was missing. 
According to Shirsat, the sentiment was, Europe is back in business. He added. "While it may be true for a few, it is far from the peak seen a few years ago." In terms of takeaway from the show, Shirsat said, “the publishing world is changing and it does appear that we are still in the transition." He added, "I think print is definitely here to stay for a long time.”
Ten pointers for Indian book factories
1. Get out of your dreams and look into the mirror
Leave aside all the glamour associated with going international. Look into the mirror and ask yourself are you ready? It takes whole lot of courage and perseverance to enter the foreign market. What you consider as outstanding so far can be tested and evaluated by international buyers in a ruthless manner and I am talking about the physical aspects of a product. Try and measure the gap between the aspirations and reality, first.
2. Define your strategy
Get ready to answer some real questions. While a printer gets into exports to fulfill their export obligation, it is important to assess before you take that leap. What can be the other strategies? Is it new business, de-risking your business, which product line, etc. Your strategy should have a multi-dimensional approach.
3. Put the basics in place 
You will need to register with a host of government bodies which facilitates your entry in the export market. From basic licences, export codes to how to safeguard your payments and avail export benefits, the Government of India supports an exporter on multiple aspects.
4. The cultural change 
Certifications come later, first comes attitude. Old habits die hard they say. What has been working well all these years may have to be changed gradually. Introducing a process-driven mechanism is a pre-requisite as you enter exports. From documentation, inventory, scheduling, quality measures, setting up SOPs, file management to the final dispatch, everything demands a very disciplined approach.
5. Efficient procurement of quality material
The key word is efficiency. To ensure seamless and consistent production, an efficient procurement process is necessary which is in sync with your order book, product requisites and operations. Internationally and even in India, there are a host of certification bodies through whom a firm needs to certify key components used in the manufacturing process. This ensures what is essential to pass and adhere to the safety and environment norms in key product segments.
6. Health of your machines
As much as the skills of your people are important, the basics do not change and there are no short-cuts either. It is not the one time wonder of delighting your customer, but its all about the consistency you show in delivering quality time. This is possible due to your machine. A periodic maintenance sounds funny unless he says maintenance to prevent downtime or something.
7. Shopfloor discipline
It is the throughput which matters ultimately. From plugging off all the leakages, reducing wastages, standardisation, optimising operations to pro-active processes, all these are absolute essentials to bring in that efficiency. 
8. Branding and promotions
Let your work speak for itself. It is a slow and gradual process of creating a brand. Of course you need to build a case for your organisation. Get the basics in place. From a well informed website, positioning yourself using the new age techniques – and of course connecting on a global scale are a few of the pre-requisites. 
9. Stay hungry but not foolish
In your endeavour to develop the business, what is equally important is to know your limitations. Have that mindset to know what’s happening globally and back here in your country. Who’s your competition, what has worked in the industry, what has not and why, where do you place your organisation today, with whom do you benchmark globally and where would you like to see yourself in times to come? While all these questions are important to answer, what is of paramount importance is to know your strengths and operate within them with an eye on the future for driving growth, adapting to new technologies and practices with the changing landscapes. Remember: you need to know when to say no.
10. Deliver and build
Finally, learn to deliver. The customer ultimately wants you to deliver a good product which matches their expectations and something which you’ve agreed before accepting the order. No surprises, no stories, be ready to bite the bullet and deliver ... and build. 
Rajnish Shirsat is CEO and head – strategy & business development, Radikal Enterprise (www.radikal.co.in)