The Screen Print Man

The management and staff of Chennai-based Lakshmi Cottage Industry have dual reasons to cheer and celebrate!

19 Dec 2014 | By Shripad Bhat

Lakshmi Cottage Industry engages two Nano-Print plus to improve quality and productivity. While its founder R Govarthanan (75) celebrates his Platinum Jubilee, his company has just crossed its Golden Jubilee (established in 1962), two years ago.

The 75-year old, still active in overall administration of the Group, shares his company’s recent success in automation. 

The interview

Congratulations! How did you enter the wedding card business?
I started my wedding card printing business with one table in 1964 after working for about a decade (1955-1964) for M N Swamy, a leading wedding card and envelope manufacturer in South India. The company used to supply rakhi cards and wedding cards to Chira Bazar markets in Mumbai. It was the owner of the company, Ethirajulu Shetty, who inspired me to start my own business. Such was the generosity of entrepreneurs those days!

I used to make handmade paper and print cards. This practice continued for several years. Even today, I insist my sons to use handmade and recycled papers. During that time getting quality mesh was difficult as it used to be imported from Singapore/Japan.

I later started foil printing.

You are 75 and your company is 50. Tell us why you embarked on automation now?
Being a bulk manufacturer of wedding cards and envelopes, it was difficult to meet the production needs with manual tables. The market is marred with competition as we have to meet both quality and quantity pressures.

What’s the impact of automation?
We were using old screen printing machines supplied by a Delhi-based company. It did not work as per our production and quality requirement.

With two Nano-Print plus we are able to print four ups or print full sheet of 22x28 inch. Grafica’s machines meets our two main requirements – production capacity and quality. Moreover it is simple to operate and the staff is comfortable with it. We believe that giving comfort at work is important. 

Today, one machine takes the load of four manual screen printing tables. The overall output is three to four times higher than the manual set up. Productivity is the biggest advantage of automation.

Small cards – four to six ups
Big cards – two to four ups

We have executed 10 lakh orders on two Nano-Print plus using the four to six ups technique.

Quality improvement
Sharp printing with perfect registration, clean and neat production practice.

The finished product
Dealers’ satisfaction

What is the demand for wedding cards today?
Lakshmi Cottage Industry alone has registered a Rs10 crore turnover in 2013-14 and we convert about 400-500 tonnes of paper to make bulk wedding cards and envelope.

Unlike any other printed products, wedding card has a fixed business. The business purely depends on the number of marriages, and in India mostly weddings are held as per the Muhurtham.One needs to be smart enough to grab as much business as possible from the limited market.

There is scope for export. However, we cater to the retail and wholesale wedding card shops in India. Our production floors are busy during January-May but we have regular production throughout the year as we keep adding new designs almost every day. We maintain a stock of about 1000 wedding card designs duly printed.

Tell us about cost factor … then and now:
Value-added cards are very much in demand. This is a new trend which I had not seen three to four decades ago. The spending capacity has increased today. Those days the quantity varied between the range of 1000-2000 cards per wedding and today the quantity has come down to 500-700 cards per wedding.

It all depends on how the customers look at wedding card - the size, shape, effects, designs, cost, etc. We have to understand their needs and read their mind.

People ask for custom made cards. 20 years ago selling a Rs10-20 card was difficult. In our case 10% custom made cards and the balance 90% are wholesale/dealers cards (readymade). I never expected this kind trend when I entered wedding card business 50 years ago.

You have been in touch with screen printing since 1955. So, what’s your view about screen printing in the context of wedding card production?
Then and even now, screen printing was/is the integral part of our wedding card business so to say without screen printing process, probably we would not have continued in wedding card business.

These days, besides screen printing, offset printed, foil/embossed, die-punch cards are also preferred. Those days small quantity was printed on screen and bulk quantity on offset. But those days and even now people prefer screen printed wedding cards.

With screen printing we can give emboss effects, foil printing and make the cards look very unique with shining, vibrant, touching and luxury effects.

About Lakshmi Cottage Industry

Established in 1962, Chennai-based Lakshmi Cottage Industry was founded by R Govardhanan. It became a partnership firm in the year 2002 with his sons and daughter-in-law as partners, and now the third generation is also entering their family business.

Lakshmi Cottage Industry is engaged in the manufacturing and supply of wide range of wedding cards catering to wholesalers and retail customers, especially printed on recycled papers. It operates under the brand name ELCEI. To cater to retail customers the company has a showroom at Chintadripet in Chennai. The company also manufactures envelopes of all kinds and sizes. It exports paper tag labels to the Gulf countries under the brand name BENHUR TM.

The company has two sister concerns - Sreenivas Paper Industry and Mercury Cards. While Sreenivas Paper Industry supplies envelopes and visiting cards to the local market, Mercury Cards manufactures all types of files and deals in all types of knurled and plain metallic and white boards (200-230 gsm).

The company supplies wedding cards to wholesale markets in South India, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra, etc. Besides screen printing, the company also offers foil printing, embossing, die punching, packing machinery and other equipment.

Interestingly, at the firm, out of around 100 staff members, 24 are women. The group has three units; a 12000 sq/ft unit for printing, envelope making, punching and cutting, a2400 sq/ft and one unit for finishing / warehouse and a 3000 sq/ft facility housing showroom / and store rooms (raw material and trading)

Their sister concern, Sreenivas Paper has a envelope making facility spread over 2500 sq/ft.

Wedding card market trends
People now want different style, design (card design as well as print design)
Box type cards are preferred
Combination of printing/finishing processes - screen, foil printing, die-punch, UV special effects
Use of wide range of colours and substrates and wide range of papers, e.g. metallic paper in much demand
Cost not the criteria, but the quality with creativity
Reduction in quantity of cards ordered
Growing awareness and need for automation
Online wedding card business