Shah and Nahar: Mecca of print industry

The decline of the textile mills and growing print needs of Mumbai,led to industrial estates like Shah and Nahar which evolved as a print hub. Words: Rushikesh Aravkar. Photos: Disha Gandhi

07 Mar 2013 | By Rushikesh Aravkar

As the clout of textile mills was diminished in Mumbai, industrial estates evolved into gala systems which were available for commercial purpose. This triggered the entry of print and allied services shops like pre-press bureaus, binders etc in the industrial estates as they could operate in a tiny space with minimal labour. 

With the development of Mumbai as hub of the country, the print requirements of the city boosted and industrial estates such as Shah and Nahar and A-Z developed as a one stop shop catering to the print requirements of the big brands and freelancers. 
Strategically located in Lower Parel in the heart of Mumbai, the Shah and Nahar industrial estate comprises of two buildings: A1 and A2 with 739 galas in totality out of which over 200 printing firms occupy more than 60% of the estate.
 Arun Rawat of Print Services aptly narrates Shah and Nahar’s character: “Bring your idea, convert it into artwork and get print-finished jobs, all in one place.” In addition to pre-press, press and all kinds of post-press shops you will find paper, ink and chemical suppliers,  ink matching shops, machine parts traders to technicians. All are here.
 One of the important facets of Shah and Nahar culture is that the firms here have created a niche for themselves and achieved specialisation in their ambit of operations. For instance, there are exclusive shops doing pre-press activities or the ones who are specifically devoted for punching and lamination. 
 “Every print firm complements the other, pre-press and post-press bureaus cater to multiple presses enabling Shah and Nahar to serve with complete end-to-end print solutions,” says Parag Shah of Hi-Tech Systems.
Interestingly, these firms operate comfortably in a bitsy area of 800 sq/ft. When at Shah and Nahar, you descry the Mumbai’s spirit of sharing skills and pooling resources. Sachin Sawant of Graphtone India, says, “In case of breakdowns, we are able to get the jobs printed from a fellow printer from neighbouring galas and ensure timely delivery to the client. This kind of assistance is a unique feature of industrial estates in Mumbai.”
 In recent past the printing firms in Shah and Nahar have started facing a deficit in the availability of human resource. In early 80s, Lalbaug and Parel were the prime locations concentrated with mill workers who after the mills shut shops, served as labour to firms in the industrial estates. “With the living costs in Mumbai surging aggressively, these workers prefer to move out of Mumbai. We are finding it difficult to attract and retain the labour,” observes Rakesh Thakker of Nirman Impresse. According to Sawant, this  labour crunch has paved inroads for automation. 
 Sahaya Print Services is one of the firms at Shah and Nahar that have leapfrogged thanks to technology advancements. The first Screen Truepress in India was installed at Sahaya and recently it has invested in Xerox iGen 4, digital production press. 
With space crunch and high cost of operations in the city, the firms at Shah and Nahar prefer to shift the production facilities in outskirts of Mumbai, preferably Navi Mumbai, Vasai or Bhivandi. Sticking to this trend is Shree Arun Packaging Company (SAPCO), which has its corporate office at Shah and Nahar while the production facility is in Navi Mumbai. “Having a corporate office in Mumbai keeps us connected to our clients, while a manufacturing faclility in Navi Mumbai saves costs,” adds Hemant Bhotica of SAPCO. 
There are several benefits considering which printing firms from Shah and Nahar are opting Bhivandi as the preferred location for production sites. According to Prakash Patel of Bhumi World, a real estate company which is building an industrial complex for print firms and SMEs in Bhivandi, the huge rate of galas make expansion nonviable in Shah and Nahar. 
In addition, all the paper mills are located near Bhivandi, which is also a transportation hub connecting all major cities of the country. It also houses godowns of  pharma companies.  
“A printer in Mumbai has to pay 5% octroi twice: for carrying raw-material into the city and for taking finished goods out of the city. Being in Bhivandi, the printer saves on transportation, time and octroi. In addition, the electricity costs in Bhivandi are much lower than those in Mumbai,” adds Patel.  
However, E Fernando of Sahaya Print Services feels that though packaging or book printers are moving out of Shah and Nahar, for a commercial printer it is not viable to shift to outskirts and serve the clients. “We have all our clientele based at Nariman Point, BKC etc and hence Shah and Nahar is a strategic location for a commercial printer to serve big brands and corporates.” 
All firms will have to be efficient and reduce costs; as Shah and Nahar will not remain suitable due to cost of galas. The trend is clear, firms are moving out of Shah and Nahar, either to expand operations to earn profits or as a survival strategy. What is the future? If India is going to be the next print powerhouse, is the Shah and Nahar module viable. Or should we have a bigger print manufacturing base?
Arun Rawat Print Services
In 1980’s as the economy opened up, the industrial sector in Mumbai flourished. One common requirement of any industry is printing which requires less space and skills. As a result, print firms mushroomed in. There were very few industrial estates – and Dadar had become the centre point for garments industry. The garment firms realised that they need space to grow so they shifted out and printing acquired more space.
Future - The future according to me, will become gentrified and corporatised like the rest of Parel, the print firms to survive will have to move out of Mumbai, due to cut-throat competition. 
Survival strategy - The survival strategy for print firms will be to do jobs for free-lancers and keep your expectations of income low. Pray and hope to survive the next three years.

Parag Shah  -  Hi-Tech Systems
At Shah and Nahar you will find a complete set-up of printing services with more than one player for a process which makes it convenient for customers especially for canvassers. Entrepreneurial skills, lack of good jobs, low capital access are some of the factors which materialised in to setting up of various units as a conglomerate.
Future - According to me, in the future, while many would shift over a period of time to outskirts of Mumbai more and more firms would invest in to digital and sustain a mini set-up or a corporate office in Shah and Nahar.
Survival strategy - Grow, grow, grow. Keep it on, and keep printing