'Silverpoint is synonymous with quality'

Shabbir Muchhala of Silverpoint Press reveals how the firm has pulled the right strings at the right times to have grown at 20% in a competitive marketplace. Ramu Ramanathan understands how a brand was painstakingly built.

13 Aug 2013 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): What has been the impact of the move to shift the print unit to Navi Mumbai?
Shabbir Muchhala (SM): Since we moved to Mahape in Navi Mumbai, we have tripled our shopfloor space and doubled our capacity. It has enabled us to improve our efficiency, systems, quality control and delivery lead-times. The biggest challenge that we faced, was ensuring our clients are not affected in any way for service or dispatches. The entire move was planned in phases to ensure a seamless transition and we achieved it to a level wherein our clients didn’t realise we had moved.

Silverpoint's 50,000 sq/ft unit in Mahape with all operations 'under one roof'

RR: Was it a big challenge?
SM: One big challenge was with regards to our skilled workforce. They  faced the prospect of commuting to Navi Mumbai everyday as compared to Lower Parel or Mahalaxmi. In order to ensure their convenience and not lose the skilled workforce, during a transition phase, we deployed private bus services from Dadar to Mahape for the workers. We continue to do so till today.

RR: Would you say, you were too late - or too early; in moving to Navi Mumbai?
SM: Frankly speaking, I would say the timing was perfect. Moving to Mahape enabled us to integrate all our production processes under one roof which was a substantial advantage in the recessionary markets which was prevalent at that time. This led us to achieve higher cost control and higher efficiencies at the right time.

RR: How much space?
SM: We had 10,000 sq/ft area at Mahalaxmi and 2,500 sq/ft at Lower Parel, Mumbai. Now we have approximately 60,000 sq/ft in Mahape.

RR: For a medium-sized commercial printer, what should be the typical size for say with four lines of sheetfed plus a back-end similar to Silverpoint?
SM: The typical comfortable size would depend on the nature of assignments the printer does. If it’s high volume packaging, the finishing automation may require ample space which may not be the case in case of niche print assignments .

RR: To rewind a bit, how did the Muchchalas establish the brand name of Silverpoint…
SM: In 1975, when Taher Muchhala established Silverpoint Press, there was a reason for adopting the name Silverpoint. Silverpoint is a rare artistic technique which requires a high degree of skill and perfection, possessed by a few renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Jan and Hubert Van Eyck. The name is significant as it encapsulates the company’s credo. The guiding principle was to make every piece of work from Silverpoint Press a work of art.

RR: Is this how every assignment rolling out from Silverpoint became a brand?
SM: In a way, yes. This was ably complemented by Silverpoint participating in trade fairs and design shows along with creating print innovative calendars and brochures highlighting the creative possibilities print has to offer for the benefit of the advertising industry, with these collaterals, the print standards were taken to new heights and are today benchmarked by the industry.

RR: When I think of Silverpoint, I recall three things: your calendars, the events organised by Silverpoint for your print buyers and the sharing information either through your own calendar or brochure. Your view.
SM: Silverpoint was the trendsetter in creating very high quality brochures for the print buyer’s fraternity. These brochures were the actual turning point for Silverpoint. Our calendars would go out to everybody but the brochures would go to the ones who were curious to understand the technical details. We put immense efforts to create the brochures and create awareness about the techniques executed in them. We did not employ any marketing staff, but these brochures sufficed the requirement.

RR: All three began the process of demystifying, print.
SM: Oh yes, Shell Global was so impressed with the design and execution of one of our calendars; they went ahead and procured the creative copyrights of the same from us.

RR: So how does one become an early mover?
SM: An early mover needs to strategically decide the segment and service he wants to cater to, understand future implications and trends in that segment and take calculated risks in order to become the early mover. What we felt was, for many years everybody was doing the similar things and there was nothing new. So the moot challenge was how do we take print to the next level? We introduced many innovative concepts; shared all that was done with everybody. Then we decided to make it multi-dimensional. That’s when we came up with fragrance in print. We tried to take print to all the senses, 3-D, fragrance, feel etc. Silverpoint brochures were most sought-after as we were the first to incorporate maximum of the innovative print techniques.

RR: Is this how your team came up with Augumented Reality?
SM: For instance, as an innovation beyond ink and paper, Silverpoint Press has incorporated Augmented Reality in print. We are the first press in India to venture and offer end-to-end augmented reality-based solutions. If you look at Silverpoint, we have never been just printers; we have always added value to whatever we produced. We don’t deliver what the client requires we deliver beyond their expectations. We are not just a vendor to our client but more of a solution provider.

RR: What is the profile of customers that you see in the market today?
SM: Today’s customers are definitely more aware print buyers, they understand the technical specifications far better, respect quality and are willing to pay a premium for the required quality levels. These buyers demand quality and that too at highly competitive rates. Plus negotiations are far tougher and cost controls are far more crucial.

RR: So how are you succeeding in the de-commodification of print? And how does it work without the marketing team?
SM: We ensure that each and every team member of ours is technically sound as we deal with people who understand high quality print. Each of my team member has the capacity to convince the client on basis of their technical knowhow. At each and every stage of production we strive to curtail our rejections to the barest minimum possible. This is because of the standardisation of systems and procedures. Our systems and processes are very well-defined. And so, I always have a pulse of what’s happening in my plant irrespective of wherever I may be. 

RR: How about customer service?
SM: We definitely don’t over-commit in terms of time. We are extremely transparent prior to commencing the assignment; in terms of lead times. The production team understands the processes and keeps the client servicing in close-loop with regards to the lead times for each assignment. Having said so, there have been instances of value-added assignments which are required on war footing. These have been delivered without any compromises.

RR: How do you dispatch finished products?
SM: We have our own fleet of vehicles for dispatches. We have tie-ups with all couriers for overnight dispatches in case of far-off destinations. This is combined with a high level of  backward integration which has been achieved at Mahape. This means, lead times have been brought down.

RR: What are the different pain-points, clients have about the print industry?
SM: Today, the main pain-point is clients who compare commercials without understanding technical specifications. With the options available in terms of paper and treatments, it is pertinent to study the specs prior to negotiating on costs. We have seen instances where the person in charge has not even checked the specs quoted for by a competitor and yet, this person, wants us to match the quoted rates.

RR: You have installed the HP Indigo for shorter runs. So what are your expectations from that segment?
SM: Our entire outlook for investing in Indigo was to promote full colour variable and personalised collaterals. We realised the local market has to warm up to this concept which is a regular marketing concept used in the European markets. Beyond that, Indigo is complementing our offset setup as a value addition and as well as a proofing solution along with short-runs and time-bound assignments.

RR: What was the strategy behind selecting particular kind of machines?
SM: Our strategy for capital investments has always been focused on our customer’s requirements. For instance, we specialise in coffee table books. Accordingly, our set-up is geared for the same right from large format machines with inline coaters to automated book binding and fabrication machines. In addition, we consider cross-over utilisation of spares and resources while selecting equipment as it leads to familiarisation of technology, resources and even  back up teams in case of crisis situations.

RR: Talking about bottom lines, what would be a good operating line. Today what would you say is an ideal margin to have?
SM: We have grown at a rate of 20%, which I think is very good. Of course, lot of that growth is inflationary because of the 7-8% raw material costs. And so, in a way, the actual growth of Silverpoint is at 12%. It’s been slow and steady. We have never compromised on customer deliverables with the intent of increasing our margins and will never do so.

RR: Your tip for a medium-sized commercial printer in Mumbai…
SM: Get your systems and processes in place; make your organisation system-dependent rather than person-dependent. 


Innovation | Augmented Reality

Silverpoint Press has set the standard for its technology brochures. It has been Silverpoint’s way to introduce new concepts and enlighten the industry about its capabilities.
In July, Silverpoint launched its brochure to introduce the concept of Augmented Reality (AR). During a demo, Saifee Makasarwala (in the picture), COO at Silverpoint and the brain behind the AR brochure, says, “This brochure is an attempt to take print beyond the usual, ink on paper, to a level where you can connect to the digital world through print.”
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “augmented reality” is defined as ‘an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device’. In simple terms, when one views a print through a smartphone device, an enhanced version of the print, be it a video or webpage, is displayed on the screen.
Makasarwala came across the AR technology at a conference in Singapore. He says, “I saw some postcards which used AR. When you view these postcards using a camera coupled with an app on smartphones, the images on the postcards came alive. Those images revealed more about themselves on the screen. I was thrilled with the concept.”“There usage was limited and I could see a lot of possibilities with that technology,” adds Makasarwala.
After researching AR, Silverpoint decided to bring it to India. Makasarwala says, “We couldn’t find any service provider in India with such technology.” Therefore, Silverpoint decided to invest in this idea and developed an in-house engine for AR.
Silverpoint’s AR brochure is an example of the pool of possibilities and applications that can be offered with print and AR. The brochure has a QR code on its cover. It helps you to download the Silverpoint app from Google Play Store or Apple Store. Once installed and run, the app takes charge of your phone’s camera. And then each page you turn while viewing it through your phone, you are enthralled. At one instance a video pops up and takes you through a corporate video of the company, while on the next page a 3D structure of a building emerges; where you can view every nook and corner of the building from all angles. It also has mobile commerce embedded into it, which offers you to buy the product in the picture directly from your mobile device. “Possibilities with AR are endless,” explains Makasarwala.
It works with a smartphone camera and a combination of softwares to render the image and make the processing easier and smoother. Makasarwala says, “It is not one single product. We have invested in lots of technologies to develop the engine, which employs cloud computing and have hired some third-party servers in Europe, which specialise in streaming data.” The client data remains on our servers, the reason being, configurations of the servers is high to handle the load and is well protected.
According to Makasarwala, the AR technology has applications for every verticals be it automobile, industrial, electronics, fashion etc. Today, Silverpoint is in a position to provide the clients with quality printed brochures and a client-specific AR app for viewing the brochure.  “We are talking to a few clients whom we had approached with the technology. We have been welcomed,” adds Makasarwala.
For this project, Silverpoint has dedicated six IT professionals.Every new technology comes with a cost. “We are trying to make the costs feasible in every way possible. The solution that we are giving the clients is to put up their own engine which is a fixed one-time cost. So when you produce the brochures be it one or many, the variable cost is much less and the recurring costs are negligible,” says Makasarwala. “It works for clients in such as way that if the brochure is giving you one level of information then the app will take you to the next level,” concludes Makasarwala.


Rapid Fire Q&A Muchhala

What is your definition of print in 2013?
What is your ideal print job?
Complicated job using textured / metallic papers with post-press value additions.
What inspires your workforce?
The accolades and the thought to deliver differently and to execute outstanding quality in record time.
Which is your favourite printing kit and why?
HP Indigo as it complements the Heidelberg 102LX with value-addition capabilities.
Which is your favourite Indian print firm?
Pragati Offset.
What is your favourite source of print inspiration?
Awards, clients, trade shows, print seminars and technology showcasing road shows.
What project has made you most proud?
All our brochures have made us proud. Especially the “Halqeh-YeNur”.
Name one gadget you could not live without?
My Blackberry.
If you were to drive a car of your choice what would it be?
A Jaguar.
What is your favourite part of the day?
Morning workouts.
We now have printed electronics and 3D printing, where do you think print is heading?
I think we are in the midst of a transformation from static print to dynamic value-added printing.
What keeps you motivated about print?
Constant innovation is our motivation. We always look for something new and try to make every job special.
Where is your ideal travel destination?
What you would like to change in your customers?
The list is very long ...
What is Silverpoint’s motto?
To excel in whatever you do.


Collecting the PrintWeek India Poster Printer of the Year 2012 Award

(With inputs from Rushikesh Aravkar and Anand Srinivasan)