Star’s trek into the world of print

Sriraam Selvam tracks a two-decade print story of a photocopy shop in Coimbatore, which has emerged as a top printer with the largest base of Konica Minolta Bizhubs and a Xerox iGen 150.

18 Apr 2014 | By Sriraam Selvam

A civil engineer’s tryst with printing is an interesting story. Add to that his growing desire to achieve “much more” as an entrepreneur and his deeper sense of responsibility to weigh in his contribution to the industry then the story becomes fascinating.
“I am a civil engineer by education and have worked as one for several companies including TNPL, apart from being an independent civil contractor for several years before doing the unthinkable for a civil engineer. That is, to jump industry,” says Janakarajan K, the managing director of Coimbatore-based Star Colourpark India.

The 24-year story
“The premise of starting a ‘xerox’ shop was initially for my wife (Geetha Janakarajan) who wanted to keep herself occupied beyond household chores considering her educational background (MSc and MPhil in chemistry) and also put to use her family’s experience in the domain (photocopying),” he explains.

Started in 1991 with two Nashua liquid copier machine with job capabilities of photocopying, binding and lamination, the company gradually added a few more copier machines before accelerating in 1996 to a decisive turning adding digital printing capabilities.

“In that five years (1991-96), I was slowly drawn to the print industry in terms of its engineering innovations to improve quality and also the growing demand for shorter run print requirements. Add to that the transition of popular ‘visiting card printing’ moving away from screen printing to digital, led to investment in our first Xerox 5837 and my full time involvement in the business,” says Janakarajan.
“We also bought a few more Xerox printers to enhance our capabilities but it was in the early 2000 that we took our first plunge into production capable digital press, the Xerox 2045 and there has been no looking back ever since,” he adds.
Star Colorpark currently boasts of six branches in Coimbatore and one in Erode. Two Branches in Chennai ( in the name of Xcellent Xerox) and one each in Erode, Tirupur and Karur.

The iGen investment
The organisation is credited in the last decade and a half for being early adopters and leaders in bringing in latest technology to Coimbatore and also to the region at large.
“We have always believed in building our solution offering around state-of-the-art technology and have always been on the lookout for new viable technology which would improve our quality. The iGen 150 fitted our profile perfectly,” says Janakarajan.
“The fact that we are putting Coimbatore on the map by being the first to install this press in India,even ahead of several other prominent South East Asian countries is definitely a matter of pride,” he quickly adds.
The addition of the iGen 150 – at a prime location near the bus stand – allows Star Colorpark to offer its clients Xerox’s MDI (Matt Drying Ink) technology and the 364 x 660 mm larger sheet size and a print resolution of 2400x2400dpi. The machine’s automated image-on-paper technology is expected to eliminate manual setups for sheet and the Integrated Plus finishing solution for booklets removes the complexities of preparing files to finisher specifications. Single-point transfer prints around 150 prints per minute.
“Notwithstanding the huge investment vis-à-vis the company size/turnover we are confident that with the new large sheet size the iGen 150 would enable us to diversify our product portfolio and produce a greater range of premiere print jobs,” explains Janakarajan.

Comprehensive production capability
From their humble beginnings as a 300 sq /ft copier shop, the company’s primary unit now comprises of a spacious 5000 sq /ft space and is located at Ashok Plaza in the bustling market central of Gandhipuram, witnessing an average 1000 footfalls per day.
“The nature of business demands that we deliver highest quality incessantly and this means we need the most reliable machines ready to churn out consistent prints 24x7,” says Janakarajan.
The company starting from the marquee Xerox iGen 150 consists of a range of digital colour presses including three Canon 7000VP, three Konica Minolta 7000 and a Konica Minolta 6000 and 6501. The units also consists of several Xerox 110, Konica Minolta 1051 and 950 at their various branches for black and white printing needs.
“The digital presses are calibrated every day before starting the first job of the day to eliminate colour management issues. Also we ensure that the machine spares are replaced as and when they reach their life expectancy irrespective of whether the output produced are still good or have no quality problems,” he explains.
The unit also comprises of several wide-format printer like the KIP 7700, Oce 300 Plotwave (for black and white printing), HP 5500 and Epson 7900 (for colour printing).
“To further enunciate our importance on quality we have all our machines on maintenance contract, thereby the quality is continuously monitored by the service engineers. Geetha (his wife) plays an important role in administration till date and ensures smooth operation of all our branches,” Janakarajan adds.
The post-press capabilities include a Heidelberg Polar 66, Horizon APC 61 (cutting machines), Horizon BQ 270 (perfect binder) and a Megabound case binding machine.

Consumer-driven business model
Star Colourparks’ primary business is (almost 90%) through walk-ins with jobs ranging from annual reports, ad-agency proofs and brochures to student projects being printed on a daily basis.
“We have seen individuals with less than 50 copies come to us to corporates with several thousand just drop by with a job and we guarantee their complete satisfaction,” says Janakarajan.
The 100 strong organisation consisting of both permanent and temporary employees consumes an average five to eight tonnes of paper every month.
Sharing his memories on interesting jobs, Janakarajan says, “There are so many jobs that cross my mind but the satisfaction of seeing the father of a bride getting 5000 wedding invitations (variable data) printed in matter of five-eight hours especially when their intent initially was to merely take out a proof was very satisfying.”
The list of memorable jobs showcases their capability of lightening quick turnaround such as customised corporate calendars in two hours, 1000-odd certificates for a university in eight hours (including design) and mainly 35000 copies of security printing for a government agency being churned out in less than 12 hours.
“The association with the government agency is now six years long and it’s the quick turnaround that keeps them happy with us. Not to mention the client’s deadline to get it done is extremely tight too,” Janakarajan explains.

Strategic growth plans
Apart from the iGen 150, Star Colourpark has also announced investment in several software tools to enhance their web-to-print capabilities. The recent addition being W2P solution from Ahmedabad-based Onprintshop.
“The iGen addition has enthused us to diverge our portfolio by engaging further in more immersive W2P solution for our customers and also focus on the growing demand for album printing and photobooks,” says Janakarajan.
The eight-crore enterprise also plans to expand their outreach to more corporates and evolve their B2B business strategy.
“There are also plans to open a branch each in Tirupur soon with another iGen 150 being on the verge of finalisation for the former,” he adds.
The Tirupur branch is expected to tap into the garment tag printing business with focus on the growing demand for short-run customised tags and garment insertions in the region.
“We see a huge demand for the short-run customised tags market in Tirupur and even in Karur similar to what is happening in Surat and hope to capitalise on the market for our long term future. The fact that my children Praveen and Priyanga are serious about being part of the business also augments well to all these investments,” explains Janakarajan.

Star: Three KM 7000S, a KM 6000 and a 6501 and the largest base of  KM Bizhubs

Ushering collective responsibility
Janakarajan believes that the future of digital printing is brighter than ever with the emergence of nano-ink and the possible drastic reduction in print costs.
“The time is not far when 1000 copies would fall under short-run category with the cost becoming as low as two rupees per digital copy. This scenario is frighteningly similar to the offset industry and the need to take collective responsibility for survival by all is imperative,” says Janakarajan.
Janakarajan, who is currently an active member of the Coimbatore Master Printers Association, insists the need for an exclusive association for digital printers.
“The price war is prevalent even at this time when the digital medium is primarily on-demand printing and the client per se rarely negotiates. The emphasis should be on a mechanism to safeguard our (digital printers) interest and investment alike,” he explains.
“I am in the process of working out the details of an exclusive digital printers association immediately in Coimbatore and then extend the same formula throughout the state,” adds Janakarajan.
He signs off in a hurry with preparation for his short-ish Ipex trip going on in full swing.
“Nine of us are going from our association and it’s only three days since the expectation on this year’s edition is very low and my personal objective is to find options to enhance our post-press competency,” concludes Janakarajan.