How did stationery bloom in Pune... - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Praful Bafna is the managing director of PP Bafna Ventures, a low-key stationery product manufacturer. A good part of PP Bafna Ventures' business is exports, for which Bafna received the top entrepreneur accolade from the Federation of Indian Export Organisation.

From an export turnover of Rs 2-crore in 2014-2015, the company realised Rs 24-crore in 2016-17. “Our team works day-in and day-out to achieve our goal – 90% yield from the production point with reduced timelines and efficien

27 Apr 2018 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI): For what have you won the Top Young Entrepreneur for Exports Growth award?
Praful Bafna (PB):
 The award is presented by the Federation of Indian Export Organisation. There are about 35,000 members in the Federation. I must admit with all humility that I received this award on behalf of my team.

PWI: What did your staff have to say about your award when they knew?
PB: I would like to share that we run the organisation with associates, not employees. We are what we are because of the team and the effort of the team.

PWI: What did your team say?
PB: They were overwhelmed. We have diverse divisions but the importance of getting an award for notebooks was special. We congratulated each other on the achievement and appreciated the contribution of each division.


PWI: What more does your firm do, now, in the children books space? 
PB: We are one of the strong stationery (notebooks) supplier to USA-based clients. We engage in developing new products, which our design and production teams love to do, to increase our footprint.

PWI: Who is your typical customer?
PB: We still ride high in the domestic Indian market. Our typical customers for exports are importers and retailers for whom we provide back-to-school, Christmas and some quantity of Easter products, which helps the factory meet the minimum order quantity.

PWI: Which technologies have you invested in?
PB: We haven’t invested much in the last five years, but have devised ways of optimising and partnering with our associate supplier base. This has inculcated the values of the organisation and buyers for an export mindset and improve hand-in-glove working. It’s all about fulfilling what is committed, quality-wise, quantity-wise and above all timelines within the perfect cost.

PWI: How did you begin your print journey?
PB: We started from scratch in 2005. In 2007 our net value was Rs 75-lakhs, that’s when we shifted our factory from Bhiwandi to Pune. It was part of my grandfather’s dream. We steadily grew thereafter. We added a manufacturing unit in Assam. Thanks to the Assam unit, we have increased our presence in the North-East market.

PWI: No hic ups on the way?
PB: There were ups and downs due to a volatile domestic market. This resulted in increased competition plus unfair trade practice for sales. As a result, it made us focus our energies towards the western market for sustainability.

PWI: How did you make the shift?
PB: We researched and positioned ourselves to cater to the market changes, the production mindset which is prevalent in the West, increased vigilance and training that is needed for overseas sales. 

PWI: You established PP Bafna Ventures three years ago. What does it do?
PB: PP Bafna Ventures was formed for the new task. The notebook division was shifted to this company. We worked on critical changes that would bring in the culture of manufacturing for exports, which meant, getting out of the chalta hai culture. The team worked day-in and day-out for achieving the goal – 90% yield from the production point with reduced timelines and efficiency.

PWI: How did you raise finance?
PB: Being a family managed business there is always a dearth of funds vis a vis the company vision and the ambition to convert more. All of us know, we have to pay for paper anywhere between 48 hours to seven days. A huge amount of finance is blocked in the raw material purchases. Moreover, the growth potential also increases the demand for additional working capital and we have to manage within the available resource.


PWI: Which markets do you serve?
PB: Currently, USA is our major market. But we also cater to markets like UK, Germany, Tanzania, Costa Rica, and India. We are trying to add geography and further reduce dependency

PWI: What equipment do you run at the factory?
PB: We have flexographic printing machines from Line O Matic. Out of the six machines, one is a complete online reel-to-notebook line. We also use the conventional printing process to add effects and create a basket of products.

PWI: What’s been your proudest product achievement in the past few years?
PB: We have a range of products notebooks, writing pads, magnetic pads, boxes, gift boxes, loose sheet paper, neon printed books, glitter and UV notebooks, sticker notebooks, die-shaped products, memo pads, greeting cards, spiral books etc which are now repeatedly been brought in a period of years. This inspires us to innovate further. Sometimes we create a market segment, sometimes we create a new product or completely replace an existing product. Using neon in a printed book is an example of the innovation.

PWI: Where do you see your business in five years time?
PB: We will look to increase our portfolio in the printed book segment which requires more of binding instead of the conventional perfect-bind or hard-case etc. We also want to increase manufacturing of allied products like pencils, as well as newer options like crayons, sketch pen, eraser etc ...


PWI: What’s your team’s reaction to a job well done or not so well done?
PB: The team feels an emotion of achievement when samples (innovative) are developed and we get a response for such products. Print can become monotonous and this helps us keep alive. We do have our share of mistakes and overrun the projected cost but the learning and desire to reinvent ensures we stay below the price. This helps us to produce in mass and at a reasonable price.

PWI: Your vision for the future?
PB: We have grown our export turnover from Rs 2-crore in 2014-2015  to Rs 24-crore in 2016-17. Our bottomlines have also flourished during these years. It’s our team’s vision to drive growth, and this zeal to drive the company helps us achieve new goals.

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