Tale of Three Printers

Anand Srinivasan talks to Kailash Poddar of Carto Prints and member of Karnataka Offset Printers Association (KOPA), Varun Tholasi of Tholasi Prints, and A N Noufel of Honeycomb Creative.

28 Nov 2013 | By Anand Srinivasan

Varun Tholasi (VT) of Tholasi Prints

A N Noufel (AN) of Honeycomb Creative

AS: When you read the newspaper, besides half tones and colour reproduction, you look for?
KP: I look at the developments and infrastructure progress of the state and then turn to the sports section. If I get time, I solve Sudoku puzzles.
VT: I look for world news and national news to keep abreast with current affairs. I sneak a peek at the gossip columns in between.
AN: I read through the business columns.
AS: What is the first thing you do on entering the office?
KP: I check on the bottlenecks in the production area, which requires my assistance. Later, I follow up on payments and orders to be received.
VT: I begin my day at 7 am heading straight to the gym. 
AN: Switch on the laptop and reply to the mails. After that exactly at 10.00 am we have review meeting.
AS: How do you plan your day? 
VT: I plan certain important things I need to do for the day, the rest of it is ad hoc owing to the fact that most people in our country don’t do anything on time.
AN: The day starts with meeting new customers and existing customers and then a meeting with my production team.
AS: One person with whom you like to share your daily drive to office? 
KP: My son, Varun Poddar. He is going to be the future of this group and it is in our best interests, that we correct each other.
VT: Steven Spielberg, to listen to the secret behind the magic that makes him what he is, to help me recreate some of the same magic in my life. 
AN: N RNarayana Murthy.I consider him as a role model.   
AS: Motive behind entering print?
KP: We have been in the print sector since 1970. Thereafter it’s been a family-run business and we want to keep the service running.
AS: Has the domination of the printing industry reached a plateau with the arrival of new competitors?
AN: I don’t think so. People or companies who do things in different ways are still existing and progressing.
AS: How frequently do you interact with print production supervisors? 
KP: My interaction with the print production team is very rare. My son takes care of that. I discuss wastage, machine maintenance account and the quality details.
VT: I interact with my production supervisors at least twice a day, we go through the production plan for every single print job and every single operation it needs, we discuss production schedules and if everything is going as per the plan.  
AN: I discuss daily with my system operators and designers.
AS: Do you find that traditional ink-on-paper is facing a serious threat?
KP: It is too early to say. Conventional printing cannot die this fast. Today packaging, books and POP sectors are booming.
VT: I do agree that there is an increasing threat from other media, but I don’t think ink-on-paper will face a serious threat for survival at least for the next few decades.
AN: Not really. I hope that print survives for more years.
AS: Which press does the best printing in India?
KP: Every press produces equally good work, thanks to standardisation of the machines and technologies.
VT: I would have to say Pragati, they have the technical knowledge to bring out innovations with the right quality others can’t .
AN: I would say there are many. As far as popularity is considered, it’s Pragati.
AS: If you won Rs 10 crore, which equipment would you invest in?
KP: It should be thought well and no instant decision can be taken. I will go for the latest technology, where I can offer value addition.
VT: I would invest in a Heidelberg six color UV press with cold foil finishing like a foil-star.
AN: I would use two crores to expand our operations. The rest I prefer to give it for charity. I don’t like to accumulate wealth.
AS: Why do you think printing firms are on the verge of closing down? 
KP: This is due to stiff competition and steep rise in the labour and raw material cost.
VT: We can see this happening because of a number of factors, there is stiff competition in the printing market out there, they aren’t able to sustain their business and provide the right quality and stand out from the competition. It’s pretty clear that we need a USP to sell our services, we need to provide added value to our products to stay on top of the competition, innovate or perish, that’s what it portends for the future of the industry.    
AS: The best breakthrough in print technology in hundred years?
KP: It has to be the converting of the conventional colour separation to digital pre-press. Also, the paper quality has improved a lot.
VT: Computer-to-plate imaging systems and the digitisation of prepress is the best break in print technology for a century.
AN: HP Indigo presses

AS: Are you encountering the problems of squeezing profit margins? If yes, then why and how? 
KP: These squeezing problems are created by the printers themselves. They under-cut at the customers’ end due to little knowledge in the subject or their egos. This problem can be solved by educating the printers for costing.
VT: Yes, we are encountering these problems as well. Basic economics of supply and demand in the market determines the price, printing prices have remained the same for the last five years because of increased competition, but whereas input costs have increased lowering profit margins. 
AN: Not really. We serve corporate clients in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Dubai.  As long as you give good service and a fair price with the quality, you should be able to get and retain clients.  
AS: If you meet Johannes Gutenberg, what would you do?
KP: Congratulate him for such an ingenuous invention.
VT: I would ask, if there wasn’t an easier way he could have done it. 
AS: How do you motivate your sales and marketing team? 
KP: By telling them that perseverance is the only key to survival.
VT: I motivate them by  convincing them that our services are better than the competitor’s, reassurance is important for any marketing team to keep them motivated.
AN: I breathe and live in the printing industry from the past 20 years so I would infact thank him for the invention.   
AS: The most frequently used mantra in your organisation?
KP: Get an open debate on rates with the printers in fray, for a healthier competition and better rates.
AN: The client gives us our salary! We exist for them, by them.
AS: The craziest deadline that you’ve come across?
KP: One where inputs were received yesterday and delivery was scheduled for today.
VT: 2,00,000 A4 size leaflets for a telecom company to be delivered in three hours. 
AN: We got about thirty thousand images from an Austrian company for image editing and we did it within 15 days using the minimum resources.
AS: Your favourite excuse to your family when you’re late?
KP: Machine breakdown or worker problem.
VT: I had a late meeting with a client. 
AN: “Was in a meeting”.
AS: Please comment on the technology that you have invested in, in the past few years?
KP: Post-press machines (Bobst punching / UV coating / Bobst pasting machine / bush joggers).
VT: We have invested in a Screen Platerite 8300S in our prepress, we procured a brand new Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 102 4+L with easy control colour management system, the first in the country. We have also procured a range of the latest post-press equipment including folders, multi clamp perfect binders and guillotines. With this investment, in addition to our existing presses (Heidelberg SM 74 as well as 2 Heidelberg MOVs) we have one of the best print infrastructures in the city.
AN: We have invested in Quoto, Epson 9900 and Star proof colour management system which gives fantastic result in colour. We use this machine for CMYK proofing as well as large format photo printing on canvas and other archival media. Within a year, we captured the market in Bengaluru; and now are entering into the Mumbai market.
AS: In India, the two most important barriers are technology and cost. What advise do you have for the printers?
KP: All printers should first discuss the costing process and leave the ego element aside.
VT: I would advise printers to be cautious about the investments they make, but at the same time they need to make sure they make the required technologic upgrades to stay in the market, they should strike a balance between the cost of investment and the technology the investment offers, return on investment is the key.
AN:  Dream for big clients even though you are small. Give the premium quality service and bill a fare amount. Over a period of time, there will be clients waiting to get things done from your company. We have experienced this at Honeycomb.
AS: How do you stay in touch with the technological developments?
KP: By visiting exhibitions and discussing with printers, machinery manufacturers, and suppliers.
VT: By attending international trade fairs like Drupa, Ipex, China Print, etc. Also magazines like PrintWeek India are a source of information.
AN: I read innumerable  print related magazines.
Please comment on your official view on CTP technology and digital printing.
VT: Talking about CTP technology along with the digitisation of the pre-press, like I said earlier, is arguably the single biggest technological advancement in my opinion, without which even advanced presses would be left stranded, it has increased productivity and quality to a very large extent. Digital printing has taken the very short print run market by storm, but when it comes to quality, offset printing is still the gold standard and will be for a very long time unless Benny Landa of Landa Corporation succeeds with nanography printing. 
AN: According to me digital printing is the way forward.     
AS: One person with whom you would like to have a face to face?
KP: With my competitors.
VT: The late Steve Jobs, only if he were alive. I would have to settle with Tom Cruise for now.
AN: N R Narayana Murthy. n