The inspiring journey of Sanjay Thorwat, a self-made entrepreneur - The Noel DCunha Sunday Column

From running a single letterpress machine to multiple offset presses and finishing equipment, the successful journey of Sanjay Thorwat — the owner of Kolhapur-based Shivam Offset — is a testament to his hard work and dedication.

05 May 2024 | By Noel D'Cunha

Sanjay Thorwat belongs to a traditional Maharashtrian family from Kolhapur. His father was an administrator at the Shivaji University in Kolhapur.

Thorwat completed his diploma in engineering and decided to set up a printing business, Ganesh Printers, in 1987. “I purchased a small letterpress machine from Mumbai for Rs. 9,000, which was the beginning of my printing journey,” says Thorwat. At first, Thorwat started by printing billbooks and visiting cards for small shops and businesses in Kolhapur. “As the word spread about my work, I started receiving orders for printing wedding cards and newspaper inserts," he adds.

In 1990, Thorwat diversified and started printing notebooks with a second-hand ruling machine purchased from Mumbai for Rs 13,000. However, the notebook business came with its perils of liquidity crunches and delayed finances, because wholesalers expected a huge credit line. 

But he persevered. “My hands-on knowledge of the market made me realise that the main setback for printers then was in the finishing operations, which were being outsourced to vendors within the city by most printers,” Thorwat recollects.

Despite this challenge, Thorwat saw an opportunity and soon started his binding set-up.

The expansion
In 1999, Thorwat tied the knot with Vijayshree. “It was a new beginning for me — personally and professionally,” says Thorawat. "I took a big step in my business by acquiring a secondhand, single-colour Solna offset press for printing books. It was a risk, but I knew it would be necessary to meet the growing book demand."

In 2000, Thorwat rebranded his business, getting a new name. He incorporated Shivam Offset, which would go on to specialise in textbooks for schools and colleges and undertake commercial printing of files, calendars, and pamphlets in Kolhapur.

It all began with purchasing a secondhand, two-colour HMT press from Chennai in the same year to print Bal Bharti educational books, making it the first of its kind in Kolhapur. “I was so determined to install the machine that I travelled from Chennai to Kolhapur in the same truck in which the machine was loaded.

In 2001 and 2005, Thorwat installed a two- and four-colour Heidelberg press, which allowed him to dabble in packaging as well.

Over the years, he achieved several milestones, such as owning his first commercial premises, a 4,000-sqft shed in his city, and a 14,000-sqft building to cater to his commercial printing clientele. He also bought seven acres of land in the Kagal MIDC industrial area to build a 60,000-sqft workshop area.

In 2001 and 2005, Thorwat installed 2-colour and 4-colour Heidelberg presses, which were testaments to his grit, passion, and commitment to the print and packaging profession.

Producing quality books
Thorwat was a strong advocate of books. "I believe that books can change lives, and that's why I'm so passionate about my business. I had a clear vision for the future, focusing on literacy and higher education standards. I believed this would lead to increased demand for books.”

Thorwad adds, “When I see the number of schools and classes being established, I feel optimistic about the future and the role my business can play in supporting education.”

His vision became a commitment to providing high-quality binding services with value-added features to ensure that our customers receive the best possible products. In 2018, Shivam Offset commissioned four new binders from Welbound (now Bindwel), in addition to five six-small perfect binding kits, a Muller Martini inline perfect binding equipment it had.

With the new investment, Shivam could manufacture 2-lakh books per day, up from its earlier capacity of 1.2-lakh books per day. “The idea is to accelerate time-to-market without compromising book quality – our USP. And therefore, investing in new machines ahead of the textbook season made a lot of sense then,” says Thorwat.

New milestones
Thorwat's book market was growing at an unprecedented rate in the early 2000s. However, he soon realised that meeting the demand for faster printing was becoming challenging.

To overcome this challenge, Thorwat made a strategic decision to invest in web-offset printing machines in 2006. “This move was a significant milestone, as it enabled us to cater to the growing need for speed and efficiency,” explains Thorwat.

With the new machines in place, Thorwat entered an era of exponential growth with higher revenues. In the same year, Thorwat's business received a major boost when he identified a significant opportunity in the form of the Goa government’s tender jobs. There was stiff competition from local printing presses. Thorwat knew he had to do something extraordinary to win the order. To secure the deal, he approached the then-chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, with utmost confidence and conviction.

“I convinced the CM of our ability to fulfil large orders and deliver high-quality results,” says Thorwat. My efforts paid off, as we won and continue to execute the order, demonstrating our company’s unwavering commitment to delivering excellence in his field.”

A bright future
Currently, Shivam operates four units — two in Kolhapur and one each in Pune and Belgaum — with a staff of more than 300 people. Shivam targets increasing its turnover to Rs.100-crore by 2025-26. Shivam now has 17 web presses, seven offset presses, and several binding and finishing equipment.

With an eye on new markets, Thorwat has spread his wings pan-India to cover his clientele across Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, and Bihar. “With global projects in textbook printing, we have set our sights on overseas business, too,” says Thorwat.

Partnered by his brother, Vijay — who oversees the financial affairs, and younger son, Kamlesh — who heads the administration with a dynamic approach, the future of Shivam Offset is in great hands. And with his older son, Shivam, pursuing a degree in engineering, the future looks promising too.

Thorwat’s three mantras

  • On-time salaries to his staff of professionals and workers paid regularly on a fixed date.
  • Timely payment of bank instalments.
  • Getting the best of services by making timely payments to all vendors and suppliers.
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