The Tushar Dhote Column: Pamex – continuing the 40-year-old legacy

While headlines have hailed the ‘make in India’ concept in the last few years, something equally important was triggered in 1981, when the first Pamex was hosted that year in Chennai, then Madras.

In this first in a series of Tushar Dhote Columns, the Mumbai-based print CEO shares a brief history of the show. He says, he was not a witness to the first event, but it sure set the pace for technology adoption in India

13 Jan 2023 | By Tushar Dhote

The first Pamex in 1981, organised by the All India Federation of master printers (AIFMP), the apex body of printers in India, was held in Chennai (then Madras). While I was not a witness to the show, I am told it set the pace for technology adoption in India, when some of the most familiar manufacturing brands of the Indian print industry presented their products.

The second Pamex was hosted in 1983 in New Delhi. However, my earliest memories of Pamex are from the year 1987 when it was held at Mumbai’s Nehru Centre in Worli. I was a student of printing technology and it was my first experience witnessing two four-colour presses running side by side – a Chez Dominant and a German Heidelberg MOV, competing for the fastest makeready time. Late Arun Mehta (Vakils) was the president of the All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP) and a core team member of the Pamex organising committee.

I missed the third edition of Pamex hosted at Calcutta (now Kolkata), in 1991 when SJ Mahimkar was the president of AIFMP.

Brush with technology
My second experience with Pamex was in the year 1997, when it was held in Bengaluru (then Bangalore), at the printing school. If my memory serves me right, it was held simultaneously with PrintPack, taking place at the Bengaluru Palace Grounds.

The show boasted of the latest technologies of that era – flatbed scanners introduced by Microtek, the Linotronic imagesetters, PS plates, fast-drying inks known as Quickset and a letterpress label printing press from Japan.

After a hiatus of nine years, Pamex returned, this time to Mumbai. In 2006, it was the BMPA-MMS team hosted show, in which I was a member. Dev Nair was the chairman, Kumar Pandit, the co-chairman and Anand Limaye acted as the marketing chairman.

It was one of the best-organised Pamex shows then. Proof that teamwork can create wonders. The show's star attraction was the live demonstration of a Heidelberg five-colour plus coater press running alongside a die-cutter, which was introduced for the first time to the Indian subcontinent.

Pamex then moved to North with successful editions in 2010, 2011 and 2013 hosted in New Delhi and Noida under the chairmanship and leadership of Manoj Mehta, Shashi Sharma, Virendra Malik, Bikas Sarkar and Subhash Chandar. 

Pamex returns to Mumbai
Pamex again returned to Mumbai in 2015 but as an exhibition co-organised by Print, a company owned by Anil Arora and Neetu Arora. AIFMP president G Ashokan was the Chairman of Pamex and I was appointed the co-chairman, being a resident of Mumbai and an active member of the MMS (Mumbai Mudrak Sangh).

My Pamex journey begins here. We had a big task ahead of us. G Ashokan ji gave me a free hand to do what I felt was best. It helped me create extensive awareness for the Pamex brand. Though Pamex was known to the print fraternity as an important exhibition in India, there was always uncertainty about its positioning and periodicity. As a result, even though it was way ahead in terms of technology and relevant equipment showcased, there was something missing in its consistency in attracting "focused footfalls".

Exhaustive exchange with industry veterans including Ashokan ji, Manojbhai, Dr Kamal Chopra, Vinod Rajpal and other members of the governing council of AIFMP, highlighted two action points to rejuvenate the show.

Firstly, we needed to rebuild confidence among the exhibitors that it was possible to repeat the super success of the 2006 show. The second was to educate the printers at the grassroots about the importance of attending print exhibitions in order to keep abreast with the latest trends and technologies even when they were not in the market to buy any equipment.

The 2006 Pamex slogan was ‘Of the Printer – By the Printer – for the Printer’. This was coined by Dev Nair and the Pamex team. Adopting that as our vision, our team had extensive meetings with exhibitors, understanding and allaying their apprehensions. I believe that our patience and commitment to the print cause went a long way in reassuring the exhibitors who participated in a big way. This helped us in taking the next step of creating awareness among SME and MSME printers to attend the exhibition in large numbers.

The Anil Arora partnership
My relationship with Anil Arora of Print Packaging.Com goes back a decade and a half. Anil Arora and his wife Neetu are good friends. Also, Dhote Offset Technokrafts took care of the print requirements of their popular India Label show of 2002 in Mumbai. I had witnessed the boutique show, and I must say, I liked the style with which the show was hosted. It was the most talked about event of that time when the label industry was at a nascent stage and was run by big companies. It helped that the Aroras had confidence in my ideas and suggestions and backed it by committing funds to implement them even when it exceeded budgets.

In our meeting at the general council of AIFMP and the core team, it was decided that the show should be promoted in a way that had outreach into the interiors of West and South India. The idea was to educate the tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the areas between the semi-urban and urban settlements, about the show.

We started organising Pamex roadshows across India, concentrating in the West and South while covering North and East India too. It was a team effort of all governing council members. Naming a few will not be right as each member contributed to the success of creating and spreading the buzz. This made printers realise and take notice of Pamex.

Eventually, the Pamex in 2015 was inaugurated by Uddhav Thackeray, the president of Shiv Sena in a typical Maharashtrian style with trumpets and the traditional lezim dance.

Pamex 2015 saw more than 25,000 printers from all around India and overseas, queuing to get their visitor passes for the event. Brand Pamex had arrived. It made its mark as one of the finest print expos in the subcontinent.

(Tushar Dhote is co-chairman of Pamex, and director, Dhote Offset Technokrafts. This is the first in a series of weekly Tushar Dhote Columns, which will continue till the Pamex show will be held from 27-30 March 2023 in Mumbai. Stay tuned in.)