Thee Classic Printers radicalise the face of print in Madurai through innovation

Ramu Ramanathan discovers what makes Thee Classic Printers run and rival successful print companies.

20 Jul 2010 | By Ramu Ramanathan

The Meenakshi temple is the identity of Madurai, and in the labyrinthine lanes near the temple, is located Thee Classic Printers. The three-storey building houses a Heidelberg PM74-4 and in close proximity, its sister company Dolphin Print System which boasts of a Heidelberg Suprasetter A105. Both kit installed in 2009, are a first for the temple-town of Madurai.

N Jayakarthikeyan, founder of the 24-year old, Thee Classic Printers, is a man of few words. But his management paradigm is clear. He believes: "customer is king" and printers like him have direct access to a domestic market in Madurai. "An opportunity which did not exist ten years ago."

Gen-next, J Natarajan, who is armed with a BE in printing at the Pune-based print school and oversees the CTP plate operation at Dolphin concurs. He says: "Due to work culture, low attrition rates and the availability of educational institutions, Madurai is becoming a mini IT hub." The Tamil Nadu government has proposed an IT zone in Madurai.

Growth, growth growth

Jayakarthikeyan points out, growing markets are tough. "Power failures, demanding customers, squeeze on profit margins. Local governments can be infuriating, sometimes meddling, and fail to ensure basic services."

And yet, as he explains, the potential is huge. He says: "The four-colour market is increasing. Earlier it was 10% four-colour jobs and the rest were single colour jobs. Now 90% customers prefer four-colour jobs." This is the reason Thee Classic has been pouring their resources into a CTP bureau and print.

The investments began in 2002, when the company installed a brand-new Heidelberg GTO 52-1. This single-colour single crown press defied the then logic of importing a four-colour of double or quad demy which could have been procured for the same amount. Thee Classic also purchased a pre-owned Heidelberg QM46-2 from Prakash Offset Printers, Mangalore and a Heidelberg TOK from a dealer in Sivakasi.

Natarajan says: "We know there is an opportunity. But a printer in Madurai has to work harder to prosper." For Thee Classic this has meant providing frugal solutions for premium corporate customers – who no longer need to depend on Sivakasi or Chennai to fullfill their print rquirement.

Making new rules
The 35-staffed print company, which is spread over 10,000 sq ft produces regular print work like stationery, brochures, booklets, annual reports, magazines and textbooks. Promotional print is huge in Madurai. A niche segment is: invitation cards. Every wedding, naming ceremony, Bharatnatyam programs and political rallies means customised invitation cards.

These are short-run, multi-colour, giant-sized cards. Thee Classic accepts these jobs. Jayakarthikeyan explains: "In Madurai we see an opportunity in every difficulty rather than difficulties in every opportunity."

This does not mean there's any compromise. Natarajan and his elder brother Saravanan point out: "It's not merely about capitalising on cheap labour but designing products and organising the process in a way that benefits our end customer."

Saravanan shows a label job for a fertilizer brand. It has been printed with seven special colours. "Earlier these jobs took ages to complete because we had to check the registration and colour tones. Now with the PM 74, we produce such jobs in half a day."

The power of pre-press
Natarajan is delighted with Heidelberg's Prinect. He gushes: "It's a time saver which means I can produce quality jobs."

Natarajan feels, Heidelberg's MetaDimension PDF workflow module provides "an edge". He explains: "It is a cost-effective gateway to PDF-based workflows. The open pre-press interface facilitates integration into existing workflow systems. I can do colour management, proofing, trapping, page positioning and what not. The sky is the limit."

He continues: "I can impose and produce complex jobs in conjunction with PDF, job tickets and PostScript. Also I can transfer job data to my press – and automate both ink zone pre-settings, which considerably reduces my set-up times."

Jayakarthikeyan who is grooming both his sons for tomorrow's business, sums it up: "Today, technology is a great leveller. We are similar to a printer in Mumbai or Chennai. That's why, we have to use existing technology in imaginative new ways for the benefit of print buyers in and around Madurai."

And from the look of it, Thee Classic Printers seem to be achieving it with ingenuity.


Founded in 1986

Specialty Stationery, brochures, booklets, annual reports, magazines and textbooks

Location Madurai

Equipment Suprasetter A105; Heidelberg four colour PM 74, GTO 52, QM 46 and a HMT 236 offset printing machine; Ushida folder; Autoprint creaser.

Staff 35