The ultra short-run BOD print revolution

Sriraam Selvam spends a day with former banker and CA, N Sreekumar and feels we don’t need a crystal ball to look into the future to see what type of print will be around. Bhavish Graphics provides a clue.

29 Nov 2013 | By Sriraam Selvam

N Sreekumar has returned from the London Book Fair where his company boasted of a stall. His brain is abuzz with newer plans. Even though he is part of the 60 year-old S Viswanathan Printers & Publishers, he does not wear the traditional print entrepreneur’s hat. Which is more or less how he enabled a critical transition in 2003 and become a digital player, Bhavish Graphics. 
The firm located in the old-world suburb of Chetpet in Chennai has pioneered efforts in both book (print) on demand and strengthening their position in variable data printing (VDP). “It is essential to find a niche,” says N Sreekumar, who was a banker and cost accountant and is the managing director of Bhavish Graphics, now.

A brand new Proteck cutting machine
The digital journey
“It was in 2003 when I joined the company. We were on the look-out for alternate technology. Our series of conversations with Xerox was crucial in deciding on investing in digital” says Sreekumar.
Sreekumar took over from his father-in-law V Subramanian, a stalwart in the Chennai printing circles who of many things was the founding secretary of Pamex and a past president of the All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP). 
“The company celebrated its sixtieth year in 2002 and the legacy of the company as technology leaders ensured we took the plunge,” he adds.
The Rs 19-crore company has a lion share of the VDP market in Chennai along with its foray in book-on-demand, which Sreekumar labels as “ultra short demand”.

The offset division print textbooks and supports the digital operations
In-house operations 
The company which is part of Xerox’s premier partners’ global network has a raft of digital presses from Xerox including three DT 6180, two DP 180 and one each of DT 180 (HLC) and Nuvera 288. The press line also includes the Ricoh HD1 / HD2 and a couple of Konica Minolta Bizhub 6000. 
The production facility also includes post-press kit which comprises of Horizon BQ270, Fortec hardbound, sewing machines, Proteck XC 116 and PE 115 cutting machines and two Pitney Bowes mailing solution, which may be upgraded soon.
“The focus is on providing complete solution and delivering top products which reach the consumers,” says Sreekumar.
“The technology is prominently toner-based. We finalised it after serious research. We believe, in spite of inkjet’s technical edge, the affordability, total cost of ownership of the box and scattered volumes has led to its success in India,” he adds.

Two Konica Minolta Bizhub 6000 added to the digital arsenal
Content is sacrosanct
The company has key quality certifications including ISO 9001 and ISO 27001. This bolsters the “trust factor”. Today clients seek a stringent process and security measures to safeguard confidentiality.
“It is imperative for our primary clientele to feel secure in the environment we give them and the processes we adhere to in case of their confidential data being handled. This drove us to being compliant and certify ourselves with ISO 9001 and specifically 27001 which brings information security under explicit management control,” says Sreekumar.
The company’s clientele includes leading banking companies which form 70% of the revenue stream. The rest caters to publishers, which Sreekumar says is “growing”.
“The security printing for our banking clients traditionally remains strong for the company and the remaining (30%) consists of our publishing clients with emphasis on print-on- demand,” he adds.

The Xerox DT 6180: One of the seven Xerox digital devices
Ultra-short runs 
“In India, the book-on-demand printing is not accurate. I call it ultra-short runs keeping in mind the shortest of runs are 250-300 copies. The publishers are opening up to print-on-demand,” says Sreekumar. 
Today, Bhavish is a preferred partner to leading publishers and also caters to the indie and self-publishing clientele. He compares this model to Amazon’s tie-up with Lightening Source which ensured physical assets were eliminated and it was a win-win situation.
“The self-publishing clients have thrived using the book-on-demand model. We have a strategic partnership with several of them including Indian self-publishers like,, Cinnamon Teal, among others, who have had considerable success,” explains Sreekumar.
“I believe a proper set-up book-on-demand workflow is the most efficient, cost-effective method. It has minimal people involvement. Also, it is the ideal scenario for the publishing industry in the future,” he adds.
The regressive price war
“The current market depression in Chennai among conventional printing houses is a result of the cut-throat price wars that printers indulge in. This is a cause of serious concern even for the digital players,” says Sreekumar.
A banking professional with cost accounting background prior to his jump into the print industry, Sreekumar believes forecasting and estimating work scientifically is imperative.
“The printers adopt a policy of quoting a few paise lower than the nearest competition. Printers should look at profit and loss and not page per cost,” elaborates Sreekumar.
“It’s about time, our fraternity understands costing. We need to have a scientific working of costs. In the UK, a hardbound making costs Rs 250. In India, an entire hard-bound book is half that price,” he adds.
Collaborative growth strategy
The company has finalised an alliance in New Delhi to consolidate and explore avenues in the North Indian market.
“We believe replicating our success model in another geographic location is impossible. A strategic alliance is the need of the day. The prospective alliance with Delhi-based Devtech Printers is a step in the direction,” says Sreekumar. 
The new company B & D Printsolutions will cater to the North Indian market out of Devtech’s existing facility in Faridabad.
“The long term vision is to eventually merge our existing entities (Bhavish and Devtech) into  B & D,” explains Sreekumar.
Bhavish also has an existing alliance with the Japanese Yamagata Print Solutions,  a printing company specialising in user manual printing. “The joint venture with Yamagata created newer opportunities for us by bringing in existing customer’s Indian business to our table. This includes big names like Dell, Panasonic, Yamaha Motors among others,” says Sreekumar.
As we exit, and pass by the latest Mercedes in the portico, he says, “A big publisher stocks Rs 25-crore in one warehouse. It seems no one has worked out a costing model. It cannot be an a la carte approach.” Then he adds, today’s mantra should be: “print less”. An anachronistic for a printer to utter, but then Sreekumar is not your regular run-of-the-mill printer.