Gururaj Ballarwad: A fond farewell to Shahul Hameed

KM Shahul Hameed, who founded Wintek Flexo Print in 1996, passed away on 27 May 2021 of Covid complications.

31 May 2021 | By Gururaj Ballarwad

Late Shahul Hameed

What can I tell you about Shahul Sir? It’s not that easy to describe him in words.

He was very special to me and my career. Just one line: Why are you in Belgaum, come and join me, Shahul Sir had said. I trusted him and without any hesitation, I exited from the printing business (Yarbal) in Belgaum and landed in Bengaluru, in 1994. That was on very short notice. He welcomed me, did all he could to build my confidence, and stood up by that. He supported my business moves, each time, every time.

He was my guru, my mentor and my guide.

Apart from technical matters, he also guided me on how to deal with customers and suppliers. He always believed that the suppliers are the backbone of a company. If they do well, we too will, that was his principle. Hence there were no disputes with suppliers. The policy was to pay the suppliers on time.

Shahul Sir helped all and was very kind to the employees. He used to employ more than required to help needy people. He would pay more than the government-stipulated salary, and not just salary, overtime and delicious food, accommodation. More importantly, he would say, “Pay the salary before the sweat of the worker drops on the earth.”

He was a down-to-earth person, who started his career in Sivakasi as a freelance artist and later shifted to Bengaluru, then Bangalore, in the seventies. In Bangalore, he set up Colour Process, a bureau that did colour separation jobs manually. The printers used to bring the samples before printing and discuss the job. He knew the dot gain of the machine of a particular printer and accordingly supplied the processed positives. His printer customers would even bring the final print and take his opinion. Some discussed at the design stage itself. Such was his skill.

In 1985, he invested in a colour scanner and started Rainbow Colour Scanning with four other partners. They never looked back.

In the nineties, after I joined him, I used to tell him to invest in digital, but he instead thought of entering into the printing arena.

As most of his clients were from offset printing, he preferred not to be a competition for them, instead decided to set up a label production plant using the flexo process. In 1996 we established Wintek and we bought our first flexo press, a three-colour Mark Andy press and equipped the machine with in-line hot foil, a fourth drop-in print unit, a fifth print station for UV varnish.

We struggled for almost two-and-a-half years to start the production. He had a lot of patience. He used to tell me, “We need to wait... I am sure this will be our future.” With this courage, we did sustain, and after 1999, there was no looking back.

Gururaj Ballarwad

Shahul Sir was a thorough gentleman with a humble beginning. He rose to the level of becoming a big businessman through sheer hard work, knowledge, sincerity, honesty. He was kind and a jovial human.

In 1996, we produced four-colour jobs on a 3+1 colour flexo machine with water-based inks. For example, the six-colour Bru/Bon coffee label was printed in 4-colour and the Amaron battery and Wrigley non-self adhesive label on maplitho are some of the examples. This phenomenon was unique, so much so that the machine manufacturers and label guru sic as Mike Fairley could not believe they could produce such labels on the Mark Andy 830 machine.

Shahul Sir’s knowledge of pre-press was a boon for our flexo label production.

Those days when we started the label company, there were people who predicted that the company would close down or will be up for sale. We proved them wrong.

His endeavour to adapt to new technologies helped Wintek to grow. He always wanted to buy new machines, configured in such a way that it would be a trendsetter.

The expertise he had in all the printing technologies was unmatched. He was a guru in real terms – enlightening the customers, staff and especially me, with his knowledge. Shahul Sir has been a source of my survival and success.

The years since 1987 as a customer and 1995 as a partner which I spent with him have all been golden years of my life.

Farewell, Shahul Sir. Your legacy will live on. In our own small way, the iTek family will do our best to carry on your torch of excellence in work, and all aspects of life.

S Narayan, CEO, Printex

I know Shahul from the early nineties, when I had exited DuPont and had started distributing films and bromide proofing systems.

I could see that Shahul was a hands-on person, and had a huge quest for knowledge, particularly where technology was concerned.

When scanning and colour separation was on the wane, he was quick to acknowledge it, and together with Gururaj Ballarwad established Wintek. As I said, he was a keen learner. Those were the early days of flexo, and he knew of my DuPont connections so he used to pick my brains. He was one of the first to install a platemaking unit in-house. It was a DuPont solution and in those days it was quite an expensive proposition. But that did not deter him from bringing in the best.

From what I have assessed, there are two factors to the success of Wintek. One, Shahul got young people, gave them the equipment and asked them to experiment. That was a beautiful thing that worked for them. The second is: a sound pre-press unit. Shahul's work with colour separation was good. Printing text on paper using the offset process was one thing, but flexo was a different ball game. But he used the knowledge of the offset process and imbibed it in flexo to produce 133 lpi flexo plates in those days. Today, labels are produced at 175 lpi and even 200 lpi, but in those days producing a 100 lpi plate was a learning curve, and he went through it beautifully. I have seen the Wintek team under Shahul do trials of every job, sometimes multiple times – make plates, print them and if it was not as per his satisfaction, correct it, till it was perfect. Money was never a concern, producing the perfect label was. Gururaj was the perfect foil on the commercial part of Wintek’s business. That made Wintek successful.

To top it all, Shahul was a gentleman to the core. He never got upset, not with his clients nor the suppliers.

Though he wasn’t much older than I am, I used to call him Shahul Sahab.

Rest in Peace, Shahul Sahab.