Kamal Vyas: The death of an old-world salesman

Kamal Vyas, who has died due to Covid-19, was the last of the gentlemanly salesperson. I have seen him preside over deals with a nawabi nazaakat. This is no doubt due to his lineage, which linked him to the third chief minister of Rajasthan, Jai Narayan Vyas. Every time I met him he regretted two things, the decline of tehzeeb and the declining margins in print.

09 Jul 2020 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Kamal Vyas: 1 October 1960 - 8 July 2020

Whether it was his early days in Indo European or later Proteck and then Manroland, Kamal Vyas made it a point to visit our office and share "the exciting developments in the print industry."

He used to be dramatic. Once he came to the office and put an envelope on the table. He said, open it. Worried, I opened the packet. Inside was a chit of paper. "Manroland announces the sale of 700 Hi Print six-colour to Hira Prints." He guffawed and promptly agreed to organise a Hira Prints factory visit for a colleague.

When he was general manager at Proteck, the Horizon 762 KLL was the ideal machine for book printers and publishers. He used to say, "It is the world’s fastest paper folding machine in its section." One night I received a call at 2 am. He said, I know I am disturbing you and I apologise, but we are in the process of closing two orders for pharmaceutical inserts. Can you come over, now? I said, "Are you serious Mr Vyas?" He said, "Yes."

The reason for his insistence: the customers were from Gujarat. Kamal Vyas was one of the early believers in the Gujarat story as well as the India pharma story.

He was a pucca saleswallah and he wore that on his sleeve. But he always found time to have a chat on the sidelines of a show. The last time I met Vyas was during Pamex 2020 in Mumbai. He said, "It is true that the slowdown has impacted ink on paper and paperboard, but I feel there are clear signs of revival. I believe the forthcoming Drupa (in January, Drupa 2020 was not postponed), would result in a fairly good amount of business for the graphic art industry."

As always the conversation veered towards what he was reading. He quoted his favourite Philip Kotler who defined marketing as "identifying the needs and wants of the market and innovating a product, which is capable of satisfying those needs and wants." He sighed, "Our industry has forgotten the art of listening."

He relished the ancient power and privileges of his role and used to joke, "The bosses in Germany and Japan think their machines are God, but you need people like me to explain (and reassure) the buyer about the capabilities of these machines. He advocated "seeing is believing, demos assist understanding". He arranged visits to Borkar Packaging (Daman) to see the Roland-700, six-colour with online coating and then the eight-colour (4 over 4 perfector) at International Print O Pac (Noida). Also, he coerced me to travel by bus from Coimbatore to see the Kolbus hardcover line at Srinivas Fine Art (Sivakasi). He said, there is a huge market potential for finishing equipment, especially hard cover binding. This is an area where very little progress has been made in India."

His tenure in the various companies he worked for coincided with fraught relations between management and the headquarters, with frequent exits. But Vyas never let his personal feelings get in the way of his prime responsibility – ensuring the industry benefits. Print was the love of his life, and his knowledge of the print families in India was quite something.

RIP Kamal Vyas.

Last message from Kamal Vyas

You asked me about assets to turnover ratio when we met at Pamex exhibition. Here is what I have to say. This is a ratio that measures a company's ability to generate sales from its assets by comparing net sales with average total assets. That means this ratio shows how efficiently a company can use its assets to generate sales.

This is calculated as following:

AT Ratio = Net Sales/Total Assets (divided by)

Therefore, a higher ratio is always more favourable. Higher turnover ratios mean the company is using its assets more efficiently. If this is lower, then it means that the company is not using its assets efficiently and most likely have management, production or sales problems.

For example, a ratio of one means that the net sales of a company equals the total assets of the company for that year. Banks want this to be 1 (One) as a desirable ratio, at least. Again, for example, if the company is generating Rs 100 of sales for every Rs 100 invested in assets then the AT Ratio is 1 (One).

In our printing industry this is often much less. Some bigger companies such as Parksons and TCPL are good companies and are exceptions, but other companies are struggling with it.

To get a true sense of how well a company’s assets are being used, it must be compared to other companies in its industry. This gives you a fair idea of how a company is doing.

Unfortunately, in our industry very few company owners understand this...

Please share your thoughts about Kamal Vyas with abhishek.muralidharan@haymarketsac.com