The local print market of Thane is worth Rs 10 crore with 300 printing units. Most of these are second or third generation presses.
There is a slow shift from traditional to current day printing setup with five printing presses which house four-colour machines, two CTPs and six digital printers. 15 units have shutdown in Thane over a period of 25 years.
At the meet:
|Anand Limaye||past president of |
MMS and MMP
|editor of |
|Uday Dhote||past president of |
|Vilas Sangurdekar||Perfect Prints |
|Madhusudhan Joshi||Nirmal Arts |
|Rajan Phadke ||Rajmudra |
|Sunil Patil ||A1 Printers |
|Arun Phadke||Arunodaya Press |
|Nilesh Dhawan ||Maharashtra Printers |
|Kiran Kamlakar |
|Raja Printage |
|Vijay Ghatpande||Jay-Bharat Printing |
|Vilas Prabhulkar||Vrushali Printers |
|Sameer Gupte ||Kirti Printers |
|Mangesh Dhanawade||Sai Offset |
Anand Limaye (AL): We will start with the first round which will be an introduction on, how and why did you enter the printing industry, the setup and journey of your business. In the second round, we will discuss local problems. Let's start with Vilas Sangurdekar, who started from scratch...
Vilas Sangurdekar (VS): I entered print purely by chance. A friend of mine joined a diploma course and I followed him to complete my diploma in 1974 and later, a diploma in offset. Then I worked at Kohinoor Mill for a short period of time. After the mill strike in 1982, I became unemployed. In 1984, the government introduced a scheme for the educated and unemployed, where an individual would get upto Rs 25,000 as loan. I took that loan and began my own business. The journey from one treadle to a four-colour offset has been exciting.
AL: Sunil Patil, you did canvassing for schools. How did it materialise into a business of your own?
Sunil Patil (SP): I used to undertake canvassing for schools as extra income while working at Fiat India. With time, the company shifted to Ahmednagar, after which I decided to bolster my unit by taking up jobs beyond schools. At this point, I took up DTP, design and booklet jobs.
AL: Kiran Upadhye, you are a graduate in commerce and started a print firm in partnership. Today, you also own a digital setup...
Kiran Upadhye (KU): I took up a job after completing my BCom. A friend of mine had a stationery shop back then. He suggested that we start our own print firm. We expanded our business to what it is today, beginning with just two people. We got our cutting machine before anything else. The printing machine followed after 15 days! In those 15 days, we did a business of Rs 1,000, on just binding. Soon, we bought new premises and decided to set up a Xerox based shop. Print on Demand became our business forte. A customer would walk in and take the 1,000 printed copies. Soon, we had a colour Xerox and digital black-and-white print out shop. Our clientele increased to those wanting 10 to 20 thousand copies.
AL: Madhusudhan Joshi, you started with a treadle machine and a loan from Maharashtra State Finance Corporation...
Madhusudhan Joshi (MJ): I entered this industry after I finished my SSC in 1964. I began with one treadle machine. This led to me doing a lot of work for pharmaceutical companies. I learnt a lot from the label and carton print jobs that I did. I did three-colour and four-colour block printing as well. Post the treadle machine, I invested in a Mercedes machine after which I purchased an offset machine. As of today, I have 1,000 sq ft of real estate, and I can pull on because of this set up.
AL: Arun Phadke, you are a third generation printer who has diverted from printing to DTP work and then to publishing...
Arun Phadke (AP): After studying printing technology between 1973 and 1977, I set up my own business, the Arunodaya Press. I had to shut it down because of certain constraints. I then began taking up DTP jobs. My main work was to print manuscripts of major publishers, at that time. Between 1987 to 2004, I had no difficulty getting work at the price I asked for. After 2004, I had to cut down my rates because of increased competition. Hence, I diverted to publishing business, cutting down on DTP work.
AL: Nilesh Dhawan, what about you?
Nilesh Dhawan (ND): My father had his own business, Maharashtra General Stores. We switched over to printing in 1985. Having no other options, I joined the family business and plan to take it ahead.
AL: Vijay Ghatpande, you gained experience in print before joining the family business .....
Vijay Ghatpande (VG): I'm the second generation of Jay-Bharat Printing Press. My father began the press in 1964. He is the ex-president of MMP. After working at Mahimkar's Hind Printing Press as supervisor for five years and later in the process department at The Times of India, I joined the family business. Today, it has grown from letterpress to offset, but we still have to install a four-colour. My son is completing his BE Printing at PVG and I hope he'll continue with the business.
AL: Vilas Prabhulkar, you've forayed into CTP recently? Where did it all start?
Vilas Prabhulkar (VP): My father used to own a treadle printing press. I joined the business right after my BCom, and in 1995, we shifted to offset. Since then, we have grown to a four-colour printing machine. I get to interact with people of so many different professions each day; I doubt if any other business lets you deal with so many experiences and problems every single day.
AL: Sameer Gupte, your business module is very interesting. A second generation company which not only does printing but also stocks printing raw materials and a wedding cards business. Plus, you are now a producer of a Marathi film.
Sameer Gupte (SG): My father established Kirti Printers in 1964. My father worked with Lokmanya, Phadke and Thane's Sanghamitra, before starting Kirti Printers. In 1975, he had to close down the press due to various reasons but he opened operations again after two months. I was 11 years old and been a printer since that age. I began to realise that while composing Devnagari, the type used to exhaust just after printing two pages. Sometimes we used to run out of the poornaviram or maatra, after which the only two options were Mumbai or Pune. Back then, I took up Pune's Bharat Type Foundry and Prakash Type Foundry's agency and began a Mudran Sahitya Vikreta business in Thane. We used to supply types to most printers in Thane. Thus, we began expanding the whole Mudran Sahitya part of the business. I now have a multi-distribution shop that stocks everything that the printing industry requires, like printing inks and chemicals. We also have a TechNova imaging centre.
AL:In 2001, you began Shagun Wedding Cards to print wedding invitation cards.
SG: We already have Jhankar Wedding Cards' agency. Apart from that, we supply wedding cards for other sources in Thane, too. In 2009, with a bid to become more diverse, I forayed into the film industry. This year, I released my first Marathi commercial film, 'Batti Gul - Powerful', starring Makarand Anaspure. Today, my wife looks after my business along with me.
AL: I'm proud of the way Rajan Phadke has turned around his business today. I had visited him when he had bought his four-colour, and he had sold his house for it. I heard three-four printers say that Rajan was crazy to sell his house just to buy a machine.
Rajan Phadke (RP): Not getting an admission for engineering anywhere made me take up printing. Back then, my father had a small rented premise, where he told me to establish a small setup with just one person. Currently my press has completed 25 years, and has 35 employees excluding the contractors' personnel. I believe that if you have good machines, good employees with best management, you can maintain and grow your business without much hassle. Management is one of my favourite subjects. One key benefit of having a press is that you get to read a lot of different literature. Once upon a time, we used to print Kaizen for Godrej Soaps, Asian Paints and Crompton. One of my hobbies is to implement whatever I learn into my press. For instance, I had attended a Six Sigma course organised by BMPA. Today, we are the first printers to implement Six Sigma practices. We were even the first to implement ISO and we availed all its benefits. There are different reasons as to why we decided to drop ISO, but we are certainly benefiting from Six Sigma. I believe in long-term benefits more than anything else.
AL: Mangesh Dhanawade, for you the journey has been from plate-making to CTP...
Mangesh Dhanawade (MG): I came to printing in 1997. I was into plate-making with father, initially. We set up with a single-colour in 1999 in a partnership. The partnership broke after a year, after which my brother and I looked after the press till 2006, when I set up my own single-colour press. My brother and I decided to go our own ways, and I started with my own CTP setup in October 2009.
OCTROI and TAX
AL: Now that we're through with the introductions, let's move on to the challenges you are facing today and see how we can overcome them. The floor is open to all suggestions. I believe we will come up with solutions through discussion....
VS: The problems that were highlighted in the presentation by Ramu Ramanathan, prove that they are global and happen to everyone. Apart from the problems dealing with labour and paper if we were to discuss local issues, I'd begin with octroi.There are a lot of printers coming in from other places who take the local jobs from our clients. Printers from places like Navi Mumbai for instance. Their marketing teams are very strong and they quote prices that are lower. They can afford to, because Navi Mumbai has a cess @1%; as against in Thane, we pay 5% octroi. Our deliveries are generally in places like Bhiwandi, etc. because of which we can't get into the competition in the true sense of the term. Printers in Thane aren't that huge, yet.
AL: Regarding the octroi / cess issue in Navi Mumbai, it is subject only to sales within Vashi limits. If that printer wants to make a sale in Thane, the cess isn't valid unless he pays and produces a receipt for the octroi in Thane. He has to declare where the raw material was purchased and where the sale was carried out. Ultimately, if he wants to make a sale in Thane, he will have to pay octroi even for his value addition and the paper value, as opposed to Thane printers, who fortunately have to pay octroi only on the raw material.
VS: The burning issue is books. A Thane publisher will publish the book in Thane. If you want to send across your books to another place for a sale, he has to pay octroi.
AL: For example, the Salgaokars of Kalnirnay started the wall panchang. So, normal calendars have octroi, but wall panchangs don't. This is the need of the hour, to come up with innovative business modules.
ND: Uday Dhote, I need some information from you. We are under VAT, for which they deduct TDS as well as works contract tax from the corporate sector. Is that money refunded to me?
Uday Dhote: Your TDS is cut based on your income tax, which you have to claim. Similarly, your works contract tax is deducted from your VAT, which you can claim while filing your VAT returns.
AL: What do you feel about the fluctuating cost of raw materials?
VS: In India, there is no control over the paper costs. The order for paper is placed according to rates you were given 15 days ago, at which point the supplier tells you that the rates have gone up by Re 1.5. With inks we face a different issue. An ink packet has no MRP, like everything else does. I believe an ink packet should have an MRP, post which the dealer can offer whatever discount he can. And then there is this cost of electricity. Although, the power problem is somewhat solved in these parts we have to shell out 60–70 paise extra per unit. In the last year, it became difficult to adjust timings according to the four hour power cuts twice on a daily basis. There is no way to cover losses that are incurred due to machines shutting down on account of no power. In a nutshell, I believe that someone should have some sort of control over rates.
AL: Another big issue has been the cost of labour for the Indian print Industry. How do Thane printers deal with it?
VG: Today, getting skilled labour for every machine is a huge problem. The labourer isn't willing to wait despite being paid Rs. 6,000, Rs. 7,000 or Rs. 10,000. Retaining skilled labour has become a huge drawback in the Thane printing industry because they get paid more in Mumbai.
ND: I recently went to a mall with my family and walked into a Polo store. The security guard called out to me and asked me if I recognised him. He told me he was a plate-maker at Sangurdekar's press and was happy with his current salary of Rs 7,000, in an air-conditioned environment without the burden of making plates.
AL: Exactly the point I want to make. Don't you believe that while costing for a job, we always consider labour last? We first begin with the unavoidable factors like paper, electricity, inks, etc, and leave labour for last. Ramu mentioned in his presentation that Mail Order Solutions pays the IT engineer and the printer equally - because they work on the same shopfloor. How many of us are willing to do that?
VG: We give the scale defined in minimum wages act; in fact we sometimes give more than the minimum scale. It's not like we're paying less. Suppose a labourer from Mumbai gets Rs. 6,000 as salary, then a labourer from Thane gets Rs. 5,700. It definitely isn't less if you consider overheads like commute, etc. Plus, he can go home at 7 pm. every evening. Every printing press pays its labour @ 1.5 or 2 times the overtime. So despite all these facilities, why does a man from Thane go to Mumbai for work? All of us sheetfed offset printers face this problem.
AL: Granted that you have difficulty in finding people, but it's not necessary that they will go from Thane to Mumbai only for work. I have a designer from Thane who I pay Rs. 20,000 to. He's getting a job in a Thane pharma company for the same salary and he wants to leave my press, so that he can cut down on 3 hours of traveling everyday. Isn't that exactly opposite to what you're saying?
KU: I feel that labour from Thane strives hard to go to Mumbai, but then repents. He then wonders how to come back in Thane to work with the same employer, thus he ends up working somewhere else.
SG: I own a printing unit in addition to being a service provider. My working hours are a little more than other presses – from 9 am to 9 pm. I need a labourer who is available for 12 hours of the day. Labourers look for alternative employment because of low salaries, despite taking home Rs. 10,000 every month including overtime. I give my staff 12 hours of consolidated pay, at one go. I tell them their basic salary itself is that much. I believe this is my success format. I believe you can keep your labourers from going to another industry, by doing something simple as giving them Rs. 500 extra per month. They remain loyal to you.
UD: I believe job-hopping will remain a problem, till the demand-supply ratio doesn't meet. The fundamental problem is just that. We can see the demand, work and industry growing. You can see 10-12% growth, even if it is just factorial. But there is definitely no supply of technical people, to match this growth, because of which there is poaching and job-hopping. Values like loyalty are on the decline. I believe everyone should follow some sort of HR policies, like Rajan has. You will be able to retain your staff if you take the effort. There is no point brooding over the vacuum that a person's absence will create after he leaves. We need to put a mentoring system in place, where the person you train should at least train another person. This way, you are not left in the lurch when someone leaves.
RP: I think our handling of labourers is quite different. We must give them the dignity they deserve, listen to their problems and try to solve them at your level. They must be made to feel like they have some ambition, by making them feeders from boilers, etc. They too feel the monotony after the doing the same work for many years. We even researched on why they eat mava and drink, in addition to trying to get them to quit. We sent them to Anil Awchat's Muktangan to rid them of these habits. These men have successfully completed the program and are still working with us. For us, getting these men back is the biggest achievement. Even if someone thinks of quitting, his colleagues tend to discourage him from doing so. The attachment amongst employees builds up. We even arrange get-togethers, picnics, celebrate birthday for employees. Somewhere, these little things go a long way in keeping your employees happy.
AL: Rajan, hat happens if there's an emergency?
RP: Even if someone is admitted in hospital, I personally go and pay a visit. Recently, a boy's fingers got stuck in a machine. I personally admitted him to hospital and went to get him a discharge. These things do count. I can't shirk off responsibility by saying that I'm just an owner and someone else will take charge. I'm also a human being. I firmly believe that we get back the relationship that we make an effort to maintain.
AL: So it's your attitude and behaviour with them that repays in the long run. That was about the labour on the shopfloor who handle your machines. What about the labour required to transport materials? For instance, the Mathadi Act is harassing many printers in Mumbai. What about Thane?
VS: Mathadi isn't troubling Thane yet. But then, we have trouble finding workers for loading and unloading, in the first place. In fact, our deliveries get delayed because of this. Thane has just 2-3 small scale industries, while the rest are all individual setups.
AL: The Mathadi Law states that despite having your own workers for loading and unloading, the work will have to be executed by Mathadi. So even if I have four helpers, I still have to get the work done by Mathadi workers. A Metal and Paper Mathadi Board, exists. Earlier, in Mumbai, we used to wonder how to escape this law, but after discussing with you, realised that we need these people in Thane. It is always better to have delivery happening at higher rates, than having no delivery at all.
MJ: At times when we don't find someone, we have to get Mathadi workers at a rate of Rs 25 per bundle.
AL: This problem is going to continue. What's more, there are 'Mathadi Worker' gangs being formed in Mumbai. They want money and are not interested in running the Board or anything.
VS: Sometimes you have corrugated boxes and your van is waiting downstairs. The person you already have is very weak. It's very difficult to go looking for people who can offload your stuff. Offloading paper isn't a problem; transport companies do it for you if you pay them.
AL: We're fighting against this through our association. Our stand is: It's ok for a Mathadi worker to be loading the cargo. But who will unload the cargo at the delivery destination?
VS: You have to pay Rs. 300 or Rs. 400 toll whenever a vehicle enteres Bhiwandi. The workers offload the cargo at the doorstep, without even going inside the godown. Their way of working is so undisciplined, that you pay them to go away.
AL: Vilas Prabhulkar, you are a printer who started a CTP unit as a vendor. I would like to hear from you about the printers' attitude to send a labour job for plate making to a printer - it's a success. CTP plates being sent to a printer shows the level of trust other printers have in you.
VP: Getting CTPs from other printers in Thane is taking some time. There are bound to be some problems. They will feel like their job will go away from them because I own a printing press as well. But this isn't true. All canvassers today know to whom a particular job should be given to. No one has hold over any canvasser these days. I find this problem in Thane, mainly, considering I get work from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. We have a binding unit next to us. We see them getting 50 different jobs from presses. We even know which clients' work has come in from which printer, but we have never tried to approach the said clients on our own. Other printers seem to think that their clients and their canvassers will remain only with them. But this isn't true, at least in Thane.
UD: Had you considered commercial viability before starting CTP projections?
VP: Yes. I had seen the commercial viability. My CTP unit is doing well. Just like the time I had set up an imagesetter. I'm extremely uncomfortable with Thane printers' mentality of giving away their jobs outside, just because everyone else in Thane is facing competition. In fact I believe that you should give your jobs close-by. It saves so much trouble. We're saying that people from outside come in and take away our jobs, but in this case, people in Thane don't want to give CTP jobs in Thane, despite there being two CTP units. At least those who have four-colour units should consider this. We must trust each other. The printers in this forum have mostly spent over 25–30 years in the business and no one has poached anyone's clients.
THANE v/s PUNE
AL: Pune has seen tremendous growth over the last five years. All the jobs that used to come to Mumbai from the rest of Maharashtra or even Goa, now go to Pune. Obviously jobs from Pune remain within Pune. Thane has MIDC, Vashi isn't too far from Thane, either. In fact, Thane has lesser overheads in terms of cheaper rates for electricity, etc. as compared to Mumbai. Then why can't we expect Pune-like development in Thane?
VG: There isn't much difference between Pune and Thane, as far as overheads are concerned.
ND: I want to narrate an incident here. I was doing the costing for a 300 page government tender, once. An engineer was explaining the job to me, after which I came to my press. He followed me and told me that he was a printer from Pune and wanted to do this job. I asked him the rates since I knew printing 300 pages using DTP and then proofreading them isn't really practical for me. He quoted Rs. 50 per page. Finally he came down to Rs. 5 per page which takes the overall cost of the job to Rs. 1,500. No one from Thane will go to Pune for a job of Rs. 1,500.
AL: Which is exactly why I ask, why won't anyone do it? If printers from Vashi and Mumbai can come to Thane to clinch deals, why can't Thane Printers venture outside and become the competition? If you're content with the state of affairs in Thane, then you shouldn't complain about competition. But if you want yourselves and the industry to grow, you must face challenges and overcome them. I'm proud of the way Rajan has turned around his business today. I had visited him when he had bought his four-colour, and he had sold his house for it. I heard three-four printers say that Rajan was mad to sell his house just to buy a machine. I think it's a fabulous story. So why not shift from letterpress?
VS: Mumbai and Thane are almost the same. But it was 1985 by the time the first offset machine came to Thane. Back then, the printers in Thane were well-versed and comfortable with letter-press. Presses like Jay-Bharat had close to 14 employees. There was no scarcity of work back then, which is why no one ever thought of progressing to offset from letter-press. There are still some printing processes that we have to depend on Mumbai for. Today, whoever has presses in Thane has to depend on capacity. Someone may progress to five four-colour machines in five years, while someone will keep using treadle only. Not everyone has the courage to do something different like Rajan Phadke. Now someone like me will continue his business in the centere zone. Keeping in mind the sort of investment that goes into this business in terms of premises and machinery, there are a lot of people who wonder where they will go if the venture fails. At the end, you only wonder if it is worth all the trouble you will go through. Most printers in Thane run their business on a small scale. Most have really old businesses, because of which they have fixed clients. Each printer's capacity is fixed. So going out there and looking for new jobs when they are beyond your capacity, is not right. If I have just one machine, then two clients giving me steady work is more than enough.
PRINT BUYER IN THANE
AL: What is the current overall scenario of print in Thane?
VS: In Thane, in the last couple of years, there are a total of 8 four-colour machines. Many manufacturing companies in Thane have closed down. Lot of work is steadily decreasing because of government policies. These contribute to the change, e.g. the decrease even in bank jobs due to paperless policy. Earlier, it was mandatory for all to get a printed report, but now only notices are sent out that are only 1000 or 2000 in quantity. Recently, it was decided that there will be no annual report printing at all, since it will be put up on the website. Hence, even that work will go. Even calendar and diary-printing jobs are steadily decreasing. The printers who do jobs for schools say that now, four unit tests have come down to two. The printers printing question and answer papers will bear the brunt of this. Government policies and technological changes hit the printer before anyone else. To survive, one begins looking for jobs all around and this changes the face of the competition. The investment in this business is a lot. Even machinery is counted as part of the competition. All the corporate and bank jobs in Thane are acquired by printers from outside Thane. Companies don't care how these printers can afford lower rates, as long as their work is done for lesser price. These printers have greater purchasing power, they purchase imported paper at much lower rates. Their extremely competitive rates affect us quite badly. The book publishers in Thane who need one single type of paper may not be able to place bulk orders, since there are so many types and sizes of paper available today. Also, if I order today and don't use the paper, it will become yellow or get wasted. Then you have to take requirement into consideration, right?
AL: If you have four clients that give you six-monthly or annual examination work, or give you annual report work, there are chances that these clients may suddenly go. Then what do you do? What if you bring in other clients and offload some of your regular work, to increase turnover? I want to understand how printers in Thane reach out to their print buyers.
MJ: About pharmaceutical companies, everyone thought that medicines will continue as long as a man lives. All boxes, labels, inserts, etc for medicines used to be steady work. Later, packaging, etc changed because of blister packing, and only the outer box remained to be printed on. Then the focus shifted to packaging of sweet boxes. We even suggested some candle makers to fit boxes around their candles. That way, focus from pharma has shifted.
ND: The client requires flexo. Now I may not have the capacity, but one can always outsource it. The client isn't concerned with your capacity, but with the product and the rate.
MJ: If the client requires UV lamination, we don't have the source for this, and we can't go ahead.
AL: Or maybe 3-4 of you can always come together and take up a job amongst yourselves. You can then decide timelines and capacity according to each one.
MJ: Earlier, we used to go to Prabhadevi for varnishing machines. Later, when Thane got its own varnishing machines, then Thane got its jobs done in-house. Now varnishing machines have been stopped. We can't sort out Thane's toll and octroi problem, which cannot even be ignored.
AL: Sometimes, clients demands are such that they cannot be met, for instance, UV or varnish, for which you have to go outside. We have to develop these things in Thane itself.
RP: Some people will be astonished to hear my stake on marketing. I have 70% of canvassers and 30% direct clients. Personally, my own marketing skills are terrible. People are surprised how I hold up my business, especially with the kind of machinery and set up I have. I cannot lie and say I have a four-colour when I just have a single colour machine. I know my limitations. I believe in giving good service to whoever comes to me. This way, you can do business on your own terms. Even now, all my clients give me post-dated cheques.
AL: How do you deal with the canvassers?
RP: We have a 'payment against delivery' term even for our canvassers. This helps me cut down on outstanding considerably. I take Rs. 200 or Rs. 300 from clients whose cheques bounce. After that, we never deal with these clients without cash. Despite that, our outstandings are minimal. Another benefit of this is that I get to leave at 6 pm everyday. Direct clients end up asking for jobs at night or any time of the day. I don't even do quotations myself, apart from checking them. We are trying to market and develop our business through websites.
AL: What about the marketing part?
RP: The drawback of marketing in Thane is that you do most of the work for all the clients there are. Take Cadbury for instance. Three canvassers of mine do work for Cadbury. Going back to them asking for work, is stupid. We also have had trouble with a marketing team that we had hired earlier. Having said that, I agree that marketing is a must.
AL: We hope to hear such viewpoints through this forum.
VS: A person notes down the quantity, say if it is 1,000. Suddenly, the client will call one of the three people he has numbers off, and tell him to print just 900. Quantity or the paper to be used can change as the client changes his mind. If the person doesn't relate this change in quantity, there is a serious communication gap.
AL: We met a label printer, Sandeep Zaveri, the other day, and he told us that he decided one fine morning, not to purchase a single sheet of paper or execute even a smallest possible job without purchase order. Even if it's a Rs 1 job. Since then, says that he can use 95% of his energy on production and marketing, and only 5% on collection.
RP: I have a doubt. So there's a person from a company coming in for a print job to us, and he signs the job card that we make for him. What if you realise after it's too late, that the entire job was bogus? For instance, if the job that was brought to us was for Johnson and Johnson, how does a printer verify the genuineness? Where does our responsibility end?
AL: The sole responsibility lies on the printers. There is even a law that states, while printing a wedding card, it is the printer's responsibility to check whether the groom is of eligible age. If there is some pornographic material printed in your press when you're not physically present, the authorities will tell you to run the press only at times you can be around to supervise. Hence, you have to obtain a 'Keeper of the Press' certificate from the Metropolitan Magistrate.
AL: I want to know, what are the changes you have witnessed in the last ten years? What are the changes you expect to see? And lastly, are you geared up for them?
VS: I'd been to Drupa some 15-20 years ago, I always felt that there was a lot to catch up on. Thane now has digital, four-colour machines, CTP, everything, but not on a very large scale. No one is opposed to change, here. Thane has seen a lot of development in the last ten years, while everyone is eyeing the development that will happen in the next ten years.
RP: There's no harm in painting a picture about the next ten years. Hopefully octroi will be gone in the next ten years and all of us will be happy. Digital will gain prominence. Those who can't manage their finances and costing well will find their units shutting down, since cost is becoming a problem day by day. Quality and service are a given, so you can't afford to go wrong with that. Investments, managing labour, etc will be have to be looked after, too.
SP: Single-colour was Rs. 90 around 7-8 years ago. Even today it is Rs. 90. Xerox / offset was Rs. 40 back then. Even today it is Rs. 40. All overhead costs have increased in those 8 years.
AL: Suppose a couple of printers come together and order the same kind of paper they need, in bulk, do you think it will work in Thane?
RP: No we can't. We are clear on this. Each person has to fight his own battle, which is what we believe in Thane.
AL: There have been umpteen number of times through the years when the effort to fix rates have been made. But the concerned people themselves used to underquote. For instance, the textbook printing rate has gone up to Rs 75 from Rs 14. So things do change. After 10 years, someone comes in and tries to do something. Why is it that this generation doesn't try?
VS: There are small agencies that try to decide rates and come up with rate cards. Then there are arguments and the concerned people end up looking away from each other citing differences. We always plead the MMS or such organisations not to look at the standardisation of rates. Conducting seminars on costing, guiding printers on how to calculate costs, etc. would be great, but trying to get a fixed rate? I don't think that will work.
UD: What rate do you want to fix here? How will you fix the rate for all products that are customised? Are we jewelers that we can go by the fixed priced of 22 carat gold and just change the making charges? So what rate are we talking about here?
VS: What do you suggest?
UD: When we are costing, we begin with designing, plate-making and CTP. Add paper, printing to it. This is the rate we are talking about – Rs. 8, 60, 16, according to what Sangurdekar said. No One considers binding and lamination according to the complexity of the job. What about your salary, AC, the rent, depreciation of machinery, etc. Who is to decide the rate?
AL: What about the makeready cost? No one understood the important of makeready charges that was started in Byculla and Lower Parel. Hence it will never start.
AP: Printers go wrong with costing itself. They need to realise that they are working with losses. They need to be educated about this.
KU: We'll get these same people as workers. With incorrect costing they will have to shut shop.
VS: We can assume, for the sake of argument, that Thane has 300 printers. If two printers out of 10 give a lower rate, then the remaining eight printers will be considered perhaps on the basis of good quality and service. Some of them don't have four-colour and hence can't print good jobs. Their financial positions may not be such that they can get paper on credit. Such people will say that they want to work only on labour. If I'm taking the job at Rs 80, someone else will say Rs 70 or so to take that job. Hence, getting everyone together is difficult. Everyone has to do good work and get good rates.
UD: We should learn from someone who works at lower rates and still grows his business, instead of being jealous. These printers shouldn't be using wrong methods to grow their businesses, though.
VP: When certain people started working at lower rates, we initially thought they wouldn't get very far. But they have grown, which is a good thing.
UD: A printer normally takes up a wide spectrum of jobs, but still carves a niche for himself based on his strong points. Most clients care about that. Rates matter when you pitch for tenders. Also, we can't afford to be afraid of competition that uses wrong means. You shouldn't come down to his level, too.
RP: I give the customer an opportunity to explore the market and see for himself, that my service is very good. Even after that, it is necessary to be on good terms with him. If a party goes away from you without a hurt ego, it will come back to you.
VS: One thing is certain. There has been a growth in the rate. Whatever rate we take up a job in, be it for positive, four-colour, etc, according to Pratap Kamath of Uma Offset, the rate in 2000 has been Rs. 100, and that has stayed till today! Years ago, we used to print on treadle at the rate of Rs. 50. Today, even on the offset machine, we print at the rate of Rs. 50. In the days of treadle, the average salary paid was Rs. 300. So a Rs. 50 rate was marvellous. If the foreseen growth doesn't take place, is this Rs. 100 rate going to continue up to 2013? That means your margin will go down. Each printer cannot invest so much just to increase turnovers, while profit margin keeps getting lower. Some old presses, including offset presses have shut down because of this. Also, if you can't fill up the gap between whatever you have invested in your machines and their depreciation value, sustenance will surely become a problem.
SG: Anand Limaye, I want to discuss the problem of software piracy. Can we ask software companies whether these people are authorised to question us?
AL: The cards and identification these men come with bear the name of a company in a way that it looks like it's a division of the police.
UD: I once asked the police why they don't arrest the people selling software CDs for as less as Rs 50. He said, if you complain about him I'll arrest him.
AL: Uday, although you are not from Thane, many of the printers over here want to know about the way you approach your business? Please give us a summary.
UD: We grew to monochrome digital in 2008. It was a simple Xerox machine, worth around Rs.15-16 lakh. We had print corporate manuals on it. Recently we bought a second monochrome machine and a four-colour digital. I had to begin the digital unit to complement offset. All three machines work for around 20 hours each, despite them being digital. Work automatically began to flow in. I concentrate on the two-colour and four-colour machines and whatever work I can get out of them. I can choose clients now and take up jobs accordingly. Also, I had a good post-press bindery that's coming in handy with all the digital work now. I take up digital orders outside Thane, Mumbai and beyond. Work comes in with word-of-mouth. I don't have a marketing team in place in anything. Just two-three of us seniors market our work alternately. I haven't even seen most of my clients. But if you check the emails I exchange with them, you'd think we were the best of friends. But that's ok, I guess. I get all my files on time via FTP servers, I download them, get precise instructions over email, send proofs across via digital and then the delivery takes place. It's important to read the instructions and interpret them, so much so that we have created the post of 'coordinator', who just absorbs instructions and translates them precisely. Everyone should speak a common language to communication.
We take an advance for large orders, for instance, annual reports. Jobs that are expected and budgeted for. We take a 50-60% of advance for material and substrate, how reputed the company is. We enter into year-long contracts for digital printing with corporates.
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