Profile: Ebb and flow of SRK in digital land

Sachin Shardul and Samir Lukka
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Besides enlivening photo printing, SRK Creative creates new digital forms with gusto. Sachin Shardul and Samir Lukka traces its path from a digital photo colour lab to manufacturing albums.

Give me an occasion and I will print you a photo album: says Kalpesh Mehta of SRK Creative.  A short conversation with Mehta and you are convinced about his indomitable spirit and the value that digital photo printing sector holds for him.

On 23 January 2011, SRK added yet another unit to its existing setup of the 40 digital colour labs in Mumbai. The highpoint of SRK’s adventurousness: a three-storey building in Borivali, Mumbai which occupies all of 42,000 sq/ft.

Its commitment to the cause was further vindicated with the installation of an HP Indigo 5500 to service its main business of designing and printing wedding albums. "The trend towards photo books and albums is a major change for the photographic market as it allows users to create theme books and albums and then print as many copies as they desire," adds Mehta.

A demonstration that SRK is on the rise can be noted when one considers that its current consumption of 150,000 cutsheet size paper per month has trebled to 5,00,000.

"Special occasions like wedding come once in a lifetime. A photo album awakens enthusiasm in a person – and the emotions to re-live that occasion. SRK aspires to make the occasion special and guarantee a shelf life of 75 years," says Mehta, eagerly.

Daring to look beyond
In 2009, SRK Creative started its digital printing business in a leased space of 1500 sq/ft at Goregaon in Mumbai. Since Mehta joined the family business, he has introduced changes in production.
The firm grew into the game, thriving in zones others didn’t explore.

For starts, there was the 32-member designing unit at SRK Creative, each with a fully-armed desktop which was powered by requisite software for processing intensive image editing tools. It eliminated tetchiness among the designers and introduced precision.

Today, SRK offers digital print on eight types of substrates. Each sheet of paper is calibrated before it is printed.

"Colour is the most precarious component in print. Maintaining consistency of colour is crucial. It is because of calibrations that a print on photographic paper becomes comparable to the quality of a traditionally developed photograph," says Mehta.

The company emphasises on the finishing of the final product. For this, it has streamlined its offerings with a lay-flat design and UV treatment for its albums.

This means, it can offer step creasing for photos with UV treatment, and step window cutting technique for thermal and BOPP. For the album jackets, it designs and creates leather pads, digital pads and handmade pads.

Mehta is very clear that the creations came through a combination of functionality and uniqueness. "We follow a non-repeat strategy for handmade jackets. Once it has been fabricated for a particular user, it never gets repeated."

SRK underscores the importance of packing albums in a specially designed bag which match the theme of the album.

Mehta is proud that he has created wedding albums for Bollywood celebrities and famous industrialists.
 
Style and technique
Business is booming. The size of a SRK album ranges from 8in x 12in to 20in x 40in for a centre creasing album where the photos are creased at the centre and the final output is half the size of the image.

The average price at SRK is Rs 2,750 for a 50 page album. The company creates 150 new designs of albums, daily.

The software seekers

Mehta feels people in Mumbai are not motivated enough to shoot photographs, walk into a shop, get it printed and collect it. Which is why his outlets besides splattering a host of genres and techniques, ensures ease of access to procure an album.

After all, he says, "this is Mumbai, and in Mumbai nothing sticks around long enough. No matter how good your company or brand is, if you’re not vigilant you can outstay your welcome."

This attitude proves that SRK is aware that in the digital photo printing space in Mumbai there is still a great deal of unconquered territory. Mehta has a new weapon in his armoury.

He says: "To conquer new vistas, we have entered into a partnership with a Dgflick." This global company offers three range of softwares: Photo Xpress, Book Xpress and Design Xpress.

"Through these softwares a user can create an album of his choice with varying templates and sizes based on special themes for all types of occasions. We are selling this software at Rs 5,000. Once the album is designed the user can place an order over the internet and get the album delivered," adds Mehta.

An entire floor in the new building is assigned  for the developing and selling of Dgflick products. "The basic idea is to increase our incoming flow. The more people who use these products, the more the number of increase in print orders."

Apart from this, SRK has 40 computers system dedicated to Kodak Digital Album Pro – Kodak’s album designing software – that comes with features like Adobe’s Photoshop integration, auto album creator wizard – working on site for direct as well as indirect customers.

The personal is digital
Apart from printing of personalised photo album and photo books, SRK Creative produces personalised gift cards, menu cards, calendars, Z folds of products for marketing, personalised cards, invitations, printed cut-outs, dispensers,  table tops, brochures and garment catalogues.

"The foundation of personalised digital business was paved during our visit to Drupa 2008," says Mehta.

SRK does dedicated digital work for its group’s other business ventures in photography and garment industry. Currently, there are 3,000 photo studios and 2,000 garment companies which source their digital printing work at SRK.

"With digital more is always merrier. The more we offer, the more we get back. We aim to take the complete load on ourselves by offering a complete solution for weddings, right from in-house photographers to the  delivery of albums," says Mehta.

The keenness of Mehta’s mind is at work as he chalks out a series of strategies for the future. Meanwhile the motto of SRK story rings loud and clear: If you haven’t already discovered the joys of personalised, digital photo albums, it’s time to start. And 24/7 SRK operations tells you how.



SRK CREATIVE FACTFILE
Founded 2002
Specialty Digital printing of photo albums, personalised gift cards, menu cards, calendars, Z-folds of products for marketing, personalised cards, invitations, printed cut-outs, dispensers, table tops, brochures and garment catalogues
Location 39 outlets in Mumbai and one in Pune
Annual turnover
Rs 30-crore
Equipment 46 printing machines plus 30 machines for finishing. This includes a HP Indigo 5500, Canon C700VP, Canon IPF 9100, two machines from Chromira, 40 machines from Noritsu, a Kisun UV machine, Bacciottini auto creasing machine from Italy which is capable of doing 6,000 sheets per hour, four cutting machines and industrial size machines for centre, wiro and perfect binding.



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