For the longest time, printing in India was mostly about plying the domestic market, where quality production was not the crucial factor for the low-income masses. But that has changed in the last 10 years.
For one thing, Indian consumers are becoming more discerning and willing to pay for quality. At the same time, the present crop of printing equipment and technology is such that the quality delivered is exceptionally high, even without the help of highly skilled workers. And when that is the case, why should printers limit themselves to just the domestic market when they can have the global stage as their playing field?
Inadvertently, the effect of a booming publishing BPO marketplace has trickled down to the printing industry. For most publishers outsourcing their content management services to India, the question increasingly asked is this: Why should the print-ready files travel back to the U.S. or Europe when they can go directly to a local printer and perhaps have the content services provider coordinate their printing as well? It's a natural solution to publishers who are buffeted by ever-shorter time-to-market, downward price pressure and an increasing need for production efficiencies to minimize cost and maximize manpower. PW reviews five printing companies known for their export expertise—or more, as in the case of Thomson Press and Repro—to provide you with a truly A-to-Z work flow.
Pragati Offset (pragati.com)
It's raining awards again at family-owned Pragati: it bagged the 2005 Best Printer in India award with a total of 27 prizes. It was also named SAPPI Trading Printer 2004 and has consistently won at the Asian Printer of the Year competitions. So it isn't surprising to see Pragati—which means "progress" in Sanskrit—going after the illustrated coffee-table book, art book and catalogue segment. It definitely has plenty of high-end projects to show. Take for example the 184-page Ladakh tritone coffee-table book, which uses 20-micron screening with seven-color printing on cloth and butter paper. Or the 240-page Sahyadris: India's Western Ghats from a first-time American author/photographer with spot UV and foil stamping on its cover. Says CEO Narendra Paruchuri, "It was an exacting production, as the author wanted crystal-clear and accurate color reproduction on all the images in the book. But our efforts paid off when he held the finished product and commented that it was a dream realized." Corporate title Omega Watches was another challenge in that the goal was to match its previous edition, which was printed in Switzerland, and turn the project around within 60 hours.
At Pragati's 50,000-square-foot Hyderabad facility, its six presses are supported by an Esko-Graphics Highline 343-lpi and Monet FM/stochastic screening work flow with complete binding lines (including fuse binding for calendars). About 55% of its projects are in full color and another 30% in the four-color-plus category. Known for many firsts in the Indian printing industry, Pragati was the first to introduce phototypesetting in 1979 before desktop publishing was on the horizon, the first to install a computer-controlled printing press as well as the first to install CIP3-compliant presses and high-end CtP systems.
"We are already working with some major museums and art galleries within India and abroad, and we intend to aggressively pursue this particular market segment." First-time authors wanting to publish their magnum opus are fair game as well. "What is holding these first-time authors back is the cost factor. If Pragati can provide a reasonably priced platform for them to realize their dream—have their works printed—then we have a huge market out there, especially when self-publishing is so prevalent nowadays."
Print House (printhouseindia.com)
Operating out of two production facilities, Mumbai-based Print House, which was established by two brothers in 1987, now has 300 staff, 12 sheet-fed Heidelberg Speedmaster presses and four web presses. Commercial projects currently take up 85% of its capacity. A one-stop shop, it also offers digital printing for monochrome and full-color jobs as well as letter-shopping services. Its two CtP systems—Dainippon Screen and Creo with a Harlequin RIP work flow—process about 90% of its projects. "We have just commissioned our second plant with the intention of focusing on the publishing and financial printing segments," says business development v-p Rajnish G. Shirsat. Export sales have just taken off for Shirsat, and they look very promising. Its book and book-related projects have grown significantly over the years, accounting for 30% of the total projects. "We are targeting segments in which we have a proven track record and relevant expertise, such as educational books, magazines and marketing collaterals requiring full-color or even six-color printing. We are also looking at high-end products with a short turnaround time."
Shirsat's team recently printed 30,000 copies of an 84-page full-color catalog with UV varnish within seven days. "It was the client's first printing project in India, and they were very happy with the results and the 30% savings on their production costs. Another project—a two-book volume of 92 pages each—was also completed within a week and the full 5,000-copy run was shipped to New Zealand and Africa." For clients requiring help with their inventory, the company offers warehousing and logistical support for flexible on-demand delivery or shipping to multiple destinations.
Repro India (reproindialtd.com)
Liaising through its Philadelphia and London offices, as well as three more in Africa set up specifically for World Bank projects, Repro exported over 19 million books last year. Its overseas business, which started in 2003, now accounts for one-third of its overall sales, and the abundance of children's titles points to its forte. "Somehow, we have developed specific expertise in the creation and production of children's titles. We're certified for brands such as Hasbro and Mattel, and we are undergoing a Disney audit," says chairman Vinod Vohra. Developing new products tailor-made to clients' requirements is another of Repro's strengths. "For one American client, we work with its team to relaunch some backlist titles by enhancing the content—from black and white to full color—and reformatting them into multimedia. We add value to its titles and develop them at a fraction of the cost it would have paid back in the U.S." Such projects go through the Repro-CQ Solution (CQ stands for Creative Quotient), which is essentially its content services division.
"Another example: we have this U.K.— based client who wanted to launch a big sudoku program and needed to produce the titles at a particular price point on a short turnaround time. So we worked out an annual estimate on the quantity and stocked up on paper to get better pricing from the mill and to reduce delivery time. Within a span of six months, we delivered over a million copies to him, at the price and time he needed them." Fast turnaround is, of course, in Repro's favor, as its facility is conveniently located in the port city of Mumbai. "We went public last December, and our IPO proceeds are being deployed toward the expansion of our existing 150,000-square-foot purpose-built facility as well as in setting up a new factory in the Special Economic Zone."
Silverpoint Press (silverpointindia.com)
Its shelves of trophies and medals from various printing shows, especially the two gleaming golds from the recent Asian Print Awards, are hard to miss. And looking through 128-page corporate coffee-table book Fifty Years of Rose is a tour of Silverpoint's high-end printing expertise. "It was printed in six-color with satin aqueous coating to give it the extra sheen best for showcasing jewelry. Translucent pages in between the signatures and spot UV on images were also added. The company logo, which appeared on multiple pages, was also silver-foiled. It took us 20 days to complete the printing, as special care in making sure the special colors and secondary processes had adequate time to set in was absolutely critical," says executive director Shabbir Muchhala. Another title, Royal Enfield: The Legend Rides On, a 132-page coffee-table book was a challenge from start to finish. "First of all, there were many archival photographs requiring retouching as well as precise color reproduction. Then there was the short turnaround time of 15 days in which the copies must be printed, bound and sent off to the U.K."
Silverpoint's high-end printing expertise can be attributed to its familiarity with quality-driven corporate collaterals, which account for over 40% of its total sales. "Another 30% of our sales come from hardcase publications and the rest from magazines," says Muchhala. "We have the expertise accumulated from 30 years of servicing quality-conscious corporate clients, commercial photographers, artists and up-market local publishing houses. Now we want to replicate the same service on a global level. For a start, we are targeting clients demanding high print quality but not necessarily running high volumes."
Thomson Press (thomsonpress.com)
The largest printer in town, Thomson Press—part of the India Today Group—has been in the business for nearly four decades. "Last year, export sales accounted for 30% of our total revenue of $30.34 million. Of this, 60% came from the U.K., 25% from North America and the rest from Continental Europe and Australia," says executive director Vinod Kumar. The ISO-certified company currently has five production units in Delhi and one in Chennai, with sales offices in New York, London and Melbourne.
Its product range covers virtually all segments—from stationery items to paperbacks, Bible/lightweight titles as well as high-end casebound art/coffee-table books—of varying print runs and complexity. In the first four months of 2006, it exported over three million diaries and one million calendars. Overall, 70% of the projects are in multicolor and 90% on digital work flow. On a daily basis, Thomson Press is capable of handling 45,000 hardcase copies, 60,000 perfect-bound copies and 300,000 saddle-stitched copies. "Our present capacity and machinery lineup can print as low as 500 copies to as high as 50 million copies of a title. But that's not enough. We have ventured into print-on-demand where the print run can be just a single copy or a few copies with variable data. In today's fast-moving world and ever-shorter project turnaround time, conventional work flow is at times inappropriate. With POD, we circumvent that timeline issue and have the final product ready within hours."
Kumar has also put in considerable investment into expanding the company's lightweight printing segment. "With the new batch of equipment, we'll be able to offer a variety of cover materials ranging from bonded leather to real leather, PVC as well as PU [polyurethane] material, which has become increasingly popular these days. We have also doubled our capacity for edge-gilding in gold and silver." Meanwhile, a new printing facility in Mumbai that will cater mostly to export sales is nearing completion. "It makes perfect sense to have the new facility in the port city—and the business hub—of India; shorter transportation time to the docks is definite. The facility will be ready for production by May." An expansion of the Chennai plant is also in the cards, focusing on automation of the post-binding, packing and mailing operations.