AIFMP builder Viren Chhabra 1927 – 2017

AIFMP builder Viren Chhabra 1927 - 2017

Viren Chhabra, the veteran print industry leader who worked for many years in The Statesman’s printing department and as publisher, passed away on the morning of 14 September. Chhabra was the key builder, president, international goodwill ambassador and the permanent guide of the All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP). The founding editor of the association’s magazine Printing Times, Chhabra was instrumental in organizing the Intergraph World Print Congress in Delhi. In addition, he was the first managing director of the US-based print equipment manufacturers association known as NPES in India.

Chhabra worked at The Statesman for 42 years, starting out in 1951 after completing a technical diploma course at the London School of Printing from 1948 to 1950. The former general manager and publisher of The Statesman was responsible for modernizing the processing and printing departments. The paper’s excellence in letterpress block making had earlier brought great and early appreciation and recognition to the paper’s news photographers including Raghu Rai.

Chhabra had been ill recent years but continued to receive visitors from whom he would enquire about the industry and new developments in print. He also took the trouble to attend several important functions, although he had to come in a wheelchair. As newspaper publisher and AIFMP president Kamal Chopra said, “Viren Chhabra has contributed immensely to the printing industry. His contribution to AIFMP has been exemplary.”

At the recent General Council meeting of the AIFMP held in Udaipur on 24-25 June 2017, Chopra announced the institution of the Viren Chhabra Print Leadership Award to honor Chhabra’s contribution and leadership on behalf of the Indian print industry. The award will carry a citation, a shawl and Rs. 1 lakh. The Chhabra family has contributed Rs. 7 lakh to the AIFMP for setting up the award. Thus far, and in very short time, the AIFMP has raised contributions totalling Rs. 18 lakhs towards the award corpus. Donors include Vijay Chopra, the Offset Printers Association based in Ludhiana, the Kerala Master Printers Association, TechNova Imaging Systems, Arvind Mardikar, the Karnataka Offset Printers Association, AMSG Ashokan and the Graphic Imaging and Processing Association based in Delhi.

At a function instituting the award in honor of Chabbra’s contribution to the Indian print industry, his wife Rami Chhabra said, “I would like to thank AIFMP and especially Kamal Chopra for his remarkable initiative and leadership in launching the Viren Chhabra Print Leadership Award.” Ashvin Chhabra, Viren Chhabra’s son, also expressed his gratitude to the AIFMP and Chopra for the pioneering efforts in establishing an award in honor of his father.

Naresh Khanna adds, “I knew Viren Chabbra since 1976 and always marveled at his ability to keep the diverse associations of the Federation together. He brought dignity and respect to the printers with his self-belief and with his outward looking talent for projecting our industry on international platforms. I also believe that Viren’s wife Rammi Chabbra, a feminist and activist in her own right, brought great strength and perspective to his industry work. She together with their daughter also looked after him in recent years with what can only be called an amazing grace.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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