AIFMP builder Viren Chhabra 1927 – 2017

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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.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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