Rajhans plans greenfield newspaper print plant in Hyderabad

A Ravindranath, A Balachandra, AR Ashwath and AB Akash, partners of Rajhans Enterprises. Photo Rajhans.
A Ravindranath, A Balachandra, AR Ashwath and AB Akash, partners of Rajhans Enterprises. Photo Rajhans.

The Bengaluru-headquartered Rajhans Enterprises group is diversified in newspaper contract printing, commercial and book printing, board packaging as well as flexible packaging with a greenfield plant in Bidadi, an hour away from Bengaluru. The 35-year-old family owned company, in which the next generation have joined as partners and taken responsibility, is still nevertheless managed and run by brothers A Ravindranath and A Balachandra. Of the two next generation partners, AR Aswath looks after the offset print segments while AB Akash looks after the flexible packaging operation. Notably, Balakrishnan still manages the purchase of all materials—a responsibility to which he quite openly attaches great importance although he has a benign policy of loyalty to reliable and competitive suppliers.

Rajhans’ offset operations in Bengaluru produce commercial print such as calendars, product brochures, catalogs and collateral as well as technical journals and books apart from complete monocarton production, including finishing and covering. These operations take up several lakh square feet in eight units in the Rajaji Nagar Industrial area. While the prepress units have the latest Kodak software driving Kodak thermal CtP devices, the pressroom contains eight multicolor sheetfed offset presses from Heidelberg, Mitsubishi, and Roland apart from the two pairs of Komori heatset presses with 578 and 546 mm cutoffs. The sheetfed offset presses include a Heidelberg XL75 6-color plus coater full UV press that can be used for commercial as well as carton printing.

While the new and comprehensive high technology plant in Bidadi has been quite quickly established over the past two years as a major supplier of flexible packaging, it is not as if Rajhans is not still expanding its commercial print and contract printing of periodicals. (We will be covering the Bidadi flexible packaging facility in the June issue of our monthly Packaging South Asia.) While the three dozen magazines that it now produces on its four Komori heatset commercial presses are down from almost five dozen, the contract printing business for daily newspapers continues to grow.

Local daily printed at Rajhans Enterprises, Bengaluru. Photo IPP
Local daily printed at Rajhans Enterprises, Bengaluru. Photo IPP

While major national and regional multi-edition newspaper groups are increasingly opting not to invest in new presses since their circulation growth figures do not justify the capital and day-to-day costs, Rajhans, which publishes eight national newspapers and more than a dozen local dailies, is able to invest since it is not dependent on any one newspaper. The company is also able to increase its press configurations for producing large editions with full color at its newspaper printing plants in Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Madurai, and Devangere. Rajhans is currently working on a significant investment in brand new newspaper presses for a new plant in Hyderabad.

Contract printing of newspapers continues to grow across India since it is no longer feasible to install a new press configuration capable of printing a large broadsheet edition in full color—at least for editions less than 1,00,000 copies. Some of the national and regional dailies have even larger editions that they would prefer to give to contract printers. Rajhans for one sees this as a good business with reliable cashflow that apart from the capex and service expertise does not require extraordinary working capital or lead times for payment recovery. One can expect to see the new plant in Hyderabad producing broadsheet color editions for major dailies by the end of 2018.

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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