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.

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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