Slowly entering monocartons as the state brings back print volumes

Led by quality – Anaswara Offset in Elamakkara, Kochi

Top to bottom: Anoop Venugopalan, Varun Thomas and Arun Thomas of Anaswara Offset
Top to bottom: Anoop Venugopalan, Varun Thomas and Arun Thomas of Anaswara Offset

Established in the year 1982, Perandoor, Kochi based Anaswara Offset is a multi-award winning organization and one of the top printing presses in South India. Helmed by founding directors O Venugopal, VA Mathew and PJ Thomas, who hold extensive experience in the newspaper industry, the company offers complete print packages right from concept stage up to the final product.

Anaswara’s director board is further reinforced with the appointment of Anoop Venugopalan as technical director, Varun Thomas, director and Arun Thomas as marketing director, who represent the second generation of owners in the company.

Giving us a brief about the company’s history, Anoop Venugopalan says, “Anaswara came into being in July 1982. The company started off with hand combossing and letterpress, and was the first to introduce lino-type for faster and sharper texts. Right from day one, we have been focusing on quality and that has been our pillar for growth. We started very organically – from treadle to cylinders and then lino-type setting. The company grew over the years, adding a single-color offset press and a 2-color machine in the 1990s. Our major breakthrough came with Heidelberg in 2001, when we became the first printer in Kerala to introduce the 4-color Heidelberg with CPC. There has been no looking back ever since. People today associate Anaswara with high-quality printing, job perfection and speedy delivery. We are catering to some of the best names in the industry – right from commercial customers, advertising agencies, corporate and even wedding planners. We also do a bit of exports in terms of books and brochures.”

In 2006, Anaswara became the first printer in Kerala to introduce aqueous coating with the Heidelberg SM-74, which is still running in good condition at the company’s unit. “Not only that, almost all speciality papers were introduced by us in the Kerala market, which again gave us an edge over other printers,” shares Anoop.

Considered one of South India’s premier printing houses, Anaswara Offset has scores of awards to its credit – all owing to its dedication to technologically advanced, accurate printing and its unstinted loyalty towards its customer base. “In our 37 years of history, we have won 185 national and international awards,” shares a beaming Anoop. The company first received national recognition in 1994, with the national awards instituted by All India Federation of Master Printers (AIFMP). The SAARC award in 2000 further sealed Anaswara’s place among quality international players. “We are among the top 10 quality printers in India today, having accorded with 6 Asian Print Awards so far,” Anoop adds.

Around two years ago, the management at Anaswara decided to venture into the packaging space as a vertical where they saw immense growth. “Commercial printing has been struggling a bit and the growth has also not been consistent in Kerala. The state thrives mainly on tourism and is a service-based economy predominantly. Literacy rates are higher, which demand good publication overall. Manufacturing is limited in Kerala but for whatever small manufacturing here in Kerala, the packaging materials are coming from outside. We wanted to organically fill that void with our mono carton packaging plant. So, that’s why we thought of entering the packaging segment, with a refurbished Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 102 5-color plus coater, which we installed a year-and-a-half back. This will help us in both commercial and packaging jobs. We believe this horizontal diversification into packaging will help for the common cause of the industry as well. We want the industry to grow rather than just us. Going ahead, we plan to add more machines for value-add as and when we start receiving good orders,” comments Anoop.

With about a 100-member staff, Anaswara has best-in-class machinery in its prepress, press and postpress units. In its prepress section, Anaswara has Heidelberg and Screen 8up CtP machines supported by high-end servers and systems for fast turnaround and it uses Adobe’s Creative Suite Deluxe, Corel Draw, Quark Xpress and various auxilliary software, FTP server facility and modern quality control equipment and measuring instruments. The pressroom has three Heidelberg CPC 4/5-color machines with inline coating, a state-of-the-art Shinohara multicolor press with CPC, HMT single- and double-demy machines.

In the postpress section, Anaswara has programmable cutting machines from Perfecta, Horizon and Iotec, a 3-knife trimmer from Perfecta and thermal and cold lamination machines. In addition, it has folders and perfect binders from Horizon. It also has other postpress equipment from JMD, Megabound, a Rosback saddle stitcher and hard case binding and casing-in machines. It has die-cutting machines from Heidelberg, scoring and creasing, UV, foiling and embossing, shrink wrapping, pasting and stitching machines.
Talking about the current state of the printing industry, Anoop says that the sector was severely affected due to the recent floods in August 2018, and business volumes came down drastically. “It has been almost ten months now and some of the machines in various printing presses are still getting repaired. Smaller print shops have completely shut down. Thankfully, we were not affected by the disaster; nevertheless, the floods have been a major setback for the whole industry. They were also a big eye-opener for the industry and taught us one lesson: anything can happen overnight. We need to be well-prepared in advance – one way could be having a good insurance policy for all your machinery. The Kerala Master Printers’ Association also did whatever they could to help the affected businesses,” he says.

Anoop, however, feels that the customers should also help printers to overcome this phase. Post floods many print jobs have gone to neighboring states, thus affecting the printing business in Kerala. Anoop wants Kerala printers to stand together as a community and ensure they bring back the print volumes.

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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