Founded in the year 1923, Mathrubhumi is one of the front-runners among Malayalam dailies in Kerala. The newspaper group was founded by visionaries like KP Kesava Menon, K Madhavan Nair and K Kelappan, who were in the forefront of India’s struggle for freedom from British supremacy. Today, the group brings out 10 local editions from Kerala apart from editions from Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and New Delhi. It is also among the elite Indian news dailies that belong to the exclusive ‘1 Million Club’ of newspapers in terms of circulation.
Work at Mathrubhumi’s brand new Kozhikode plant in Ramanattukara, spread across 120,000 square feet (on approximately 7 acres of land), started two years back and was expected to be operational by the end of 2018. However, things got delayed due to various reasons including the massive floods that hit Kerala in August last year.
“The plant is now expected to be operational by July this year,” says Mathubhumi’s general manager – Production and Maintenance, Bhasi PT. At the new plant, the company has already installed a brand new TKS Color Top 5000UDI web offset 4 x1 newspaper press and a TKS HB-5000ED heat set web offset press. Both presses were undergoing their trials runs during our visit in the second half of June and should be in production in the first week of July.
Mathrubhumi’s association with TKS goes back to the year 2011, when it helped the Japanese brand expand into the Indian market by finalizing three 4 x1 newspaper presses – one each for Mathrubhumi’s Trivandrum, Kochi and Kannur plants. Eventually, two more newspaper presses were ordered, with the fourth TKS press installed in Palakkad in mid-2018 while the fifth TKS newspaper press has come to new plant in Kozhikode.
The HB-5000ED at Kozhikode is a shaftless heatset web offset press with the delivery conveyor connected to a state-of-the-art Ciemme logstacker. The press is equipped with a proven drive system which has been used extensively in TKS newspaper web offset printing presses. The Ecodrive motor, controlled by the TKS Super Drive System, enables significant reduction of shafts, gears, clutches and bearings. The results are faster make-ready and reduced power consumption, paper waste and running costs. The heatset presses with four blanket to blanket printing units are followed by a gas drying oven with after-burner and then a 4-roll chiller system, a silicone applicator and 546-mm cut-off folder. The heatset press for printing Mathrubhumi’s color supplements and magazines produces high saturation color on glazed newsprint and high brightness substrates at 48,000 impressions an hour.
The Color Top 5000UDI is a shaftless 4 x1 newspaper press with four 4-Hi towers and 2:3:3 jaw twin folders with a 546 mm cut-off. It has a maximum printing speed of 75,000 cph and can produce 32 pages, in full process color. The auto splicers are rock steady not requiring any change in speed or slowing down while splicing, which is vital for enhancing throughput and obtaining consistency in quality. The press is integrated with a Ferag mailroom system.
“In fact, all our presses are integrated with Ferag mailroom equipment. Ours was the biggest single order for Ferag where we booked 12 lines in one go in early 2011. Ferag is a world leader in newspaper mailroom systems. The conveyor grippers ensure smudge-free transport of print products. We have Multisert drums from Ferag on all our lines and the Multisert MSD-2C on our TKS machines. The lines generally run in 2:1 mode at higher speeds, which means that each gripper picks up two copies and in the same way the 2C drum inserters also insert into two copies at a time simultaneously. So, when I say investments, they are happening at regular intervals but the implementation is done in a phased manner over the years,” says Bhasi.
The Ferag drum inserters allow Mathrubhumi to optimize the use of their web offset presses especially during peak seasons. Additional pages can be printed earlier and inserted in the night along with the printing of the main section.
In terms of other investments, around two years back, Mathrubhumi placed an order for 20 CtPs from Krause. For its magazine division, two Primera MC bindery lines from Muller Martini are already installed at the Ramanattukara plant and trial runs are over for one while trials for the second one will be over by the end of June.
The company also plans to commission a waste management system from Hunkeler, which will be installed soon at the new plant. Mathrubhumi also has several machines at its existing plant in Kozhikode, which it plans to shift to the new plant and then to convert the old plant into an administrative office. “We have two heatset presses from Manugraph running at our old plant in the main city, which we plan to bring to the new plant in case there is a surge in demand for printing jobs. These machines each run at 20,000 to 22,000 copies an hour but since they are quite old, there are some technical glitches that we face often. Going ahead we plan to knock off the defects from each of the old machines, combine the print units with superior functionalities to make a well-performing machine and bring it to the new plant,” says Bhasi.
While Mathrubhumi also has a website where it delivers content on a subscription-based model, Bhasi says it is print which still contributes to the major portion of revenue for the company. “Online is making good money but print can never go out of business. It has never been a loss-making venture. We have made profits though the margins may have been slightly low at times. However, I must say that in the last two years, the rate of growth has not been too good for regional newspapers all over the country, exceptions being big cities in the North. This has definitely reflected on us as well, especially after the floods, but we are coming up and the signs are good in the print market now,” shares Bhasi.
Plans for a 5-color sheetfed press
Asked if Mathrubhumi is looking to invest in any additional commercial printing equipment, Bhasi says they are on the lookout for a brand new sheetfed press – preferably a 5-color double demy press – and have also looked at a few machines. “We have looked at many machines from leading press manufacturers but haven’t yet finalized anything. At one point in time we were even considering investing in a second-hand press but given the kind of setup we have developed for this new plant, a second-hand press may not be the right choice in terms of cost-effectiveness. It could be a brand new one and it will be installed in this financial year itself. In addition to this, we have requirements for certain auxiliary systems that we will look at this year. There is, however, one big installation that we plan to make – that of a fully automatic gathering with perfect binding. We have also a dedicated place at the new plant reserved for a Panthera-like configuration with 28-32 feeding stations,” Bhasi says.
With the commissioning of the new plant in Kozhikode and the new TKS presses, Ferag mailroom and Muller Martini bindery installations, Bhasi says, the company wants to be ready for any kind of job that the market demands.
Mathrubhumi group publications
From its print division Mathrubhumi publishes Mathrubhumi Weekly, which is a crucible nurturing generations of writers, Mathrubhumi Onam Special and Annual, which feature the best in Malayalam literature, Grihalakshmi, Chithrabhumi, Mathrubhumi Thozhilvartha, Mathrubhumi Sportsmasika, Balabhumi, Mathrubhumi Arogyamasika, Mathrubhumi Year Book, Mathrubhumi Yathra, Minnaminni, Star & Style and Cartoon Plus.
Mathrubhumi works on the ATEX editorial system, which has digital channel capabilities and is used for composing and making some classified pages. The rest of the pages are made in Adobe InDesign. In terms of circulation, the group sells approximately 15 lakh (1.5 million) copies daily. Mathrubhumi also has web presence (www.mathrubhumi.com), which was started a year ago and is growing rapidly with a growing online news subscriber base for its ePaper and magazines.