Book printer Quarterfold Printabilities embarks on major investment drive

Making a mark in the African market


Navi Mumbai-based Quarterfold Printabilities has successfully managed to get a significant foothold in the African educational books market in the short span of five years. Most of the educational books that it prints are exported to Africa, primarily Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The company has One Star Export House status, which it got in 2015.

Quarterfold Printabilities was founded in 2014 and, under the young CEO Nilesh Dhankani, has seen rapid growth during these years and now clocks a turnover of over Rs 100 crore. Quarterfold’s printing and post-printing operations take place at three units – two at Taloja in Navi Mumbai and one at Bhiwandi. Printing work happens at the Bhiwandi unit and one of the units at Taloja. The other Taloja unit, which has been recently leased, is used only for post-printing work.

Stepping up investment

Quarterfold embarked on a major capital expenditure drive during 2018-2019 financial year with installation of five printing machines. The company invested in four Orient web offset presses and one Komori sheet-fed press in the previous year. With this, it now has in total seven Orient web offset presses, four at Taloja and three at Bhiwandi. It also has two sheet-fed presses, one from Komori, which was commissioned in March, and one from Heidelberg.

“We have seen a healthy annual growth rate in the past five years and we felt it was time for a new round of investment in our printing and post-printing capabilities. That is why we went for this big round of investment. There are a few other post-printing machines that we ordered in the last financial year and they are on the way as well,” says Pijamo Ngullie, head of international marketing at Quarterfold.

In terms of the quantity of books printed, Quarterfold prints about 35 lakh books in a month but during the peak season, which runs from February to June, the company has sometimes printed as many as 60 lakh books in a month. Before the new presses were commissioned, the company would get a large chunk of the books printed from third-party printers. Now with the bigger print capacity, it handles these volumes in-house to a great extent.

With such huge print volumes, wastage is an issue and therefore a big focus is on automation. For its post-printing section, in the next few months, the company will commission a brand new Kolbus perfect binding machine and a Muller Martini center-pinning machine. The company is currently using multiple binding machines from Welbound.

“We are focusing on increasing automation in our post-printing operations by opting for solutions from Kolbus and Muller Martini. These will help us in reducing wastage and take care of labor costs too,” Ngullie argues.

Future clearly planned out

Having established a solid presence in the African continent, the plan is now to expand in the Indian market; another high growth area when it comes to educational books.

“At present most of our business comes from the export market. However, we are now paying a lot of attention to the domestic market as well. A domestic marketing division was established in October last year and about Rs 6 crore of business is now generated from the Indian market. We want to take this higher,” says Ngullie.

So, in the coming years, Quarterfold will not only consolidate its business in Africa but will also aggressively expand in India.

“We see major growth potential in the Indian and African market when it comes to printing educational books. A few years ago, the industry was trying to figure out if eBooks will have any impact on demand for physical books. But that threat has not really materialized in any significant way. We do not see any let up in demand for physical educational books for at least a decade. We are in fact striving to get the Two Star Export House status as soon as possible,” Ngullie argues.

Print on demand

Although primary focus in the Indian market for Quarterfold will be on educational books, the company is also eyeing the burgeoning print-on-demand (POD) market here too. The company already takes orders for POD books but they are not processed in-house; instead, they are outsourced to third-party digital printers. Quarterfold now wants to handle this department in-house.

“In addition to the Indian educational books we are also very optimistic about the POD market in India. We see good demand for products such as paperbacks. That is why we are now very seriously looking at it,” says Ngullie.

Quarterfold will bring in a digital printing machine and set a fully-fledged finishing unit at the Taloja unit that is at present being only used for post-printing work. “We will begin establishing an in-house POD department once the monsoon season is over around August-September,” Ngullie concludes.

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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