New Komori ups Foil Printers’ revenue in first year

Ambivalence on automation in postpress

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Kamal Chopra with sons Dalip and Sudhir at Foil Printers' unit in Ludhiana

Kamal Chopra, owner of Ludhiana-based Foil Printers, is also the general secretary of the Offset Printers Association in Ludhiana. Headed by him, the press is run by his sons Dalip and Sudhir. Unlike any other printer in Ludhiana, Foil only prints commercial work. The other printers in Ludhiana, according to Chopra, have already migrated to packaging.

“With the new revolution brought about by the internet, commercial printing is shrinking. There is a huge growth in packaging though. Every city has a company completely dedicated to packaging. In Ludhiana, there are many packaging companies and many commercial printing companies that have diversified to packaging. There is no one dedicated commercial print setup except for ours,” Chopra says.

Commercial print more profitable compared to packaging

Talking about Ludhiana, Chopra feels the market is suitable for commercial print. He thinks that there is an overcapacity in packaging in Ludhiana but in the case of commercial print, due to the lack of players in the market who are completely dedicated to this segment, Foil has apparently managed to gain a dominant market share.

“We really do not have any competitor in this city. All the players who have a setup comparable to ours are doing packaging work. Printing is a minuscule part of their business. We have a dedicated setup for commercial as well as digital work. We have planned our investments well and have a mix of brand new and second-hand machines to cater to our customers’ requirements,” Chopra adds.

Komori Enthrone 429 press

Last year, Foil purchased a brand new Komori Enthrone 429 press that was installed in July. Before Foil purchased its new Komori press, its annual turnover of close to Rs 3 crores increased to Rs 4.5 crores after the press was installed last year. Apart from the brand new Komori, the company runs a second-hand Heidelberg 5-color plus coater. Foil supplies to the books and stationery segment where Chopra says lamination is not needed. Nevertheless, there is a rarely used offline coater from Autoprint.

For postpress and finishing, the company has two folders, three guillotines, two saddle-stitchers and one section-sewing machine. Most of these are semi-automatic while a couple of the machines are fully automatic.

Automation in postpress – a debatable choice

While most printers are adding postpress automation, Chopra says contrarily that in a heavily populated country such as India, automation isn’t needed. He says that instead of automation, more workforce can be absorbed by this process to generate employment. Nevertheless, he agrees that in order to achieve better accuracy and to increase productivity, automation is handy for any printing unit.

“I agree that it is very important to adopt automation. It is important to get a continuous supply which can be ensured through automation; with that comes quality production. In most of the cases one must have observed that in order to be associated with an MNC, one has to have automation. Companies, especially MNCs, do not compromise on quality and hence they refrain from approaching companies who do not have an automated setup. But I must say India is not fit for automation as companies have the responsibility of providing employment to a huge population. The labor cost is cheap as well. An automated machine will come at a much higher capex.

“I say, instead of commercial printing companies adopting automation individually in their own companies, all the commercial print units should together invest in setting up an automation unit that will be accessible for all the Ludhiana printers. Let us consider a situation wherein automation in postpress is not required for a company since the print quantity is small. In that case, even if a company invests in automatic machines for achieving better productivity, it will incur losses for investing a huge amount on the automated setup. That is where a centralized automation unit that is accessible to all comes handy. It is a more feasible solution as well,” says Chopra.

On the state of commercial printing in the city, he says it is on the decline. According to him, it is the printers who have spoiled the market for selfish reasons. “With the unorganized growth of industry, the margins got squeezed. Nobody kept a tab on the rates. And those who tried to, suffered huge losses. I don’t think we can complain as it is those amongst us who started it all,” Chopra says.

Foil’s digital capacity

Foil noticed the rise in short run print demand early, and invested in two Ricoh presses including a monochrome press and a Konica Minolta color production press. “Printing can never die. It can only transform from one form to the other. Just like we’re observing today, there is a shift from commercial to digital. If one plans his investments cleverly, printing can never be a loss-stricken business,” Chopra 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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– Naresh Khanna

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