Arun Mehta of Vakil and Sons passes away on 7 July 2022

A quiet and humble printer – doer, giver, leader

Arun Mehta
Arun Mehta of Vakil and Sons. Photo: Vakil and Sons

Arun Mehta, born in September 1933, passed away on 7 July 2022 in Mumbai. Mehta is fondly remembered by the entire printing industry as a doer in the family printing and publishing business and as an industry builder. Together with his uncle GU Mehta, he was one of the key early members of the Bombay Master Printers Association and the All India Federation of Master Printers in the early sixties. He was, at times, reluctantly thrust into leadership roles of the industry associations – the BMPA and then the AIFMP, for which he thought he was too young and inexperienced.

Those who had the good fortune to know Mehta have many excellent stories about him and his family legacy. Amongst his major contributions to the Indian print industry was the conception of the Pamex printing equipment and technology exhibition which he envisioned as taking place around the country. Without knowing where he could hold it in Bombay, he undertook to bring the event to the city and convinced the Nehru Centre to hold it there, together with an amazing technical conference fully supported by his colleagues.

Arun Mehta was the first and for many years, practically the only Indian printer who saw the importance of investing in research about the widespread and diverse Indian printing industry, inducing the BMPA to invest in two research surveys. Although he saw the importance of this work requiring continuous updating, he was unable to renew it after the second survey and said, “It died a natural death.”

Another of Arun Mehta’s legacies was his encouragement of art, ideas, and culture, which is part and parcel of the traditions of Vakils as a printer and publisher. This tradition continues and is embodied by his wife Sudha and children Bimal Mehta and Sangeeta Bhansali. What better legacy than to have a family that believes in tolerance, straight-forward business, and the ideals of nation-building

And to leave a liberally educated next generation – able to understand technology to evolve the print and publishing businesses – and contribute to industry and society. All this – quietly, humbly, like Arun Mehta.

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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