The commercial print industry is yet to recover – YK Narula

YK Graphics: Supplying consumables to Rajasthan's printing industry

YK Narula, owner at YK Graphics. Photo IPP

YK Narula’s tryst with the printing industry in Rajasthan began in 1986 with his first venture named Printers Emporium. It was not until 2000 that he started YK Graphics to cater to the supply of consumables in the region. Today, Narula’s YK Graphics, which he named after himself, is a known name in Rajasthan’s printing circles – holding the distribution rights for Technova, Huber, Siegwerk, and Pidilite in the state.

I feel Rajasthan has always been behind in terms of printing. However, there has been significant growth in the last 7-10 years,” Narula said during a recent visit by this correspondent to the firm. Even printers who had the machines were unaware of the technologies in the printing field and how they should upgrade themselves, he said. “Our motto has been to help them technically as well as to source consumables used in printing. We aim to provide complete solutions for offset under one roof.”

Servicing offset plates for the newspaper industry

Narula was supplying offset plates for the Italy-based Lastra Niraj before it was bought by Technova in 2008. “By virtue, I came into the Technova business. Initially, I had my share of hiccups but eventually, we proved ourselves and Technova proved itself. They trusted us in the same manner as they trusted their earlier dealer,” he said.

Narula has converted a number of clients for Technova, including Amar Ujala (outside Rajasthan), The Times of India (Rajasthan edition), Dainik Bhaskar, and Rajasthan Patrika. Technova has a beautiful policy – whoever sells a CtP machine has to service the companies in terms of plates. When the whole scenario was changing – people were shifting from white-bound, deepetch and PS plates to digital plates, we sold a number of CtPs in that transition period,” he said.

Narula added, “Eight to 10 years ago, people were interested in buying CtPs. Now, there is stagnation. Now people are shifting – selling off their old machines and buying new ones. Now, the business is mostly coming from tier-II cities. We are selling 5-6 machines in a year.”

Handling the pandemic situation

YK Graphics was operational throughout the Covid lockdown. When the lockdown was clamped, we got permission to open up in two days, he said. “This is a 24×7 industry, especially when you deal with newspapers and packaging houses. Throughout the pandemic, we didn’t have a single holiday and worked as earlier. We were cautious. I was taking care of the staff in terms of hygiene, protection and so many other things. I stood by my staff and they stood by me. There was no layoff. We paid salaries on time throughout. Nobody fell sick and we were able to service our clients.”

Challenges in the dealership industry

Narula shed light on the challenges in dealing with consumables. The first is payment. The dealer fraternity is not united, he explained. “If I am stuck somewhere, another dealer is ready to service that customer. This is unfortunate. After the pandemic, things are only getting worse.”

A dealer is an integral part of the organization to run. For them, day-to-day payments are important for functioning. On the other hand, the attitude of suppliers and manufacturing companies has changed. They are ready to accept only cash payments. It leads to a difficult situation for dealers when payments are delayed and suppliers need to be paid in cash.”

The shift to digital, which mainly happened after the pandemic, is another problem as he pointed out. After Covid, certain segments shifted to digital. The newspaper industry is struggling in terms of circulation. “Newspaper circulation has come down by 25%, which is a direct hit to dealers as less circulation means less consumption of materials.”

The third challenge, Narula said, is the transition to packaging. “In the printing industry, you can see growth in only packaging. In the last 6-8 months, even the book publishing industry has revived but the commercial print industry has not recovered yet. The printers have realized that if they wish to remain in the race, they need to invest and expand, which is a positive sign.”

Books will not stop, given the socio-economic structure of the company, he said. “Newspapers are a challenge but I think they would survive, as they have changed their approach and are reaching out to small towns. But dealers need to upgrade themselves to service the packaging industry,” he said.

For the recovery of the printing industry, Narula suggested publishing houses conduct seminars on offset printing for printers. He suggested creating an atmosphere where people consider printing as a serious career.

Feeding Hands

Since 2018, Narula and his friends have been running an NGO called Feeding Hands to serve underprivileged people. The organization provides 2,000 meals every day.

Narula said, “Running the NGO during the pandemic was a challenge. The kitchen where the food was made was closed. We started making food for 600 people at home every day. With a complete team of volunteers, we started preparing meals at 5.30 in the morning only to finish by 11.30 am. We coordinated with the Rajasthan government and the police to distribute the food in our own vehicles. It was an achievement for us!”

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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