Sanat Shah 1932 – 2023

The gentle builder of precision printing machinery

Shah was known and respected around the world for collaborating with technology suppliers and paying for the rights to manufacture in India

A key contributor to the growth of a vibrant newspaper industry in India passed away on 11 August 2023. The revered manufacturer of precision printing machinery based on legal acquisition and rights to intellectual property, and the builder of Manugraph and its chairman emeritus, passed away at the age of 91. Sanat Shah was known and respected around the world for collaborating with technology suppliers and paying for the rights to manufacture in India. In one instance, he purchased and paid for the technology and drawings of a dampening system that Manugraph subsequently decided not to incorporate in its web offset presses.

Over the years, Manugraph had license agreements with Kovo, Polygraph, Plamag, and Solna and, after the reunification of Germany, with Manroland. The company built letterpresses, mid-web offset presses for book printing and mid-web heatset presses for magazines, and sheetfed offset presses over the years, and even attempted to get into gravure presses in the early 1990s. However, Manugraph’s biggest product was its single-width single circumference web offset presses with built-in autopasters.

For many years, the company dominated the quality end of the Indian newspaper industry and at one point became the leading supplier of single-width newspaper web offset presses in the world. It later built single-width double-circumference presses in collaboration with Manroland and, eventually, developed double-width newspaper presses also that were purchased and installed by several Indian newspapers.

However, these developments came at a time when the global newspaper industry, to which the company was a leading exporter, entered a period of decline. Nevertheless, in recent years Manugraph collaborated with Sieken Japan to build faster double-width newspaper presses. The company has also diversified to flexible packaging CI flexo presses with Carrero of Italy.

As a respected newspaper publisher said to us earlier this week, “The Indian newspaper industry would not be where it is today without Manugraph and its web offset presses. We should also be extremely grateful to him.” The respected engineer Dr VS Narayanan of Dinamalar wrote to us on the morning of Sanat-bhai’s death, “We have lost one of the big pillars of our industry in Sanat bhai. Our sincere condolences to Manugraph and to Sanjay Shah and Pradeep bhai and the entire family.”

Dr Narayanan adds, “Manugraph machines are running in all the newspapers in India. The machines installed by them in 1984 are still producing the best quality on our premises. MIL machines are running in all the leading newspapers in India. They produce web offset machines to international standards. Service and support are commanding and perfect.”

It was an honor to know Sanat bhai and occasionally be asked to carry out some instruction on his behalf. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He foresaw the opportunity in Africa not just for his own company but for the entire Indian manufacturing industry. He hoped that one day the Indian manufacturers would collectively establish a marketing center there. As the sagacious elder statesman of the country’s printing and packaging manufacturers association IPAMA, he sought to help keep it on an even keel and on course. Apart from his assistance and his leadership, he will be missed for his gentle demeanor.

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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