Wedding cards earn permanency

Among the various invitation cards in use, wedding cards are most popular, lending its permanency of existence."Once in life-time cards” as they are - have their own demands in designing, value additions and as a package too. As a business, it is handled differently by different entrepreneurs. D Ramalingam from P&P met three such entrepreneurs in Chennai- one seeing it as a thorough business, another feels destined to practice it with passion and the third taking it in his stride as one in his myriad product mix. Excerpts. Wedding invites can never go out of vogue. They are a part and parcel of every wedding. Even in this digital era, the printed wedding cards have maintained their position. A lot of innovation has happened in this segment, leaving recipients spellbind with appreciation.

Olympic Cards

Olympic Cards Limited, the mother of wedding invites in South India, is now run by Noor Mohamed and his two sons Mohamed Faizal (MBA) and Mohamed Iqbal (BE Mechanical). Noor Mohamed is CMD while Faizal looks after marketing and Iqbal takes care of production. Olympic group has widened into four areas of operations - paper and stationery stores, paper products, plastic products and wedding cards. Iqbal established their factory in Vysarpadi, some

7 km from their headquarters in George Town area, (from where British Empire started its roots in India). An enthusiastic lad, he says with some reluctance, “Our cards business, though jumped up to about a Rs 48 crore business now from Rs 16 crore in 2006, could have increased further, if not to face stiff competition.”

He recalls, “Olympic was the only one in Anderson Street with two shops.” But today, Anderson Street has become a hub for wedding cards. Olympic has been the spring board for many players in the field today. “Still, we have our brand Olympic given by my grandfather who told that the name implies the ultimate like in sports. With his vision to cater to the needs of all - irrespective of caste or creed – we are there at every stage of one’s life.” Iqbal continues. “We have off-the-shelf cards for all occasions starting from wedding to anniversaries, baby shower functions, child birth, naming ceremony, ear piercing, birth anniversaries, etc. We move with one, let us say from birth to all auspicious and memorable moments in one’s life,” he added.

As for technology, Olympics sticks to offset process as every design is long run even going to 50,000 copies. In the off season, they produce diaries and calendars to specific orders. Their list of equipments includes multi-colour offset machines of various brands, die cutting, folding and envelope making machines, etc.

Talking about the road map, Iqbal informed that a new building is nearing completion in the suburb Periyapalayam, 30 km away from headquarters. “The new building will have all facilities including CtP, which is now outsourced. With the quantum of production we have, digital printing may not be worthwhile, but screen printing will be used for some jobs,” he adds. Olympic now owns ten showrooms, with more in pipeline. Iqbal is working on codes for each of their design and he proudly tells that some of their designs are even 50 years old. “The coding process will help to pull out the required design with its unique number,” he says. His ambition is to reach a turnover of Rs 300 crore in next five years.

Menaka Card Private Limited

S Shangaralingam, CMD, hailing from a farmer's family, did his schooling in the most rural background area of Tirunelveli district. But, he could not enroll himself in an agricultural institute and thus went in search for a job in Coimbatore. He started working in a printing press and side by side completed his B.Com from PSG College of Arts & Science, Coimbatore. While working in the printing press, he learnt the technical part and manpower management. This experience also led him to join the Institute of Printing Technology, Chennai. Due to his crucial illness at study times, he wasn’t able to finish the course.

However, his urge towards screen printing was triggered, when he searched for a good and elegant wedding card for his own wedding. He finally resorted to design the card himself and was astonished at the response and wide spread acceptance of the design which struck him to think, "Why not, I start my own company?" Thus was born his venture into wedding cards - with the name of that fabled damsel Menaka. Shangaralingam says, "Designing is my passion, I used to design all my 1,000 designs myself. However, now we have designers to keep innovating. I feel I am destined to produce wedding cards."

Menaka Card was started on June 18, 1980 and right from start, his method of working was "Business ethics, integrity, customer commitment". His business principles are straight - Myriad designs to be seen at his place (no samples given), full down payment, strict delivery schedules after customer okays, no customer wavering on corrections or delivery date. This worked to achieve desired quality, cash flow, and on dot delivery. That is the mantra even today. Another one of his principles was "No Marketing". Customer base grew purely on word of mouth. Starting from one screen printing unit in 120 sq ft room, Menaka has grown to working from one lakh sq ft with about 400 employees and 53 dealers in the market.

With a mission to give back to his village his indebtedness, he put up a plant in one lakh sq ft area in a barren land to provide employment to the locals. This made a good business trend with labour, better control of manpower and ample expansion space. Presently, employees are transported to and fro from 120 villages nearby. About 70 percent of work force is women and they are empowered with skill and knowledge. With his son Sharavana Prakash, BE (Ptg) from Anna University, the idea of works from village works better with customized ERP software.

As for technology, Menaka has stuck to about 80 percent screen printing, platens for finishing process along with a battery of laser die cutters. Their list of machinery includes numerous screenprinting, embossing, gilding, digital foiling, laser cutting, die punching apart from few offset printing machines. Delivery from the village to the dealers in southern states and main show room in Chennai takes place through contracted road transport. Menaka has spread its wings overseas to UK, USA, Canada, and Australia. Online orders being produced at the plant, products are delivered through air courier.

Speciality of Menaka is their grouping 'Excel" range cards from ready stock with delivery time from one to three days. While, 'Premium' cards from readymade design can be customized and delivery is given in five days and for 'Q series' - completely customized with new concepts - delivery time becomes 10 to 15 days. Their slogan "Marriages are made in Heaven, Marriage cards are made in Menaka" has become quite popular.

As for Shangaralingam, self made man, his wedding card unit at Kodambakkam - popularly known as Kollywood in film world – got equally good support from film fraternity. Crazy about films he also acted in a film in a minor role earlier. “Even today, famous South Indian actors and actresses are our clients,” adds Prakash. He showed a specimen of wedding package which comprised wedding cards, envelopes, sweet box arrangement, carry bag, cake box, snack box, RSVP card and place cards. They have also tied up with an online store to supply wedding return gifts, as a one stop solution. Summing up, we can say considering Shangaralingam's earliest struggles in his life, his is a "Rags to Riches" story.

Efex Colour Screens

Jhaatin Krishen runs his printing company in T Nagar in a residential-cum-commercial area. Taking an interest in invitation cards, he set up a screen printing unit. “Customer requirements were the progress in my endeavour,” Jhaatin says. As the products requirements grew by and large, he started investing in newer machines. Now he has a host of machinery like digital printing, cutting machine, offset printing machine and various post press equipments. Presently, they offer a product mix of brochures, books (50 percent), wedding cards (40 percent) and other printed products (10 percent).

With variety of machines - digital printing to screen printing and offset, his core business is well protected for various quantities. With the result, he started a separate wing for wedding cards, named Lotus Cards. A separate showroom is located nearby their production facilities, where customers can walk in to order from a single card to a complete package of cards, envelopes, cover, sweet box and carry bags. The prices of cards range from Rs 15 a piece to a package of Rs 1,000. With an annual turnover of Rs 5 crore, he has also won awards in international screen printing competitions. “While, we look at three different kinds of setups, wedding cards are going in for further growth. People look for more innovative designs in their cards and are willing to pay. Happy cards, happy marriage,” he concludes.

Featured wedding cards producers…

Olympic Cards Limited
Started in 1962, is well established with its business activities in wedding cards, paper & stationery and plastic materials. A visionary - Habibullah Mohamed- who passed away recently in his 90’s - has developed the business to be safely handed over to his second / third generation.

Menaka Card Pvt Ltd
Is a true ‘rags to riches’ story of Shangaralingam. Hailing from a poor farmer’s family, he has worked his life up with passion for designing and committed business ethics. Started in the year 1980 having 120 sq ft work area with a single screen printing unit, the company has grown into a well known one in the industry with facilities of one lakh sq ft in his own native place and is now run by the second generation.

Efex Colour Screens
The youngest one in the business has grown systematically under the care of Jhaatin Krishen, a young entrepreneur with electronic background. He took interest in invitation cards and started producing them by screen printing. Seeing the business going slow and with his business acumen, he added more products to his basket. With word of mouth, the business expanded. Efex became a full-fledged printing press. Still the core business being wedding cards, Efex started a separate wing for them under the name of Lotus Cards, offering a complete ‘Wedding Package’.

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