Ratna Offsets: expanding to new horizons with Heidelberg

Ahmedabad based recently Ratna offset installed a brand new Heidelberg Speedmaster SM-74-4 colour press. The Speedmaster SM 74 is an ideal printing press for commercial print shops focusing on solid growth. The equipment is designed to handle stock thicknesses ranging from 0.03 to 0.6 mm (0.0012 to 0.024 inches). The operating speed is up to 15,000 sheets per hour and the largest sheet size it can handle is 530 X 740 mm (20.87X29.13 inches). Also Polar cutting equipment is going to be installed in the unit. Dr Vipul Shanker Pandya, founder of Ratna Offsets Ltd, a print leader in Varanasi, talks about setting up a new press in Ahmedabad and how Heidelberg became his choice for the expansion.

For a person who started from scratch in 1980, built a successful and market leading printing press in Varanasi, Dr Vipul Shanker Pandya looks extremely comfortable doing it all over again now for a brand new press setup in Ahmedabad. From buying off an existing press unit to having the new Heidelberg machines installed; from hiring the cleaning staff to personally managing the press jobs coming in—Dr Pandya has no qualms in being like an entrepreneur starting up, yet again. But then he is the kind of person who decides on a path and goes forth unafraid, challenging status quo and emerging a winner.

Printing is in his blood, he says. His family ran Freeman & Co, the press set up by Annie Besant and Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1894 in Varanasi, to support the printing needs of the Theosophical Society and the Banaras Hindu University. His great grandfather ran the press when it was established, and the Pandyas had been running the press since then. It went on to become a public limited company. Dr Pandya started his printing career in Varanasi by setting up a letter press composition firm, and moved into commercial printing by 1984. Around then offset printers had started to make an appearance. But he didn’t have the money to buy one. He managed to buy a state-of-the-art offset printing press, under a special scheme run by NSIC. “I must have gone to Kanpur at least a hundred times to make this happen,” says Pandya. Buying that offset machine was the turning point for him. Work increased, as did the staff strength. New machines were bought, and business grew. And his press, Ratna Offset Ltd slowly became the leading press in the city.

Among the many machines still being used at the Varanasi press, there are second-hand Heidelberg machines. “But the power conditions in Varanasi are so unreliable that we are unable to even use them to their full potential. We end up spending a lot on diesel for our generators to keep the machines running,” he says. And he decided it was time to find a new place to set up business in. Then he moved to Ahmedabad. “The Gujarat government is keen have new business investments in the state and encourages businesses,” says Dr Pandya. Though he had the option to start in the industrial area, right next to the Nano plant on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, he chose to start from within the city itself. He bought off an existing press, and is now revamping it. The idea is get the press up and running by the time his son, Vaibhav Pandya, comes back from the US to take over the reins in Ahmedabad.

On asking what will be the focus for the company in Ahmedabad, Dr Pandya says, “Since Ahmedabad offers plenty of opportunities our focus will be on packaging. We would also focus on exports.” And talking about the role Heidelberg plays in his plans, he added, “The key to the printing business is to be able to deliver value additions to customers, and Heidelberg equipment enables us to do that. With one machine, one can do UV printing, coatings, lamination, etc. There are easy to use machines for die cutting, and folding in hundreds ways.” “It has been a dream to own Heidelberg machines right from my childhood. In our Varanasi press, I made it a point to replace the machines with at least second-hand. But I got an opportunity to buy a new Heidelberg machine for the Ahmedabad new facility,” concluded Dr Pandya.

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