K C Sanjeev, Managing Director, Welbound Worldwide

PrintWeek India's Noel interviewed Sanjeev, the CMD of Welbound Worldwide. In this interview Sanjeev straight talks about his compnay's priorities, vision and the status of print industry in India.

ND:     A basic profile of your company and manufacturing centre

KCS : We manufacture the critical links in the bookbinding workflow, starting from folding machines to trimmers.  Our products have no structural similarities and the only common factor is the customer. As these products require different plant and machineries (as well as skill sets) to manufacture, we have separate product specific plants. These are located in Trivandrum, Chengannur and Thodupuzha in Kerala. Then we have a state of the art foundry and component manufacturing centre at Coimbatore. Each plant is run independently by experienced professionals; we have a young workforce with average age hovering about 26. Our human resource is predominantly technical; we are 300 plus strong at the factories and about 80 in sales and service.

ND:     What are the key megatrends in your company that have benefited the Indian print industry?

KCS: We have greatly influenced the automation of bookbinding in India. By providing cost effective solutions we de-bottlenecked the issues that delayed the release of books. The traditional ‘small binder’ didn’t own any machine other than a ubiquitous ‘cutting machine’, before they invested in our single clamp perfectbinder. What welbound did was the ‘last mile automation’ that solved a lot of issues. A major share of textbooks in India is perfectbound and thus delivered on time, thanks to our efforts in spreading the awareness on the technology. 

ND:      Is your company a rule maker or a rule follower? Please elucidate.

KCS: During our 22 years of existence, we have done many unprecedented things in our industry, in India. The rule was to manufacture and then distribute through agents –we didn’t follow this. The rule was never to mix the sales of capital equipments and consumables – we did exactly this and called it extended services. The rule was to supply machines and leave it to third party agents or individuals to support these, post warranty – annual maintenance contracts were unheard of in our industry; again we broke the rule. Be it in educating our buyers on application technology, coordinating with their (print) buyers, providing auxiliary tools to improve their processes, we have always tried to do things which have been traditionally scorned at as “not our job”. I do not know if we were making the rules or breaking them, but we enjoy doing these.

ND:    Today, market boundaries are changing ever more quickly, targets are elusive and market capture is at best temporary. A few companies have proven themselves adept at inventing new markets, quickly entering emerging markets, and dramatically shifting patterns of customer choice in established markets. How does one emulate such companies?

KCS: We have been majorly an India centric company. The Indian market for Print and specially books is quite large in comparison to many of the other markets where our products are accepted. We have retained a very healthy majority market share in adhesive binding since 1996. We understood that it is very difficult to grow your market share when you are in such a dominant position – so we always worked at expanding the markets. Even today an installation of an entry model of perfect binder, in say, Beawer or Imphal is cheered more, in comparison to a big ticket installation in Delhi. If the companies stop believing in them as mere manufacturers or suppliers of services, and instead believe in them being part of larger picture – in our case Education; then there is nothing that can stop them.

ND:     Benchmarking best practices allows enterprises to catch up with the competition, but it won't turn them into market leaders. Do you agree or no? Why?

KCS: The answer lies in the question itself: benchmarking is following the leader. Having said that, benchmarking does not prevent you from creating a base, setting new standards and taking a leadership position. Following the best practices that are widely acknowledged as successful, one is accelerating his position to the leadership.

ND:     What do you believe is the most under-recognised aspect in Indian printing that is likely to become important in the next decade?

KCS:  We Indians have been out-of-the-box thinkers and it is no different with the print industry as well. We also do have sufficient manpower that just needs to be trained to think differently. The technology in print has thrown up a great number of options and the west will follow whatever is less dependent on manpower. That does not mean the other options do not create business opportunities – IT industry is a defining example. It is for us to jump at this opportunity and do something similar to what our IT industry did in the 90s.

ND: What does Green mean to you? According to you what should the Green model in the print industry resemble?

KCS: To me, Green means what the colour symbolizes: life, nature, fertility, well being and future. Print industry has no parallels because no other industry uses so many engineering technologies in one go – be it electronics, electrical, mechanical, chemical and a number of specialization (sub-set) technologies. So it is a colossal task to be green at each stage. We can start by focusing on recycled or FSC certified paper, organic inks, reduced waste and resource usage, elimination or safer disposal of toxic or harmful by-products. The print buyers will have a large role to play in making the industry go green.   

ND:     When you get stuck in a business deal or a project ... how do dead-ends become new paths?

KCS : When we embark on a new project, we will have one of us leading a group that is focused on making the project a success. We will also have a smaller group, which works on a contrarian scenario. For example we start with the assumption that a certain product will have an extremely good market and the returns on investment will be handsome. The contrarian group assumes that if it’s something ‘that’ attractive, then everyone would know this. Hence they will go about projecting the future earnings, assuming stiffer competition. They will also propose ‘difficult-to-achieve scenarios’ that can give an edge to our offer. This helps us exploring either new or different paths. So there are no dead-ends, but always new paths. We have been able to achieve this because of an open organizational structure that encourages dissent and alternative thinking.

ND:     A lot of print companies have been struggling to cut costs. Most of them are discovering the hard way that they have for too long put up with too much redundant and wasteful activity. How do you mandate cost reductions and set targets?

KCS: Costs can be reduced only if you understand costs. So the first step would be to understand the components of your costs, as they are. Printing in India, calculates its cost per unit without any scientific justification. If you track any other industry, costs are always calculated in relation to time – to be converted later to per unit or per quantity. So before starting to cut one’s perceived costs, he or she needs to understand how to calculate costs. When one does this, it will throw up very interesting facts: like for example ‘labour’ is the single largest component of cost in any stage in bookbinding. Such revelations will also provide you with answers on how to be cost-efficient.

ND: What will your company do differently in 2010?

KCS: A lot of emphasis will go into empowering all the stake holders – publishers, printers, binders, operators and our own team- with more knowledge. Be it on application technology, work flow management, MIS, business development and marketing. We are part of a value chain in which a school going child is at the top. To provide him or her with a ‘smart book’ that in content, usability and visibility will be ‘far superior’ is the single point agenda for us. This will involve the schools, publishers, printers-binders, consumable suppliers and manufacturers like us. We recognize that there is enormous need to deliver more value to that child and in the process, realize better value. 

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