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Gradually Growing Guwahati

Those who visit Guwahati after a gap of a few years might find the city sporting a new outlook. But in what way? Newly constructed high-rise buildings and shopping malls are evident in every corner. And signage is what it beautifies the surroundings with giant displays giving true colours of life to the spectacular graphic ads of multinational companies. SIGN & GRAPHICS bandwagon rides across the premises to witness the changes and meets with some leading players speaking about their works and outputs without which the region’s signage industry couldn’t have grown to what it is today. An amalgamation of both old and young companies whose works are widely acclaimed in and out of Guwahati, the league in the city comprising Hologram Advertising, BNAS (P) Ltd, New Bombay Stores, India Stamp House, Binayak Advertising, Creative Associates, Kamakhya Art, etc spreads their operations all over North East India.

JYANESWAR LAISHRAM reports the traits and attributes of these players capturing even clients from the cross border states like Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.

Counting on UV future

Pranjal Thakuria 
Revolution of computerised wide-format printing instilled Hologram Advertising to take their path into flex printing. It was barely fabrication job the company engaged during their younger years in the late 1990s. “Our first step into high-end signage making business was unveiled with the adoption of a cutting plotter, second machine of its kind in Guwahati city,” reveals Pranjal Thakuria, proprietor, Hologram Advertising.

The company was incepted as a signage fabrication firm, which subsequently entered into flex printing with a positive initiative. “Everything happened with us when telecommunication giants began to enter North East India and flex printing grew to produce the best ever graphics in the industry,” mentions Pranjal. In his words, the period was indeed a big transition phase where expos, magazines, websites…took initiatives to herald news and information about wide-format print technologies in the signage industry.

The chapter of flex printing at Hologram Advertising opened in 2004 with the installation of a Chinese printer followed by a Roland 745 Ex eco-solvent printer in the same year. It took just another six months to expand the machine portfolio with the addition of DGI Megajet 3206. And the expansion continued with another Jeti 3312 printer in 2007. The ever-expanding infrastructure of the company is still moving with the latest installations of HP 8000 and HP 5100 printers. “More or less, our production unit has attained its maturity to meet optimum demands from our clients,” says Pranjal who is ready to take on UV printing in the company’s next move. He adds, “I have talked with HP as well as Apsom Infotex for new UV printers in the near future.”

By and large the telecommunication sector wherein most of the company’s clients are dwelled in is ready for UV technology, according to Pranjal. Hologram Advertising also ties up with local vendors in remote parts of Assam and other states like Tripura, Manipur and Anunachal Pradesh to guarantee on time delivery in case of nationwide campaigns or installations.


Guiding path to newcomers

Deepak Jain & Abhishek Lohia 
Guwahati is a pivotal spot where companies all over Assam have marked cornerstones of their business. Binayak Advertising is one such player from far off Tinsukia town and grown mature after its foothold in Guwahati. Deepak Jalan and his partner Abhishek Lohia of the company are proud of what the company has accomplished so far since its establishment in 2007.

Recent developments that have been harboured in Binayak Advertising over the last few months include hoardings, wall paintings and branding. “For new companies landing on the soil of North East India, we are guiding light for them to find best dealership option as well in the region,” says Deepak detailing how they compile database of dealers to help new comers find right business directions in Assam and other neighbouring states.

Binayak Advertising’s production unit equipped with Nutek Prime 3212 and Multijet–II is still in expansion mode. It is a fact that there is no limit for infrastructure expansion for a company gradually growing its business in every quarter. So is the reason why Binayak Advertising is set to improve its infrastructure with the addition of a new Nutek Innovajet 3208 next year.

List of clients the company has been working consists of various ad agencies engaging in branding, fabrication, designing, etc. Corporate players like Sony, Videocon, Samsung and others get their works done at Binayak Advertising through the agencies. It doesn’t mean that the company goes only through agencies. Around fifty percent of its jobs are for direct clients like TATA, Louis Berger, Surya Cement, Satyam, Rajdoot Paints, to mention a few. “As we are still a young player in the industry, working with ad agencies gives us less stress,” explains Deepak. He adds that there has been added advantage in working through agencies, “during the recession period we had had no pressure of delayed payment or non-payment from clients because our transactions were through agencies only.” Latest in the company’s list of direct clients are Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Aircel providing big projects.


Answering to the best signage

BNAS’ creative team 
Profile of BNAS (P) Ltd couldn’t be simply defined as a flex printer but a heavyweight in billboard signage. Everyone around Guwahati city will surely catch the glimpses of billboard ad spaces provided by BNAS in every corner, far or near. Since its establishment in 1964 under the proprietorship of Naresh Debnath, the company has been engaged in different signage activities. “We mainly used to work with cinema theatres for which we designed and provided manually drawn movie posters,” explains Naresh recollecting the then pre-flex printing era where signage was totally hand painted.

BNAS turned into a ‘private limited’ company in 1997 and began its journey into the business of billboard signage. Coping with the new technologies ushering gradually in the industry, the company eventually set up its own printing unit equipped with a DGI Megajet (MJ 3204) printer. “We are quite satisfied with the outputs of DGI Megajet that delivers anything we require,” says Biswajit Debnath explaining that the printer is remarkable for frontlit (hoarding and banners), backlit (glow sign), one-way vision, etc.

Though BNAS has been working for clients from all possible industrial clusters, cement segment proved to be a focused area where the company has done extensive jobs including launching of new products, advertising via hoardings and POPs for various companies. “We are also deeply involved with designing part and seven skilful people are assigned for our design studio and machine handling,” explains Jayanta Deka, graphic designer. In addition to cement sector, BNAS has been connected with various ad agencies working for leading telecommunication giants like Nokia, Vodafone, Reliance, etc. And notable in their client list includes regional television channels like NE TV, News Live, etc.

Pointing out for the company being significantly different from others in the industry, Biswajit underlines that BNAS always goes differently by unique ideas. “Our new projects in the pipeline are first-of-its-kind initiatives in North East India,” he adds explaining the environmental signage to be implemented at ISBT, Betkuchi, Guwahati. More or less, company’s business has been crumbled for short while during the recent global slowdown. But the hangover failed to cripple the entire business as BNAS always has ways to get rid of such economic clutch.


Delivering beyond the best

Brijesh Sanghavi 
Fascination of New Bombay Stores is rather for its production unit equipped with a long array of high-end printers, such as Mutoh Ospray PJ-3344X, Mutoh 87, HP Scitex XL 1500, HP 8000, Roland 52, etc. This product line doesn’t mark the end of the company’s quest for newer portfolio comprising the latest technology to generate the best. UV is the next step—this is what Brijesh Sanghavi, proprietor, New Bombay Stores expresses while talking about where the company is heading. “We have already had talks with HP for the technology and it’s also sure that our customers are fully informed and aware about the value of UV technology in terms of its features like speed and quality,” states Brijesh. He however is alert enough on high cost of UV against solvent printing as the main factor that deters many to adopt the technology in the current Indian market.

New Bombay Stores came into existence with business in acrylic and vinyl cutting in the mid-1980s. It has been engaged with trading activities closely linked with local signage vendors and gradual increase of demands for newer trend in the industry forced them to take on flex printing and as such installed a Roland 52 printer in the late 1990s. “Ever since the opening of our own production unit, we have been doing job works for various ad agencies in Guwahati,” says Brijesh.

Production facility of the company kept on upgrading as per the market trend. “Prior to adopting any new business strategy, we study the market carefully,” says Brijesh adding that the company has installed its latest Mutoh Ospray PJ-3344X with an aim to fulfil the latest demands in the region’s market.

A big player in the circle of agencies in and around Guwahati city, New Bombay Stores thus began to catch clients in the direct market. “Of course, we are still in good term with our old associates (ad agencies). But our foray into the telecommunication sector is a new venture in the direct market,” admits Brijesh mentioning Reliance, Aircel and Vodafone in the company’s client list. Having been cooperated with corporate players, the company more or less felt the financial pang during the recent economic slowdown. “Though there was no change in the volume of works (orders) from our clients, we had trouble with delayed payments,” according to Brijesh, who is waiting to see full market stability and embrace UV printing technology.


Catching on newer creations

Flex and offset printing in the industry are considered to be two sides of the same coin. One can find people in these two segments expanding their business vice versa. Creative Associates is one such company whose parent business was in commercial offset printing and entered into the realm of wide-format printing over the last few years. “It was in February 2005, we established our flex printing unit with the installation of an 8-colour Infinity with XAAR heads,” mentions Hiten Krishna Mahanta, proprietor, Creative Associates.

Equipped with two high-end machines, the latest addition to the company’s state-of-the-art production unit was 8-ft Spectra Skywalker in February 2009. Both the printers were from Infinity Digital Solutions Pvt Ltd, one of the leading machine manufacturers cum distributors in the Indian wide-format market. “There has been excellent support and service from them (distributor that enable us to generate best of outputs to fulfil demands of our clients,” remarks Hiten.

Ad agencies out of different parts of Assam and others from far and near corners around the region form the client list of Creative Associates. The company’s volume of works has been gradually expanded following the addition of the new Spectra Skywalker printer this year. Like other players working through agencies and dwell themselves in the safe heaven far from recession, Creative Associates was not being hit by the recent global economic calamity. “Yes, we work extensively for various multinational liquor companies over the last few years. As our deals are through local agencies, recession did no harm to us,” states Hiten.

Apart from ad agencies is a regional political party occupying big space in the company’s client list. “We wouldn’t have had the idea of introducing a flex printing unit in our setup, if the political party didn’t approach us for their election campaign works,” says Hiten concerning the initiation of their wide-format division. And mentioning what lies as future expansion plan, he remarks that Creative Associates is now looking for another Infinity printer with Konica ptintheads to take another business step into the indoor segment.


Supplying the needful

Sunny Chabra with his brother Hunny 
One can judge easily what India Stamp House does beyond the supplying of flex media in the North East India’s market. Of course, the name tells half the story of the company’s background—a rubber stamp manufacturer. Established in 2001, India Stamp House subsequently expanded its business in flex media supply in 2005 covering the entire region. Initiated with a turnover of Rs 60 lakhs, the company has magnified the figure to 4.75 crore this year, admits Sandeep Kumar (Sunny) Chhabra, proprietor, India Stamp House.

This company located in the heart of Guwahati has been catering its range of media to most of the flex printers across the city and the region as well. “Now that we cover even the remotest area in North East region, our next plan is to expand our delivery to West Bengal and then rest of India,” mentions Sunny.

As per the result drawn from the company’s footfalls, Sunny gives an overall picture of media demands in the North East market where Chinese media cover 85 percent. “Notable among the popular media with higher demands include Korean brand Star and Avery,” says Sunny. He also mentions that solvent and eco-solvent vinyl from Avery are hot cakes in the region’s contemporary market. Set in the company’s future plan is also a step to open an Avery dealership in Guwahati.

Along with the flex media are inks that make the company’s supply a complete set to fulfil a printer’s demand for consumables. The leading ink brands available on the company’s shelves include Sericol, Saven, Triangle, etc. Delivering around 3-4 containers every month, India Stamp House is still leaping forward to cater more to a broader extent.


Leaping over to new height

The wide-format market of North East India is comparatively young in term of development taking place at national and global levels. So is the reason why younger companies, as young as just a few months old, dwell in it. Loknath Art House is one such baby company who arrived in the block barely a couple of months back. The company under the proprietorship of Bablu Roy has been delving deeply into the current market to catch on right momentum of business in the nearest future.

It may be an infant in flex-printing business, but Loknath Art House cannot be termed as young lad in the signage industry. “We have been in signage business for more than fifteen years,” says Bablu unfolding the company’s background as manually-drawn/hand-painted signboard maker. Their office in the heart of Guwahati city at Paltan Bazaar is still operating as an administrative outlet for the newly opened flex-printing unit.

Isolated itself in the serene corner of Lal Ganesh locality of Guwahati, the new unit is equipped with a Nutek 3208 printer. “What we keep in mind first is to check the contemporary market situation. After that we will plan to expand our infrastructure with another Nutek machine by 2010,” admits Bablu whose ambition is to push its production unit to newer height soon.

As of now, Loknath has never been landed on the direct market for clients. Neither have they included any giant company in their client list. “I have a friend who takes full responsibility of all our marketing matters,” mentions Bablu. Clients in the company’s current list are happened to be mostly local. However, he decisively mentions that things would probably come to a stability following the end of the company’s infancy.


Finding broader business

Yet another young player in the region’s signage sector is HP Flex whose presence in the industry is just one month old. The company’s maiden journey into the signage segment may not be a striking story to share with because it’s quite a common phenomenon that wide-format market is where new comers have been embarking upon for new business. In this context, Mangtu Agarwal, proprietor, HP Flex recently noticed the momentum of growth in the region’s flex-printing market—a new window to his existing coal trading business. However, the point worth mentionable is the gradual expansion of the North East India’s signage sector projecting high with the participation of young and energetic players like HP Flex.

Mangtu is a keen observer of what is happening around the market. He finds that the signage market has been gradually capturing by computerised wide-format printing over the last few years. In the recent past, he was impressed by another flex printing company located in front of his sister’s garment showroom in Paan Bazar, Guwahati. It didn’t take long for him to decide for opening a flex printing unit alongside his coal business.

Commenting on the establishment of the printing unit, Mangtu says, “As long as my workload in the coal business is concerned, I find some spare time to devote to running this printing unit.” Now, the unit is running perfect with Nutek Prime 3208 handled by a team of two skilful designers and two machine operators. Initial orders received so far are largely of festive signage from local cultural organisations.

“As the festive seasons are around, we keep on receiving enough orders for posters and other signage materials related to Diwali, Christmas and New Year,” says Mangtu. In addition to this volume of local works, HP Flex has captured some prominent companies, viz. Phoenix (builder) and Polyplast (pipes manufacturer). “I hope the number of clients we have and volume of works we deliver are enough for a young company like us,” says Agarwal smilingly. Also what he concerns most is the installation of another machine in the next six months—an attempt to capture new customers from telecommunication and cement sectors.


Going where innovation lies

Creativity counts first to introduce Gyanam, which created a profound corner of signage par excellence in North East India. Dhanjit Kalita established the company in 1992 as a design studio offering best designs in the region’s printing industry. Their work profile ranged from designing of calendars, audiocassette covers to cinema posters and anything related to the region’s art and cultural domain.

Aura of Gyanam in the entire North East Indian market drew clients of all kinds in the recent past. The company even received orders for flex banners while there was no unit to execute. So was the reason why flex printing was getting done though outsourcing. “Tremendous increase of demands and enquiries from people looking for flex banners motivated us to set up our own printing unit,” says Dhanjit Kalita, proprietor, Gyanam. It was last year the company opened its flex-printing unit equipped with a Nutek Multijet-III printer.

What it forms the list of customers in the flex-printing business of the company includes various government departments and local companies. “We have works of government projects pertaining to HIV/AIDS campaigns and election posters from the states like Arunachal Pradesh,” mentions Dhanjit. Continuing the company’s linkage with the people in the region’s art and cultural domain, Gyanam still is sole provider of concert or promotional banners for eminent Assamese singers like Bhupen Hazarika, Jubin, etc.

Apart from Assam, three major regions where from Gyanam has captured a large number of clients are Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Responding to the gradual increase of demands from all spheres of the industry, the company is planning to add a new printer sooner than later. In this respect, Dhanjit truly admits that their one-machine facility is hardly capable to handle the ever-expanding signage industry of North East India.


Embracing newer technology

No doubt to call Khmakhya Art as one of the leading players in Assam with prominent track records of seeing the changes taken place in different phases in the region’s signage industry. The company famous for manually designed glow signs in Guwahati got into a new guise in 1998 with the installation of a cutting plotter. And the expansion continued with the subsequent installations of high-end printers like DGI Rex 62, Yaslan and Roland Versacam to make the company’s facility an up-to-date production unit.

In order to deliver best jobs in the market, Kamakhya Art keeps on updating its facility. “In the latest installation, we have added HP 5100 in our portfolio,” says Ratan Saha, proprietor, Kamakhya Art adding that the existing infrastructure is enough for the company’s targeted volume of works but it needs to be revamped for higher quality output.

Clients of Khamakhya Art are dominantly from liquor and telecommunication sectors. It is not only Assam that the company has been serving for companies from different trades. Regions like Nagaland (particularly Dimapur town), Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh are some destinations where the horde of clients are rushing from. Categorising the range of jobs their customers have brought in, Ratan says the orders include everything, whether a personal work or a national project.

Effect of recent global economic slowdown didn’t count much on the business of Kamakhya Art. Commenting on the situation, Ratan monitors optimistically that slowdown could take place anytime at any cost in the industry. His opinion is not just to cry over but to handle it with strategic plans. Kamakhya Art is ready to face challenges coming from any level, either global or home grown crisis.

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