Sona readies for ‘Tomorrowland’ with 21st century technology and a vision – Printweek

Printweek_India_05Drupa 2008 proved to be the turning point for Sona Printers. At Drupa, Sona ordered three new Manroland high-end printing presses; a fully customized high end Eurobind 4000 perfect binding line, a first in Asia; a folding and cutting system from Heidelberg.

Since then Sona Printers, managed by brothers – Kishore Kumar Mittal, Vijay Kumar Mittal and Ajay Kumar Mittal has been on an overdrive, overhauling its infrastructure. Kishore says: “We had to make a statement, that of being a leading offset printer and largest paper stationery manufacturer in India.”  Sona Paper Stationery is a brand name.

The 30 year old company began its journey with a letterpress. In 1983 Sona Printers forayed into commercial offset printing; developed its infrastructure and entered into paper stationery in 1995.

Today, it is a sprawling 50,000 sq ft custom-built facility, strategically located in the main industrial hotspots in New Delhi – the Okhla industrial area. It has a staff strength of 150 with three facilities.

The art of expansion

The economic fillip coupled with the budget outlay for education has increased the investment in books. “We see a huge opportunity in paper stationery and school textbooks,” says Nikhil. He adds: “With this in mind we are sprucing our facilities and upgrading to the latest machinery. We hope to cater to the growing demands in the Indian market.”

The industry is passing through a tough period with a slowdown. People are cautious with investments but for Sona, these are “challenging yet interesting times.”

Vijay says: “We have invested wisely. New technology has bolstered our processes, deadlines have shrunk, quality assurance procedures have scaled up.”

Namrta Dhar, the national marketing manager at Heidelberg India is impressed. She says: “Sona understands that the right investment in every step of the production chain is inevitable for maximising productivity.”

Inspirational investment

Sona Printers has a raft of machinery which includes: India’s five-colour Roland 70S with inline coater smart (ICS), a five-colour Roland 205 with ICS and a two-colour Roland 702P with convertible perfector. Also, Sona will implement an integration of JDF and CIP4 over its entire workflow.

Nikhil points out: “This workflow will enable to create a JDF job ticket that will trace a job from pre-press to printing to post-press. The workflow will create a system for crystal clear job tracking system. This shall result in improving services for customers and saving extra labour cost.”

Neeraj Dargan from Manroland India who facilitated the investment agrees. “Even the tea at Sona Printers is professional. The Mittals have mastered the art of knowing what they want from their suppliers and equipment.” Dargan praises the meticulous planning during installations. He states: “Everything was so perfect. The drawing board was merely replicated on the shopfloor.”

One stop shop for paper converting

Sona Printers, with its automated production lines for paper stationery products like an exercise notebook, spiral/wiro notebooks and pads, was established exclusively for exports to European and US markets. Along with the focus on exports, Sona has concurrently expanded its domestic market through its channel sales in various states.

Every year, the Indian market sees 1.3 billion books being perfect bound. To tap this segment, Sona has invested in Asia’s first Heidelberg Eurobind 4000 perfect binding line with 16 stations Eurogather EG 4000 and an online Eurotrim three knife trimmer. Dhar says: “Sona is clearly a fore-runner in post-press. The overall upswing in production capability will be influenced with the EB 4000.”

A vision for the future

The Mittals are delighted about the Indian print industry which is seeing the best of technologies being installed. While expressing joy at the changing Indian psyche, Kishore laments the dearth of skilled personnel to run these presses.

He says: “We want to overcome these glitches.” Kishore strongly advocates the setting up of technical training institutes that can hone the skills of operators.

To facilitate the futuristic Sona vision, the mantle has been donned by GenNext Nikhil, who is a printing graduate from the London College of Printing. Nikhil is clear: “Sona wants to change the basic paradigm of print.”

Meanwhile Sona continues to “dream the impossible vision”. There’s always room for a visionary in our industry.