Sterling Publishers’ printing and packaging division based in Greater Noida acquired the business and production assets of EIH press in Manesar, in March 2022. At the time, the EIH press belonging to the East India Hotels group was looking to divest its print and packaging business, which suited Sterling. An added benefit was that Sterling continued to service several of the EIH customer segments and was able to absorb its skilled workforce in its plant.
Chandar Vir Singh Juneja, director-planning and strategy, who joined Sterling in 2017, says, “I joined Sterling in FY 2016-17; this was the year our managing director Vikas Ghai took over the printing and packaging side of the business in a family settlement. In 2022, we were looking to add to our capacities to maintain our tempo of growth, and by the end of January, an opportunity presented itself. We were informed that EIH Press in Manesar was looking to divest its print business and hive it off to a well-established printing company to not only acquire their machines but also absorb their workforce as a staff welfare measure. We already had an array of Heidelberg presses at our plant and we also knew that EIH had state-of-the-art presses, including Komoris and Chinese presses, and a large variety of prepress, printing, and converting equipment. Our query to take over its business was fruitful – enabling us to conclude the deal by 31 March 2022.”
Sterling took over the machines and workforce – and signed commitments to maintain the business obligations of EIH Press. Juneja adds, “It was a healthy business deal as it suited EIH to leave the print business, and suited us as we were willing to add more capacity. The deal helped us grow new verticals such as the banking sector and the hospitality and hotel vertical and wherever they had ongoing commitments. An added benefit was the trained and skilled human resources. With this additional capacity, we are looking forward to further consolidating our business in the Delhi-NCR, and if we talk of a year ahead, we are looking forward to expanding our operations outside the NCR where we already have clients, to provide complete services right at their doorstep.”
Book printing exports and monocarton packaging
Vikas Ghai says that the book printing part of the business is now focussed on exports although it continues to print books for the family’s long-established book publishing business as well. He adds that the EIH acquisition has enabled Sterling to grow the overall turnover significantly in just one year. “We should double our turnover in the three-year period from April 2022 to March 2025,” he says.
“When I joined in 2017, there was equal emphasis on printing, publishing, and packaging to some degree,” Juneja explains. “In a strategy meeting, we chalked out a plan to enhance our packaging vertical and reduce the processes in publishing. Our turnover is growing by 25 to 35% annually with the addition of the EIH assets, in addition to our own considerable printing and converting equipment. We have a huge number of automated and specialized equipment, laser-cutting machines, and maintenance equipment which were added to our infrastructure, giving us comprehensive technology for business in several special segments.
Commenting on the paradigm shift of printers inclining more towards the packaging industry than commercial and book printing, Juneja says, “The demand for publishing now is shifting towards short run and print-on-demand. Many new publishers print a few copies digitally, send them out and wait for more orders on Amazon or other platforms. However, in packaging, the order volumes are recurring and most customers become repeat customers if a job satisfies them. Given the state of growth in food, pharma, and FMCG packaging, especially after the pandemic, forward-looking entrepreneurs had to examine the potential in packaging. If I talk about publishing per se, it has a better margin but not volumes – in packaging, there are consistent volumes and repeat orders. Moreover, the packaging market is also very quality and cost-conscious, so the focus is on innovations and sustainability to stay competitive and provide the best value and reliability for the customer.
Juneja adds that the cultural processes have changed from what they were in the previous decade. “There are publishers who work with education or course books but every material today is available online in some form or the other. While I don’t see books being totally replaced in any circumstance, digital media has impacted the education and news industry also. Many forms or channels of news media are available today but people still read newspapers. However, the digital channels have eaten into print advertising resulting in decreased pagination.”