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My first million: Printer's profit

February 28, 2004

For Nandakumar Hendre it was an indelible learning experience. As a youngster, he studied in a school where most of the children were from rich Gujarati families. For a boy from a middle class family, the difference between backgrounds was stark.

He joined The Times of India newspaper as a technical apprentice while still studying for his graduation. Later, he was made a management trainee after he completed diplomas in printing technology and marketing management.

Despite being well-settled in the job, Hendre wanted to be on his own. Out of a small shed in a Mumbai suburb he started taking up printing orders for visiting cards.

Slowly the business grew and he quit his job to formally set up Print House, a printing company. Today, Print House India Pvt Ltd has a turnover of over Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million).

"I was born in 1961 in Mumbai. My father was a linotype operator with various publications and my mother, a school teacher. We were four siblings and we lived in a small one-room-kitchen in Ghatkopar. My parents wanted us to have a good education and we were put in good schools.

"However, money was never a luxury. And for me, attending the school that I was, where all my friends came from extremely rich families, this was a stark reality.

"I was in my first year in college, when I got a job as a technical apprentice in The Times of India. My stipend was Rs 432 a month. The apprenticeship was basically a training programme for three years, where one did a bit of everything including cleaning cameras and printers.

"I shifted to a college that was more liberal with timings and would go to work in the morning and attend college in the evening. In 1982, we shifted to another suburb -- Bhandup -- where we bought a small bungalow by taking a loan.

"After three years of completing the apprenticeship and my graduation, TOI had vacancies for management trainees and I was promoted. At that time my stipend was Rs 5,000.

"While I was there, my group head advised me to simultaneously do a diploma in printing technology. So I took up a year-long evening course at Bhavan's College. After that I took up a diploma in marketing management as well.

"In 1989, I was confirmed as a production manager in the pre-press department. During this time, I was exposed to all the departments -- everything from distribution to space selling. That is when I started seriously thinking about setting up my own business.

"My father and I together bought a small shed in Ghatkopar for Rs 1,000 and we invested another Rs 4,000. I started by outsourcing to other parties and took up small orders for visiting cards and such. I had good contacts because of my job and that really helped get business. But I was unhappy about not doing the printing in-house.

"After my parents sold our Ghatkopar house, I used Rs 8,300 out of the money to buy my first printing machine, and started Print House.

"I was still with TOI then. In the first year, I clocked a turnover of Rs 3 lakh (Rs 300,000) and encouraged by the response I decided to quit in 1991.

"In 1992, my brother, having completed his graduation, joined me in the business. We took a bank loan of Rs 5 lakh (Rs 500,000) and slowly began adding new printing machines, the first of which was a single colour offset printer.

"With my contacts and marketing skills, our turnover doubled every year and we crossed our million mark in 1993-94.

"It was not easy. The competition was tough and we used to work 18 to 19 hours a day. I did that for almost nine years. Today, I am very proud of the fact that we are the largest sheet-fed printers in Maharashtra.

"We have about 300 people working with us. We print annual reports, fliers, brochures, in-house journals, magazines and such. Today, 70 per cent of my business comes from banks, 20 per cent from publications and agencies while the rest comes from the pharmaceutical industry.

"I would like to make more money. We are getting into a new line of business and setting up a speciality restaurant called Saffron Spice which will be opening shortly. And I am also looking at expanding the business in a big way."

- As told to Arti Sharma

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