Rajendra Patel was forced to make a new life in the UK, as one of thousands of Ugandan Asians expelled by President Idi Amin in 1972. This year he is proudly celebrating the 40th anniversary of the printing company he founded behind his father’s fruit and vegetable shop and which now commands an enviable position in a very competitive industry.
Stag Print, with offices in Guildford, is a family concern, with Raj’s wife Pratiksha managing the back office and their 34-year-old son Sushil as managing director.
Sushil described how his father grew the company from modest beginnings in Hanworth, west London in April, 1979. “My father came to the UK with many other Ugandan Asians and they had to start their lives again. He studied print at Watford College of Technology, now West Herts College, and set up with a single colour press behind his father’s shop.”
At first, Raj printed business stationery and carbon copy forms, developing a reputation for quality, competitively priced and quick work. Orders grew and he moved his premises first to Twickenham and then to the Merrow Business Park, Guildford in 2008, where it remains.
The company has a strong “one team” culture approach among its seven employees and Sushil says he and his father work hard to cultivate a close team, where everyone has a knowledge of the industry and how it works. They are also looking to grow and are recruiting. Sushil added: “Our capability is winning our clients awards and we are looking to bring on more staff.”
Sushil joined the business in 2013, after an early career as a chartered accountant working for KPMG. His father initially discouraged him from joining the family firm because he thought print was going out of favour. However, with the introduction of new technology and by dipping into a different sector – packaging – the company is enjoying a resurgence in print work and holding its own among the top players.
Sushil explained: “Our best decision was to invest in a state-of-the-art LED-UV print machine last year. It was a big investment, but a game-changer. We can now produce high-quality, quick-drying printed work, even on metallised and wood-effect papers and some plastics, too. We can also turn orders around much quicker, which gives us a definite advantage over competitors.”
Among Stag Print’s customers are St Mary’s University, one of Raj’s early customers, Capita and Bruce’s Doggy Daycare. Customers for packaging include Mandira’s Kitchen (formerly Surrey Spice), which makes frozen meals, and Vapouriz, a manufacturer of e-liquids for vape machines.
The business is very committed to protecting the environment for future generations, which is why it has an established environmental policy. This includes obtaining 100% of its paper and board from responsible sources, recycling all waste paper and litho plates, favouring environmentally conscious suppliers and products and using energy efficient LED lights and equipment at its premises.
Raj said of the anniversary: “When I began Stag Print all those years ago, I had no idea it would turn into the success it has. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it grow, and I look forward to it continuing to do so under the expert eye of Sushil.”
And Sushil? He has his eye on opportunities in the market and retains a passion for the print industry he would never have thought possible when he started.
“I love what we do and I am very proud of what my father has achieved in 40 years,” he said. “It is a testament to Stag Print’s resilience and that of our customers.”