The time of a sign

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While the decision to add Marathi signs might seem easy on paper, shop owners, shopkeepers and union presidents explain why they can’t get on board quickly


Depending on the size, neon signs cost between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh. The smallest sign takes at least a day to make. Photo/Pradeep Dhivar






On June 16, the presidents of the city’s main trade union associations met with Additional City Commissioner (AMC) Ashish Sharma to discuss an extension of the deadline for changing signs in shops and establishments in the city. As per the latest amendment to the Shops and Establishments of Maharashtra (Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 2022, a Marathi sign in Devanagari script is mandatory for all shops and restaurants. This last amendment also stipulates that the signage in Marathi should not be smaller than that of other languages.

The deadline for the law approved by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in March has been extended several times. Currently, the deadline is June 30. At Thursday’s meeting, the associations requested an additional six months to make the shift. “CMA has heard from everyone and informed them that a six-month extension is not possible,” says Viren Shah, president of the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA). “The BMC will review the number of tables that have not been changed, by district, and take a call at the end of the month.” Representatives of more than 15 associations participated in the discussion and spoke in favor of the extension.

The disadvantage of flexible banners is that they start to tear quickly and can only be installed over an existing wooden frame.  Photo/Sayyed Sameer AbediThe disadvantage of flexible banners is that they start to tear quickly and can only be installed over an existing wooden frame. Photo/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

“We will comply with it because it is a law,” says Mitesh Mody, president of the All India Electronics Association (AIEA). “But it’s hard to do it in such a short time.” According to Shah, the biggest problem is the onset of the monsoons.

The letter submitted by the IAEA reads: “Small and medium traders have yet to emerge from huge losses [incurred] due to Corona and two lockdowns they fought without any direct government or corporate help. Changing name panels in such a short time is very difficult. »

Flex, vinyl and solar boards are cost effective and fast alternatives, which many stores are now opting for.  Woodpecker/Ashish RajeFlex, vinyl and solar boards are cost effective and fast alternatives, which many stores are now opting for. Woodpecker/Ashish Raje

A jeweler in Ghatkopar East, like many others, is waiting for an update before changing their neon sign. Currently, the store name is advertised in Marathi, as per 2017 guidelines, but it is not as prominent as the English version, as it is now. Uday Bhatia, founder of Brilliant Neon, which manufactures LED light panels at a workshop in Charni Road, agrees. He says it is the merchants who are inconvenienced by these specification changes.

When it comes to stores selling electronics, Mody explains, “People walk in when they see brand names and logos such as HP, Dell, Apple, Samsung, etc. in the window. It doesn’t matter. The rule states that only the name of the store should be in Marathi. “There is no rule that says we have to change the brand logos we stock in Devanagari,” Mody adds, “and we cannot nor do it since it is not our property.”

Keyur and Ankit Gada Keyur and Ankit Gada

Stores dealing in goods from multinational companies see this as a loophole that can be exploited. “We fear corruption will increase,” he says, “because the inspector will wonder why the logos are still in English.”

Among the signs, the flexible banner is the cheapest and fastest to install, followed by vinyl, solar panel, acrylic letter signs and illuminated display signs. Although the deadline is approaching, sign sellers say their sales have not increased markedly. Bhatia, who was working on around 25-30 stores in a month, says her orders went to just 40 stores after the latest guidelines.

Uday Bhatia, Ruchyeta Bhatia, Mitesh Mody and Viren ShahUday Bhatia, Ruchyeta Bhatia, Mitesh Mody and Viren Shah

Keyur and Ankit Gada, founders of Print Plaza, a print and design boutique, confirm that work has only increased by 2-5%. “People are always waiting [for an extension or other specifications]. As the deadline approaches, more [shop-owners] going to rush to change,” Ankit says.

Firoz Khan and Yogesh Bhoir, partners at Goregaon-based signage store SignTrix, have received many inquiries but this has not translated into more business. On average, they still produce 20 to 25 signs per month. “Brands are waiting for a new deadline and are in no rush,” says Bhoir. “The Marathi rule hasn’t affected us in any way,” adds Khan. Another reason business stays the same, he says, is that “people settle for temporary solutions like flexible banners or vinyl stickers.”

According to the latest guidelines, the Marathi font should be equal in size, if not larger, than the other languages ​​in the table.  Woodpecker/Ashish RajeAccording to the latest guidelines, the Marathi font should be equal in size, if not larger, than the other languages ​​in the table. Woodpecker/Ashish Raje

Those who work at Print Plaza, Fort admit that shop owners have requested that flexible and vinyl banners be installed in one day, at an additional cost. Vinyl takes about two to three hours to print and the same time to stick.

Depending on the panel, a small illuminated LED panel takes at least a day to manufacture. “As it takes time, we recommend putting a [flex] banner in marathi at the moment. We can’t do a lot of panels together in such a short time,” says Bhatia, owner of an 80-year-old factory in Charni Road.

Finding the space to aesthetically accommodate the Marathi spelling was the biggest challenge for Love & CheesecakeFinding the space to aesthetically accommodate the Marathi spelling was the biggest challenge for Love & Cheesecake

Gada says it has received a total of 25 to 30 orders since the end of May for flex banners, vinyl and solar boards. When making signs in Marathi, the biggest problem is the design of specific issues such as spacing between letters. The Marathi version of a logo is often shorter than the English version, which creates font and design issues. Devanagari also has limited font types which makes it difficult to sync with the original font.

Monsoons make problems worse: Bhatia says installation becomes difficult when it rains and work is suspended. A light panel takes a day to install, large ones, like patio panels, take three to four days. Even vinyl planks, which are in higher demand, due to their durability, cost and ease of production, cannot be installed during rains, Gada explains. “Vinyl should be stuck on a dry surface,” he says, “It becomes difficult when it’s raining because even if it’s stuck, it will later develop bubbles.”

For Ruchyeta Bhatia, co-founder of Brewworks Pvt. ltd. which owns coffee and dessert chain Love & Cheesecake and Poetry, rebranding wasn’t a huge challenge as they have in-house designers. “Our biggest problem,” she says, “was finding the space for it because our stores are designed a certain way, and then adding another logo of the same size was a bit difficult. But we didn’t want to not flout the rules.

The brand uses a specific typography that it could not reproduce in its Marathi sign and had to look for alternatives. “If our originals were backlit [in some outlets], the marathi also had to be backlit,” she says. They have 20 stores across Mumbai and she hopes by this weekend they will all boast a Marathi sign.







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