How AGS grew its brand - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 03 Feb 2018

It took Vishnuu Kamat three years to push an entry-level sample-maker in the Indian packaging market. It has now gained acceptance. The compact X-Rite kit is becoming the number one seller. Then there are other colour management solutions which are boosting pressroom efficiency and making cost-savers a reality.

As the vice president for sales at Advanced Graphic Systems, celebrates his company’s silver jubilee, he says, brand AGS has grown and people respect the brand AGS. “I have been

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Kamat: "For me, more than the product, my brand matters the most"

You’ve touched 40 installations of sample-makers in 2017; the latest Tech4Check has been installed at Parksons Packaging’s Sri City plant; and recently launched a new TVT (text verification tool) software. It was a good 2017 for AGS, its silver jubilee year. How does 2018 look?
It’s been three years since we entered the sample making device business. Print-packagers are recognising the capability of our sample maker, our service and maintenance too. I believe, a good product should always be backed by good device support.

The Tech4Check, PDF-to-PDF and PDF-to-print software, besides Parksons has been installed at Shiv Offset in Indore, Welpac in Mahape (Navi Mumbai), at Rich Prints in Siliguri and additional installations and licences at Temple Packaging, among others.

With the Digital Information’s Ink Zone we have been able to implement the CIP3 connection between old or new presses to CTP devices, avoiding manual intervention. There are a number of such installations. And of course, with X-Rite auto-tracks, we provide a closed-loop solution. Just press the buttons on the press console and the ink keys get adjusted on the run. We are getting quite a lot of enquiries here.

We are hoping to carry the successful trend of 2017 into 2018.

What’s the buzz in the market?
Everybody wants to get into automation. Companies want to avoid manual errors, wastages because the margins are coming down. Today, print companies are demanding colour management solutions, because their customers expect their prints to be within the delta E values. And to ensure they deliver the correct colour, they need to have proper devices.

Take, for example, X-Rite, our number one selling kit. Couple that with the Digital Information Inkzone kit, and you have a solution that pays for itself in a year. We have successfully installed the Digital Information kit on a web press, our first, at Kala Jyothi in Hyderabad. We have connected the Komori web press production with a third-party camera-based inline instrument which is controlled by Digital Information closed-loop software.

And the last five year?
Outsourcing has been replaced by in-house systems. It makes sense. You have better control, quality and well-synchronised work process.

Now customers are trying to fit in the right kind of product at the right place to enhance the productivity. Earlier, printers used to buy printing machine worth crores but were reluctant to spend a few thousand on a spectrophotometer. That trend is changing.

As they say, good ideas take time to percolate. In the last five years, our sale for spectrophotometers has gone up.

Big equipment manufacturers are producing entry-level presses, entry-level folding machines, die-cutting machines. Are we seeing that as a trend now?
It is the need of the industry. A few years ago, a brand new printing equipment was not affordable. Therefore, we had more used machinery than new ones. The manufacturers have recognised the needs of our industry and have introduced these affordable entry-level machines, which are now a preferred choice for a secondhand machine.

There’s a sense that they are stripped-down machine…
From a small printer’s perspective, I see this as a stepping stone for bigger things. For the manufacturer it’s not just a brand new machine that has been sold, it’s also a brand loyalty exercise. If the print company is successful using the machine, he is sure to stay with the same manufacturer for a higher configuration machine.

But do you expect brands to buy that argument?

It’s all about the size of the company. Today when we look at bigger packaging companies and commercial printing companies in India, they all buy what they want. If there’s have a need, they will invest.

But if it is a small packaging company whose work can be performed on five-colour plus coater, why would it invest in a seven- or eight-colour plus coater? As I said, it all depends on the need of the customer and his target markets that he is trying to capture.

Take, for example, the AGS sample-maker. It’s an entry-level kit for the buyer. Tomorrow the buyer may opt for a bigger machine. But as of now, AGS is filling the gap by providing a shift from the manual operation to digital, then when it starts growing in digital it depends on him what he wants to do next. 

What kind of a shift are you seeing in the market as a supplier?
It is moving up, slowly. Earlier lot of print jobs from the tier-2 and tier-3 towns of Maharashtra used to come to Mumbai. Not anymore, because the local printers have invested in equipment that enables them to do print jobs they earlier had to decline.

The machines AGS displayed at Pamex focussed on zero downtime, zero error. What’s the significance?
That’s also the focus of our customers. Our new marketing campaign talks about this point. That is how we are portraying ourselves this year, saying “If you want 100% result, talk to AGS”.

What are the benefits?
Let me explain. Take the auto colour tracking instruments which could be an IntelliTrax or EasyTrax from X-Rite and something like the CIP3 connection from Digital Information. On a brand new machine, this CIP3 link is directly bought by the customer, but on a secondhand press, which is a huge market, this may not be a standard.

Consider a press without a CIP3 connectivity. When a job is given to the operator, a set of plates comes to the operator. He places the first plate on the console, and observes the plate, and repeats it for as many plates depending on the print job. He sets the press to a particular ink setting using the panel keys, based on his experience and judgement.  Now, if you give the same set of plates to another operator and ask him to set the press, you will find that the settings are different because he has used his experience and judgement.

The operator is doing his best, but ultimately it is the owner who is the loser because his makeready which should be inside 15 minutes would take double or more the time, there’s manpower loss, downtime loss, which eventually lead to overtime and electricity loss.

This is what colour measurement, colour management does. It brings 100% accuracy to your job. What this does is reinforce the confidence of our customer’s customer, potentially gaining more business from the customer.

How’s it with the sample-maker?
The benefits are tangible and intangible, both. An operator spends time when he has to cut samples or even a blanket because he has to do it as accurately as possible. With a digital cutter, the cutting is automated. It enhances accuracy and reduces the time taken to cut considerably.

What has been your proudest achievement in 2017?
Being successful with our sample-maker. Earlier there were two big players in this segment but now it has changed. When AGS brought the sample maker to the Indian market three years ago, there was no competition for me in this small segment. People trusted the China-make sample-maker since it was backed AGS. Printers kept faith in us and purchased this machine. Brand AGS has grown and people respect the brand AGS.

I have been in the printing industry for 15 years. For me, more than the product, my brand matters the most. 

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Team AGS at the Pamex 2017

 


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