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The digital spring in TechNova’s strategy - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

19 August 2017

Swarnangka Samaddar, the chief operating officer for digital imaging solutions at TechNova is the maverick child of digital.

At the vanguard of reasserting TechNova’s dominance using its pan India offset imaging reach, Swarnangka, in the process, is opening up new vistas in the digital print arena.

In this Sunday Column, we share Swarnangka’s digital instinct, and his belief that offset, in its smarter form, will continue to remain relevant

swarnatitle Swarnangka Samaddar, the chief operating officer, digital imaging solutions at TechNova

Do we see a new TechNova take shape?
TechNova’s key value system is being a continuously learning, improving and evolving enterprise. So, TechNova is "new" everyday.  

This is a digital strategy over and above digital plates. Can you tell us a bit more about that strategy?
There seems to be a constant debate about "offset vs digital". We strongly believe it's not about either/or. It's about the "and". TechNova’s strategy is about offering "offset and digital" solution.  And the core of our present strategy is our unflinching focus to help customers embrace digital into their existing ecosystems. We sincerely believe there will be perpetual possibilities in print across all technologies. There will be customers wanting to demonstrate excellence by integrating them.

Tough times?
These are very exciting times.

What is transpiring in the digital plate business?
I personally feel the key trend in digital plates is "Going Green". This means, our customers are rapidly adopting green chemistry-free plates. The benefits are multifold. We make a directly equitable impact on the environment, by saving water, avoiding harmful chemicals, and in doing so, not compromising either quality or risking press investments. This growth in green technology is far more relevant to us.

You have achieved success, selling three MGIs in India – Satyam Scan, South Asia’s first MGI EVO in Ahmedabad; Print Source Glazers in Delhi, and another one again in Delhi. Why no success with the traditional photo album sector? And how will you counter the recent charge from the 5-10 lakh Chinese products?
One key pain point of customers that we are trying to solve is how to increase the value of the printed paper. How can we make a sheet of printed paper be more unique, and more digitally efficient than just carrying a message or a product The challenge for offset is far more complex. You need the right format, robustness, application diversity and speed. Recent orders indicate that we have been successful in addressing across these key drivers with MGI kits, from Konica Minolta-  an offset printer with packaging aspirations, a service bureau with offset lineage, a UV service bureau with extremely diverse applications. There will be many efforts with price points in this space, but eventually, application knowledge and service ecosystem will determine preferences.

I visited Surat and saw an offset printer running an MGI JetVarnish. Satyam Scan, a pre-press CTP specialist, has since diversified into the offset domain. There’s no denying that TechNova has a strong presence in the offset segment. Most of your Konica Minolta engines are now getting placed in traditional offset print shops. Correct?
Our customers have invested incredible trust in TechNova over decades. We are extremely blessed to get an opportunity to be able to participate in, help and learn from their evolution. Each of these journeys, however, will be unique in their approach, extent, and timeline.

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Yogendra Gupta of Prnt Source Glazers: “TechNova’s team motivated us to integrate our offset setup with print-on-demand capabilities using digital.” Prnt has battery of six Konica Minolta print engines which has handheld by TechNova. 

How long will you take to convert the two and a half lakh offset customer-base onto the digital print path?
They are fuelled by the change in the consumption side of print: preferences and profit pools are rapidly shifting. Be it offset, flexo, letterpress or digital on the technology side; or packaging, label, commercial, newspaper, corrugated board printer on the application side, there is an intense need to optimise, integrate and differentiate. We won’t be seeing any one technology or application specific print shop, but a new breed of hyper hybrid print partners, capable of addressing the full spectrum of marketing fulfilment needs for brand owners. Our focus is to help them achieve those aspirations with solutions from the world’s best technology companies.

You are a child of Kodak; Pranav Parikh had partnered with Landa with the HP Indigo project. And yet, TN allies with Konica Minolta (KM)?
Being an early believer in digital print helps to identify the best value for our customers. Presently KM offers unbeatable price-performance, and a quality commensurate to offset applications. Beyond depth and breadth of product portfolio, what makes this alliance go strong is how we complement each other, and a shared vision of the future.

What is the update on the outreach with KM products?
We are doing incredible things together in promoting KM engines and MGI. But more than that, we have been able to build differentiated and credible service ecosystems.

Talking about services TechNova has been consistently winning services ratings and awards within KM quarter by quarter, last year you were awarded the best with 98 % CSAT, that's incredible. What is working for you and is it limited for only digital presses?
Services is closest to our heart. When we started this journey in equipment selling with CtPs, we knew that services are going to be a critical differentiator. We needed systems and processes far more simple and effective from ground-up, and deployed at enormous speed. We created TED (TechNova Equipment Dashboard). It's a smart service operating system tethered to all digital presses. It helps us to ensure maximum uptime for devices. We have extended this service to even third party CTP engine users, under our annual contracts. It's a live dashboard ensuring complete control on services from TechNova. For digital customers, it offers toner and yield management. For CTP customers, it offers purchases of spares and annual contracts. We are constantly investing in services and striving to make it better and better. Ensuring "customer delight" is what motivates our team to excel.

There are two aspects to digital and software, and TechNova has an interest in both. You spoke about the digital equipment, how do you characterise the overlying strategy for the software segment?
Our customers are increasingly shifting to software, to make it their core differentiator, and invisibly drive print innovations, even in existing press environments. We have an amazing range to offer from the world’s bests; Agfa, EFI, Enfocus, Esko. From hybrid workflows, packaging design, colour management and variable data, to ink optimisation, intelligent PDF solutions, web2print to security and automation. We believe the availability of cheap data will drive web applications and workflow automation tremendously in foreseeable future.

Let's talk about your post-press foray, what has been the run-rate so far, and how does it fall in place with your overall strategy?
We are getting stronger in the post-press segment. Our relationship with Duplo motivated us to deep dive into post-press.

How so?
They have greatly guided us on building a portfolio that helps digital printers increase efficiency. Duplo’s DC series finishers offer unbeatable cutting, creasing, finishing, perforation, all in one go, and has created an enviable position in top digital print farms. Apart from this, we do have an entire range of sample makers, business card cutters, perfect binders and collators. We are very excited about Duplo DDC 810 digital spot UV device, for the print service bureau segment, which will soon be available in India.

When I speak to equipment suppliers, GST seems to have put them in a spot of bother. How is TechNova coping with GST - both internally with your channel partners and the hand-holding with small print firms?
We were GST-ready from day one. We have supported an entire customer ecosystem to embrace this change. We believe that in the long run, it is going to have a positive impact on fair players, and the economy as a whole. 

You are the maverick child of digital print. How do you view digital print?
(Laughs) Rightly said, maverick child. It allows me to have a joyful, vibrant expectation of future of print as a whole. I am equally passionate about all technologies that drive print innovations, be it offset, digital, toner or inkjet.

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TechNova stall at Wan-Ifra

What is your prediction for digital print in India 2020?
Digital will grow. As industry gears up for the next Drupa, efforts to integrate and consolidate various digital technologies will become intense. Customer focus will become frugal commercial print shops capable of addressing all print demands of all customers, small or big.

Any other bets which you are willing to wager?
Flexo will continue to remain on a hyper growth path. There will be a strong undercurrent of applications that integrate physical print world with virtual ecosystems – such as conductive inkjet printed RFID antennas. Also, security packaging will see greater demand.

And offset print?
Offset, in its smarter form, will always continue to churn out prints. We will never cease loving it. Now, we will only "add" digital to the love-list.

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