‘The demand for fine paper is on the rise’

Noel D’cunha and Supreeth Sudhakaran interact with Suneet Jain, business head at Galgo Fine Papers to understand why speciality papers remains a low volume segment

11 Apr 2013 | By Noel D'Cunha & Supreeth Sudhakaran

Your thoughts on the Indian printing scenario…

I have been looking forward to the digital technology for the last four years. Half a decade ago, digital had not made successful inroads into the Indian market, perhaps only a few in India were contemplating to use it. In Delhi, for example, digital technology was not as famous as it should have been. But now it is increasing. Overall, Indian print industry has a great future ahead; particularly in digital technology.

As we heard during Drupa, almost two decades ago, digital held only 2% of the total printing industry. And even after 19 years, it is still 2%... 
Though several new digital print providers are coming up every year, it’s true that the digital printers still hold small share of the total printing industry. Remember the total size of the Indian print industry is also growing at a good pace, and so, even though there is  increase in number of digital printers in India over the years, they still hold a small percentage of the total print market. But now there is greater focus on digital printing, so the share should increase.
Does digital meet the expectations or will short-run on offset take over as a trend?
Depends on the job, design and the time limit . To be honest if one is very precise then offset printing is much better. Short-runs may be costly but generally most of the jobs which have short-run have very short delivery time. Hence offset will have its own advantage and position, while digital will have its own. Since demand for short-run is increasing so will business for digital printing increase, and there are digital printers who are giving excellent results.
Can you give a brief about your company ?
We started as paper merchants in late sixties, started by my father. Then, we ventured into coated papers, especially  art papers from Yugoslavia, Austria etc in the 1980s. Basically, we always focussed on new grades or brands to be introduced in India. For example, we were the first to introduce Lumi Art, Saphire Grafik from ITC and list goes on… In late 90s, we realised that high quality fine papers are not available in India. Or if they were available, they were highly priced. For example, at that time, fine paper was being sold at Rs 100 per sheet, and the total tonnage was only 5 MT per year. 
We introduced the same grade of product under Galgo; that too, at a lower price. We sold the sheets at Rs 32 a sheet and straightaway the market jumped from 5 MT to 75 MT. Our company is known for innovation and bringing in paper, which is not only high-quality but also made available at a honest price. We were the first to host the Galgo Design Award in the country recognising the work of designers, photographers, printers, ad agencies, screen printers etc. We were also the first paper trading company in India to be FSC COC certified.  
So then you stopped dealing in commercial paper?
We did not stop but have changed the model at our company. It is more an indenting-based business on a representation basis —from supplier to customer directly, through us.
So how much is commodity versus specialty paper sales for you?
It is obvious that worldwide production and market of fine paper is very small in comparison to total paper produced and being sold. Not that it can’t be produced but the market is very niche and the production also needs some very high standards; hence, it has to be less. So,  that thumb-rule applies in India, especially, when this market is still getting matured for fine paper.
Who are your customers?
When we started with fine papers, it was more of printers and ad agencies. But now it is right from the corporate communications, agency, freelance designer, production designer to the printer. The market has increased with several circles of print buyer coming in.
What is more challenging: commodity or fine paper?
It is a challenge to sell fine paper. It is more of marketing, investment, constant follow ups, inventory management and many more. The biggest challenge is that you need to have passion for selling fine paper and cannot let it die. Fortunately, we have great passion for fine paper and it is only multiplying. Commodity paper is more of buying and selling only.  
At the same time, in fine paper market, you have lesser competition. Is that an advantage?
It used to be once, but not now. There are five or six organised fine paper sellers in the market. You don’t see too many marketers running around selling commodity papers, which is not the case with fine papers. With the fine paper market size still remaining small, the 5-6 companies are chasing the same clients, making competition in this segment much higher than in commodity papers. 
Do you help your customers in deciding the right paper for their applications?
Definitely, we do help. But frankly speaking, it is the prerogative of the designer and printer to decide which paper is suitable for a job.
How big is the market?
It should be between 6,000-7,000MT by way of organised sales. 
How many brands form part of your portfolio?
We are doing  6-7 brands currently, these include Rendezvous Superwhite, Iris SG white, New Rendezvous Natura, Contrast Laid, Classic, Leathack and Mettalic Starlite.
How fast has been the demand growing?
The demand is growing, how fast is a tough question. Fine paper business is directly related to the economic situation. Like seven months ago, we could have easily said that it’s growing at a pace of 20-25%, but now suddenly the situation has changed and this pace of 20-25% seems unrealistic. But demand will keep increasing for sure. 
Print buyer or printer, who makes the final decision?
Depending on the job it should be either the printer or the designer. But currently the end-user is also taking keen interest and playing an important role in deciding which paper to use.
Though it’s always tough to meet designers, but it’s always a learning experience interacting with them, printers and end-users together, as you get to know more about the creativity and also help our team to understand why a specific grade of paper is being recommended for a  specific job.
Are you happy with the volume of business you have?
Yes, we are satisfied with what we have achieved. We currently handle 35-40% of the total market share .But we don’t evaluate satisfaction and happiness by number, or volumes or profits. We evaluate it, by the recognition which our brand Galgo Fine Paper gets, which actually is giving us lot of satisfaction and happiness. 
What would be the right number?
In last two years, with our pan India movement, we have distribution network in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Jaipur, Kolkata and Chandigarh. With our existing brands and addition of some new brands, which we plan to bring in soon, we target to control a business of 50-55% of the total fine paper market within next two years, and continue increasing it.