“EFI is determined t o succeed in India”

EFI believes its technology-by-acquisition strategy will boost success. Stephen Green, EFI’s Asia Pacific head discusses the product portfolio during a quick stop-over in India and chats with Noel D’cunha

21 Feb 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI): EFI is on a roll what with the recently reported financial figures. What’s the recipe for this success?
Stephen Green (SG): Yes, it’s been a good fourth quarter in 2013 which saw a revenue of (USD 197.2-million), which is 13% up compared to the fourth quarter 2012. Meanwhile the year ended December 2013, reported a record revenue (USD 652.1-million) which is up 12% year-over-year compared to the same period in 2012.
I think a lot of the double digit growth comes from having a fantastic portfolio, but we also have a great team of people.  
There’s very high expectation particularly after four-five years of continual growth. If you had bought an EFI share this time last year, you’d be sitting very handsomely. So there’s lot of pressure that goes with the market expectations. 
That said we just came from the large event called Connect in Las Vegas, which is a sales and marketing kick-off for the year as well as a large customer event. We showcase lots of products and solutions to end-users, distributors and media. It was a stunning event with 1,500 people in attendance, the biggest event in its 11-year history.
PWI: What’s the outlook for EFI in 2014?
SG: When you perform as good as EFI has done, there are expectations. We are focussed on this year. Our CEO has said that the company will reach a billion-dollar in sales by 2016, which is not far away. Globally, the company still has ambitious plans for 2014 – a goal to continue the double-digit growth. In Asia, from my perspective, I would like to think we could grow the business faster than we have. 
Asia is an interesting place. We have some developed countries like Korea, Japan, Australia and developing countries like India and China, though I’d say China is developing rapidly. You need a different blending approach; one-sized model won’t work in Asia. We will spend a lot of time here in India, learning the market in terms of digital adoption technologies, quality and efficiency improvements and generating awareness.
PWI: How different a market is China and India?
SG: These are two very different markets. As I said, China is developing rapidly because the take-up of new technologies at times is breathtaking. It is aggressive in terms of digital adoption and they want to be up to speed quickly. Because it is such a big place and a lot of the business has national coverage, particularly in the space that we are dealing with in the printing industry, they have multiple locations. It is not uncommon for print business in China not to order just one but five systems, one for each of the locations, if they have five. 
PWI: Your product range... Can you tell me about the developments happening there? 
SG: The three main business that we have, the Fiery business, the inkjet business and the productivity software, have grown. The Fiery business is where the company started, it’s where the company’s heritage is. The EFI Fiery controller is a mature business, with all large and capable OEM partners like Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Canon, making it a benchmark in the industry. The controller continues to be the preferred one on the production engine of the OEM partners’ machines. 
PWI: The Connect event started off with a presentation on independent tests for Fiery. What is that about?
SG: Obviously, the first one is speed. The Fiery controllers have showed that they are – by far –  the fastest. This has been laboratory-tested. What is synonymous with Fiery controller is the colour management and consistency. We also focus a lot on options. We have a big suite of software products that complement the Fiery controller that help customers handle and control files, and integrate to other systems seamlessly such as our MIS software. Instead of having a standalone systems, which can be cranky, we have a unified platform. 
PWI: The other software products?
SG: We will soon be releasing the V15.1 of the Radius, the ERP/MIS software for labels, folding cartons, flexible packaging and print. At Connect we displayed all of our software suite products – including the Radius, Monarch, Pace MIS, Digital StoreFront (DSF) and the Online Print Solutions (OPS) cross-media and web-to-print platform, which we acquired in 2012, among others. The good thing is that they are integrated and they talk to each other. And there’s always improvements going on, on each of these products, which comes from customer feedback. 
PWI: How do these improvements benefit the customers?
SG: Software products are there to help you do things quicker, easily and accurately. And EFI ERP/MIS software products are targeted at the print industry, for doing things much more efficiently, crack the jobs better, and in some cases with the web-to-print solutions, there’s no human interference. MIS helps you track the job all the way, including integrity. 
PWI: You bought a logistic company before Connect. Why would you buy a logistics company?
SG: Yes, we are not DHL but we did buy a logistic company because logistic is an integral part of print. When print gets to the end of the line, it has to go somewhere. Would it not be great, if you have something like this built into your MIS system that would pick the most effective, fastest way to get the end product, say to a customer in Ahmedabad? So that’s what the software does. It gives you the best option at a location to get your print job delivered.
PWI: What should we expect in EFI print machines?
SG: In the EFI portfolio, we have the Vutek, Raster and the Jetrion. Under the Vutek portfolio, we have the QS model, which is an entry-level machine; the GS which is an industrial machine; and the recently launched HS model, which is super industrial machine that targets at replacing the screen printing. The HS model can print at a speed of up to 100 sq/ft per hour. 
At the moment, we have a decent number of the QS model, which has been upgraded to QS Pro, now firing at a droplet of 12pl. Recently, we have shipped out one machine of the GS model. Plus we have signed up for a top-end, wide-format press with LED curing, a first for India.
PWI: What is LED curing on top-end, wide-format press?
SG: This is one area where we have spent a lot of time and money in EFI’s inkjet space for wide-format machines. We believe that it’s the future it’s very clear, it’s environmentally clean because it does not use head hence it uses little power consumption; print quality is outstanding and wastage is low. Traditionally, any UV printer cures the print using mercury-arc lamp, a heat-curing system, which is considered not so eco-friendly. LED uses cool-cure technology, which is energy efficient; the life of the lamp is 10-times more than the mercury-arc lamp. 
We have introduced the Jetrion range of label presses, with our partner, Monotech, two months ago. We are the last entrants in this segment, but we will be installing the first Jetrion at one of our customers in North India. 
PWI: With the kind of R&D facility you have, why the technology-by-acquisition approach?
SG: I think the company has publicly stated, and this is not a secret, that relevant, applicable acquisition, all the time. We have a reasonable amount of cash-on-hand, and the company has no debts. There’s certain amount of cash set aside for share buy-back and certain amount for potential acquisition that would complement and enhance our business.
If you look at our track record – we were a ‘one-product-company’ that was the Fiery world, not very long ago, to the present day as ‘a many-products-company’ in many markets.
I would not be surprised if we do some more acquisitions – maybe software or other parts of the business. One of our more recent acquisition is a Spanish company, CretaPrint, which is into ceramic segment; we bought a South American and German software companies. You would think that EFI would buy an Asian company, and I would like that. We will continue to look for great partners.