“20% of our sales is monochrome,” says Tadahiko Sumitani

Rahul Kumar and Supreeth Sudhakaran discuss Konica Minolta’s mid-term plans with its managing director Tadahiko Sumitani, who talks about adopting a direct sales model and building a factory in India

31 Mar 2012 | By Rahul Kumar & Supreeth Sudhakaran

PrintWeek India (PWI): It has been just about four years since Konica Minolta made inroads into the Indian market and already more than 500 print devices have been installed. What is your success formula?
Tadahiko Sumitani (TS): First of all thank you for your kind words. Our success mantra has been simple – launch the right product at the right time, at the right price. This was exactly what we had aimed for. However, there is still very stiff competition in the market. Our competitors are trying to catch up with our growth rate and are targeting our products. Therefore, the speed of growth has slowed a bit.

PWI: So are you facing competition only in C8000/7000 series or in C6000 and 6501 series also?
TS: In the 6000 and 6501 series, we do not see much competition and are still holding the ground. However, it is the mid- and high-production printer segments where we have been facing big competition. This is also a new challenge for Konica Minolta as C7000 has the same engine as of C6000 and 6501, but the 8000 has a completely new engine technology. While the earlier products were aimed at the mid production segment, with the C8000 we are aiming to tap the higher production volume market.

PWI: How are the monochrome printers from Konica Minolta, which include Pro 1200/1051 and Pro 950, faring?
TS: To be very honest, I am not very happy with the black and white segment. The growth in the market for monochrome is lesser in comparison to colour. Although, it is good but it does not mean that monochrome should be ignored. In India, monochrome is still a huge market. While colour will grow at a rate of 10-20% than last year, we have seen that the growth in monochrome is usually very steady. For us, 15-20% of our sale is monochrome and the rest is colour. This is a reason why we have been worrying about Pro 1200/1051 and 950. Owing to the CRDM environment in USA, these products have been getting good responses there. In India, however, these printers could not win much support from the market. Nevertheless, we are going to launch new products at Drupa 2012 to strengthen our presence in this segment.

PWI: Last year, Xerox tied-up with Cisco, HP also tried the same using e-Print service with a tie-up with Google. Do you see cloud printing attaining success in India?
TS: This is just a question of time. However, the whole atmosphere for it to function should be in place. Other developed countries like Japan have already built an atmosphere to adopt such technologies.

PWI: Printers have many a times said that the printing quality is near to offset. What does it exactly mean?
TS: Every production press manufacturer targets to provide a print quality that is closer to offset. Currently, in the toner machines utilising CMYK, the RGB gamut covered is very narrow as compared to offset machines. Considering this, we launched the 70HC (High Croma) printer during Pamex 2011 in Delhi. In this, we have tried to cover RGBM, ERGB or what people normally refer to as wider-RGB spectrum. These are very popular in Japan, especially for Manga comics and other animations.
Similarly, the photo printing market is a great opportunity that we are trying to penetrate. It is the right market for High Croma machines, particularly where the  customer is not ready to buy a higher model. The C8000 is the best in its class as it can also print on coated paper.

PWI: 70HC was launched specifically targeting the photo-printing segment. What is the growth rate of photo printing industry in India, according to you?
TS: We do not see this market for numbers; we would like to make our presence felt in the photo market. With 70HC, we definitely have an edge, as there are no other machines utilising the same technology. The special toner used in the machine renders more vividness to the prints. It covers almost the entire RGB colour gamut. We launched 70HC to show the technology, the difference, and enter the niche market. Nonetheless, we are still selling around one or two machines every month.

PWI: Does Konica Minolta engage in direct selling?
TS: No, we do not. We are still learning something every day from the Indian market. In addition, we always believe in supporting our Indian partners. However, we have proposed a direct selling model to our parent company and one of our mid-term plans is to have a direct-sales model.

PWI: Some of the manufacturers are offering finance facilities to their customers; do you have any similar plans?
TS: Yes, we know that some manufacturers are offering such kind of facility. We are in direct touch with our head office to find a feasible model; but before that, we have to study this. If it is feasible, why not? But we aren’t hasting into making a decision immediately. We might introduce it when we decide to go in for direct sales.

PWI:Tier-A cities are saturated, growth is only in tier-B and tier-C cities, what do you think of it?
TS: Exactly. In tier-A cities, the competition is very high. We are organising road shows in tier-B cities once or twice a month. These road shows will take place in Jammu, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and then we plan to go down south too. We do not have any installations in Jammu and Kashmir, and we believe these road shows will help us. Awareness of quality is a must; people are willing to pay in India.

PWI: Will there be any different mode of payment than click charges in the near future? Will it head south, or will they be here forever?
TS: We tried to exclude the toner from click charges but we failed. It is still very early to talk about doing away with the click charges. Being a price-dominant market, click charges war is always the key point in sales. It is a little premature to comment if click charges will be toppled by a new model, as currently none of the manufacturers are working on a new model.

PWI: From which company do you import Konica Minolta printing presses for India? Any plan to set up a manufacturing plant in India?
TS: Earlier the machines were imported from Japan but now we are importing it from China. At present, we have no plan to set up a manufacturing plant in India, as the Indian market is very small as compared to China. We entered China in 2005-06, and have installed more than 1,000 printing presses there. Nonetheless, it is my dream to set up a manufacturing plant in India.

PWI: With the European downturn affecting major manufacturers and printers alike, which region do you think might emerge as the next power block of printing industry?
TS: Looking at the condition of the European printing industry, this would probably be the last chance to redeem the situation. However, I do not think that this would be the last Drupa. China might emerge as the global printing hotspot, and give birth to a new Drupa in Shanghai or Beijing. According to me, Shanghai Digital was one of the biggest shows ever. If corrective steps are not taken, the print market will automatically shift to China from Germany.