In-Store Asia: the power of direct-to-substrate market and wide-format

The three-day show from 21-23 February in Mumbai opened up an exciting world of print opportunities.

02 Mar 2013 | By Ramu Ramanathan & Sidhesh Kanade

The In-Store Asia show at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in February was what a boutique show should be. Beguilingly aesthetic stalls, awards and a conference. If the previous edition saw stalls showcasing paper-based substrates. This year was about doing interesting things with that paper-based substrate, but it was much more like Resync's virtual mannequin for the Windows 8 launch.


As Sameer Musale, the director and business head of Resync, progressive Retail Solutions says, "Developments in wide-format print and substrates have meant that a whole new world of potential has opened up to marketers, with the capacity to print directly onto everything from snowboards to bike wheels, leather to glass, wood to plastics – the sheer breadth of printable materials is mind-blowing."

The question that one grappled while sifting through the award gallery at the show, however, is how best to use this stunning new capability.

Macromedia: Re-aligning targets

Naresh Kumar of Macromedia Digital who spoke to us on the sidelines of the show, " The temptation would be to push the technology as far as it can go and to do as much of it as possible. While certainly lucrative for the printer that is not necessarily the profitable right course of action. To fully understand how to use the new capability of this new-age printing for marketing, one has to first have to fully understand the context and limitations of that capability."

Macromedia which has multi-locations in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Cochin and Visakhapatnam were one of the early movers with their initiatives in digital printing. They had targetted retail with POS and POP segment but withdrew from the space.

Now, Macromedia has allied with ProPack to scale-up in the POP and POS segment. The $ 2 million investment includes a HP Scitex FB7600 industrial press and a roll-to-roll UV super-wide printer with UV ink from Vutek.

With these two presses in a dedicated unit in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Macromedia can focus on visual merchandising for retail, which Kumar says "is the future, and sky is the limit". He says, "The key attractions to printing direct on to multiple materials, rather than printing onto a substrate that is then stuck onto other materials, are cost and quality. Until the latest generation of presses came along, printers looking to impose an image on a non-paper surface would typically have to print the image on to an adhesive substrate that would then have to be applied to the intended finished article. This took a lot of time and energy and also required a huge amount of space – to mount a two metre board you might typically need mounting tables that could take up as much as four metres of precious floor space."

Naresh Kumar feels using direct-to-substrate devices significantly cuts down the amount of processes required to finish a print job, which offers all manner of savings and applications.

"You no longer have to print media and then mount onto another material, which saves time and reduces ink and media costs because printers don’t have to buy expensive self-adhesive materials," explains Kumar. "Another really important point is that cutting down the processing reduces the risk of mistakes being made. For instance, if an error is made in the mounting – such as a ripple or a crease in the material – you have to start the printing process all over again and that, potentially, can double the costs," he adds.

The finished result when printing direct-to-substrate is also of a better quality and more durable, claims Kumar, who has done lots of work in the sign and display market. "Printing directly to a rigid substrate can often eradicate eventualities like cracking or peeling that may occur when applying a flexible media," says Kumar.

He adds, "More importantly, as an operation, we can focus on engineering, client relationship and top quality."

Spectrum Scan: New markets

One company that doesn’t need to be convinced of the aforementioned benefits is Spectrum Scan, which has invested in a intradeck- six-colour + coater (28-inch x 40-inch) Roland press and a new thermo-forming machine. Since then Spectrum’s business hasn’t looked back and this year the firm had added an additional 45000 sq/ft, and so a total working area of 90,000 sq/ft as told by its head, Amit Shah.

"We installed a  5’x10’ thermoforming  machine at our new site in Vasai, which predominantly will be used for print and form backlit signage. This will allow us to screen print on PET G acrylic and poly-carbonate on the reverse side and then be thermofoamed. This technology has opened up new markets and opportunities and we are now looking at the next exciting investment," says Shah. 

Shah is hopeful this product will “change the signage industry in India”. He says, “This product is highly technical from pre-press to mould-making, we have every process under one roof. It took us two years, to develop this from an idea stage to the final product stage which includes the time taken to manufacture our customised thermoforming machine.

So far Shah hasn’t found any limitation in terms of the type of substrate the press is capable of printing on – as long as the material is "flat and no thicker than 25mm, the machine can handle it, adds Shah.

Whether its innovative signage for Vodafone and ICICI Bank or new developments for Cadbury's Shah says brand managers and marketers are beginning to seize on the technology in a big way. Plus the emphasis on new technologies has been truly revolutionary with lots of high-street brands entering the traditional print product: point-of-sale (POS) items.

For this, Spectrum Scan has created a 2,500 sq/ft  bazaar of POP and POS items  along with kirana shops, paan kiosks, ice-cream parlours, and a supermarket. This is a unique concept where you get total experience of bazaar at one go, and so, brands can have a real look and feel of their POP items. During In-Store Asia, Spectrum Scan drove product managers and key customers to Vasai for a plant visit as well as spent time with them at the bazaar.

"I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that most people who say they will spend an hour at the bazaar; end up investing a day to understand the POS items kept there," says Shah. "Especially now, when these Brands can cost-effectively innovate solution for their personalised and regionalised campaigns."

Shah is very excited about the future. He says, "Rather than asking ‘what do you need?’ the real question should be ‘to create a need with innovative products.’ because as long as you’re combining the right application with the right technology you can produce innovative cost effective solutions.” Shah and his technical team enlighten POP buyers about this.

For Shah, the key challenge is to make sure that printers and marketers use this type of industrial screen printing or thermoforming  in the most effective manner possible and not just for the sake of it."Take the US, for example. The amount of large-scale  thermoforming signage making up the American landscape can be overwhelming. Shah states, “Now there is no demand for it, but with samples like the Cadbury Silk  Chocolate signage, the client will be 100% convinced to go for it in the Indian market. There was no need from the client but we constantly create this need and then sell.”

Shah rounds off by saying, “This journey is quite exciting though challenging. But as George Bernand Shaw said, There are those that look at things the way they are , and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

AutoStriping India: On-the-road appeal

That the opportunity is there for wide-format printers is widely acknowledged. D J Bangara, the managing director at AutoStriping India, the 25 year old Bengaluru based firm which pioneered fleet graphics in India, says customers are now really starting to see how effective a marketing tool printed vehicle graphics are.

"Brand managers are realizing that an advert on a vehicle will be out on the road all day long; it’s a fantastic medium because your vehicle is constantly moving and can be positioned where you want to target your brand promotion," he says. So far fleet graphics have been not been tapped to its potential, but awareness is growing every day.

Imagine 15 to 25 Nanos with a Samsung or Coca-Cola branding in a marketplace." Autostriping did this for Levi's two years ago, wrapping a fleet of Chevrolet Beat cars with a denim design. It was awesome, and attracted a lot of attention, which was what they wanted.

"The segment of the market that is growing most rapidly is the colour change market," says Bangara. Vehicle wrapping, requires a lot of skill from the design and layout stage, to using the right type of printer, to selecting a matched self adhesive vinyl with lamination, and finally, applying this on the vehicle to give it a paint like finish. A conformable film, which is repositionable, is a must, and applicators at AutoStriping India have more than a decade of experience in this field.

"The cost for colour change is considered to be a little more expensive than traditional paint, but when you consider the convenience, and short time that you have to spare your vehicle, it is a winner. Bangara says vehicle graphics are ideal for the second-hand car market; wherein car colours can be re-done, and even personalised.

"Colour changes are popular because if you cover a vehicle as opposed to spraying it, the original paintwork is going to stay the same as it was the day it was wrapped," adds the market leader in this category.

The company is now focusing on in-store retail merchandising solutions, thanks to a strategic partnership with St Louis-based manufacturer idX Corporation. Incorporated in 1999, idX manufactures and installs fixtures in various materials, including wood, metal, glass, aluminum, laminate, veneer, plastics and acrylic, and is one of the largest retail fixture manufacturers in the US. In India, we are positioning ourselves as “idX auto graphics”, explains Bangara

Bangara says, “With FDI in retail opening up, there is a need for large-scale capability in this space to support the flood of activity that will happen in India. We have seen this happen in China, and the India story will not be different. idX is in India to cater to this segment, due its expertise in large scale roll-outs"

Bangara states, "Research has clearly shown that 70% of purchase decisions are made at the Point of Sale, and therefore these retail fixtures are critical to any marketer." idX uses design, engineering, quality assurance and project management in all their projects, with a special focus on modularity, which is the only way we can deliver high volume, Bangara explains.

Conclusion: It's all happening

In-Store Asia is an indication of where the market is heading.

Sameer Musale, the director and business head of Resync concludes, "So with printers pushing it and marketers that know about it seemingly very keen to employ the technology, it seems like printing direct to multiple substrates is going to grow and grow. We are educating clients to make sure all marketers are fully aware of the capabilities, but overall the new capacity to print onto pretty much anything looks set to bring printers and marketers even closer together in the pursuit of effective and innovative marketing collateral; as we have done at our stall."

Our verdict: A truly stellar show; which highlighted the changing dynamics of print.

In-Store Asia from 21-23 February was organised by VJ Media in Mumbai. Please click the web-link to have a glimpse of 24 exclusive images in the picture gallery


Click here to view the In-Store Asia picture gallery