Cluster Development: Building Print Cities - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Why are cities like Bengaluru and Pune innovative hot spots for IT? Because these cities were part of the cluster development programme, consolidating expertise and infrastructure.

30 May 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

IPAMA and AIFMP, two premier print federations, are attempting to turn the two cities into printing and packaging hotbeds. IPAMA is holding a meeting tomorrow (1 June, 2015) for one such in Faridabad while AIFMP has initiated one in Karnal.
According to CP Paul, CMD of APL Machinery and a key functionary at IPAMA, the association has arranged a meeting of interested print companies (Indian manufacturers and printers) with the officers of the Haryana government at K-Hotel in Faridabad. The sizes of plots are 1012 sq/m, 1800 sq/m and 4,000 sq/m. The rate, which is under revision, is Rs 11,600 sq/m.
Salil Narang of HSIIDC (Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation), in an interview with PrintWeek India said, “We have identified 31 clusters across various sectors, like textiles, stainless steel, footwear, print and packaging, pharma, agricultural implements, leather, engineering, scientific instruments, etc." The Haryana state government has identified common facility centres for five clusters, which had been sanctioned by the Government of India. 
CP Paul hopes that the meeting will roll out a blueprint. This, he felt, would create "an Industrial Model Township (IMT) on the lines of Faridabad and Ballabgarh and expand the print and packaging industrial base."
Why print cluster development?
Cluster means a number of individuals grouped together or collected in one place. Cluster development is the economic development of business clusters, a concept which was first proposed in 1990 by Michael Porter. It has since been attracting attention from government, consultants and academics.
Clusters are an increasing focus for industrial development initiatives. For the print industry, this network is critical to increase Indian print’s competitiveness. “In today's competitive world these type of clusters are very important. Issues like labour, prices with customers, and bulk purchasing can be sorted out with a cluster.”
Kamal Chopra of AIFMP, who initiated the first print and packaging cluster in Karnal says, it really is a question of survival for the micro, medium and small printer. “People are looking at India, and what I have personally noted is that many European companies are interested to get their job executed from India.”
But printers in India are not famously an accomplished group. According to Chopra, 85% of Indian printers are in the micro or small sector and they are not capable of executing bulk export orders.
In addition, there are overseas companies, including Chinese companies, which are interested in investing in the Indian printing and packaging industry. “There are takeovers happening among the big print companies. In such a scenario, what is the future of the 85% Indian printers,” asks Chopra. He thinks the solution lies in the cluster. “Whether it is the printers or print equipment manufacturers, the basic theory is, how to produce more to be competitive. This is possible only if we work in a group.”
The benefits of cluster
Printing and print equipment manufacturing is a capital intensive industry. Therefore, it's not only about the cost of the machine, but how optimally one makes use of the machinery to remain competitive.
Paul says, “Clusters can provide common facilities like pre-press and post-press; administratively they can use common security, conference rooms and a lot of other small things, saving on common cost. It can also be a hub for buyers for buying.” 
Chopra says, in case an innovative machine or equipment is installed at a cluster, many members can use it to optimise production by reducing the per price of the piece to a reasonable level. “I would like to quote an example of the Australian printers here. Many printers only produce small digital jobs in their companies and the rest is outsourced from markets like China. This means China becomes a cluster for them.” 
There are other benefits from a manufacturers’ point of view. Manufacturers will be able to understand the routine problems faced by the printers and modify their designs to increase productivity. 
“Manufacturers operating in the vicinity will become accountable, unlike those who come sell their equipment and disappear,” says Paul. He adds, “Print cluster would function like a quality check for manufacturing web offset, small sheetfed press, corrugation machines which cater to India as well as print markets in South East Asia, Middle East, North Africa, etc."  
So as it stands today for the print industry, developing clusters may be a good idea. The large number of small and medium printers and print equipment manufacturers do not always get the best price for their work. “The development of Indian printing and packaging sector is hidden in the cluster. If we will start working in the clusters, I am sure that we can be the biggest market for the global outsourced printing and packaging work.”
Paul agrees and concludes, “If all printing and packaging and manufacturers come together then it will be very easy for everyone to grow.”