Digital print hums a new song in the small cities

Smaller companies in India, especially those in non-metro cities have been witnessing growth in the adoption of technologies. Today printers want to embrace the latest and best which is available in the marketplace. In the larger cities, there are mid-end and high-end digital presses, but the new companies are buying low-end one.

“Our presses offer a unique opportunity for growth to smaller companies,” says Puneet Datta of Canon India, in this Sunday Column.

10 Dec 2017 | By Noel D'Cunha

Noel D'Cunha (ND): How has the print industry evolved in the last five years, and more particularnly what are the changes you have seen in the year 2017?

Puneet Datta (PD): The print industry is rapidly shifting from conventional to digital printing and with the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, the line between digital printing and its usage for new applications that did not exist five years ago is beginning to take shape. Therefore, it is paving the way for new domains where printing can play a significant role in our lives.

ND: For example?

PD: Digital printing or 3D Printing is being used to make communication more personalised and relevant. Research is already ongoing to have digitally printed human organs. In 2017, if we focus on India then it’s safe to state that digital printing has become a mainstream business in many of the verticals. The various trends in consumerism are also hinting towards choice, individualisation of content consumption, personalised communications, and on-demand consumption. These are all terms that would also influence the printing industry in India.

ND: What is it that makes a digital press popular?

PD: Canon is the world’s leading imaging technology company. The proof lies in the number of technology patents that we have garnered over the last two decades and the recent acquisitions of world-leading organisations like Oce and Toshiba Medical Business. This holistic approach together with our high investment in R&D ensures that the product that bears our brand name has industry-leading features and advantages that transform into business continuity and competitive edge for our customers.

We have proven this since 2007 when we installed our first ImagePress series product in India. Our direct service approach ensures that we are closest to our customers in their time of need.

ND: Which is your most popular model?

PD: The ImagePress series inclusive of the C650 series and C10000VP series are the most popular models in India.

ND: What’s your installation numbers for 2017?

PD: We are very proud to share with you that in 2017 we have increased our market share in colour digital press category. This is due to the positive response we have received for our ImagePress C650 Series in general from both metro and non-metro Locations. As we are expanding our service network to smaller towns, the printers are reciprocating with their trust in our solutions. Even our mid-end ImagePress series C10000VP/C8000VP have seen a lot of buoyancy in 2017.

ND: Can you name some of the key customers?

PD: Some of the key customers that have already been covered by PrintWeek India include Avantika Printers in New Delhi, Classic Printers in Allahabad Digital House in Trivandrum, Jayaram Cards in Calicut and DD Enterprises in Lucknow.

ND: Why have they invested in your machine?

PD: Canon presses have always been known for higher uptime, consistent colour reproduction, and productivity. This ensures that the customer has faith in meeting their end customer print applications need in a predictable and stipulated time with desired quality when they choose to invest in a Canon press.

ND: Zero-error, zero downtime, zero wastage (quality and consistency) have become the focus of print production…

PD: With technologies rapidly evolving and cost pressures squeezing every last penny from margins, today’s print technology needs to work harder than ever to pull its weight. The price of downtime, errors, and wastage are greater than ever. Boosting productivity in printing isn’t only about upgrading technologies but also addressing the challenge of prolonged downtimes, errors and excessive wastage. It is our constant endeavour to achieve the holy grail of printing and deliver zero-error, zero downtime, and zero wastage solutions to our customers.

ND: One sees a number of low-cost kit among the expensive ones on offer, and these are primarily targeting small companies. Is it fair to say that small companies are now becoming important, and why? Honestly, would these machines help them break the barrier and get a notch higher?

PD: India witnessed the phenomenon of decentralisation of digital printing from 2009. Since then the number of small digital printers have increased manifolds both in large and small cities.

The intent of every manufacturer of digital presses has been and will be to target this decentralisation approach with the launch of faster and smaller digital presses. Now smaller companies, especially those in non-metro cities have been witnessing a high growth in adoption of technologies. This trend is also seen in the printing industry, which now wants to embrace the latest and best technologies available in the marketplace.

In the larger Indian cities, we see a lot of mid-end or high-end digital presses being installed which have naturally lower run cost. The smaller companies with low-end presses might need to find a niche in which to operate in order to be successful. However, in smaller towns, these presses offer a unique opportunity for growth to smaller companies.

ND: What has been the impact of demonetisation and GST on your business?

PD: The print industry is one of the most resilient industries that exist. It has weathered many challenges and policy changes over the last many decades. Demonetization and GST did impact the overall GDP of the nation for last three quarters. But the date of the latest quarter shows the economy is recovering, and the government has forecast a higher GDP growth for the future. In line with a macro-economic scenario, digital print also witnessed a slowdown. However, business seems to be back to normal after the festival season time.

Though there are still many issues that the print industry needs clarity on the right representatives from across Indian print industry are making valiant efforts towards a rightful resolution of the same.

ND: What’s the change in machine buying trends among Indian customers?

PD: The machine purchase trends in India are quite diversified. Some printers are investing in their core business offerings and strengthening/building capacity while others are diversifying their business to cater to new customers / changing customer demands. Both have their own merits, and thus, on the one hand, we see that placements of offset machines have increased over past couple of years, on the other, digital presses have also an increasing sales demand.

Post-press equipment for adding value to the printed product, finishing the products have also got traction.

However, since fag end of last year to maybe this time, we have seen a dip in investments for large CAPEX deployments. As the economy starts to increase its growth rate we could potentially see initial investments into newer technologies/niche segments picking up over the next few year.

ND: What trends are you seeing in smaller centres of India?

PD: We have a different distribution and market share penetration strategies for our different segments. We are witnessing an unprecedented growth in demand from smaller centres in India. Owing to growing demand from regional centres, we are present in over 60 cities and intend to expand to over 100 cities in the next three to four years in the commercial print segment. In the wide-format printing, our core strategy is channel penetration. We are already present in the tier-1 and tier-2 cities. We are also working towards a deeper regional and segment based penetration with an expanded outreach in tier-3 and tier-4 cities.

ND: The Canon Research?

PD: I was coming to that. The recent Canon Research of 552 print service providers (PSP) and print and media buyers across 25 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, reveals that awareness of digital print applications among print buyers has increased in the last two years. It has revealed that 20% of PSPs offer cross-media or multi-channel campaign coordination, 84% PSPs see cost rising faster than revenue, 55% print buyers ask buyers for advice on multi-channel communications. 80% PSPs say they can no longer do things as they always have, and 48% of commercial printers only have a formal marketing or business development plan.

It is evident that the markets are in the process of transitioning from print-first to digital-first. Hence, the future of paper and print will be determined by how the industry reinvents itself in the digital-first universe.

ND: What’s been your proudest achievement in the past few months? 

PD: The installation of ImagePress C10000VP/C8000VP series at new customer sites has been a feather in our cap, coming in the second half of 2017. We have successfully upgraded customers to this series which has led to these customers having at times two-three fold growth in their print volumes. This is generating a positive word of mouth for this highly successful series for Canon worldwide.

Also, the rapid expansion of our imageProGraf series both in CAD/CAM and graphic arts market has led to Canon India gaining more than 10% extra market share in 2017 as compared to 2016.

ND: What is the one element that you would want our readers to take away from this interaction, and what future advancement is your company looking towards?

PD: Driven by changes in technologies and with the onset of Industry 4.0, a profound digital transformation is underway within the printing industry as well. Printing companies are enhancing their capabilities with newer technologies and are investing in seamless workflows as a preliminary capability to drive innovation and make significant improvements in efficiency.

The advent of fourth industrial revolution has ushered in a new era for the professional printing industry, with the introduction of a myriad of new technologies that are taking printing and finishing technology to the next level. It is safe to say that the industry is witnessing new growth frontiers like no other.

I would like to sign off with the vision that 4.0 is no longer a future trend. With technology accelerating and transforming at a neck breaking speed, the need of the hour is to hop onto this ‘smart’ wagon of technological integration and future-proof print.