Six things I learnt from the print samples at the PrintWeek India Awards

At the fourth edition of the Awards; one thing is clear: Indian print firms are getting better at designing, printing and marketing. The linkage between new innovations and profits is stronger than ever before. And print angst has produced some extraordinary work in 2012.

25 Aug 2012 | By Ramu Ramanathan

One of the books I re-read recently is Product Juggernauts by Jean-Philippe Deschamps and R Ranganath Nayak. This 1995 book published by HBR talks of how often a company can develop new products, can determine whether or not it survives. They integrate activities in R&D, strategy, product development and marketing, to form a comprehensive view of the product creation process that leads to value creation for three stakeholder groups - employees, customers and owners.

What we try to do with the Awards is, we try to add to the intellectual print-capital (by stressing on print R&D, print strategy, print development) of our jury members; and this year we had a fab panel of 32 jurists.

In the past four years, the lesson my team and I have learnt is, with the scramble of producing the next big print blockbuster, print firms have become competitive. Print is no longer a cosy business. With a cornucopia of technologies and strategies available it has become front-line.

My take-away from the jury process and scrutinising the samples at the Awards:

1. One of the samples at the PrintWeek India Awards was a re-print of Adam Smith’sWealth of Nation. The spine looks good, pages are crisp. A quick leaf-through to see the section sewing and grain direction. It’s then that two phrases grab my attention. Smith’s advocacy of a system based on employee specialisation and economies of scale. Famously, he observed that a group of pin makers who concentrated on a particular part of the task could make more pins than a group in which each worker made the whole pin. Today, a lot of Indian print firms are building assembly lines and segregating workers in special departments. That’s Adam Smith.

2. I talk to one of the jury members. She is irked a great deal as to why print (or a printer) that matters so much be so unrespected. My bank or my cell-phone company takes six weeks to process a credit form. Whereas a print firm - armed with a proper PDF like Pragati Offset - can turnaround a complex job with 101 variables in less than 24 hours. This needs to be applauded.

3. As spends become more fickle; the life cycle of an idea, a campaign, or a brand is shrinking. Product managers say they need TQM. That is getting to know which product or service will be perfect, right at the beginning. The work produced by Parksons Graphics and CDC exemplify this. As a result annual reports are no longer hum-drum, but a work of art. 

4. Today every big brand worth its flipchart is looking for an edge. They want to know what is fad; and what will set the agenda. How to discover, nurture and promote a great print idea. Some of the pre-press work and creative repro is eye catching. No longer is it about orthodox softwares that implement yesterday’s fads. Some of the new softwares (and the firms from Bengaluru are a case in point) go beyond; at a reasonable cost and top results.

5. Sony’s Akio Morita kept prototypes in his pocket which he demonstrated to visitors. I know some printers who do that. Amit Shah of Spectrum Scan does it; and so does Haresh Mehta of Jayna Packaging. We need more “crazy men with their crazy creations”.

6. And finally it’s a vision thing. Canon saw a vision of a future in which photocopiers were small, cheap and ubiquitous and persisted in producing it against all outside advice. For this they created rival teams, who worked on the same project; and asked one team to design the successor to a project which is still on the drawing board. Print will need to start doing that.  The good news is, some firms in India are already doing it.

We'll be celebrating all this on 30 August at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai.

I hope to see YOU there.

Print zindabad.

Ramu Ramanathan
Group Editor Haymarket Media (Campaign India and PrintWeek India)