Media Expo review: Flawed but shows diversity in print

Media Expo aspires to be a very focused show. Last week's edition in Mumbai from 15-17 February 2013 was busy and I was amazed at the crowds and appalled by the chaos at the registration desk what with printers breaking down and queues lengthening.

21 Feb 2013 | By Ramu Ramanathan

I met one of Mumbai’s top digital print firm CEOs at the end of the queue, who wondered: "Who knew that there were so many people with so much interest in such a show?” A quick walk round the tiny space and you realise there are solvent printers, eco-solvent printers, latex printers, UV printers, flatbed printers, plotters, alternative printers, Chinese printers, Korean printers, Taiwanese printers, media, substrates, softwares … and even a handful of stalls on LED and 12-steps on how to build a durable OOH structure. Not exactly an embarrassment of riches but considering the space constraints at the NSE trade show grounds in Mumbai, quite a good effort.

The point is, there are now hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of sub-genres for a printer to choose from. The other thing is, the show seems to indicate the industry is firing-on-all-cylinder. The numbers from Apsom and Epson for the past six months are encouraging and show off the clout of wide format space. Other continue to be tormented – and weave theories about India’s credit rating woes and criticism about the worsening trade balance and rising external debt. Meanwhile some say the reforms undertaken since September have ensured printers have revived their shopping items on their buying list.

It's a buyer's market again

The shopping list includes: The Epson Stylus Pro 9860 has notched up 60 installations. Then in addition to the Surepress at Sai Packaging which was announced at Labelexpo in 2012; there is a strong indication about the second India installation, soon.

HP Latex has had more 100 installations (in three sizes), as Sunil Thakeria of Media Infotech confirms.

Plus there is Macart’s Picojet Proton which has been sold to Home Digital at Bhandup in Mumbai. This is a 10 feet solvent printer with a speed of 450 sqft/hr and deploys a piezo drop on demand electric inkjet with four colour CMYK and a resolution of 740 dpi.

Then there is Agfa’s Jeti 1224 UV HDC which has been installed at Liberty Graphics in Mumbai; and ready to go into production even as you’re reading this. This is a flatbed display graphics printer and is capable of pre and post white printing at a speed of 484 sqft/hr with a flatbed top which has a FTR (flat to roll) option.

Top trends

The trends can be seen in vehicle graphics which Shree Chintamani Enterprises with a brand-name Wrap Me Up in Pune produces. The head of the firm Rohan Naniwadekar ensures car wrapping is fast becoming something everyone want to do, too. Be it wrapping a work vehicle or personalising a own car, the opportunity for wide-format printers to produce wrap work is expanding fast. Combined with the fact that there are relatively few specialist wrap printers out there, this should be making those wide-format printers not currently in the market sit up and pay attention.
The problem is, wrapping is more difficult than just printing on some vinyl and it is potentially not as lucrative as it looks. The news at Media Expo was Chintamani Enterprises has bagged a prestigious Government order from security forces for branding of their vehicles which will perform in all kinds of terrains and temperatures.

I met Amit Kanodia of Pioneer Digital in Mumbai who speaks of the commercial printer becoming “a kirana dukaan that sells Godivas and Toblerones as well as chikkies and laddoos”. He says, "We installed HP, Jeti and Roland machines at our site that allows us to print on all kinds of material, and it now produces 35%-40% of our work. It has opened up new markets and opportunities and we are now looking at the next exciting investment."

So far Kanodia hasn’t found any limitations in terms of the type of substrate the press is capable of printing on – so long as the material is "flat and no thicker than 50mm," it can handle it, adds Kanodia.

Whether its innovative invites inscribed onto board or personalised shots on the same material, marketers are beginning to seize on the technology in a big way. But, according to Kanodia, the emergence of these devices has been truly revolutionary with lots of high-street brands like Shopper’s Stop in a more traditional print product: point-of-sale (POS).

"I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the new devices have revolutionised POS," says Kanodia. "Especially now that these brands can cost-effectively print their campaigns and localise their branding."

It is a fairy tale type situation. And a good wide format device can often provide a secret key to a campaign work, an image or phrase or a 3-D creation that unlocks the whole.
Customer is king

In a simple sort of way, wide format printers are bolstering the relationship between print and a customer – and towards the end there is a detailed engagement with an end customer and such a customer's mimetic desire.

Indeed the only limitation when it comes to using wide-format direct-to-media devices is the extent of one’s imagination says Prashant Khomne of Global5 who has sold 60 HP latex machines in Maharashtra. He says there are printers who are thinking out of the box with devices which are capable of printing on almost anything and this is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider some of the jobs its clients are producing, says Khomne.

"Madhura Decor prints directly on wall papers and then there is House of Carpet (Faseem International), who creates personalised carpets," says Khomne. "The market is very diverse. And the good news is that printers – famously poor at selling their wares – appear to have got to grips with how to sell this new service to their customers.

Khomne says many more of his clients are seeking to be similarly inventive in their sales approach.

He is right. I recall a printer in Pune 10 years ago, who had a customer at his print facility, he took a tile from his ceiling, ran it through his Czech wide format device, printed their logo and branding before re-installing it all in the space of a few minutes. Using such impromptu and quirky methods works wonders at captivating customers and hammering home the many number of objects that can be printed to."

The next Media Expo
Media Expo announced few new and enhanced features on the show floor to help visitors make the most of their visit to the event. But I suspect the Media Expo show in July at Pragati Maidan will be the real thing; there's a smaller show in April in Kolkata.

Printers are seeking to grow their business. And they are seeking how to optimise a wide range of print applications, including promotional and industrial print. As Shailesh Sharma of Inndus, a visitor to the show says, “The main thing that I hope from such a show is if I can find out more about how to reproduce the applications at the show."

This could include: the potential for personalising and branding promotional products such as memory sticks, pens and clothing. Plus digital textile printing, hybrid printing and digital developments which prove to agencies, brand owners and designers what print is capable of doing and to illustrate the return on investment (ROI). 
One for the Media Expo organisers to look into...
Notable launches at Media Expo by Priya Raju
Epson's Surecolor SC – S70670 – A packaging proofer and also appropriate for specialty printing. Can print upto eight colours (CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, light black, orange). The highlight is the ability to print white and metallic silver.
Apsom's CJ-Thunder TS-300E – A flatbed UV printer with roll to roll which took the Apsom team two years to develop. has a resolution of 800 dpi and a speed of 39 sqmt/hr.
Konica C4+ / C8+ with 1024 LN print head - A printer uses the on-time monitor for the printheads voltage with the feedback of the environment temperature and assures print continuously under any condition. It has a speed of 1000 sqft/hr.