Six print categories for the next decade - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

In all fairness I must say, I am at a loss for words when anyone asks me, what next? Having mulled over the matter. I have identified the following six categories: THE PESSIMISTS, THE CONVERTS, THE RESISTERS, THE INNOVATORS, THE EXPERTS and THE LEADERS. These six categories are a good indicator of how our print industry is. I assume the six categories also demonstrate the economic laws governing the social field in which print operates.

11 Apr 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

They believe that the future of print is bleak, or better still, there is no future. The reason is: they believe they cannot transform their situation.

They have lost all faith in budgeting and ROI. Their cost estimates are not based on print estimates. They don’t see the difference between economic cost and finance cost. They rarely order paper as per a schedule. They have alternative pricing for every single printed product. And depending on the client, the quote can go lower and lower ... and lower.

A meeting with THE PESSIMISTS is a crash course in nihilism; optimism crushed since they propound, it is the end of print.

The number of teens who have read a printed book for pleasure (academics do not count) has quadrupled in the last five years. The transition from print to digital has not taken off; print book volumes are on a high; e-book sales are decelerating. For now.

And yet, there is doom and gloom.

It should be noted a form of pessimism is ingrained in the next category, too; which is THE CONVERTS.

This is a category that has had a brain freeze; some of them live in a time warp. The signs are no critical outlook about their own plant or work. Or the inability to respond (or at times, be aware) about the changes in the print-scape.

The main problem is, they remain attached to the old methods. As a result, THE CONVERTS are not ready for a world that is different.

Among THE CONVERTS, there are two types.

One, who have had a long history of print, and now, the company suffers from fatigue.

Two, two sets of next generation. Set one feels things have degenerated. Set two feels set one is being radical. And it’s best to err on the side of the caution; especially in these grim times.

Both are hoping the turning point is the next point. Till then THE CONVERTS behave like our next category, THE RESISTERS.

This category sticks to their guns.

In most cases, this means, they won’t explore new print methods and markets. This means, they won’t go beyond traditional promotional and document printing, which is produced on paper and paperboard.

What has worked (and made profits) will continue to do so.

THE RESISTERS vary from THE PESSIMISTS and THE CONVERTS. They have downgraded the ambitious part of their expansion or investment.

Among resisters, we find all types of printers.

And this begs the question, who (or what) is a printer today?

Print, as we understood it, in the previous century, is not the same in this one.

Therefore, a million printers with a million print avatars have bloomed.

In the past, printed sheets have been cut, folded, collated, and bound. Even today this happens. At times, the finishing is inline.

That is the decision THE RESISTERS will resist.

For mailing, the printed products must be addressed and organised for postal processing. Must they?

They should be bundled, shrink-wrapped, placed in cartons, and shipped to one or more locations. Should they?

In that sense, THE RESISTERS intersect with the following category THE INNOVATORS.

This is because I feel all innovators are resisters (these are printers not reconciled to the existing world of print). But all resisters are not necessarily innovators.

One thing that sets this category apart is hybridisation (like a bit of screen print with offset); an intermingling of multiple technologies.

In real terms, what does this translate into?

It translates into new trends as well as a new framework for print.

It also means production of new types of print jobs - plastics and fabrics and special materials. Printed electronics will advance more rapidly as printing firms seek new areas of revenue.

One fourth per cent of the print economy will be based on making, fabricating, transporting, and storing paper in one form or another. THE INNOVATORS will cut corners here.

A new breed of printers is emerging. These are THE EXPERTS.

THE EXPERTS look at the process of hybridisation as well as new frameworks.

They work in the new space.

Good examples of THE EXPERTS are companies like MOS and Seshasai ....

Seshasai Group's beginning was very humble. It started off as a computer stationery and security printing unit 21 years ago. In the late nineties, the company saw tremendous potential in personalised documents and gave it a head start, bring in technology and software. Today it deals with a number of large organisations, supplying secure documents and print management services for a number of leading Indian banks among other establishments through its 11 plants pan India.  

Then there are companies like Quenby who expertise in textile printing.

The categories in the next ten years to be an expert are:

  • Display and signage on paper, plastic, and other materials
  • Textiles and apparel
  • Labels and tags
  • Home decor and office
  • Food and medical
  • Security
  • Electronic
  • 3D
  • Imagery (art reproductions and the like)

The printers in the sixth and final category are those who are THE LEADERS. Besides performing leadership roles, these are firms which make a massive contribution to the print stratosphere.

If we look at the PrintWeek India Company of the Year Award winners in the past six years; we can find THE LEADERS.

PrintWeek India Company of the Year
Manipal Technologies (2009)
International Print O Pac (2010)
Parksons Packaging (2011)
Manipal Technologies (2012)
Pragati Offset (2013)
Quenby Transfers (2014)

All the five companies have had a huge influence on the print processes and print models.

THE LEADERS are driven by:
  • Clean balance sheets
  • Shorter cycle times
  • Faster time-to-market.
  • Validation from suppliers and vendors
  • Produce audited samples and proofs
  • Green and clean
  • Move towards manufacturing
  • ntegration of RFID into contactless cards and labels
  • Decreases in manufacturing cost through integrated print (e.g. imaging direct to thick substrates)
  • Lower costs through automated systems
  • Low attrition rates
  • Look at glass, textiles, wood, metal, ceramics as print substrates

Do decide which category your firm is a part of?

Remember: All printers cannot be THE LEADERS. But if you are willing to do a lot of work then you can tap some of the new ideas listed above, and develop print jobs in accordance.