Here come the print disruptors

Ramu Ramanathan looks at five print companies, who have been re-inventing print in 2013.

12 Dec 2013 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Looking back at the year gone by, we are seeing a five-tier structure for Indian print. The first tier comprises ten very large global Indian players and international players. Uflex, ITW, Paper Products and Huthamaki, Positive Packaging, Skanem Group as well as ITC and the media groups like DB Corp or ABP or Bennett and Coleman. 
At the second tier are the national players who wave the national flag. Classic Stripes, IPP, Manipal Technologies, Parksons Packaging, Pragati Offset, Rajhans, Repro India, TCPL and so on.
The third tier has regional players, comprising old players, regional players and family run traditionalists. These are the commercial print firms who dot every major metro. Operating from the Rs one-crore range upwards.
At the bottom of the pyramid are the single-colour presses; and five or ten person operations. This segment which constitutes more two lakh print firms is on the ascendancy. 
Consider Indian manufacturer Sahil Graphics, who has installed over 2,000 units of single-and two-colour sheetfed presses. 80% of the demand Sahil Graphics caters to has been for single-colour presses. Lately there is a demand spurt for two-colour kit. Sahil Graphics produces several sizes. “The 24x37in size is our specialty,” Shafiq Ahmed, the managing director of Sahil Graphics says. But it is the demand for non-woven bag printing machines that has widened the scope for this Indian manufacturer.
The small sized print firms comprise 90% of the industry, with the vast majority turning over less than Rs 50 lakh. At times, it can be much less; and the list will include small-sized printers with two to five employees.

Print Ideas
Sometimes a disruptor can deploy a cool technology. For instance, Arvind Sekhar of Sai Packaging says, “Google App is a cool technology.” He is right. The possibilities are immense. Other instances are; how some packaging firms in India are changing their four-foot fluorescent lights to new low-energy tubes. This means they have brighter and more evenly lit office space, plus significant savings on energy bills. A plant I visited in 2008 had approximately 300 individual tubes in the production facility. Since then, they have shifted to low-energy tubes. Imagine the savings. Plus the reduction in carbon output. 
At times, it can be a simple custom-built job track and workflow software, which has an inbuilt CRM that is linked to the bookkeeping software. Some of the new-age firms offer this on their website; wherein the software can be seamlessly integrated with the online ordering component on that. It helps in managing a larger quantity of jobs (and clients) with ease.
Sometimes a crisis can be turned into an opportunity; as a print firm in Karur did by hiring out-of-work women fireworkers from Sivakasi to create exquisite POP items.

Fifth tier in the print hierarchy
While the industry looks to the bigger groups – sometimes respectfully, sometimes critically – most printers in India are small operations. Two-man bands, family-run firms and micro businesses abound. A rough estimate indicates that 7.5% of firms in the industry are expected to have 20 or more employees during the year. 90% of Indian printers are small businesses.
Whenever we speak to top vendors in the industry, their estimates indicate that the 20 largest firms in the industry will account for 30% to 40% of industry revenue in 2012-13, with the 100 largest companies estimated to account for almost two-third firms or 75-80% of industry revenue for the year. 
As a result, India’s biggest printers boast of a massive slice of the USD 24.1 billion revenue which the paper-paperboard print industry generated in the Drupa year of 2012.
Based on data, PrintWeek India estimates approximately hundred plus firms from the tier two and tier three that have turnovers of more than Rs 100-crore in 2012-13. More and more firms are drawing up plans to breach the one hundred crore mark. 
All the tiers are seeing change. 
But it is the fifth tier, still work in progress, which is the most exciting space to watch. Tumultuous disruptions are transpiring in it. 
A new type of organisation structure is being created among existing players in the second and third tiers who are creating the fifth tier. At times, it is the entry of new players, perhaps with newer technologies and or through a process of technological leap or creating demand at the local level. Also, it includes, recently created organisations wherein yesterday’s employee has become today’s proprietor.
A look at five of the disruptors. 

Printo (Bengaluru and Hyderabad)

Sharma: “There is a huge traditional industry and Printo is not aping them”

15 stores in Bengaluru; more than one lakh customers
With 15 stores in Bengaluru, Printo is perhaps India’s first chain of professional print shops, which caters to those non-professionals who didn’t know anything about CMYK, or cut marks. Printo was founded by Lalana Zaveri and Manish Sharma, when both moved from their home town, Mumbai, to Bengaluru. Sharma who cycles to work, says, “Printo’s biggest competitor is non-consumption, when people simply don’t buy print.” Secondly, there is a huge traditional industry and Printo is not aping them. Sharma feels, the business module has been successful because they have not tried to copy someone else, and tried to be unique.
Printo, which has a store in Hyderabad, has its hub in Kumaramangala in Bengaluru, which was also its first site. There are a lot of young people who are tweaking and creating bespoke print samples in the production facilities. It could be paper-handling post-press, the folding, scoring, cutting and packing and then integrating it.
More than a lakh of customers access Printo’s e-commerce site to pick up business cards, letterheads, marketing collaterals to professional reports, personalised invites, t-shirts and photo gifts. Like most firms in this category, Printo has a model of investing in prime space; followed by printing equipment such as digital presses and wide-format kit. After which it is, IT hardware, servers and then nifty software that drives the website.

Printland Digital (New Delhi)

Kakar (r): “We are a technology company that happened to be in the printing business”

Only Indian print firm in the Herring Top 100 Asia 2013 award
Incubated at Aegies, Printland Digital, the New Delhi-based web-to-print service provider, was recognised with the Red Herring Top 100 Asia 2013 award. This meant, the New Delhi-based firm was among the 26 Indian companies in the top 100 list of 2013 and the only Indian company from printing industry. 
Two years ago, after a chance meeting in 2011 with Sanjeev Kakar, director, Aegis Centre for Entrepreneurship, a Gurgaon-based incubator of start-up companies, Udit Bansal came up with a business plan. It was to set up as a one-stop portal for customers to choose design and printing solutions, order from the comfort of their offices or homes and have these delivered within two to four working days. Printland was conceptualised.
The company’s management decided to outsource the printing to a host of printers, including the one run by Bansal’s family. About 40-odd engineers and information technology specialists were roped in to handle the technical aspects of the portal. The company headcount has been on the ascendancy since then. 
By March 2012, an e-commerce-enabled portal showcasing printing products and solutions was ready to take orders online. To keep the cost of acquiring customers low, Amit Jain, chief executive of, was brought into the company’s board. Jain is a reputed internet marketing and search engine optimisation specialist. 
“We are a technology company that happened to be in the printing business,” says Kakar. 

Olympic Prints (Madurai, Vizag, Theni, Nagercoil, Salem)

Raja: Ensuring print outreach in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh
Madurai, the third largest city and the second largest municipal corporation in Tamil Nadu has five four-colour second-hand presses. This includes a Mitsubishi Diamond (20x30in) at Vinayaka and a Heidelberg SM 52, which has been procured by Olympic Prints who are setting up a new three-storey unit. Its owner Mohamed Rafeek Raja, a marine engineer, is changing the game; and looking “to convert digital to offset by focussing on tag printing.”
Mohamed Rafeek Raja oversees a busy service bureau in a bustling bylane of Madurai. The other important bureaus in Madurai are Dolphin and Beejay. The Olympic’s numbers look healthy. 300 plates per day. Most of them catering to the Madurai, Karur, Trichy, Nagercoil and Virudhunagar markets. One intriguing factoid is: “60% of the plates that he outputs are for three-colour jobs”. Raja states: most printers prefer not to print black. He says, “This is the norm in these parts as a cost-cutting exercise.” The other trivia about Olympics’ nifty operations is: the plate operation is handled by women.
The CTP system is housed only in Madurai. Olympic has a digital retail chain in Nagercoil, Theni, Salem in Tamil Nadu and a bigger centre in Vizag in Andhra Pradesh.

Group FMG (Chennai, London, New York)

Gurumoorthy: providing production efficiencies to reduce printers’ cost 

 Gurumoorthy receives the PWI Creative Repro Company of the Year Award

Group FMG’s Indian subsidiary, which employs around 300+staff in its ultra-modern 25,000 sq/ft centre, is the biggest office for the group. The UK office has a staff of 100+; and the US-office is manned with staff strength of over 70. The group manages overseas account, plus handles production from the office in Chennai, India.

The factfile is impressive. What with 1.1 million images, 10,000 e-books, 5,28,000 PDFs and “0.0003% error rate.”
Prakash Gurumoorthy, the managing director of Group FMG in India, said, “Every publisher today is looking to reduce their costs and we aim to provide them with the production efficiencies.”
He added, “Group FMG is the ideal partner to help optimise production processes as well as migration to distribute content across digital platforms.”
VistaPrint India (Mumbai)

Parwani: Strengthening position and reach since 2011

The Paris-headquartered company, with global revenues of over USD 1 billion, entered India in 2011, by taking over Printbell. This was a firm that Nilesh Parwani founded in 2007. He did something that his industry peers in private equity found befuddling. He quit a posh job to move into a single-room office to start a business.
This meant for Rs 475, anybody — lawyer, doctor, or even a student — can log in to Printbell’s site, choose a design template and place an order for printing 500 good-quality business cards. And so, Printbell in Mumbai leveraged the internet to get volumes, and the costs of a high-quality printing job would be divided among customers. 
In 2007, there was hardly anyone in the market who was accepting online orders to print business communication.
Vistaprint’s best customers are the worst nightmares of traditional graphic designers and traditional printers. No printer in his right mind, with traditional methodologies, wants to serve a Vistaprint customer whose average spend per year is Rs 4,000.