Print shrugs off pessimism at PrintExpo in Chennai

Sales have jumped to a healthy level, plus players indicate market is performing much better than the doom-and-gloom forecasts.

24 Apr 2014 | By Ramu Ramanathan

The pace of print's economic recovery has accelerated in the first quarter. Most companies which the PrintWeek India team spoke to indicated a growth 10-15% between January and March. Top players like Ajay Agarwal of Insight and TP Jain of Monotech, with a turnover of more than Rs 200-crore, spoke of 30-50% growth.

Even the digital think-tank's estimate (this includes Avijit Mukherjee of Ricoh, Pankaj Kalra of Xerox, the Canon and HP-Redington teams who were present at PrintExpo) state that in spite of "a grim 12 months", their findings based on installations and new investments across India, would see a radical change. Mukherjee expects, "The next quarter to be one of the strongest quarter on quarter growth. He stated, "The digital print economy will continue to grow in the second quarter of 2014." The Ricoh stall, which was the biggest stall at the show, perhaps matched in size by Xerox, saw more than 10 deals fructify.

Insight who notched up Rs 200-cr last year, estimated the annual growth rate rose between January and March, the highest for a long time. Insight has seen a raft of installs in the past few months with Komori's Enthrone and Lithrone series; as well as 10 Komori HUV machines. Ajay Aggarwal, the man at the helm is looking at "An order book of 35 brand-new Komori presses in the next 12 months." The numbers look equally healthy for Kodak Trendsetters as well.

He said, "Even though last year saw sales diminish, a certain level of economic growth remain. With economic recovery still in its infancy, I do not expect the new government in May 2014 to change monetary policy. I think fundamentals are strong compared to other economies of the world. I am hoping there is a tweak to interest rates and currency is strengthened. We cannot have the Rupee operating at 72. The low key Agarwal is very bullish. He predicted, "The Sensex will peak at 40,000 in due course of time."

The building momentum of economic recovery was echoed by players like Anuj Mehta of Paper Bind with an installed base of 43 for their post-press devices. This excludes, 17 installs of the ProTopic. The ProTopic kit, which was a view at PrintExpo delivers a professional finish to digital print with BOPP and polyester films. Mehta showed an array of samples, and said, "This machine is ideal for digital copy shops or print houses demanding a machine to complete laminating jobs quickly or for those print media specialists dealing with book covers, file covers, postcards and pamphlets." The samples indicated that the kit is perfect for embossing or laminating digital print media.

Interestingly, First Paper Idea has shifted its headquarter from Gurgaon to Singapore as a result of divesting 30% of its stock holdings. This has yielded good results since the valuations was "very healthy." Mehta added, "The company is cash rich and there are many plans up the First Paper Idea sleeve."

Despite of a reduced footfall as a result of various reasons including change of dates from June to April, long Easter weekends and elections in Chennnai on 24 April, news of installations and deals being struck were commonplace. Heidelberg inked a deal with a book print firm for an eight-colour press; while Aura Print Solutions is installing a five-colour loaded press at Dot Graphics in Baroda. In addition, there was Rajendra Mehta of Multiflex, an AFTA award winning company for packing bags and carry bags, who has installed a CI Flexo. There is a buzz about a new plant facility in Tamil Nadu at the scale of what Rajhans has achieved with its Bengaluru packaging unit.
Manufacturing output is "no longer flatish" was the general sentiment among players like TechNova, Grafica and Max Flex. In fact all three players have boosted their product range through a series of new announcements. While TechNova highlighted the SmartJet LP 112 digital labels system wwith Memjet printheads and its "Green Power"; both Bhargav Mistry of Grafica and Hitesh Jobalia of Max have set up new factories. Grafica's new factory in Vasai will eye textile printing, while Max in Badalpur hopes to boost industrial production, and add new range of media subsrates.

Many printers we spoke at the PrintWeek India stall said they expect a much more modest growth in 2014, with some warning the "uncertainty" may disrupt activity. The growth is expected to be driven by the pharmaceutical sector, property, food, drink and tobacco. In addition, print firms like Maruthi, Photopark and Zig Zag (all three from Coimbatore) showcased their range of visiting cards have all been adding machines and new technologies.

Avijit Mukherjee of Ricoh said the outlook is strong. He said, "Ricoh may stand at its highest level in more than two and a half years thanks to good trading conditions plus new initiatives. All indicators are lining up for a strong second quarter growth rate, highlighting that the print industry could emerge as a vital cog in India's recovery."

This was a sentiment which was echoed in most of the stalls we visited, from the Redlands to Suba, from Malhotra Graphics to Fuji, from Hi Tech to Om Vir, from Param to Adobe, that the "numbers are very very good."

Let's hope for the sake of print that the momentum continues.