Puneet Datta: We have grown about 20% in Tamil Nadu in the last one year

In an exclusive with PrintWeek, Puneet Datta, senior director at Canon India talks about the company’s roadmap and strategy, including the newly-launched Oce Colorado 1650

26 Dec 2019 | By PrintWeek Team

Puneet Datta, senior director at Canon India

Q: In terms of the Tamil Nadu and South India market, how has Canon India been doing in the last one year? 
A: Our aim over the past few years have been to reach out to tier II and III cities, as these markets hold immense potential. The crackdown by the government on used machines has drastically brought down its purchase. This also affected Chennai, as it was one of the hubs for used machineries.
In this market, we have witnessed an upswing in the demand not only for production machines, but also for smaller machines; whether it’s the mono or the colour category. As a result, we have observed a growth of sales for our entire product range. 

We’ve got far more installations in the last one year, specifically in the southern part of the country. Chennai has been a strong point for us along with Tirupur, Erode, Coimbatore, etc. Now, we’re also seeing interest from tier III towns, which are investing in digital now. Maybe they were already investing in digital from the import of used machines, but now, they want to stabilise their business and put their money on OEM products. Overall, I would say that the industry is growing steadily in the state.

Q: Can you break that down into numbers?
A: We have grown about 20% in Tamil Nadu in the last one year in terms of unique placements. Additionally, there is a high percentage of installations of smaller machines as well. Clubbed together, this percentage can go over 100% for us.

Q: How significant is the recent installation in Chennai at Ambica Printshop? 
A: The installation is of huge importance and extremely strategic to us considering it is the third installation of  the ImagePress C10000 VP in Chennai and the first installation in Ashok Nagar. With the production quality and capability that our stellar machine offers, we believe that it will bring a lot more volume to the business. Also, there is a lot of work that has gone into creating an atmosphere where people welcome such high-end machineries. 

Q: Why is the C10000 series popular?
A: Initially, the end customers were not as specific or demanding with regard to their digital needs. However, today our customers are more informed and educated about the different aspects while getting a print, such as getting colour consistency in, say 200 brochures. Earlier, if there were variations in the colour or print quality, they used to accept it. But now, they want the same quality with no variations. Customers today have become more specific and particular when it comes to colour consistency, front/back registration, and use of textured media, which indeed is very crucial for any business. 

Today, a lot of innovation is happening in printing. For example, a simple product like visiting cards needs to have a particular look. It’s no more just a name card; it’s a reflection of the customer’s personality.
Our flagship ImagePress C10000 VP delivers the most accurate front back registration and consistency across competition. For example, in the case of textured media, the series has received the best response so far, which is better than our competitors. This digital press offers a complete package that delivers exceptionally and is backed by a service liability. The most crucial time for any retail print shop is the peak time, which is between 10am and 8pm. Now if the machine is not running during this window, the print shop may incur a heavy loss. Since our launch in 2007, the best compliment that we have received for the machine is on its legendary reliability. Customers experienced the machine to deliver exceptionally well during the peak working hours with least downtime amongst all categories.

Q: Let’s talk about the wide-format from Canon. One, of course, is what happened in Fespa and the launch of the new Colorado. When do you think we can expect it to land in India?
A: Canon and Oce have put together a new technology – Colorado. It’s based on UV gel technology and not on a standard UV ink. We have put in a lot of years and efforts into getting the composition of the inks as well as the whole technology right. We can launch it anytime in India. However, the value proposition in India has slightly changed over the last one year. For example, Karnataka has already banned single-use plastics for signage. Many other states are supposed to follow this in the future. 

The print industry is vehemently trying to oppose this policy because of the sheer size of the market and the employment it generates, but I think the general movement seems to be in that direction. Thus, people need to change to more environmental-friendly media such as fabric. Right now, Colorado can only produce on a certain type of fabric. Therefore, we feel it isn’t the right time to launch it in India. Naturally, if we launch a product, we need to be sure that there is enough value in it for the end customer. We are looking for that value. We have given our necessary feedback to the R&D team and are working closely with them to look into it. 

It’s also a matter of acceptability. India has taken a giant leap into banning these media whereas in Europe, these media aren’t banned today. They widely used plastic-based media when it comes to signage, etc. We have spoken to 20 key customers and have taken their responses in consideration. You will soon hear from us on what our next steps are, but as of now, we’re taking a very cautious approach about the launch.

Datta (l) with Team Ambica Print Shop of Chennai

Q: Since the Oce takeover, has Canon achieved the expected results in the wide-format market? The general perception is of a slower growth than expected.
A: It’s really not slow. We already have far greater collaboration on the cutsheet side. There are machines out in the world where the engine is Oce but the entire accessories, including finishing, and the input modules are from Canon. There is a far deeper R&D association where Canon has its areas where we are fairly good and Oce complements us in different areas. So, when you look at wide-format specifically, Canon worldwide is doing extremely well on the inkjet side. Our market share worldwide is about 35%. We are also gaining market share in India year-on-year with about 3% to 4% increase. We used to be a meager 9% about six years ago. But at present, we have about 24% to 25% market share nationally. On the inkjet side, Canon is doing well and developing products. 

With regards to inkjet, when it comes to production machines in sheetfed or continuous-feed category and UV, Oce has its own set of strengths. We’re leaving it to them to understand the market, considering their domain expertise is specific. Unfortunately, the volumes for wide-format toners are dropping significantly because everything is moving to 3D CAD/ CAM, simulations and even 3D printers. Volumes of Oce wide-format and equivalent product industry of toner equipment are declining and is being taken over by inkjet products. Overall on the wide-format side, you will soon see some more innovations coming up from Oce.

Q: Talking about inkjet, how is the response for the newly-launched Varioprint i300 B-sized inkjet press so far?
A: It has been very good. I can’t share names with you but there are some serious discussions already happening on POD books with various top printers in India. It is about finding the right space. So, if you look at STM or K12 colour book printing, then Varioprint i300 B-sized inkjet press is the product for you. We have come to a strategy where the breakeven is passable for them to invest in the product. It’s a question of who invests and takes that leap of faith. As you are aware, we did the Book Sabha event last year, and we are planning to do that again to understand the synergy of the publishers and getting the printer onboard. 

Q: What is the update on DreamLabo?
A: We are meeting expectations in terms of the existing installations. We haven’t been able to break the west and north markets and that’s because of the price perception. If you look at our competitor’s technology, whether it’s the silver halide or liquid toner, the prices in south are the highest followed by west, and in north it’s the lowest in India for these technologies. It’s a question of who takes that leap of faith with us. We are in advanced discussions with clients in the west. In fact, team Ambica also mentioned that they would like to explore DreamLabo as an option. It is a question of when and how? We will be more than happy if anyone in Tamil Nadu wants to talk to us about DreamLabo. We said, we are eagerly looking at the west region as the next market for the installation of DreamLabo.

Q: What digital print innovations have you seen in India in recent times?
A: PrintWeek India Awards is a platform where you see the most number of innovations on digital or on any print media for that matter. I have been a part of this from day one. If you place the entries next to each other, you can see that innovations are moving in unimaginable directions. These are things that can get them more profits and can add more value. I was amazed at some of the print samples of children’s books and how digital print is being used to create new 3D pop-up books, which are visually more appealing to children and make learning more fun. 

On the digital side, post-press innovations have increased significantly. Earlier, we could only see the typical lamination, etc, but now we see a lot more excellent foiling work being done on digital prints. Unlike a few years ago, digital prints are being used for short-run packaging and packaging proofs. When I meet innovators, I am pleasantly surprised with the sort of innovations they have done on even small jobs.

Q: Has your strategy with respect to exhibitions changed? For example, you stayed away from PrintExpo this year – an event you have been part of for a decade.
A: It is not that we stayed away from PrintExpo. We have taken a conscious decision that we would like to look at more exhibitions in different parts of South India. For example, a few months ago, we participated in a print exhibition in Bengaluru, which we had not done till then. It is about territories and their needs. We have done significantly well in Tamil Nadu and of course, PrintExpo is one of our platforms for doing that. 
As a marketer, we also need to put on our thinking cap and invest where we need more brand synergy or brand awareness, and that is why we are now moving on to Karnataka. However, what is working for us in Tamil Nadu, especially for the smaller cities, are localised roadshows. We have in the last one year, done a lot of roadshows in small towns in Tamil Nadu. We bring together 30-40 printers, who are interested in our products. It is a more personalised experience for them. This has worked phenomenally for us and the customers alike.