Round Table: print has to do more

On the Judgement Day on 25 August at the Grand Hyat, PrintWeek India chaired a roundtable with a few members of the jury to discuss some of the major issues relating to print and if print is often a second-tier concern among print buyers and providers. The discussants were: Rajnish Shirsat, R&S Enterprise, Hemant Randive of FCB Ulka Advertising, KV Sridhar aka Pops of Sapient Media, Sanjay Tripathy of HDFC Bank and Paulose Parakkadan from R-Pac India

02 Sep 2015 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Rajnish Shirsat, R&S Enterprise: I have spent two decades in the print and publishing industry. I have been dealing with international publishers to source print from India. In the last three years, I have started my own printing consultancy to scale up print business in the country. Furthermore I recruit for printing industry. These are exciting times.
RR: Your observation about the Jury Day?
RS: One clear observation is that the quality of binding is improving. I am very sure that putting ink on paper has become easier but it’s the finishing which matters a lot. I see good amount of change in the post-press, particularly in PUR technology. The hard case binding was a challenge. Earlier when I picked up a book by Penguin or Random House which was produced in Europe and if you see a copy produced in India, there used to be a huge gap. Now that gap has reduced. That’s point one.
RR: Can India compete in the international markets?
RS: Accessibility to pedigree paper is a huge concern. The consumption of low end gsm stock and the high end gsm stock in bulk is substantial. 37500 tons of newsprint is consumed per day which gets read. Newspapers import most of their requirement. A lot of things depend on holding stocks and the rupee-dollar rate. At the moment, I don’t think there is enough material to fulfill the requirement. If the supply of materials into India rises, the Indian market can compete with the international standards.
RR: You are saying, many more book factories like Replika and Repro?
RS: Yes.
RR: Over to you, Hemant Randive. Your views?
Hemant Randive of FCB Ulka Advertising: Thank you. I have been dealing with FCB for 25 years. Prior to FCB, I was with other agencies. This is my fourth year at the PrintWeek India Jury Day. I see Indian printers are getting focused, and printers are seeking recognition and a brand identity. These print firms are seeking more business. Such a printer calls himself a quality printer and prides himself about the quality of his work.
RR: Which categories at the Awards did you find phenomenal?
HR: The photo album category is very exciting because printers are spending money to create a niche market for themselves. Plus as per the customer requirement, the printers are customising the product with creativity and the end users are enjoying this burst of creativity from the printers. 
RR: So according to you, this category is phenomenal ...
HR: The manner in which creativity and tactile visual effects are performed in machines like Scodix; it is adding value to the job. Last year, I did not get enough time to go through all the samples, but this year I had enough time to look around. I saw the brochures and the industrial print category as well. Then I saw the jobs for POS and POP. Everyone is trying to create a super specialised product.
RR: You have been a Jury member at the Dubai International Print Awards for seven consecutive years. How does India compare?
HR: So every job in Dubai is a nice job and it is difficult to find out the mistakes and find out where we can cut the marks. But this year we had good quality printing at the PrintWeek India Awards. Earlier, we use to say that printing is done by fluke. Now it's a combination of art and science and printers are trying to perfect the job.
RR: What about you Pops?
KV Sridhar aka Pops of Sapient Media: Compared to 2014, this year there was not much of a difference in quality. For me, it was a bit disappointing that digital printing does not have the same quality.
RR: In what way?
Pops: I think, there are two things one must consider, one is the classical offset printing. Herein, the print is driven by the offset press, where colour control, temperature control, your dot, your depth, everything is perfectly produced. For example, Pragati produces those kind of jobs. Second is a print job which can be produced, easily. This goes against the grain of all those years invested in getting the right plate setting and colours values. It meant, going back to the days of being an art director. We used to do the actual photography and also press-match the final print job. We used to do work with real photographs because the images needs to be actually driven for the reproduction on a four colour and six colour machine. We had to get the perfect depth of the design. Even for the packaging on a metal can, the clamps mattered, because white happened to be a brand colour. It meant, the skin colour separations on three colours was a challenge, since one could never use additional colours. There was a rigour in the process.
RR: You are not happy with the embellishments with UV?
Pops: It’s really disappointing to see good offset guys opting for UV or 3D or embossing and doing lot of gimmicky colours jobs. So the passion of image and reproduction of the image has gone down.
RR: What about digital print?
Pops: As far as digital goes, I thought last year (2014) was better. Again it comes back to photographs. Consider a web service like Image Bazaar. if you study the pictures, they don’t have much respect for their own pictures. My point is, if you don’t have respect for your own work than how would an end user respect their jobs?
RR: Your point being?
Pops: Digital print has taken away the passion from a printer, if you look at the photo albums category, all the printers have got good paper and therefore the printers produced good jobs at their end. Now, while detailing in digital printing you can control the image but you can control it while the job is printed. So, while printing the job, the black colour is crushed. The highlights of the colour use to burn out and mid tones are poor. So there is absolutely no detailing of the image. Earlier printers used to value images. Now due to the laziness of the digital printing process, there is no value for the images. A printer should be passionate about the jobs they produce like Pragati. 
RR: Why is this happening?
Pops: There is a huge market with a lot of visual cacophony. The second big challenge for digital printing is displacement. Today end users are far more literate about images. And so, the mediocre images which are seen in the print industry has to cease. Today, people are used to much better quality of images. If you are not good enough then the clients are going to reject the images as well as the print job. Today, the quality of an image can be seen even on a mobile phone and people interact with their TV and computer screens better than paper. The visual quality and the content consumption is of a high standard. 
RR: Your solution?
Pops: Right now what is missing is that the print first has to be revived to its glory days, then it must be valued. In Goa, there are two students who have completed their masters in photography. They have taken it as a subject and they want to do print jobs and pursue a higher career in it. The print industry has to invest in such type of talent. Consumers have started watching, recognising the next generation of photographers. For example, young boys who are taking marriage photography as a serious profession. If you invest in these young boys, then the images clicked turns out to be good while printing. Bringing back the passion and the romance about print is very important. Earlier because of the processes one had the passion for the images. Not any more.
RR: Sanjay Tripathy you have returned as a jury member after six years ...
Sanjay Tripathy of HDFC Bank: Since the first year in 2009, the quality of print samples has improved a lot. During the first year of the Jury, I did not feel like rating the samples. But this year, after a long time we have seen there is an improvement and there is good quality by Indian printers. Having said that. I must say, even this year, a lot of average quality work has been sent for awards entry. We need to have a quality standard of what should be submitted for an awards entry. Printers should consider a print job, as award worthy.
RR: Easier said than done?
ST: In India, many printers do poor quality of work because their clients want the way a print job should be, but those samples are not award worthy. If we consider that one job is good to send an entry then the other three jobs should also match the standard with the first sample. As a printer, one should know what is a good quality sample as opposed to what is an average quality sample. A print firm should not send an entry just for the sake of four samples and the printer should not feel that the sample is not good enough to send in as an entry.
RR: Any discoveries?
ST: The marriage photo album category was a discovery. Since in 2009, the last time I judged, the category did not exist. I found few samples which are like sweet-candy and it’s more like a frame sort of, and it has been taken and put forward in album category.

My point is, in today’s world, the printer can become smarter. The printer can create multiple sub-segments like photography and create books and keep it for themselves for testing and showcasing. As compared to USA, our industry produces low quantity average quality print, most of which is very sub-standard. Yes, there are few great samples of in the brochure category which I judged, plus a few samples which were export quality print jobs.
RR: Such as?
ST: For example, residential brochures were nice. But why can't other brochures look nice. It is not just about the paper, it is the printing, the fonts, the pictures, the overall aesthetics wherein everything can be looked considered in detail. I feel, our printers should really focus on an international quality of standards. There are multiple brands in India which are competing with the top level international brands. This is because they don’t do an average job. So why does a printers do so? Plus why is a top quality printer willing to do all kind of jobs. A printer wants to do brochures for Maruti, Volkswagen, and BMW, and Ferrari. It seems, as though a printer is saying to me: “Any business is good for me”. Nobody really wants to do specialisation. Printers have to get aspirational. That’s the only way to move up the standard in the industry.
RR: So you are saying India has invest a lot more in quality print.
ST: If one opens a regional newspaper, it would be really low quality print. There are opportunities in the regional newspaper space. But nobody has got into it. Most printers are doing the same kind of jobs again and again. According to me, the print industry will not long enough. All printers who are looking at the print shelf and feeling reassured must understand that due to the e-commerce world, that print shelf will disappear. Even if the e-commerce business is only 20%, it means there is 20% less items on the print shelf.
RR: So you are saying printers who have built a traditional shelf model will find it difficult to sustain their operations.
Sanjay Tripathy: The kind of Jury assembled today, are the people who form great print and in a way the onus is on us. We need to do workshops for the regional-level printers, which includes smaller cities, and assembling all the photographers and the printers passionate about their job, they might learn something and they will improve. Everything is growing at 15% and probably little bit of training will help.

RR: Paulose, your feedback?
Paulose Parakkadan from R-Pac India: One thing that has changed a lot is the post-press department. If you look at the packaging or even the children furniture created from corrugation board which we are seated on, it's actually the finishing which has changed. If you look at all the top end printers and packaging converters, every corner is properly punched. It makes the look aesthetic. If you look at the pre-press there is not much of change. It’s the same. Even in the book category, the quality of the post-press has improved. What is admirable and this is not just the print firms who have submitted entries, the Indian print industry is talking about high quality post-press. This realisation is a good sign. 
RR: Does this mean, print buyers are not just looking at China as a source?
PP: Yes. But those buyers are demanding. They seek audit standards epecially for packaging. Plus there are social audits are quite tough. This includes things like, eight hour shifts and fire extinguisher and safety and health guideline . Last week I met four players from corrugation industry and all of them are ready for international standards vis a vis fire safety. These are things like sprinklers and air humidifiers. So that culture has come in. Today, it's not just the press standards that international buyers are looking at, it's also the social standards. Today the GMI standards, social audits and the TQP standards have become key points.
RR: The next big thing in print?
Pops: I think the next big revolution would be with paper and inks. The tactile effect and the intelligent uses of susbstrates. This means, technology which allows the paper to behave in a certain way. Depending on the environment it actually changes. Print and packaging can do a lot more in terms of material science. Be it: paper, plastics, fabrics, membranes. This is the future of print. A world which will be different from what we imagine today. But one in which print can dominate. 
HR: There are lot of opportunities in books. Not just some technological innovation. But what will make the people really adapt the print. I have not seen any large size book available in India as compared to USA. Or children's books with special sizes for a child to hold. The market exists. The key is to price it right. You can create a segment for innovation technology to small printers and teach them about how to grow a market.
RS: When I talk to printers, the biggest pain point is, good people to market print products. They say, "get me, good marketing people, Mr Rajnish Shirsat". Now, technologically, these students from SIES or GIPT or PVG are very sound but their soft skills like communication and marketing a product is almost non existent. 
ST: I think the print industry has to invest if it wants to attract the best sales people. In every industry, there is a question of how much money you pay for the talent. And what is the opportunity available outside. In the case of a majority of the printers firms, they are not thinking big. The moment they start thinking big then they start investing.
Pops: All industries which aim for quality control, use a basic philosophy ...
RR: Which is?
Pops: 70% of the firms hope to mint money in three shifts. 20% of them do great quality of work. And 10% of them do R&D work and experiment with new ideas. I think it is the 10% who ensure innovation that will emerge as winners. This is the space where a print will break the boundaries and unleash new product prototypes. The Pragatis of India always experiment with new things and that is why they are the leaders.
Sanjay Tripathy: The PrintWeek India jury comprises of print technologists and print designers and print brand managers.  Perhaps we need to do workshop for the regional printers, which includes the firms in the smaller cities, assemble top photographers and printers who are passionate about their job. This is one way to the print firms learn something new and will improve the quality. Everything is growing at 15% and probably with a bit training it will help the print CEO in the small town.
Hemant Randive: If you see the category of fine-art printing. It’s a replica of the actual art. What the printer has created with the UV inkjet printers or even screen printing is fantastic. And if you see some of the work, they have gone beyond CMYK and challenged our concept of print.
Pops: Print is a collaborative process. It is team work. A Lodha brochure or a Roli book stands because they have the best designs and the best photographers. Which is why the team works. According to me it is important that a printer reaches out to this community. A lot of people don’t understand it. Printers say my printing-lamination-punching-binding is good but at the end, the print job does not look good. So if the industry could create a forum for all the stakeholders and expose them, the printers and their customers will start valuing it.