Shailesh Sharma:The destabilisation of print in India has begun

This was avoidable. The timing was all wrong. The reason, the market sentiments are low. Now, this news will further dampen it. Not just the government, even private companies will take similar steps and slash print spends for calendars and diaries. For example, if private organisations have the budget for promotional activities, their marketing team will think twice about spending it.

09 Oct 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Shailesh Sharma: As a print company, I was looking to the festive season in the next few months as a ‘bailout’ postlockdown. Now, I will rethink

This news will make corporates take corrective action – that is – spend less, save cost. As a print company, I was looking to the festive season in the next few months as a ‘bailout’ post-lockdown. I was hoping to retain 50% of my team in the hope of getting business. Now, I will rethink.

Most of the commercial print community is into the printing of calendars and diaries. And if it is told that this market is not going to take off, what will they do with the people who will be engaged to do that work? Reducing the team is the only way to go.

Further, it’s about sentiment. Now, the messaging is: print is bad, digital is great. That’s how digital has replaced key segments of commercial printing such as annual reports and promotional materials. If calendars and diaries vanish, how many printers will survive? Today, some of the bigger print firms can afford to shut shop and not do business for four to five months.

But, what happens to the smaller firms? What happens to the workers who have no jobs, and no monies? The hospitality business is in doldrums and so are the entertainment and airline sectors.

It seems print is next. To me, it looks like a strategic move. This is the thought process for the last few years. Any business that can be converted into a wealth making opportunity by 10x or 20x, will have big business invest in that space. The Ambanis purchased Alok Industry to operate the PPE business and increased the scale.

Now, India has become the biggest manufacturer of PPE kit. In 2008, when the world was reeling, India survived. The reason was: the semiformal and informal economy was untouched. We are the largest employer in the economy pool. If the formal and informal economy is 50:50 in India, the formal economy, which is 50% employs only 10% of the people, while the informal employs the other 90% of the employed people.

There’s a reason. In a formal organisation, there’s automation and lean manufacturing and AI concepts.

So, where the informal would employ five people, the same amount of work is extracted from one. Demonetisation and GST implementation (still work-in-progress) were back-to-back blows to the informal sector. From 25 March, the harsh country-wide lockdown has created a crisis, which has affected the workforce in SME and MSME firms.

As a businessman in print, it may not affect me or my company. We have the resources to survive for the next few months or a year. Also, we can reboot when things start to look up. But, the workers may not have the same luxury. I think we must drive this point down the line.

Print is all about people’s lives.

The policies of the government are detrimental to the poor man, though they talk about providing a better life for 130-crore Indians. 

Shailesh Sharma is the managing director of Inndus Cards & Gifts and is based in Mumbai