Tushar Dhote: The print clock is moving backwards due to Covid-19

Tushar Dhote, chairman and managing director of Dhote Offset TechnoKrafts is concerned about the direction in which printing is headed owing to spending habits, government’s obdurate push for digital and the looming consequences of a pandemic

11 Dec 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Dhote: The spending and cost cutting aspects are taken up very seriously by the corporates and other print buyers

What is the change in the print market that we should anticipate in the post Covid-19 era?
The scenario pre Covid-19 was already on a downward trend for many aspects of printing – especially for products like direct mailers, magazines, technical journals and special paper marketing merchandising.

What about book printing? Similar scenario in comparison to pre vs post Covid-19?
In book printing, education and training manuals were not as affected as some other forms in the pre-Covid-19 stage. Now, post the onset of a lockdown, books and training material are all of a sudden being seen in the digitalised form.

Many other categories in printing continue to suffer…
Yes. The absence of events and exhibitions, product launches, fashion catalogues and wedding collaterals saw an immediate effect as budgets were already frozen for this year to cater to these.

The closure of schools and colleges has had a huge impact on the printers…
Especially for those printers who were completely dependent on them for their printing needs. Top it with the fact that the Government seems hell bent in taking huge steps for implementing digital platforms at a lightning speed, thus moving away from physical printing of diaries and calendars in the government sectors and giving the corporate companies a chance to do away with it this year.

So we are in for a long haul?
Yes, all top-of-the-line printing was severely affected. This trend will continue for a year till the after effects of Covid-19 settle down and spending once again becomes the habit of this contemporary generation of working class.

What effect will work from home (WFH) policies of large corporations have on the print volumes?
The WFH policies of the corporates will not have much effect on the printing collaterals. These are mainly the admin and design teams which are working from home and will not be seriously denting the print as such.

What will be the effect on run lengths? Will shorter run lengths mean more digital print volume?
The spending and cost cutting aspects are taken up very seriously by the corporates and other print buyers. This will affect the large print quantities to a greater extent.  This in turn means that short run printing and POD will stand to benefit.

Colour vs mono. Will this equation change in the post Covid-19 era?
I don’t feel either will have a direct impact on the choice of the buyer. There is a specific printing need for colour as well as monochrome. Colour is generally used to amplify the quality of the printing needs, such as creative brochures, magazines, presentation manuals, fashion catalogues, and architectural brochures. Whereas the education and study materials usually need monochrome printing.

Any major change especially in the wedding photo album market?
Wedding albums have seen a decline due to the restriction on gatherings. Although, all hope is not lost here because according to me the print medium is the only choice to capture memories in a true sense as digital photo albums do not give a touch of personalisation as well its feel and embellishments that only the print can provide. 

What about the education and jobber verticals?
Education and job verticals have seen a downward trend in printing but will pick up from the New Year as digital exposure ultimately has its effect on the eyes and other vitals and can pose a serious health issue in the long term. So, ultimately the choice will have to tilt in favour of print. The wait is definitely long but worth surviving till then.

Will firms invest to do away with dependence on people availability? For example, with investments in workflows and finishing equipment?
Investment in technology is a continuous process and cannot stop because of the pandemic. Technology to improve quality and workflow will always be preferred and highly skilled people will be preferred to run the presses. I believe we will see the trend of collaboration among companies to run highly automated expensive equipment coming in rapidly in the near future. The race will then be between deliverables of quality at a reasonable price and on time deliveries.