Vistaprint to change outlook of print

Priya Raju spends time with former investment banker, Nilesh Parwani, and finds out the future plans for the Paris-based, global player Vistaprint which has revenues of one billion dollar.

27 Apr 2013 | By Priya Raju

It’s the stuff of corporate dreams. In 2011, Nilesh Parwani, the managing director of Printbell had completed three years. He was seeking VC funding. An ex-colleague of Parwani, worked for an investment firm in Boston. This ex-colleague had an investment meet with Vistaprint which was eyeing Asia as an investment destination. During the meet, the name Printbell was suggested to Vistaprint’s management team.
Cut to: Parwani travelled to Paris and visited the site to experience manufacturing facilities. He was impressed – and said so, when he met Robert Keane, CEO of Vistaprint. “The biggest driver for me was the common vision Robert and I shared for the business which is essential for a business relationship to sustain.” Also, Vistaprint would provide adequate financial provisions and enable Printbell with all the technology, know-how and experience in the online printing market.
Parwani joined as managing director and heads Vistaprint’s Asia business. The graduate from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in finance and business process management, and former investment banker, had found his vocation.
Tryst with printers in India
Parwani had penned two books on Excel Modelling. He  wanted to print a few copies. He sought the printers at Shah and Nahar print estate in Mumbai and that’s when he realised the ordeal to print “a small job”. He says, “I realised that a basic service such as printing which every common man requires was not available.” He decided to master the art of printing technology.
Parwani says, “It was a blessing in disguise to come from a non-print background. I learnt the hard way about the printing technologies; be it printing machines and creating the ideal colour.” Printbell was conceptualised around late 2007. He reminisces wistfully, “The experience helped me in building the engine for our online printing business.”
For three months, Parwani collaborated with an Ahmedabad-based technology team who helped build the site. According to the contract, the technology team could sell the Printbell platform to international clients in a license-format. Today, 200 such licenses have been sold.
Product portfolio
It has been a year since the take-over. Today,  Vistaprint houses over 50 employees in its chic Mumbai office for its Indian operations. Vistaprint decided to fulfil its print requirement, in-house. To achieve this, the company has a 50,000 sq/ft plant in Bhiwandi. Besides print, the plant is capable of producing “embroidery work” which caters to a growing market.
As per a company press note, Vistaprint’s portfolio encompasses stationery and customised promotional items, apparel line. This includes, “custom embroidered polo T-shirts and caps”. The firm has recently introduced, “USB sticks, pens, key chains, rulers and digital photographs” to their product line.
What makes Vistaprint a leader in the pack is, the ease with which orders can be placed on The website offers customisation of products. Be it:  designing to dispatch of the product to the customer at the doorstep. Vistaprint has a tie-up with logistic partners like Blue Dart and DHL for timely delivery.
Analysing the transformed profile of today’s customer, Parwani says, “We understand that India is a cost-conscious market. And so, with our technology backbone and experience in other markets around the world, Vistaprint is driving a change in the way small businesses and consumers will order printed products in India.”
Within a year, Vistaprint clients include doctors, lawyers and small-scale enterprise with less than 25 employees which according to Parwani, is a $5bn market. He is certain that consumer business products like calendars, mugs, t-shirts will find a huge appeal among 650 million people below the age of 25 in India.
He concludes, “I don’t think of our business as a market share business. Because print is such a fragmented and unorganised industry globally, a substantial proportion of our growth chart over the next years will continue evolving as people switch from traditional vendors to the online-way of ordering printed products.” ■

Nilesh Parwani, VistaPrint
Vistaprint’s disruptive model: Given our disruptive model that uses the internet as an enabling tool to offer a unique price-quality proposition, we like to think of ourselves as the forefront leaders of driving a fundamental change in the way people will order printed products in India.
As such, our competition initially will be the traditional local print shops as well as small-medium sized commercial printers. Over time, we also anticipate others trying to ape our model and add to the competitive landscape.
Vistaprint’s USP: The core backbone of our business is technology, both on the front-end website as well as the back-end mass customisation enabled manufacturing platform. Historically, most small business owners and entrepreneurs have struggled with finding the right equilibrium of price and quality. The more established full-scaled printers offer good quality at a higher setup cost whereas the local smaller-scale printer is price competitive but rarely production quality.
Our “differentiator” aspect lies in playing in the sweet spot of commercial quality at the local printer’s price, if not less. When you combine this with all the free front-end services which help users customise their designs and logos, you get a pretty powerful engine delivering end-to-end high quality solutions right at your fingertips.
Vistaprint’s India strategy: We are not big believers in blitz marketing drives to establish ourselves in new markets. We strongly believe in the value proposition of our model and rely heavily on word-of-mouth, customer retention, and internet-based direct marketing. We have launched with staple products which are relatively low-risk for first-time customers in India.
Over next few months, we will introduce the more differentiated product lines such as the promotional product line.You will find us innovating heavily to pre-empt every need of our consumer groups. Similarly our marketing efforts would try to tap consumers at relevant touch points of their lives. At the initial phase our primary focus would be on driving awareness and building relevance for consumers.
Vistaprint’s offerings: We believe that our consumers will find the relevance and pricing of our products a great value proposition. In fact consumers will get access to world-class printed products, in small batch sizes, at great prices anywhere in India.
We offer honest prices which are quite comparable with the local print shops. And hence we would not want to look at offers or discounts as a mean to drive sales.
In fact some of the first few loyal customers we are looking at are the local print shops themselves. That speaks volumes about our quality and pricing.