Print mulls strategy, as second wave is here

With India's official death toll now at more than 165,000, and the second wave is here. On Sunday night, the Prime Minister reviewed the Covid-19 and vaccination related situation across the country. He reiterated the importance of the five-fold strategy of Testing, Tracing, Treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination as an effective way to fight the global pandemic. Under such circumstances, it is inevitable that the print industry is worried about the future.

05 Apr 2021 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

When this scribe spoke to a senior consumables trader headquartered in Mumbai, he said, the sales difference between last year and this year is 20.5%. Due to the lockdown and pandemic period, the company had ceased delivery to remote print hubs due to supply chain logistics; "otherwise this gap would be smaller." The data suggested, packaging grew and commercial printing requirements were wiped off. He said, "This second wave is worrisome."

Suresh Ramakrishnan, executive director at TACT Print concurred, "Printing companies across the spectrum have taken a hit through the pandemic. TACT Print wasn’t an outlier either." There were several months without production when the nation-wide lockdown was announced. Two years ago, Trinity Academy for Corporate Training (TACT), a human capital enrichment company, acquired the printing arm of CMS, which will focus on its core IT service business.

TACT spent the better part of the lockdown period planning its next move. Ramakrishnan said, "Cost rationalisation was on the top of our minds. Several smaller print locations were merged with the larger print facilities in Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and  Chennai. Clients were taken into confidence so that we don’t lose a single order. There are several SLAs on the VDP side of the business and even a small mis-step can deliver a disproportionate blow to the relationship that we have nurtured for years on end. We did benefit from some of the consolidation that clients undertook too in terms of narrowing their vendor base and focusing on a chosen few."

Ahmedabad-based, Chaitya Dhanvi Shah said, "Today's print CEO should look at the future and not day to day stuff. But I guess 90% of Indian firms, be it print or non print are a family business. Therefore it becomes our duty to check on the day-to-day aspect to save profits rather than focus on innovation." Shah added, "By profits, I mean, earn a tiny sum and be happy. But the point is, print CEOs lose a bigger amount and narrow their vision at the cost of this "Earn Profit theory".

On 19 March 2021, DRS Arts Company’s Chaitya Dhanvi Shah marked his debut as an author and publisher. The Conductor by Shah was launched with a two-day event – Art with the Legend – Ratan Parimoo. He agreed that "An important moment is upon us. A moment of challenge and change. And yes of difficulties."

Ramakrishnan who believes in a strategic long-term approach to business, added, "Small part of the cost rationalisation was passed on to clients during contract renewals….as many of them were reeling under the effects of the pandemic." TACT saw a massive dip in book printing orders in the early months. It took much effort with intense focus on quality and timely delivery to get more clients to engage us for their requirements. We did see an uptake in the last few months …but yes, we are still a distance from the printing peak we have witnessed before.

Manoj Mehta, chairman, international relations, AIFMP said, "The situation is grim." Mehta quoted Frank Romano’s The New Print Industry, "It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be disruptive and it's going to be vibrant. We are a billion dollars economy. We will continue to be. But we need to change".

Mehta signed off, "The future is bright - if and only if - printers change their mindset. Today, print has to be transformed into print media; I think it’s inevitable. The top printers are embracing innovations, integrating digital technology and getting more customised minute by minute."

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