Buyers' Guide on Colour digital presses

The cut-sheet digital market has raked up three-billion impressions per annum. The PrintWeek India survey 2011 scrutinises the Rs 2,000-crore market and suggests things could get better during the Drupa year

17 Mar 2012 | By Sachin Shardul

Digital print is a tiny proportion of the total pie in the Indian print industry. But going by the noise at Ipex South Asia in 2011, the numbers are on the rise. Even though it may still not be half of all printing by 2015, as per the prediction by US print guru Frank Romano.

Inspired by the early digital systems in 1985, Romano held the world’s first conference about on-demand printing. Yet it has taken more than 20 years for the concept to enter mainstream production. Could this lengthy adolescence be partly due to digital knowledge and digital pricing not understood by print CEOs? If so, there’s room for improvement.

1,500 colour digital machines have been installed in India during the last five years. The reason, we have considered five years as the life of a digital press in India. As Puneet Datta of Canon India pointed out at the Ipex South Asia, “High-end and continuous feed kit like Oce has a longer life-span.”

Out of these 1,500 cut sheet presses, there are 900 light production machines, 400 mid-production presses; and around 200 high-production systems which include continuous feed like Oce, Kodak, Xerox.

We don’t have the numbers for Xerox as yet; except for the 25 iGens (including the newly launched Xerox 1000). Even today, it’s clear that Xerox remains the market-leader with more than 50% market-share. HP Indigo has 93 installations. Canon has notched up 75 installs. Kodak has 34 monochrome Digimasters; and 13 Nexpress. Ricoh which inked 10 deals at Ipex South Asia, has installed 20 ProC720/720S and Pro C901/901S colour devices in the past nine months. Pro 907ex/1107ex/1357 has notched up 20+ black and white devices installations in 2010-11 time-frame. Konica Minolta series which has been dominating the low-production since October 2009 has 550 installations.

The break-up is: 300 HCL; 200 Monotech; and 50+ KMI Business Technologies. A dark horse in this range primarily for the extended length substrate support are the DP60 Pros and now the DP8700 XL from MGI. India has 32 installations of all the machines of MGi which includes the earlier versions DP40 and DP60.

Application driven growth and usage patterns
The other discernible thing at Ipex South Asia was the profile of the visitors. Other than the usual players who constitute the Indian digital market place: B2C (Print Bazaar, Friends, etc) and B2B (firms at units A to Z, Shah and Nahar and Nehru Place); there were representatives from media houses, agencies and even the big brands.

As Anjana Saha of Ricoh states, “Today, buyers are up to speed on digital technology – and they inform their marketing teams of the opportunities available to them, even to the point of changing the entire focus of a marketing campaign by opting for more tangible, targeted and relevant print. To rally against diminishing print budgets, buyers are showing that print is a valuable resource.”

The growth of B2B among offset printers transferring or preferring to have digital press for short run is in the <500 impressions. While growth in B2C is towards personalisation; and a pie from the screen print segment. As Appadurai states: “Photo book applications hold the key.”

However, for the all-out headline-grabbing announcements, nothing created quite so much chatter as the gains in the smaller cities, the volumes are not very high; and the numbers are lower but the real action is transpiring in centres like Surat and Punjab.

As V Natarajan of Aura Papers, the dealer for MGi presses in India, says, “The targeted market is not limited to the mega-cities and the b-cities. We can see the numbers improve in tier-1 and tier-2 centres and even tier-3 centres like Nagercoil and Kanyakumari.”

To sum up: Digital print is growing. And it is doing so, rapidly at 35%.