Technology transition looms over digital print growth

Large number of new models of digital presses launched in 2014

Katsuhisa Asari, managing director, Konica Miniolta India

More new digital presses models were launched in 2014 than ever before by the leading and active global manufacturers in India — Canon, Epson, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Xeikon and Xerox. Why did it happen and what does it mean? Sandip Sen talks to printers and press makers to find out how the market is shaping up and how the digital press industry will perform in the coming year.

Konica Minolta upgraded its entire range of production printers in 2014 and the new infusions boosted the numbers sold and the revenues almost immediately. Ricoh and Xerox introduced new printers both in the wide format signage category as well as for high volume commercial printing in the production printer segment. Canon which had not brought new models to the marketplace for several years, not only launched a range of more competitively priced production presses but a special inkjet press for the buoyant high margin photo album segment that is currently dominated by the HP Indigo.

HP riding the current demand in the photo album segment increased its brand presence and market share with new presses for photo album printing and also in the production press category and the wide format inkjet signage and POP segment, where it has made deep inroads. It introduced seven presses in the Indian market against an average of three to four by its competitors in 2014. Kodak upgraded the Prosper 1000 inkjet with a software tweak to optimize ink dispersion. Epson enlarged its wide format and textile and garment printing offerings to complete the picture and gained a bit of traction in the label segment hitherto dominated by the HP Indigo WS presses with its own high quality inkjet Surepress.

Digital growth must be more than machines

The print market share for digital presses that has been minuscule in India will possibly leapfrog in 2015 as more than two dozen new presses from eight major players hit the market. The market share of digital printing, which has been reportedly growing at 30% is expected to double in next three years. However, this could happen faster if the press manufacturers augment their Capex investments with Opex spending on marketing and advertising. Apart from this is the need make focussed investments to make digital printing more affordable.

The scalable marketing of printing as a process has been absent in India and awareness of digital printing is extremely low even among people in the trade. Though growth of digital printing has been high, it accounts for less than 2% of the print volumes today. One of the reasons for poor penetration of digital printing is the high print consumable cost. For this cost to be reduced, digital printing giants have to enlarge their offerings in the inkjet segment. While inkjet has already penetrated the high volume markets of book and transactional printing it is expected to improve quality and speeds while bringing down cost in the future. Notably, HP is collaborating with KBA, Landa Nano and Konica Minolta and Fuji with Heidelberg and Gallus – a recognition of the experience of the press manufacturers in techniques of paper handling and movement and as the benchmarks of quality.

“The present digital scenario is not conducive to mass markets,” says Ganesh Khandare, head of digital operations at Repro India, the country’s largest book printer and exporter. It is all about high value, high-end digital printing that focuses on short-run printing, saving on time and offering high quality custommade solutions to customers. “This is the transition phase before the inkjet technology muscles in and makes digital printing affordable,” says Khandare.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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