Indian newspapers will need to customize their offerings

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Indian newspapers will need to customize their offerings
Pradeep Shah

The capex in the newspaper industry is not expected to be good this year as newspaper publishers grapple with declining readership and shrinking margins, feels Pradeep Shah, managing director, Manugraph.

“It is not going to be a good year for the manufacturing segment linked to the newspaper industry,” he says.

Although demonetization and GST did not have any major impact on Manugraph’s operations, the company’s union has been on a strike for more than a month and Shah says that most of Manugraph’s customers have been considerate of the company’s position.

“The union’s demand is unreasonable. We will wait for a while but we are hopeful to solve it. It’s not like we want the strike to continue but we have to look at the numbers, the viability. So, we feel whatever we have offered the union based on our current financial position is sensible,” Shah says.

Talking about the orders, he says the company has orders for the next six months.

Customization is the key
India’s under-30 age group is consuming news mostly on the digital platform. One of the most striking features of digital format is the endless possibility of customization it offers to news readers. If someone wants to read only politics or sport or business or Bollywood, he or she has the freedom to access only that section and not go for the entire newspaper. According to Shah, this is what the traditional newspapers should also strive to do.

“Every newspaper should have five or six sections with readers looking to buy sections. Newspaper will have to be created in such a way that you can customize according to the demand of the reader. This trend is already popular on digital platform and could also happen with physical newspapers,” Shah argues.

He also says that at some stage almost all newspapers will shrink in size as it is easier to read. “Logically this what it should be, six columns.”

Foray into packaging solutions
Manugraph will launch the complete business vision about its CI flexo press manufacturing at Plastvision 2018 to be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The company has tied up with Italy’s C&C Flexo (Carraro) to commence the manufacturing of CI Flexo machine at its Kolhapur facility.

“There is no detailed marketing plan drawn out yet but people have been hired. Our Kolhapur division needs to now gear up. We have a huge market that we want to attack, both in India and overseas. There is a potential in all the markets that Manugraph is currently present in,” Shah says.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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