Printo plans 20 stores in North India in five years

Printo plans 20 stores in North India in five years
A Printo store front

 The Indian print industry is highly unorganized and businesses are mostly family   owned. Due to the fragmented nature of the industry, it lacks the scale to optimize the efficiencies in operations. Therefore, the recent acquisition of NCR-focused Print Bazaar by Bengaluru-based quick print chain Printo is significant as it points to that fact that some players in the industry are now focusing on economies of scale as the industry gradually strives to get more organized and professional, signaling growth in consumption-led demand.

“The acquisition will help us achieve the economy of scale and be part of a platform that serves customers at a pan-India level. It will help us grow in larger geographies. Large corporates want a single supplier. National presence will help us cater to the needs of both SMEs and these large corporate,” says Manish, Sharma, co-founder and chairman, Printo. 

16Printo shop 2
L to R: Manish Sharma, co-founder and chairman of Printo; Balu Iyer, CEO and Vinay Sharma, CTO

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed but Economic Times, citing sources, reported that the deal values Print Bazaar at around Rs. 8-10 crore. Print Bazaar has built a strong retail brand in New Delhi and Gurugram while Printo currently dominates the markets in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai. This acquisition will help Printo deliver print solutions to its customers in a territory which it hitherto served only remotely via its website. 

16Printo shop 3
Sanjeev Malhotra, chief executive of Alia Group

“With Print Bazaar, Printo is finally a national retail brand,” says Sharma.  

For Sanjeev Malhotra, the deal marks his fourth exit. A serial entrepreneur, Malhotra is the chief executive of Alia Group, the parent company of Print Bazaar. He says, “Collaboration is the new competitive advantage. It is very clear you cannot do without it. We had a strong footprint in the northern region while Printo had a strong presence in the southern region. So, it was natural for us to look at the alliance to get the competitive advantage.”

Malhotra believes coming together of Printo and Print Bazaar will generate obvious synergies in the form of stronger purchasing power, bigger brand, better processes, better pricing for consumers, and professional print services to name a few. 

At least 20 stores in North India
Printo is creating India’s largest print network with a presence in six cities, through a combination of 30 stores and regional hubs spread across six cities. In the near future, Printo would be investing Rs 10 crore, primarily for setting up a North India production facility (which is called the hub in Printo) and the rest in setting up company-owned stores.

“Our large customers have nudged us towards delivering at a national level and we owe this ambitious growth partly to them and partly to our team, which seems ever ready to take up challenges of growth. We are still a small company but we believe we are laying the foundation for becoming India’s largest consumer and business print brand,” shares Sharma.

Printo would be using the NCR region as a base to expand into the rest of North India, just as it has done in the southern part of the country. In the next five years, Sharma sees at least 20 stores in North India.

Asked if the print industry would see more consolidation going forward, Sharma says that the print industry is facing an excess capacity problem so consolidation will only happen if one has a good customer base. “For the typical printer too, it makes sense to run the business and generate cash from the business through business expenses rather than be acquired at a low multiple. I feel consolidation is a reflection of how mature an economy is. In India, we have a long way to go as there is enough inefficiency, which incentivizes businesses to be small, rather than large. A consolidator, or acquirer, is either looking for customer base or production capability.”

Omni channel is real for Printo
Printo has always been significantly digital inside, with all stores connected to a central hub and real-time monitoring of jobs. It is now investing in enhancing its mobile and web capabilities since a large number of existing customers place orders online and pick up at stores at their convenience. Omni channel is real for Printo and integrating the customer experience across channels is key, argues Sharma. 

For example, Printo’s customers can order via a mobile app or the website and pick up at a store the same day or have it delivered to their office or home. This is a rapidly changing environment which Printo is leveraging.

A consumption-led industry
According to Sharma, in all emerging markets print and retail print are growing at double digits. This is a consumption-led industry and with increasing consumerism retail print is booming. On the business front, SMEs, individual consultants, start-ups and free agents are driving this growth. On the consumer side, the desire to share and celebrate memories (thanks to the explosion in photos and social media) is pushing photo products as a category. Internationally funded players like VistaPrint and PrintVenue are good examples. 

“Printo believes that big growth lies in combining instant gratification with omni-channel,” Sharma concludes. 

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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