Newspaper mailroom and book finishing sales in FY 2017-18

financial year
Horizon perfect binder installed at Thomson press facility

The 2017-18 financial year as it comes to a close has not been a great year for the growth of the publishing, printing and packaging industries in India. There has been some growth and some modernization nevertheless. New capacity for 4-color towers has come to newspapers and to some extent for book printers moving from sheetfed offset to web for longer runs.

Board packaging has also done reasonably well with a reasonable number of highly configured 6-, 7- and 8-color offset presses being installed and a strong order book built up by some manufacturers for the coming year. However, commercial and book printers have not really invested in a large number of brand new offset presses although the digital press market has done reasonably well in total numbers. The causes range from the after-effects of demonetization, the institution of the GST tax regime and, most recently, the inordinate growth in banks’ non-performing assets highlighted by the more than US$2 billion PNB-Nirav Modi scam.

The latest banking scam has also led to the total drying up of buyer’s credit for buying new presses, which is ironic since there are relatively few cases of printers not paying back the loans taken for purchasing presses. As a printer remarked recently, “We are always keen to pay our loan instalments on time, even if we drag out our credit obligations to the ink, plate, paper and other suppliers.”

Postpress has had a reasonably good year
Postpress, which broadly includes coating, folding, gathering, collation, stitching and binding has had a reasonably good year. Newspapers have been increasingly automating their mailrooms with domestically manufactured equipment from Gandotra and Stallion on 2 x 1 web offset presses in the main although Bennett Coleman has installed a Ferag mailroom system on their Manugraph 2 x 1 press in Thiruvananthapuram.

Ferag also replaced the 19-year-old Ferag mailroom on the 4 x 2 KBA press at The Printers Mysore plant outside Bengaluru. Additionally, Ferag has sold a mailroom to Bennett Coleman for the new TKS 4 x 1 press to be installed at its plant coming up in Manesar just south of Gurugram.
Muller Martini mailroom systems were installed at Malayala Manorama on its new Mitsubishi 4 x 1 presses this year and are also planned for its new Manugraph 4 x 1 press. A Mulller Martini stitcher-gatherer binder for magazines was installed at Mathrubhumi as well.

Muller Martini has sold a number of finishing and binding machines to the book printing industry in the past year. Although the commercial and book printing industry have experienced flat growth in the past year, binding equipment has done well with greater interest in automation. In this segment, domestic manufacturer Welbound has sold about 40 perfect binders. Horizon has had a standout year with the sale of 28 machines from 1 April 2017 to March 2018. This number includes folders, gatherers, automated binders and 3-knife trimmers and sales to Nepal and Sri Lanka as well, with a number purchased for digital printing operations.

Horizon distributor Om Prakash of ePrint Machinery says, “Today every customer is interested in trouble-free production in their finishing department. They are also looking for automation where the requirement for skilled labor is minimal and stable export quality can be maintained without wastage. The automation of job changeover is now a sought-after feature with more short-run and digitally printed books.”

Prakash is very optimistic about the finishing segment in the commercial offset and digital printing segments, particularly because of the interest of eCommerce industry which is looking for efficient and automated suppliers. With Horizon’s JDF connectivity, folding, binding and 3-knife trimmers are connected with JDF and bar-code is also used to gather sections and produce books without manual intervention. Automation is picking up with the large book printers and book exporters in the country.

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.

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– Naresh Khanna

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