Newspaper mailroom and book finishing sales in FY 2017-18

Flat year for sheetfed offset but a good year for postpress

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.

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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