Offset printers should enhance cooperation among themselves

Offset printers should enhance cooperation among themselves
SRK’s chief marketing officer Kalpesh Mehta

For more than three decades, Borivali-headquartered SRK Creative has been a dominant player in the photo album market of Mumbai. Diversifying from digital technology, in 2013, SRK installed a refurbished Komori 528 five-color plus coater. In 2016, it further strengthened the offset printing department by investing in a brand-new Komori Lithrone A37, which was placed at SRK’s Bhyander plant along with the older Komori. With offset printing capabilities in-house, SRK started taking book printing jobs—a line of business that has seen robust growth.

“The main reason for expanding and strengthening the offset printing department was that the quality of our offset outsourced work was not up to the mark. We wanted much greater control of the work,” says SRK’s chief marketing officer Kalpesh Mehta. Currently, SRK is printing educational books and other commercial offset jobs.

Cooperation should be the strategy
Although SRK’s offset division has done well in recent years, Mehta feels that the business conditions presently prevailing in the market need a different approach from the printing industry.

“In the last two years there has been a severe competition in the offset printing industry on the price front, which has put a huge pressure on the rate of return on our investments. There has been almost a 20% reduction in price realization across board. This unhealthy competition is because there is huge overcapacity in the industry as printers have invested aggressively in printing machines,” Mehta says.

One of the remedies that Mehta offers is that of greater cooperation among printers. “I feel there is enough capacity in the offset industry for printers to come together and have a tie-up where they can complement each other. I think under the current market conditions, printers should carefully weigh all pros and cons before investing in a new press. Complementing each other is the best strategy now.”

However, he points out that for this strategy to be successful, it is important that all the printers are on the same page when it comes to parameters such as quality, service, delivery time, etc.

Working with smaller digital printers
The strategy of cooperation that Mehta talks about for offset printers is already being implemented by SRK in the digital printing space. Plenty of solutions that SRK offers cannot be provided by smaller printers due to lack of technology. Mehta is now talking to these small printers and discussing ways in which they can work together with SRK to offer a wider gamut of solutions to their customers.

“We are meeting multiple printers on a daily basis and educating them on how both SRK and they can benefit by working together. We have the expertise to offer many solutions which these printers cannot. By working together, they can offer more solutions to their customers and we can get jobs which will help utilize our capacities. Also, we are assuring them that we will never approach their customers directly,” Mehta shares.

Expanding dealer network beyond Maharashtra
Mumbai is the main market for SRK but in 2015, it set foot outside and set up its first branch in Pune. Now, the city has four branches with Swargate branch, which was the first to open, acting as the hub with HP Indigo 3550 in operation. The other three branches are in Hadapsar, Pimpri and Talegaon. Currently, the Pune branches are dedicated only to the wedding album segment.

Asked if similar Pune-type models will be replicated in other cities, Mehta says that although it is not likely to happen in near future but a lot of stress in being laid on expanding the dealer network. At present, SRK has dealers in Central India and South India in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

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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