Badlapur printers stringing to create a dynamic hub 

New technology needed to add quality and value to print

Yogesh Jadhav, secretary, Badlapur Printers’ Association
Yogesh Jadhav, secretary, Badlapur Printers’ Association

Over the last decade or so, many printing firms have shifted from the traditional printing hubs in the heart of Mumbai like Lower Parel and Byculla, to industrial areas on the periphery of the city such as Badlapur. Many factors have contributed to this shift, including lack of space, fragmented operations and the high price of real estate, among others. This shift has turned areas like Bhiwandi in the north of Mumbai into an established printing hub. While Bhiwandi has attracted a lot of large established Mumbai printers like Unik Printers and Print Plus, several first-time printers have turned to areas like Ambernath and Ulhasnagar. Badlapur is another area on the outskirts of Mumbai now developing into a printing hub.

With the rise in printing activity in the area, about four years ago, the printers founded the Badlapur Printers’ Association. A relatively new and small entity, the Badlapur Printers’ Association currently has 20 members. “The profile of our members ranges from printers who print stationery items, to those who print calendars and boxes. Komori is the most popular brand of press among the printers here,” says Yogesh Jadhav, secretary, Badlapur Printers’ Association.

Focus on value addition

Although there has been a rise in the number of print service providers in Badlapur, most are supplying ordinary print work at the lower and more competitive end of the market, with just a handful focusing on specialized projects and value addition. Unlike some of the other suburban printing hubs, there is a dearth of brand new multicolor presses and automated binding equipment. “As an association, one of the most important issues that we are facing is the quality of jobs that our members are offering. Most of them are doing run-of-the-mill, low margin work and Badlapur is still popular as a stationery printing market. Only about three or four members of our association are involved in high-margin work. For other members to switch to high margin, high quality and value-added print, they will need to buy quality machinery,” Jadhav argues. “We need to emulate the nearby printing hubs like Ulhasnagar, Ambernath and Kalyan where printers have significantly upgraded their equipment in recent years. During our recent meeting we decided that more experienced members of our association will help printers who are relatively new. This will be a knowledge sharing exercise.”

Jadhav says that Badlapur Printers’ Association is planning to collectively purchase a photobook making machine, so that members can learn about this segment of the printing business which will help them diversify into a new area.

Badlapur PA suggests 18% GST for all print products

There is now a consensus among printers that the GST has reduced a lot of paper work and brought greater transparency to print operations. However, Jadhav argues that the net tax burden under the new tax regime is on the higher side when it comes to the printing industry.

“If you look at the overall scheme of things, the printing industry has to deal with multiple GST slabs. Some items are in the 28% bracket, while others are in a lower slab. Because of the severe competition, we are unable to pass the cost to the customer and this has squeezed our margins. Our appeal to the government is that all printing activities should be in the 18% GST bracket. That will give a big boost to the printing industry,” Jadhav concludes.

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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