Konica Minolta buys A2Z license from PM Digital

Made in India A2Z prepress software gains traction

Konica Minolta
P Chellappan, partner and chief technologist, PM Digital Products

Chennai-based PM Digital Products has always been at the forefront of digitalization and an early adopter of new technology. The company’s partner and chief technologist P Chellappan asked the in-house software engineering team to develop an application to not only make prepress work more efficient but also save labor and costs. The software, A2Z PDF, has been a dream project for Chellappan, who himself went through brief learning of the PDF format to help shape the software into what it is today. After beta testing at customer sites for over six months, A2Z PDF is now a fully functional prepress software that can help printers cut down on the time spent on prepress work by days.

“Not only does it help save time, but it also cuts down on labor costs. What would earlier take three people to work on, is being done by just two people with the software and that too in a matter of minutes,” says Chellappan.

Eager to market the software, Chellappan spoke to Konica Minolta whose team carefully evaluated it and finally gave an approval. The company bought a license to the software about a month back and is now taking it to its own customers, who are mostly using it for book production and for page formatting, resizing and imposition.

“Getting approval from Konica Minolta itself was a breakthrough for us. It shows their confidence in the product. They found the software extremely useful and are even suggesting it to their own customers, which I feel will help market our product better. Even at our end, we have been using it regularly. So whenever we find something that is lacking in the software or something that needs fixing or an upgrade, we do it immediately and offer the same to our customers at no additional cost. In general, whatever needs to be done to make the software faster and to reduce the workload on the prepress technicians, we are doing it and are not charging for the same,” shares Chellappan.

Many potential customers are showing a keen interest in the software. For instance, there is a customer from Madurai, from the photo lab industry, which has purchased six licenses, indicating that printers are beginning to see and understand the benefits that A2Z offers.

According to Chellappan, the product is shaping up very well and he is confident it will catch up fast with customers. One of the main reasons he feels it will do well is because every digital printer needs people to get the files ready for print and invariably customers are not willing to pay for the labor and time involved in doing the job; all they want is the final printed job. So, a printer cannot afford to make a person spend a lot of time doing one particular task.

This is where A2Z PDF comes in handy and saves a lot of time, thereby increasing productivity. Also, prepress errors that would occur with manual intervention are greatly reduced using the software. It offers 100% accuracy in measurement precision, an imposition of pages and more. It also optimizes the number of pieces one prints on a sheet of paper. One does not need to depend on an individual’s efficiency, knowledge or judgment. There could a judgment error while imposing; all that is taken care of by this software. Moreover, the software is extremely user-friendly; it doesn’t need a highly skilled person to operate it. “It is self-explanatory and extremely easy to use. So, I would say this software is more of a necessity than a luxury for a printer to have,” he says.

Many features, one license

The software offers 12 categories, which further contain sections with several useful features—a range one can normally expect only with a combination of several software licenses. The categories such as Impose pages for saddle stitch, Add numbers, text or variable data; and Add blank pages anywhere you need are self-explanatory and once selected, perform the task throughout the project with a few clicks in a matter of minutes. Other options include Create N-Ups for all pages; Impose pages for saddle stitch; Impose pages to print one copy; which is used for printers to print a sample copy; Impose folded and custom signatures; Tile pages larger than print size, Join many pages to form one page, Split a single page into two or more; Add numbers, text or variable data; Scale, rotate and resize pages; Extract, delete, reverse or duplicate pages; Add blank pages anywhere you need; and, Combine several PDF files into one.

Priced at Rs. 35,000 per license, Chellappan says there has been some resistance on the part of customers in buying the software. “Most of the printers are extremely conscious about brand names. They either opt for a Fiery or PREPS. It takes time to break the ice but I am sure once they see a demo of our software, they will see how it is capable of doing much more in terms of assisting a person to perform a job faster. Fiery and other software might have other advantages but as far as the work areas covered by this software, in terms of imposition, editing or modifying a PDF file, A2Z is far superior to any other competing product in the market. Even in terms of cost, if you look at other software, their price runs into lakhs while our product is extremely economically priced. So, the hesitation will slowly fade away when people start recognizing the advantages of this one-time investment,” Chellappan 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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