Printstop rationalizes its retail operations for faster growth

Technology-driven digital print operations

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Pratik Shah, co-founder of PrintStop
Pratik Shah, co-founder of PrintStop

Founded over a decade ago in 2007, Mumbai-based digital print house PrintStop has seen a very robust annual growth in recent years. Last year, the company grew by a healthy pace, but the rate of growth has somewhat slowed down from a couple of years ago. The company has gone in for some restructuring at the retail operational level.

PrintStop currently caters to the stationery, marketing collateral and print-on-demand segments. It has implemented a hub and spoke model where there are multiple retail outlets across the city of Mumbai and then a mothership at Lower Parel. The retail outlets handle small jobs while big jobs are completed at the mothership.

Founders of PrintStop, Milap Shah, Pratik Shah and Siddhi Shah, interestingly, did not have any printing background. Milap did his computer science, Pratik has an actuarial background while Siddhi is a systems engineer by training. The idea to set up a digital printing firm struck while they were studying and working in the US.

Some rationalization in operations

Although in 2018, the company grew by a healthy 25%, the rate of growth has somewhat reduced from 30-40% for the past couple of years. The company has also gone in for some restructuring at the operational level.

“For PrintStop the start of 2018 was tepid at best but Q3 and Q4 were phenomenal. Year-on-year, we have grown over 25%. Overall, I think the digital industry is growing quite well but the growth has been more in the north and south than the west. The west seems to be a bit saturated comparatively,” says Pratik Shah.

PrintStop has not made any significant investments in the last two years. In 2015-16 the company invested in three digital presses and Shah believes there is a lot left to extract from them.

“After looking at how the industry is moving and after speaking with a few colleagues in the industry we thought it was better to lay low and wait for the right time and technology to make any new significant investment. However, at the beginning of last year we moved to our brand new office, which is the biggest investment we have done in the last 10 years,” Shah adds.

For PrintStop, the year 2018, from the point of view of retail operations, was about taking some hard decisions. “We have taken some practical decisions and shut stores which we were not able to manage well. We are currently left with three stores—two in Sion and one in Lower Parel. But the positive thing is that in the last six months since the restructuring there has been exceptional growth in retail because of the renewed focus,” Shah states.

Focus on online sales

Although online or eCommerce sales still make up a minority share of overall business, Shah says this has been and will be the company’s major focus area as the segment holds huge potential for the company.

“We have been spending maximum management bandwidth for our online division. This year online will be about 30% of our revenues. The split will be about 70:30 between B2B and B2C. Last year online was about 20% of our revenues,” he informs.

By 2020 PrintStop will have about 60% of its revenue from online sales, Shah says with confidence. “Our online business is currently growing 100% every year, while offline is growing about 15%. The only thing that we are sure about is investment in our online technology and investment in good people. As far as machines are concerned, we are still not sure about where to invest. We don’t want to become guinea pigs and be the first to invest in something. We will rather wait and watch for some affordable stable technology,” he concludes.

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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