Printstop rationalizes its retail operations for faster growth

Technology-driven digital print operations

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.

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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