Book printer Quarterfold Printabilities embarks on major investment drive

Making a mark in the African market

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Navi Mumbai-based Quarterfold Printabilities has successfully managed to get a significant foothold in the African educational books market in the short span of five years. Most of the educational books that it prints are exported to Africa, primarily Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast. The company has One Star Export House status, which it got in 2015.

Quarterfold Printabilities was founded in 2014 and, under the young CEO Nilesh Dhankani, has seen rapid growth during these years and now clocks a turnover of over Rs 100 crore. Quarterfold’s printing and post-printing operations take place at three units – two at Taloja in Navi Mumbai and one at Bhiwandi. Printing work happens at the Bhiwandi unit and one of the units at Taloja. The other Taloja unit, which has been recently leased, is used only for post-printing work.

Stepping up investment

Quarterfold embarked on a major capital expenditure drive during 2018-2019 financial year with installation of five printing machines. The company invested in four Orient web offset presses and one Komori sheet-fed press in the previous year. With this, it now has in total seven Orient web offset presses, four at Taloja and three at Bhiwandi. It also has two sheet-fed presses, one from Komori, which was commissioned in March, and one from Heidelberg.

“We have seen a healthy annual growth rate in the past five years and we felt it was time for a new round of investment in our printing and post-printing capabilities. That is why we went for this big round of investment. There are a few other post-printing machines that we ordered in the last financial year and they are on the way as well,” says Pijamo Ngullie, head of international marketing at Quarterfold.

In terms of the quantity of books printed, Quarterfold prints about 35 lakh books in a month but during the peak season, which runs from February to June, the company has sometimes printed as many as 60 lakh books in a month. Before the new presses were commissioned, the company would get a large chunk of the books printed from third-party printers. Now with the bigger print capacity, it handles these volumes in-house to a great extent.

With such huge print volumes, wastage is an issue and therefore a big focus is on automation. For its post-printing section, in the next few months, the company will commission a brand new Kolbus perfect binding machine and a Muller Martini center-pinning machine. The company is currently using multiple binding machines from Welbound.

“We are focusing on increasing automation in our post-printing operations by opting for solutions from Kolbus and Muller Martini. These will help us in reducing wastage and take care of labor costs too,” Ngullie argues.

Future clearly planned out

Having established a solid presence in the African continent, the plan is now to expand in the Indian market; another high growth area when it comes to educational books.

“At present most of our business comes from the export market. However, we are now paying a lot of attention to the domestic market as well. A domestic marketing division was established in October last year and about Rs 6 crore of business is now generated from the Indian market. We want to take this higher,” says Ngullie.

So, in the coming years, Quarterfold will not only consolidate its business in Africa but will also aggressively expand in India.

“We see major growth potential in the Indian and African market when it comes to printing educational books. A few years ago, the industry was trying to figure out if eBooks will have any impact on demand for physical books. But that threat has not really materialized in any significant way. We do not see any let up in demand for physical educational books for at least a decade. We are in fact striving to get the Two Star Export House status as soon as possible,” Ngullie argues.

Print on demand

Although primary focus in the Indian market for Quarterfold will be on educational books, the company is also eyeing the burgeoning print-on-demand (POD) market here too. The company already takes orders for POD books but they are not processed in-house; instead, they are outsourced to third-party digital printers. Quarterfold now wants to handle this department in-house.

“In addition to the Indian educational books we are also very optimistic about the POD market in India. We see good demand for products such as paperbacks. That is why we are now very seriously looking at it,” says Ngullie.

Quarterfold will bring in a digital printing machine and set a fully-fledged finishing unit at the Taloja unit that is at present being only used for post-printing work. “We will begin establishing an in-house POD department once the monsoon season is over around August-September,” Ngullie 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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