Punjab’s Venus Photobooks to diversify

Demand for photo albums stagnant

HP Indigo 7600
HP Indigo 7600

Set up in 1977, Venus Photobooks headquartered in Amritsar produces photo albums in the main – slip-in albums, self-stick albums and lamination albums among the other more common type of albums. Bikram Singh, director of Venus Photobooks says, “The entire photobooks business digitalized 10 to 15 years ago and with the change in processes, we adopted Indigo digital presses. We purchased digital offset machines from HP for our Chandigarh and Ludhiana units as well.”

Apart from photo albums, the company also produces brochures, visiting cards and catalogs. Talking about the photobook segment Singh says, “There are different binding styles of photobooks – spiral, pinned and layflat. We make all three kinds of photobooks.”

Demand for photobooks in the market

We have imported a machine from Italy for producing layflat books. Though it is our field of expertise, we do not get demand for photobooks throughout the year – it’s a seasonal business. Hence, it became extremely important for us to venture into other forms of value-added print work. The recent elections brought us good business, otherwise there is almost no demand till August.”

Singh says that the market for photo albums has shrunk with the proliferation of digital presses. Customers are no longer asking for traditional wedding albums. According to him, the only option for the photobook printers is to diversify to other print segments.

An HP Indigo set up at Venus Albums

Venus runs a range of HP presses, including the Indigo 7600, 5500 and 3550 models. The company uses offline units mainly for foiling enhancements. It also has a silver halide output device for chemically processed prints in which the silver coated paper is imaged with a laser and chemically processed. “For us, who use the digital offset Indigos, it is difficult to diversify to commercial print as the market there has also shrunk. As long as second-hand offset press imports to India do not stop, commercial will continue to struggle. The second-hand press users are offering print work at cheaper rates because they can afford to print for less.”

A 10% fall in photobook segment

In the ten years that I’ve been in this industry, I’ve seen both photobooks and commercial print segments rise and fall sharply. It is falling by 5% to 10% every year due to social media and rise in digital technologies that are eliminating the need for a hard copy. “Only the remote areas of the country are still interested in photobooks.

Packaging is also in our plans. If we manage to crack some good contracts with brand owners in future, we would love to supply packaging,” says Singh, adding, “We’re in the early stages of planning for a new HP Indigo 12000 press. It will be a well thought out process and we will take our time before going ahead with the new press.”

Fasma contract comparison

All the digital press manufacturers offer fasma contracts to the printers. The seller or manufacturer charges a specific amount per color per copy. Also called click charges, the price includes consumables such as ink (toner), spare parts and maintenance of the machine. The user can focus on the sales and production while the machine’s performance and uptime are taken care of by the manufacturer.

According to Singh, KM’s fasma is cheaper than HP’s, which “reduces the investment on the machine by 10 times. All those who do short run print work and have a low setup cost, invest in Konica Minolta.” Looking at growth, Venus is focussed on business promotion campaigns including participation in trade fairs to meet potential customers and to show them what it can do for them.

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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