Punjab’s Venus Photobooks to diversify

Demand for photo albums stagnant

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.

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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