Digital print volumes still growing well for KM

Interview Kuldeep Malhotra, vice-president Sales, Konica Minolta

Kuldeep Malhotra, vice president sales, Konica Minolta
Kuldeep Malhotra, vice president sales, Konica Minolta

Harish Penumarthi and Naresh Khanna – Please comment on the perception that the digital photobook industry is flattening and the increasing competitiveness and thinner margins in digital print.

Kuldeep Malhotra, vice president Sales, Konica Minolta India – “In North India digital photobook printers were traditionally producing for other smaller towns and markets in the region. With the influx of more digital presses in smaller cities in all areas regions, the overall capacity and competitiveness have increased. Additionally, with increased smartphone usage, even some of the end-users are cutting expenses and ordering fewer copies of their photo albums.

“When we came up with our high-chroma (hc) presses five years ago, it was a new technology that started by filling small pockets in the market. With time, as more presses
came and more printers adopted the hc technology, it has understandably increased the ‘heat’ in the photobook market. As of today, Konica Minolta has more than 650 units of the high croma presses in the market across the country. In the high-chroma series that seems to have shaken up the market, Konica Minolta now offers the 73hc, the 83hc, and 83hc with IQ501 being the top-of-the-line press. The press comes with enhanced registration, better color calibration, thanks to the IQ 501.

“Although it is difficult to say without specific segment data, the changing market dynamics may have driven down the photobook print volume, but the overall industry print volume is still growing. In the digital production press segment overall, the print volume has grown 10% to 15% year-on-year. Even in Q1 & Q2 of the current [FY 19-20] financial year, we’re pretty confident that the print volumes have similarly grown, though we haven’t yet analyzed the figures.”

HP & NK – Please comment on the overall imaging trends in the market

Kuldeep Malhotra – “Konica Minolta has taken more than 50% share in the digital print market over the years. Having said that, nobody is monitoring and evaluating the photo market separately. Nobody is monitoring the volumes in digital, photo, new products, variable print, or for that matter, the volume that has shifted from offset to digital. It’s tough to evaluate it. One can only look at the growth in print volumes individually.”

“The print market’s migration to digital continues. The photocopy shops migrated to one or more digital production engines over the years. We have noticed that no new copy shops are coming up or at least that new entrants are few. The established digital printers may
surely be expanding, which might result in new units of theirs coming up and in turn resulting in more production engines in the market. This has grown the print volumes
and may also have had an impact on the per unit price of print. This is an additional indication that printers are increasing in the B, C, and D markets. [The tier 2, 3, and 4 cities and towns]. Hence, by no new copy shops, I mean, that the first time entrants are very limited.

“The reason is straightforward; the market is already flooded. Small players may surely be growing, while the already established ones are moving to value-added print market segments to cater to the specialty print requirements of their customers. That is how a market gradually grows.”

Keen to establish the KM1 in the packaging market

HP & NK – Although you have 17 MGI Jet Varnish machines and one KM1 [sheetfed UV inkjet B2 press] installed in the country so far, please comment on the increasing interest in digitally printed packaging.

Kuldeep Malhotra – “Many monocarton converters and printers are now looking at the KM1. Konica Minolta is working with a few potential customers, and the press seems to be slowly gaining attraction and interest of quite a few packaging & commercial printers. In the global market, many converters are investing in KM1.

“If you look at the iPhone boxes being produced in the country, you might have observed the quality; the finishing is spick and span. Right from the box to the printed product, it’s perfect. Not every converter can produce such results. They are the ones who require top-of-the-line printing machines. It’s not just these products, in food production as well; there are a lot of regulations that the converter must keep in mind.

“The requirement for products printed in local languages is increasing. Especially in the south, there is a requirement for products printed in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and other local languages. Digital will help consumer product companies get into those markets. The KM1 is one product that may take some time to establish in the market. However, it is one future-product that can help the packaging industry. The UV ink technology in the KM1 is food safe as well,” says Malhotra.

“The KM1 with MGI is a terrific combination, but we are clear that we want to focus the KM1 more for the packaging market. Short-run presses can also help in prototyping, sampling, and test-marketing first. We’re talking to some companies in the monocarton packaging business, and they are showing some interest. They’re interested in shifting some of the print volume from offset to digital for short-runs and maybe then long-run also if it’s viable.”

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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