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.”

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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– Naresh Khanna

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