Print industry needs to realize selling just ink on paper will not work

Bimal Mehta speaks at Print Innovation Exchange India 2019

Bimal Mehta, managing director of Vakils Premedia. Photo IPP
Bimal Mehta, managing director of Vakils Premedia. Photo IPP

The Indian print industry needs to change and reinvent its business model. It has to accept that selling ink on paper is not enough, Bimal Mehta, managing director of Vakils Premedia, said during the Print Innovation Exchange India 2019 Conference that was held in Mumbai on 25 November.

“It is time printers need to realize that selling just ink on paper is not going to suffice. Printers who keep selling print and nothing else will struggle to survive. Printing companies should no longer be seen as commodity suppliers and instead present themselves as solutions providers,” Mehta said.

Vakils Premedia, a part of printing and publishing company Vakil and Sons, is a shining example of how a traditional print company can evolve with the times, adapt to the latest trends and continue to thrive and grow. Vakils Premedia offers services such as artwork production, design adaptation, image editing, design, and composition of books, journals, and financial reports to name just a few. It enables various content owners like publishers and enterprises to plan, manage, purpose, and deploy their content across multiple media platforms like print, web, mobile, social, and interactive. It has been delivering these services to customers spread across Australia, Europe, the US, UK, and India.

The need to change

According to Mehta, printers need to start selling more evolved services to their clients. Many printers already have some value-added services, such as design and logistics. “This is not enough; we need to go beyond this. Printers need to design their action plan to create value-added services,” he argued.

As per Mehta, the action plan could include asking customers the kind of challenges they are facing, creating a service offering that addresses these specific issues and developing a sales message that focuses on services that one can offer.

Digital trends in communication and marketing

The role of data has been increasing in a customer’s journey and helps service providers to connect with them at the right time. Many service providers, including printers, can use data to serve their customers well.

Mehta said that data-driven marketing helps in focussing on individuals, and thus optimizing the customer experience. He said that service providers should reach out to and understand mobile customers. Giving an example of web-to-print, he said, “offering print products via online storefronts helps in increasing efficiencies.”

Some case studies from the print world

During the concluding portion of his presentation, Mehta talked about printing companies from across the globe who have used technology and innovated to remain relevant.

He talked about LSC Communications, an American multinational commercial printing company based in Chicago. The company was established in 2016 as part of a corporate spin-off from RR Donnelley and now owns the publishers Research & Education Association and Dover Publications. The company offers a host of services such as printing of magazines, books, and catalogs, among others. It also offers LSC Suite, which is a multi-channel digital platform. The company also provides warehousing, fulfillment, postal distribution, and optimization services as well as print management services.

Mehta also cited the example of Boston-based book printing firm King Printing, which prints books for schools and colleges. They use powerful web-to-print software to service their customers. “King Printing is a classic example of how technology and print have married to provide a solution which has worked for the publisher,” he said.

Closer home, he talked about Mumbai-based Printstop, which has also used technology very efficiently and offers web-to-print services. With a heavy focus on technology, ethics, and agility, Printstop has achieved significant growth since its inception in 2007. Printstop currently caters to the stationary, marketing collateral, and print-on-demand segments. It has implemented a hub and spoke model.

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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