Pratik Shah of PrintStop expects commercial printing industry to normalize in six months

Recovery will boil down to the company's war chest

280
PrintStop
Pratik Shah, co-founder of PrintStop India

The Indian economy is expected to gradually spring back to life as the lockdown is replaced in a phased manner from 3 May 2020 onwards. Just like most parts of the economy, the commercial printing industry has also been pretty much shut since March 25. Pratik Shah, co-founder of Mumbai-based PrintStop India expects the industry to get back to normal by the fourth quarter of this calendar year.

“We are expecting that it will take at least six months post lifting of the complete lockdown for things to come close to normal especially for the commercial printing segment,” Shah said. “Within Mumbai municipal limits there were hardly any printers who were operational except the ones who are working from within. Local law agencies are enforcing the lockdown very strictly. There have been reports of a few presses opening on the outskirts of Mumbai but they are primarily catering to the FMCG and pharmaceutical industry.”

PrintStop India, founded in 2007, has also been completely non-operational since the start of the lockdown. The digital print house caters to the stationary, marketing collateral, and print on demand segments. It has implemented a hub and spoke model where there are multiple retail outlets across the city of Mumbai and then a mothership or the hub at Lower Parel. The retail outlets handle small jobs while big jobs are completed at the mothership. PrintStop India also has an active online or eCommerce presence but that still makes up a minority share of the overall business. However, this aspect of the business has been growing well in the last year or so.

Complete lockdown, zero revenue

“There is a complete lockdown. So, zero revenue so far. People are definitely concerned about the future, about their fixed expenses, and so forth.” Shah says.

Talking about the immediate impact that the commercial printing industry is going to see, Shah says operators with EMIs and rents are definitely going to suffer big. “It will all boil down to how profitable the previous years were and how big is your war chest. People will definitely use this as an excuse and there will be layoffs especially the ones which are in non-core departments,” he argues.

As per Shah, PrintStop India is currently in a wait and watch mode. However, the company has come up with a list of new products that it can and wants to offer to its clients.

“These 40 days have given us time to reflect internally and make our processes more robust, get connected to our customers, take a lot of training and make sure that our employees are much better skilled than they were before COVID-19,” he concludes.

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

Subscribe Now

1 COMMENT

  1. Pratik Shah, as many of us know is a smart and articulate printer. His analysis that it is going to take 6 months for economic recovery must be taken very seriously! His second point, the requirement of a war chest, that is money or cash for paying out without running to full capacity is also a serious question of stamina. I have talked to smaller digital printers in Mumbai and it will be very difficult for them to survive over the next six months since they are coming into the lockdown from a very depressed market and performance in the 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 financial year. The small guys are already down and there are many of them and how will they pay the installments on their digital presses acquired in the past two years? There are no easy answers. However, IppStar is doing a survey across Indian printers and packaging converters of their outlook on the situation with which I hope many printers will cooperate. You can write to me if you would like to participate and have not been reached by the IppStar team. There will also be a link to the survey on http://www.ippstar.org.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here