‘We will do all that we can to help customers’

Kuldeep Malhotra of Konica Minolta India

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

Kuldeep Malhotra, the director, Sales & Office Product Marketing at Konica Minolta India was also appointed to Konica Minolta India’s board of directors effective from 1 December 2019. He believes that this is not the right time to gauge the impact of the lockdown in India and its impact on the printing business. He contends that the situation is temporary and will pass soon — edited excerpts from an interview with Harish Penumarthi.

Just like other industries, printing too is affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. Currently, in its third phase, the lockdown has stalled many operations throughout the country, putting MSMEs and larger companies equally in trouble. “There is no certainty as to how long it would take for the demand to reemerge in the country. I feel this will hugely depend on how the market reacts post-lockdown. Initially, the demand is expected to stay flat. However, it could go both ways after that.”

“However, another point of concern is the COVID-induced unemployment and the broader effect of this on the overall economy. Also, what exactly is the customer’s mindset at present? India’s retail participation in the equity market has been good during the outbreak – that reflects Indians are not as apprehensive as they used to be. However, the true mood of the nation – and hence, the demand – can only be gauged when the lockdown ends. Hence, any prediction that might come now will be nothing short of speculation. We must patiently wait and see how the market ultimately reacts, and we are out of this unprecedented situation,” explains Malhotra.

“We could have done much better” – says Malhotra

Only a handful of KM’s customers are operating during the lockdown. While some of them are involved in the essential goods segment, others are engaged in fulfilling the documentation requirements of the government. “We have a team dedicated to supporting our customers during the lockdown. We have also made efforts to ensure a smooth supply of spares and consumables to the customers operating to support the essential items.” In FY 2019-20, Konica Minolta improved its revenue over the last financial year despite the lockdown in the last half of March. “However, we could have done much better,” he says.

We will do all that we can to support customers

Malhotra is again grateful to his customers for choosing Konica Minolta as their OEM. “We would request all our customers to be patient and be focussed on the changing demands of the customers because of the COVID-19 pandemic led lockdown. For the time being, things may not be the same, and we believe it is a temporary phase, and it would pass in some time. We will do all that we can to support our customers in these testing times,” Malhotra reassures printers.

KM to launch new products as per schedule

Recently, Messe Dusseldorf announced the postponement of drupa to 20-30 April 2021. While many believe that the delay of the event may affect their business, Malhotra says, “Well, we strongly believe that no business comes above human life – not even one. The postponement of drupa is a wise decision in support of humanity, and Konica Minolta welcomes it. As far as the financials are concerned, it is better to delay growth rather than stalling it all together. There will be some temporary snags on the investment front because of the COVID-19 disruption. However, with time, investments will start flowing in as well.”

Konica Minolta is not delaying any of its product launches in the production press segment due to the postponement of drupa. There is a delay of approximately one or two months because of the COVID-19 lockdown situation. However, as soon as the lockdown is lifted, KM will try to catch up with the schedules.

Higher run-lengths for the AccurioJet KM1

Malhotra gives us an update on the progress of the KM1 inkjet sheetfed press, that so far has a single installation in Chennai in India. “The AccurioJet KM1 has more than 100 installations worldwide, making it one of the flagship products of the company. There have been a series of developments based on the experience gained from KM1 customers to make it more productive and consistent. So far, we do not have any customers using the KM1 specifically for monocartons in India. However, we are in discussions with a few prospects for specific applications as there is a demand for smaller quantities that are difficult to manage in the analog process.

“We wish to reach a higher level of run lengths with the KM1. However, technologies have processes and costs associated with them. Digital so far complements longer runs and provides the benefits of regionalization and variable data,” says Malhotra.

“Konica Minolta, as a company, invests in future technologies, and as a brand, KM has its inkjet technology in KM1. “We shall continue with our efforts to improve the machine from the current levels in terms of media handling, production capacity, and reliability so that it becomes more relevant to the customers with the changing business scenarios,” concludes Malhotra.

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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