Kedar Ambekar of Nikeda bullish on digital print

New KM AccurioPress 6120 monochrome press installed in Bhandup

Kedar Ambekar with the KM AccurioPress 6120 monochrome digital press

Kedar Ambekar, director of Mumbai-based Nikeda Art Printers, is very optimistic about the future of digital printing at his company and in the broader print industry in India. His company, Nikeda, which operates from both Bhandup in east Mumbai and a plant in Bhiwandi, strengthened its digital printing set up by adding a new Konica Minolta AccurioPress 6120 monochrome production press just before the national lockdown was announced in March 2020.

“We are very bullish about the adoption and growth of digital printing at Nikeda, mainly because of the increasing demand for personalization by customers and shrinking print lengths across the industry. During the lockdown, it was our digital printing vertical that generated cash flow for us and offered us good margins,” Ambekar says.

Nikeda mainly uses digital printing for black and white work, such as printing books, QR codes, bar codes, and tags. Ambekar says that his company invested a lot of money in training its staff to fully understand the systems and software that drive its digital printing market and operations.

“During the lockdown, we spent considerable effort and expense in understanding and learning about digital systems and software. That investment is paying dividends now,” Ambekar says. Nikeda’s digital printing volumes are now 20% of its overall work compared to 15% before the lockdown. However, the overall print volumes have shrunk.

A bigger digital data stream

Before Nikeda commissioned the AccurioPress 6120 monochrome production press, it already operated two other Konica Minolta digital presses – one color and one black and white. According to Ambekar, the company needed to bring in another new digital press as the data stream increased.

“The data streams in our digital printing segment have been widening, and we had to expand our capacity. And that is why we bought the new press. It is as simple as that. Also, the fact that we already operated two Konica presses helped us in deciding on another KM press,” he adds.

Ambekar is all praise for the Konica Minolta India team, which was very helpful during the lockdown’s challenging early months. “The way the KM team went out of the way to help us whenever we had some issues is quite commendable,” he adds.

Nikeda also operates a large battery of offset printing presses spread across the two print plants. The Bhandup unit, which houses the digital presses, also has three offset presses. The second plant in Bhiwandi is currently a purely offset printing setup with three presses at work.

The focus needs to shift to digital packaging

Amber believes that the conventional commercial printing business has plateaued, and there will not be any significant growth in this segment in the coming future. He is very optimistic about packaging, especially digital printing in packaging applications. Nikeda, too is looking at this segment with interest, he says.

“I see a huge potential for digital printing technology in the Indian packaging sector. We are planning to venture into that space. A lot of small Indian entrepreneurs and companies are giving a lot of attention to packaging. But their volumes are small. This is where we see the opportunity for digital,” Ambekar argues.

He sees ample opportunity in the food and beverages segment where digital technology can play an important role. “We see so many small but exciting brands coming up in India. The best part is that these brand owners are very open-minded and are themselves the main decision-makers. They are open to ideas, and I am sure it will be great working with them,” concludes Ambekar.

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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