Reassuring toner situation for Konica Minolta customers in India

Kuldeep Malhotra – ‘Short-run print got a boost during the pandemic’

Kuleep Malhotra Konica Minolta
Kuldeep Malhotra, deputy managing director and director (board of directors) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions India Photo Konica Minolta

We have been asking Konica Minolta India for a response regarding the toner supply situation consequent to the fire and explosion in the toner factory in Tatsuno Japan in July and August, respectively. Kuldeep Malhotra deputy managing director and director (board of directors) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions India told Indian Printer and Publisher.

Kuldeep Malhotra responded on 11 October 2021 saying, “It is true that we had an accident at our factory where toner is being produced. The investigation is concluded for ascertaining the reason for fire at our factory. We are trying to get back to work very soon. The factory will start production from the mid of October. For the Indian market, we don’t have many challenges since we carry enough stock to cater to the needs of the Indian market for the coming months. We are comfortable and will continue to cater to the requirement of our customers.”

In an earlier interview or series of comments to the industry about the digital print business situation in the country, Malhotra said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has given a push to short-run print jobs as most print businesses went digital during the pandemic and printers are now thinking seriously to have in house digital printing options. It will be around for the foreseeable future, and it is important for brands who want to thrive in these unchartered waters. Digital printing has been able to cater to the requirements of the printers during the lockdown and customers are now thinking seriously to have in-house digital printing options.”

Malhotra added that automation and Industry 4.0 will pick up further and are in fact together significant drivers behind today’s rapid digitization being witnessed worldwide and across different industries.

“These tools will sync demand in the print sector with print production workflows, making it compatible with enterprise functions of end customers. Even at Konica Minolta, we have followed the same approach by developing various workflow configurations to create a synergy between production workflow and enterprise workflow,” he said.

Impact of the pandemic

After the pandemic knocked down the world, a few of the company’s customers managed to receive the certification of essential services from government agencies. These documents helped Konica Minolta India to deliver spare parts and other vital items to customers from warehouses. This is how the company addressed customer issues that called for physical visits apart from online assistance.

“We also leveraged digital marketing initiatives to spread awareness around the new technology developments and applications we adopted. For instance, we started hosting customer webinars to give them demos on new products and their installations. Another interesting example would be our online mobile app that enabled customers to log a service request, which successfully ensured fast and seamless operations during the pandemic,” Malhotra said.

A lot of Konica Minolta India’s operations went online during the pandemic, be it sales, service, business development, or even financial transactions. Thanks to tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams that made the transition smooth.

“We also leveraged social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and WhatsApp to drive brand communication mainly around technological advancements happening at Konica Minolta and thus educate customers accordingly. The company also took the initiative and brought in a new tool AIRe Link as Virtual Remote Support for the service engineers to support the customer wherever required,” he added.

According to Malhotra, the pandemic was tough for print producers who depended on domains like travel, restaurant, wedding, hotel, and retail because these were some of the worst-hit sectors during the lockdown. But on the other hand, customers running short-run and label businesses recorded exponential growth simultaneously. “During these uncertain times, we can say that the trend was about switching from large-run prints to short-run prints, which eventually is making the printers to think digital as a part of their print process,” Malhotra argued.

Demand for KM label presses grew

Konica Minolta India has witnessed growth in its label printing machines in 2020-2021. In fact, with the advent of Covid-19, the company saw a significant uptick in the print volumes happening on the digital label machines. “We have successfully managed to surpass installations from single to double digits during this phase,” said Malhotra.

For Konica Minolta India, the period of April to June last year was slow in terms of business growth. But this slowdown was followed by continuous growth though not as buoyant as the pre-pandemic era.

“We are now seeing constant support from our customers, which is attributed to the kind of trust and commitment we have shown for the last several years,” Malhotra said.

The takeaway

Malhotra believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a great learning curve that taught companies the importance of agility and how they can help ensure continuity even during unexpected times like these. From the point of view of the industry, it is clear that digital will play a pivotal role for players across various value chains, he said.

Malhotra added that companies should also focus on adopting new ways of communication. “For instance, print is one of the forms of communication. It is thus crucial for players to modify printers that can understand the document life and keep customers engaged throughout this cycle in sync with the evolving business landscape,” he said.

The pandemic impacted Malhotra on a personal level too and like everyone else, facing this abrupt, unexpected, and grave situation made things a bit unsettling. “However, as I realized that Covid-19 implications would probably stay longer than we initially anticipated, I immediately started working on a properly maintained schedule. I have always believed that time management and self-discipline are the keys to self-growth. So, I used this opportunity to enhance my skills, spend quality time with my family and friends, and develop creative ideas to enhance my professional life. It took time to get into that groove, but I was able to achieve it steadily,” he concludes.

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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