Reassuring toner situation for Konica Minolta customers in India

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

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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.

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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