Commercial print comes back as schools open in India

Private publishers scramble to produce books in time

Schools maintain social distancing as they reopen Photo The Week
14/09/20 Gurgaon, Haryana. For GALLERY Following the MHA directives the schools have started moving towards normalcy. From sanitisations, thermo-scanning to guidance and counseling sessions, schools will not be the same in post Covid era. Photos by Aayush Goel

The central government’s strong push to open all schools in the first half of February has caught many private publishers off-guard. As they scramble to produce and distribute their books across the country, many mid-size book printers have become overly busy. The textbooks need to be despatched to warehouses from 15 February to mid-March, for the coming semester. As the Omicron variant and the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic recedes and vaccinations also become available for children below 18, there is an overall resurgence in the economy, looking to get back to business.

As we wrote recently, there are several dislocations in the educational process. The digital divide means that large numbers of children in the rural areas and economically weaker sections are not able to benefit from remote and web learning – the sooner government schools open the easier it will be to try and make up for two lost years. Amongst the wealthy and city-dwelling demographic a great disaffection among parents has grown with tablets and computers.

Apart from the health and eyesight issues, parents are upset by the adventurous and overly convenient ingenuity of their wards in using the Internet. The extended unnatural indoor existence has become torturous for both children and parents who benefit from school environments in multiple ways and activities.

The value of schools is rising in the collective consciousness in a positive way. Publishers are playing catch-up and trying to get their revamped or refreshed titles printed and distributed to their warehouses in this month itself and at the latest, by mid-April. We have talked to a couple of book printers who are now busy and even turning down titles that they will not be able to deliver in time. Some of the mid-size commercial printers who had work throughout the pandemic have with some foresight, built up a reasonable inventory of paper in their stores and warehouses.

Publisher printers have been showing interest in ordering new presses for the past few months. Even government textbook presses have initiated large new press orders. Deliveries are hampered by the shortage of chips and so most of the new press deliveries and installations will only come about in the new financial year that starts in April.

Some of the book printers have in the meanwhile added more digital presses. They have added drum and toner machines with extra colors and metallic effects for book covers and promotional materials. At the same time, they are now graduating from monochrome drum and toner and inkjet presses to full-color inkjet web presses for the text pages. One can sense the renewed optimism among the book printers who are flush with work, have the paper in hand to deliver, and new presses on order for what they believe is an inevitable growth in demand.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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