Technicon’s Gandotra – Indian dailies need to innovate

Automated innovations for the mailroom are ready

Indian Dailies need to innovate
L to R- Upendra Nayak (ToI), Rajiv Gandotra (Technicon) KN Dsouza (ToI), Snehasis Roy (ToI technical head) and Vasudevan with pouch and die-cut memo advertisement sticking machine Harrier at ToI’s Kandivali plant.

The Indian newspaper industry was struggling even before the Covid pandemic hit the world and the Indian economy in early 2020. The pandemic and the first phase of the lockdown dealt a body blow to the already struggling industry as distribution came to a halt in many of the big cities. The 2019-2020 financial year was a virtual washout as both circulation and advertising revenue dropped sharply.

Circulation and advertising revenues have picked up in the 2021-2022 financial year but are still much below pre-pandemic levels. In an environment of stagnant circulation, the industry will need to find new and innovative ways to boost revenues. “Newspapers will not die in a hurry given the size of our country. However, the industry’s growth has plateaued and newspaper publishers will need to innovate to attract and retain readers and advertisers,” says Rajiv Gandotra, founder of Technicon India.

Mumbai-based Technicon is India’s leading manufacturer of machines used in the press mailroom such as inserters, overhead newspaper conveyors, counter stackers, under wrappers, plastic bundle wrappers, online sheet under layers, van loading telescopic loaders, flow turns, and log stackers. Technicon began its operations with Malayala Manorama as its first customer. With more than one and half decades of evolution and growth, the company now counts all the major daily newspapers as its customers. It has supplied its mailroom and automation equipment to national dailies such as The Hindustan Times, The Times of India, DNA, Dainik Bhaskar, and Dainik Jagran, among many others. Almost 90% of its customers are regional or Indian language dailies.

Mailrooms can add to revenues 

In India, news mailroom operations such as supplement insertion are still done manually. Gandotra says that for the mailroom to become a revenue-generating department, newspapers will have to keep on automating. “Technicon will not quit the newspaper industry as it is very close to my heart and the company has a large number of automated innovations developed when it comes to mailroom solutions. I believe the newspaper can still manage to increase revenues by going in for further automation of their mailrooms,” Gandotra asserts.

He adds that newspapers should think of new ways of attracting readers’ attention and hence more advertisers. In 2020, the company officially launched a solution that does just this, by supplying its pouch and die-cut memo advertisement sticking machine to The Times of India (Bennet-Coleman) group. The Harrier machine, as it is known, has for the first time automated the process of sticking both pouches and memo advertisements on newspapers. The machine is installed and working at The Times of India’s Kandivali plant on the outskirts of Mumbai.

The company also launched its online rotary knife trimmer for booklets around the same time it unveiled the Harrier. This machine is for newspapers who bring out quarter folded books or booklets as supplements. Numerous dailies produce such books with low pagination that are printed in one go. The books directly enter the online rotary trimmer from the press folder which trims all three sides at press speeds and then enters the optional counter stacker where they are counted and stacked – ready for dispatch.

The machine completely automates the three-side trimming process for booklets while requiring zero manpower. “Products like our Harrier are already developed and successfully running in the market. Now we are looking to develop something new,” Gandotra says.

Newspaper circulation to hit pre-pandemic levels in 2022-2023

While the significant drop in newspaper circulation in 2020-2021 recovered in 2021-2022 it is still below pre-pandemic levels. Gandotra suggests it will take some more time for the circulation to get back to what it was before the pandemic.

“Both the North and South Indian markets are recovering fast when it comes to circulation. However, many advertisers have been gravitating towards digital marketing platforms. The lockdown and the consequent boom in digital have driven this change. But I believe that advertisers will also come back. I also hope the newspaper publishers regain their confidence to make new investments. But that may not happen until the 2022-2023 financial year,” Gandotra 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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