Book fairs are a great way to present yourself to the world, believes Ravi Dev Shroff, managing director of Nutech Print Services. An exporter since 2004, the commercial and specialized book printer has participated in three or four overseas book fairs each year since 2005. A regular at the Frankfurt, London, and Bologna book fairs, Nutech adds one or two other countries each year, depending on its market focus such as the Liber International Book Exhibition in Spain. Thus far, it has taken part in the Bologna and London book fairs this year.
In the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and the initial lockdowns of book shops and schools, there was an apprehension, if not a belief, that books will eventually disappear due to the popularity of eBooks and audio formats. However, with the recent opening of schools across the country that belief has been upended and the consensus is emphatic for both the need and demand for printed books. Shroff says, “There is still a large market that demands printed books. Readers want to feel the physical roughness of the paper in their hands, they want to smell the book, and in their absence, they miss the off-white tones of the book paper. Many readers say it doesn’t feel the same when they swipe the pages on a tablet. For them, reading is all about getting lost in the immersive experience that a physical book offers.”
At the London Book Fair, Nutech saw a huge resumption of demand with most publishers very positive about where the future for books is. In each segment that Nutech works in and supplies to, its customers see strong demand for books printed in India. Shroff explains, “A very strong theme that is emerging is the need for people to look beyond China for suppliers. For a long time, China has had the lion’s share in the printed book exports segment. Like Indians, Chinese printers also have products at varying price points. Different factories produce a variety of grades based on the market needs.”
“Many customers we interacted with, brought this up and were straightforward about wanting a second base, and India could be this alternative. This is why we are very positive about the future demand and are gearing up accordingly. We received numerous orders at the recently held London and Bologna book exhibitions.”
Overseas book printing markets
Shroff says that if you are serious about exports, it is very important to understand the needs of overseas markets. “Firstly, your quality focus should be very strong. If you are there in the international market, it is assumed that you will deliver a quality of the highest standard. Secondly, you have to be very consistent in terms of schedules. Most of the international markets are very evolved and their publishing schedules are worked out months ahead of time. Slots are given at the warehouse a month in advance as to when the book has to reach the warehouse.
“Thirdly, if you are serious about book exports you need to consistently present yourself at the fairs. When people see you there a couple of times, that is when they show interest in working with you. They are not interested in working with someone who comes one year and then goes missing. A lot of sampling will be requested by customers, so investment needs to be made in free sampling and sending couriers and these are costs that you have to accept if you want to be a part of the business.”
“Lastly, it is very important to understand that you represent India. One bad print job is a blemish on the print industry of the whole country. Many times, the challenge for us is not selling ourselves as a good printer, the challenge is saying that this bad experience of yours that happened with another printer is a one-off and will not happen with us. We are very strongly focused on books and are sometimes offered projects that we are not comfortable taking on. We are offered the opportunity to print greeting cards, posters, and stationery, but we don’t touch these. We want to make sure that if anybody talks about Nutech, they talk about us in a highly positive way, and that’s why we have customers who swear by us,” proudly adding that 90% of the company’s orders are from repeat customers.