Mumbai-based Target Publications, a mid-sized fast-growing publisher in the educational sector, recently set up an in-house monochrome digital print facility. Located at its warehouse in the Rabale area of Navi Mumbai, the customized and short-run book project is powered by a new Konica Minolta AccurioPress 6120 black and white production press. Although most of Target’s books are still outsourced to commercial book printers, the digital press is utilized for printing customized and short-run books.
“There were three main reasons for setting up the in-house print facility. Firstly, we wanted to provide customized books, especially in the competitive exam books segment. Secondly, we wanted to print books that have short-run lengths initially, mostly for online platforms. And thirdly, many books are phased out due to the change in syllabus. However, before they are phased out there is still a residual demand for such books – but in low quantities. We print these digitally. By printing these types of books in-house we have managed to save time as well as cost. The press commissioned in June this year is now fully utilized and printing about 40 lakh (4 million) pages every month of 8X11-inches in size,” says Alekh Huddar, executive director, Target Publications.
Speaking about the experience of operating the Konica Minolta press, Hudder says that the quality that the press offers is very good. He adds that the after-sales service of the Konica Minolta India team has been top notch and engineers are available at quick notice.
“We saw the demo of the press at the Printpack 2022 that was held in Greater Noida earlier this year. We liked what we saw and decided to go for the press. The press was also recommended by a colleague in the industry. I can say that we are very happy with the decision,” Huddar says.
Target Publications was established in 2006 and has more than 500 titles under publication, ranging from pre-primary to competitive exams. For the pre-primary segment, the company has almost 200 titles which include activity books, coloring books, and flashcards, among others. Target also publishes all types of books for classes 1 to 10 for the Maharashtra state board schools. It publishes arts, science, and commerce books for classes 11 and 12 – only for Maharashtra state board schools. Target is associated with 500 schools where its books are placed. Finally, for the competitive exam segment, it publishes books for the CET, NEET, and JEE, among other entrance examinations. In 2019, the company launched a stationary vertical for the pre-primary, competitive exam, and general stationary segments, that are supplied across India.
Target’s Rabale warehouse includes two units of 10,000 square feet each. For its book production, in addition to the newly installed digital press, the company has a number of binding, pinning, and cutting machines, a shrink wrapper, and strapping machines. The warehouse is utilized for dispatching orders, both offline and online.
Massive jump in online orders post-Covid
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent country-wide lockdowns were a factor in a significant number of Indian consumers moving to online or digital platforms for purchases of a variety of products. There has been a major shift in book buying as well. Target which was selling less than 5% of its books online before the pandemic now sells as much as a third of its products online. The dedicated online order department at Rabale is shipping close to 2,000 online orders daily.
“The lockdown really pushed a lot of people to buy books online. The online classes were on and eCommerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart were also allowed to operate. This really was the game changer. We saw a massive spike in orders and that trend has continued and is likely to continue. One of the best performing segments for us was the stationary segment. This very fast-growing segment for us has also taught us much in the last two years. For example, we figured that combo offers in children’s books work well compared to single books. We are now among the prime sellers on Amazon and among the top 1% on the sellers on Flipkart,” Huddar says.
Robust recovery but cost pressures challenging
With the opening up of schools, colleges, and other educational institutions for the 2022-2023 academic year, the demand for books has bounced back. According to Huddar, the academic year 2020-2021 was relatively okay as the orders were placed in the previous year – in 2019-2020. But the 2021-2022 academic year was a complete washout.
“We were relatively better off even last year as Target is not solely dependent on school books and offline orders. There are publishers who rely on the school book segment who were badly hit. Their volumes dropped as much as 70-80%. However, there is a remarkable recovery from the lows of 2021-2022. But the recent rise in paper prices is a big issue. We have already hiked prices, but we cannot keep hiking prices. The problem is that paper prices are not showing any signs of stabilizing. What we hear from our sources is that prices will go up further. It is a big challenge and we are not sure how to handle this unpredictable situation. Our margins are getting squeezed,” Huddar concludes.