Way forward for the print media – improvise and adapt to the new realities

The Indian Printers Summit 2022 ends with a host of suggestions and takeaways

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Way forward for the print media – improvise and adapt to the new realities
D Gnanavadivel of Sri Srivathsa Paper Mills, Bernhard Schmiedeberg of EAE QIPC, Utsab Choudhuri of DIC India, and Snehasis C Roy of Bennett Coleman at a panel discussion

If Day 1 of the Wan-Ifra Indian Printers Summit 2022 was all about the revival of the print industry and the challenge from digital and social media, Day 2 on 15 September, centered around the technical aspects, newsprint constraints, operational issues, innovations, the use of data in print publishing, and the way forward.

Paula Smith, sales director of the Canada-based Copap, speaks on the newsprint challenges
Paula Smith, sales director of the Canada-based Copap, speaks on the newsprint challenges

In the opening sessions, Satish Chandra Mishra, director, Jagran Prakashan, and Paula Smith, sales director of the Canada-based Copap, spoke about the newsprint challenges triggered by the rising cost of raw material, energy and shipping costs, and supply chain disruptions during Covid-19, The Ukraine war and other geo-political issues, the supply dynamics, reducing margins, and a host of other local and global factors also featured in the discussion.

Smith noted that India was one of the biggest and most important markets when it comes to newsprint and it was still getting all the attention and support because of that. She spoke about the need to go for recycled products and keeping the operational costs stable to meet the newsprint challenges.

Optimization of resources

A panel discussion that followed had technology managers and suppliers debating and discussing how to optimize material and machines, the demand for printing material, effective management of resources, and the supply chain.

Initiating the discussion, Snehasis C Roy, technical director, Bennett Coleman Co, which publishes the Times of India group of newspapers, raised a pertinent question. How to keep the lifeline of the industry, the printing machines – many of which need retrofitting to meet new technical requirements – running and healthy for the next 10-15 years with or without the support of the manufacturers?

Bernhard Schmiedeberg, senior vice-president, sales, EAE QIPC – which delivers solutions for web offset presses in the printing industry offered a via media. He said organizations such as theirs can act as a go-between to help the printers find the right suppliers, replace obsolete or faulty parts, retrofit machines as well as provide automation and software solutions to improve efficiency and productivity.

Domestic newsprint upgradation

Another point, raised both by Roy and the participating delegates, was the compatibility of Indian newsprint with the high-speed machines that are used to better quality, durable, and structurally stable imported paper, and the adjustments that need to be made to meet print standards. Indian newsprint became popular during the Covid pandemic when the global supply chain was disrupted and because of the rising costs of imported newsprint.

At this point, D Gnanavadivel, director, of Sri Srivathsa Paper Mills, a manufacturer of paper and paper products, assured the gathering that they were working overtime to develop new products and improve quality to suit the needs of the Indian print industry. He appealed to the publishers and newspaper printers to reciprocate by supporting the Indian newsprint makers.

Both segments of the industry, Gnanavadivel said, have to understand each other’s problems to resolve all nagging issues. He explained that most Indian paper mills were actually sort of recycling factories, using recycling paper that helped save energy, water, and trees—doing their bit to come up with sustainable alternatives.

Roy of Bennett Coleman supported the need for the modernization of the Indian paper makers. He appreciated the need for consistent and assured orders from the Indian print industry, and not one-off purchases in times of crisis, to help sustain their business and so that they are encouraged to do more R&D and improve their products for meeting printing standards.

The quality of ink vis-à-vis printing was another point of discussion with Utsab Choudhuri, senior vice-president, and head of technology, at DIC India – a supplier and manufacturer of offset, gravure, and other inks – detailing the basic challenges. He listed key issues that cropped up in the past couple of years, which included the availability of raw material, pricing issues, variations in paper, and the emergence of Indian newsprint, which affected the printing quality. Making the inks compatible with the differing density and quality of newsprint and printing blankets was a challenge, he explained and discussed possible ways out with the participants.

Schmiedeberg ended the discussion on a cautious note by warning how printing was in a sunset mode across the world and how many suppliers were jumping ship, and that they wanted to be the last man standing to support the industry.

Digital publishing & mass customization

Amit Khurana of TechNova India on Day 2 of the Indian Printers Summit on 15 September 2022
Amit Khurana of TechNova India on Day 2 of the Indian Printers Summit on 15 September 2022

What followed next was Amit Khurana, COO (newspaper group), TechNova India, making a strong pitch for the use of digital printing in the newspapers industry, which, he reminded the participants, had survived the advent of television, radio, and the first internet boom.

Khurana’s company provides printing solutions for commercial and newspaper printing and is also the leading Indian manufacturer of offset plates for the publishing, and packaging industries. The local supplier played a key role in the continuous operation of the print and packaging industry during the pandemic.

He emphasized the need to think ahead and the possibility of specifically targeting news customers by advertisers using digital technologies. And this is where digital publishing comes into the picture, he suggested. Digital publishing, which is costlier than offset printing, can help in mass customization of advertising for the newspapers, Khurana explained, citing the example of multinational brands such as Coke, Nestle, and Dettol that have used the medium to target specific audiences.

Stressing diversification, Khurana felt the print media industry can go for book publishing to complement the newspaper production model as well as target young readers who want a break from social media, and even address emerging categories of new-age advertisers such as the tech giants.

Innovations and tech

The post-lunch sessions focused on innovations such as the application of IoT (internet of things) and data for smart manufacturing and newspaper publishing, UV tech in newspaper printing, and best practices to improve quality and efficiency.

John Cusack, business development manager of Baldwin – which specializes in engineering and manufacturing solutions for the printing industry among others – explained how if industry 1.0 was about mechanization, 2.0 for electricity, and 3.0 for computers, industry 4.0 is all about data processing and data power. Data and IoT, Cusack explained, can be used to automate processes and build actionable intelligence in the newspaper industry to drive efficiency, resolve production issues, and minimize the wastage of newsprint.

Saptangshu Chaudhuri, deputy general manager, printing, ABP Group – the Kolkata-based media conglomerate that produces the Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph newspapers among other publications – presented a case study on how it used UV tech in its printing units to optimize quality and to produce a glossy effect in their newspapers, and what operational challenges they faced during the process.

Quality assurances for advertisers, best practices, and customer delight was the focus of the presentation of Puneet Razdan, general manager, of Hindustan Times, who took the delegates through a series of detailed quality-control processes and multiple checks followed by the newspaper house.

Summing up, Magdoom Mohamed, managing director, Wan-Ifra South Asia, in his concluding remarks, listed the key takeaways from the conference. Adapt to the new realities and find niches; leverage the credibility of print to target Gen X, especially those between 42 to 57 years of age with greater spending power as well as the new generation; go for long-term brand building. And ultimately, be aware of customer trends – use data and new tech to optimize processes, and delight customers.

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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