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.
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
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.