India poised for significant growth in book production – Kai Buentemeyer

Bindwel-Stelda director speaks on the industry’s future, automation & drupa

Kai Buentemeyer
(L-R) Sadashiv Nayak, group mentor, Bindwel-Stelda and Kai Buentemeyer, director of the Impel-Bindwel-Stelda group.

Kai Buentemeyer, director of Impel Services, the holding company of the Impel-Bindwel-Stelda group, is a veteran in the field of book printing and packaging, with an experience of more than 30 years. As an erstwhile CEO and managing partner of Kolbus, who played an active part in the evolution of bookbinding and packaging technologies across the globe over the past decades, he brings substantial experience to the India-based Impel Services – the holding company of the Impel-Bindwel-Stelda group. 

In an interaction with Indian Printer and Publisher, Buentemeyer talks about the trajectory of book printing in India after the Covid pandemic, automation and standardization, sustainability in the industry, the company’s plans for Bindwel, and the drupa show.

In the commercial printing segment, book printing is coming back to life globally after the pandemic as we have seen from our multiple interactions with the industry. Buentemeyer feels that in India, with its economy on a great upward trajectory, book production’s growth will be strong. “In mature markets, booksellers can look forward to a period of much better development than, say, the 10 years before the pandemic. For printers and binders, geopolitics will come into play. Some manufacturers in Europe face unwelcome, fresh competition from players who are no longer kept busy with Russian imports.”

Standardization leads to automation

Automation is the new buzzword in printing, packaging, and several manufacturing industries. We asked Buentemeyer about the level of automation that could be viable for the printing, packaging, and other allied industries. He says that although substantial automation has been achieved so far, at the same time cautions that the printing industry is very diverse, so one can’t generalize. “I would say some segments have achieved 20% of feasible automation, others 80% – but the extent and sophistication of automation will grow at either end.”

Buentemeyer feels standardization is a must for any automation. All products, including intermediate products, must be reproducible and the similarity of specifications must mean nothing less than interchangeability, he says. “Again, different market segments are at various stages of development. Automation will become the order of the day once populations start shrinking. That is a reality in large parts of the world. The rest will see it become a reality sooner than we presently think.”

Talking about incorporating finishing steps such as embossing that can be automated and put into inline production, he suggested that ‘enhancements’ should be approached from a business angle. “Who requires enhancements? How much will be paid for the enhancement? Will the available surcharge cover the cost of the enhancement? If not, can automation close the gap? Quite a few questions before diving into any automation effort.”

Short-run prints are in demand these days. So can one hope for a ‘one-book-at-a-time’ customizable delivery in the future? Buentemeyer says technological and organizational developments will improve the feasibility of short-run or individual products a lot. However, business reasoning should rule here. “Customization has to be stringently priced and fully invoiced.”

Bindwel’s growth

Bindwel, a book binding specialist, has been increasing its global footprint, most recently in Armenia and countries in Africa such as Angola and South Africa. Buentemeyer says he is excited at the progress in the last two financial years. As India itself is one of the largest consumers of books, Bindwel is focusing on the country to drive its growth, he says.

“The last two years saw tremendous growth in both domestic sales and exports. I am delighted to work closely with the promoters and the young management team of Bindwel. Our internal focus has been to present products that will speak a different language and show a different path for the world. I feel that growth in book printing will be largely driven by education and the time has arrived to establish standardized solutions that will work with much higher efficiency, and deliver books the most cost-efficient way.”

The director brings a wealth of domain knowledge and experience that Bindwel is keenly leveraging to help the company meet the growing global demand for reliable and innovative trimming and binding solutions. Buentemeyer says there are two principal ways of leveraging experience. The most obvious is the ability to avoid mistakes that have already been made by someone else before. The other is to remember how business or technology choices in past times were motivated. “I have been privileged, as a young man, to sit at the feet of managers who cut their teeth in the 1930s. That leads to a much better understanding of 100-year-old ideas than you can have if an innovation has been handed down to you over six or seven generations.”

Expectations from drupa

Talking about the upcoming drupa, he says Bindwel’s theme at the Dusseldorf show is ‘The spectrum of innovation creating the future of bookbinding.” The company will present three concepts at the show  Insta — the one-book model; Ekam — the ‘many books’ model, which will redefine how textbooks are produced in the future; and, Freedom — which gives you the ultimate freedom of book formats, lots and runs.

“My experience says that the customers for all these three segments are different. In each case, we are providing a customized solution for a specific business model. Earlier, we spoke about the level of automation and the gaps between different stages. I am looking forward to Bindwel using this stage to demonstrate that we can automate better, by having a strategy for specific requirements.”

Stelda, the packaging part of the company, is already making a good impression in the Indian market by becoming the preferred partner for case packaging by leading global brands such as Nestle and ITC, he says. The global strategy for Stelda, he says, is to associate with large packaging line manufacturers and integrators as OEM partners. “The 4S benefits offered by the Stelda proposition of security, strength, sustainability, and savings are catching the interest of some of these large brands and suppliers.”

Sustainability is gaining importance. So we asked him how he envisages binding tech that would make book production sustainable. “Paper is a product of forestry, the oldest sustainable industry in the world. As soon and as long as sustainability is the consumer’s choice, that choice will be easily fulfilled. Allow me to add something. I have always thought of a book as an extension of a library. That it even becomes a carbon store for eternity rather than raw material for recycling,” he concluded.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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