But print capacity has increased by at least six to ten times
One might well ask, how can the above statement could be true? However, if one looks closely at the Indian print industry over the years and researches it as intensely as IppStar has for the past fifteen years, it is not too complex to explain.
First of all, you have to quadruple capacity to print 4-color process versus black and white or monochrome printing. Indians love high quality color media although we are by no means unique in this need for all media to more and more closely resemble reality. We love cinema and television and we loved to make videos of family occasions and marriages till we discovered high quality color photo albums printed digitally. We are hungry for color reproduction right from our religious calendars and posters to the large color advertising billboards. Quite naturally our newspapers lead the world in color content and pages and our book printing is also going in this direction. Thus while not all print is completely in color, this tendency has meant that a substantial number of single presses have been replaced by 4-color machines.
New technology has then doubled productivity. The advent of inexpensive digital cameras and computers that are able to create a huge amount of color content drives the use of computer to plate and modern machines. A single color machine that effectively produced 5,000 sheets an hour in each color (with clean-ups for subsequent color and makereadies) has been replaced by a 4-color machine using punched CtP plates in perfect register and effectively producing at least 10,000 sheets an hour. Bear in mind that India was a land of second-hand single color machines that now has a huge number of brand new and automated 4-color presses.
If you are a smart printer, you already know what I am talking about. And I have not even mentioned the growth of the top twenty printers in the country who run 6 and 7-color presses automated presses with UV curing and coaters. These machines have to be run at 13,000 sheets an hour if they are to be paid for and they effectively double the capacity for value addition of a new 4-color press running at 10,000 sheets an hour. It is another matter that this increased value may not yet be realized by all of them.
Need versus demand
Indian printers have been, on the whole, fortunate to ride a booming economy since 1991. But they have not really grown that much more than the economy itself and the imperatives of growth are such that if you are successful in terms of quality and marketing, you cannot really avoid creating huge capacity. If you are a successful innovator or a good user of new technology, you cannot help but want to become the best in the world, and some of the Indian printers have done just that.
Thus although there is a great need for increase of Indian print especially in education, it has not yet been turned into demand because of the poor implementation and refinement of the country’s educational policies. Until demand catches up, which it will, our best commercial printers will have to rely on exporting print. They are very good at this and I am betting on our printers becoming the leading and most respected print exporters in the world.
Naresh Khanna from the edit-blog page of May 2014 issue Indian Printer and Publisher