Monday, 5 May, 2014

Consumption of paper has quadrupled in 20 years

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while not all print is completely in color, this tendency has meant that a substantial number of single presses have been replaced by 4-color machines.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that effectively produced 5,000 sheets an hour in each color (with clean-ups for subsequent color and makereadies) has been replaced by a 4-color machine using punched CtP plates in perfect register and effectively producing at least 10,000 sheets an hour.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

Tuesday, 15 April, 2014

Handling complexity

In spite of the GDP growth of 4.9%, most Indian industries are unhappy including the printing and publishing industry. The reason is that GDP growth below 5% is easily absorbed by our existing capacities. Since the majority of our industry grows at twice the GDP rate, even 10% growth in print and packaging is easily absorbed since the installation of even one new automated multicolor press adds capacity exponentially. Even where two new presses replace three old presses, new capabilities and efficiencies are created that can generate far more value than the depreciated equipment. So if you grow at all, your capacity grows exponentially, it is very difficult to moderate and balance expansion unless you build and populate a completely new plant. And new plants, even if an old one is shut down, also mean large increases in capacity.

Another dimension of new capacity creation is that it tends to be at the high end. Very few printers are able to resist the temptations of new technology for automation, coaters, UV curing and other features if they are buying a new press since the whole purpose of the purchase is to differentiate yourself from the market. Demand for high value commercial printing with add ons such as special UV coatings, foiling, embossing, diecutting and personalization does not keep up with demand in the middle part of the market such as book printing.

Many medium and large commercial printers have tried to rationalize their growth by adding digital printing, book printing in addition to the marketing and promotional collateral work that they traditionally printed. Each of the big printers has built up expertise in several niche areas and some have done this in exports. However, there is no question that barring some unforeseen boom in the industry, there is every likelihood of more presses in the metros closing down just as new print businesses in Tier 2 and 3 cities continue to grow.

Elections and print
In the earlier days of our democracy, let’s say much before the economic liberalization of 1991, one could point to a multicolor machine in the pressroom and say that it represented the by-product or profits from the political posters of such an election. In those days, respectable printers generally added one big used machine for every election they worked for.

In the 21st century, elections are associated with high spending on the media – print, television and outdoor and more recently on public relations and social media. Some estimates claim that the Rs. 10,000 to 15,000 crore media spend of the 2009 general election will likely grow to Rs. 30,000 crore (including parties, candidates and government expenditures) in the current general election. There are various estimates on how much of this will be spent on print versus television advertising. Although it is clear that the major political parties have spent considerably on print advertising (as much as a 10% boost to ad expenditures) this spending has not really lead to major plant expansion by newspaper publishers. To print more color pages, some color towers have been purchased and added to old machines, but not as many as the manufacturers had hoped and few new presses have been added just for the elections.

As far as whether the elections have boosted the economy, there are divergent views. There are reports of money being spent on air charters, automobiles including SUV’s and even on liquor, all of which act as a kind of economic stimulus since the money is said to pass through efficiently without sticking too much on the way. “Election spending provides a very sizeable boost to the economy. Traditionally we have seen it adds 0.2-0.3% to growth,” Pronob Sen, chairman of the National Statistical Commission reportedly told the Economic Times in mid-March.

Other reports insist that elections actually slow down the economy. An analysis of key variables in Mint convincingly shows economic activity slows down ahead of an election. The study that looks at as many as seven election years in the past two decades shows that economic activity loses pace every time there is an election in spite of the increase in government spending in the average pre-election year. It points out that steel consumption in these years falls by 6.45% in comparison to other years in the past two decades. The front page report asserts that government spending ahead of the polls in such years is largely wasteful and inflationary. The report states that the year preceding the current general election has been worse than that of the other six or seven pre-election years analyzed over the two decades.

Where there is complexity, there is generally value to be added.

Naresh Khanna from the edit-blog page of April 2014  issue Indian Printer and Publisher

Thursday, 27 March, 2014

An Uncertain Arc: Impressions of India’s Design Century

Design has come into focus in present day India. It is seen as a source of competitive advantage, as a business resource, as a development resource and even an expression of soft power. In popular culture, the concept is more available than at any other time. On 20 February 2014, a conference for the design community held at India International Centre was addressed by the well-known typographer and designer Itu Chaudhuri.

Entitled, ‘An Uncertain Arc: Impressions of India’s Design Century’ – Chaudhuri illustrated the history of design from the 1900s onwards to the present with his own eclectic collection of examples. Chaudhuri said, “In advertising, or in street signs, an entirely imported style can be seen even if the subjects are Indian. As western manufacturers attempted to compete for Indian customers, often with Japanese exports, their advertising, packaging and graphic design mixed religious depictions, maharajas, or westernized gentlemen and lettering traditions — all of these sold products or sat cheerfully on matchbox labels.”

Chaudhuri reflected that in 1905, the first advertising agency, Dattaram’s Advertising in Bombay (which still exists) was formed and by 1924, National Advertising in Calcutta came up. In the formative years after independence from 1947 to 1960, the action moved to Delhi, not because business or industry shifted but because of the role of the government under Nehru. In the 1961 to 1991 period, no institute of design was as admired, debated or denounced as the National Institute of Design at Ahmedabad. These extreme reactions were a reliable indicator of NID’s impact.

By the 1980s, the IIT Powai in Mumbai set up a postgraduate design department headed by Sudhakar Nadkarni. By the 1990s, several IITs added graphic design departments. A central thesis of Chaudhuri is that from the 1990s to the present day, design’s trajectory responds to the economic environment, in ways good and bad. The opening up of the economy after 1991 seems to have had the effect of proliferating everything to do with design – schools, graduates, firms, designers, beauty, sophistication, crassness and created squalor.

“Up to 1990s, the most significant institute to have opened after the NID and the IITs was the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in 1989, behind which we can see the hand of Pupal Jayakar. Its graduates have made an instant mark, and some have started to make waves internationally,” says Chaudhuri. “In the 1990s at least ten new design institutes opened, expanding the design workforce, mainly in graphic design. ‘NID graduate’ appears as a desirable tag in the matrimonial classifieds. Today’s multinational companies like HP, LG, Samsung and some other big brands, Indian firms like Godrej, and every automobile company have all started design departments in India. The Tata group states design as a key policy thrust and has a development centre in Europe. Some designers have done well outside India.”

Chaudhuri also discussed type design for Indian languages and scripts describing a Gujarati font as a good example of a quality type design based on Indian calligraphic systems. He mentioned the work of calligrapher and type designer RK Joshi who designed the first Devanagari fonts for Microsoft. Despite earlier NID efforts, this is the modern Hindi font that has become ubiquitous, as an everyday, jobbing font. Joshi’s work inscribed an arc from Ulka Advertising, to IIT Powai’s design school to the NCST – a government institution for software development techniques.

Alok Kumar, March 2014 issue Indian Printer and Publisher

Wednesday, 26 March, 2014

Buoyancy in print publishing despite strong head winds

Despite headwinds faced by the Indian economy, the print and publishing Industry continues to grow at a healthy pace. Be it the newspaper industry, commercial printing activity or the publishing of books, there appears to be some movement and growth at a time when many other industries are holding back on investment decisions. This month we profile two leading Indian language newspapers who are modernizing and expanding at a frantic pace. The 125 year old Malayala Manorama is investing over Rs 150 crore to buy five Mitsubishi’s ‘made for Asia’ New Diamond Spirit SA 4 x 1 press lines. “This is the third of a four phase expansion plan designed to replace the old single width presses with double width single circumference machines,” says George Jacob of Manorama, “and we plan to complete the modernization at all our dozen printing locations in Kerala within a couple of years.”

We also visited Dainik Bhaskar, the diversified Indian language newspaper that straddles seven states across Central, North and West India with several dailies with a combined circulation of over five million copies. Dainik Bhaskar in Hindi is moving eastward with its Patna launch shortly. Known as DB corp after its highly successful IPO, the diversified conglomerate continues to expand its newspaper business at a rapid pace by setting up a new press location in each quarter for the last five years. The big story here is the trend towards colour pages and that more than four fifth of all new newspaper printing capacities in India are of 4-Hi color towers.

If Indian newspapers are doing well so are the commercial printers investing in digital color production presses. Though this year seems flat for entry level presses, both the mid-level segment and the high end presses continue to do well. Like in the newspaper industry, there is a strong preference for higher color quality, one of the reason for the distinct shift towards high priced digital presses. Investment in building new capacities have more than doubled during the last year with HP, Xerox and Kodak reviving up the top end while Konica Minolta has set the pace both at the entry-level and now in the the mid-range segment as well.

Sandip Sen from the edit-blog page of November 2013 issue Indian Printer and Publisher

The chaos of Indian book publishing

As Indian literacy and education grow rapidly, the country’s book publishing remains a chaotic mix of large international and medium and small local publishers. The book distribution system seems bottle-necked with difficulties of geographic reach and payment recoveries. University and college librarians are bribed by distributors of scholarly and technical books to build up their libraries. School principals and teachers receive bribes from textbook publishers to prescribe the right books for their students.

This is a situation that invites college students to share PDFs of widely pirated textbooks easily available on the internet. And also invites the large online platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon that offer discounts and free delivery of millions of titles catalogued online to practically every nook and cranny of a large and disorganized country. Of course publishers, distributors and booksellers lament the deep discounts and the unfair competition from the large marketplace portals citing the recent French competition laws on discounts and free delivery. At the same time many of them willingly collaborate – they are traders after all. Another outcome is the malaise and restructuring that was bound to strike the large bookstore chains in the country. Many of these issues are discussed in the current issue and we plan to write on this theme in the future.

The GlobaLocal events in Chennai and New Delhi organized by the German Book Office complemented the two major book industry events in the country this year – the World Book Fair in Delhi from 15 to 23 February and the Literature Festival in Jaipur from 17 to 21 January 2014.

Krishanu Dutta from the edit-blog page of December 2013 issue Indian Printer and Publisher

Tuesday, 10 September, 2013

50 Fastest growing Indian dailies – third annual review

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for our third annual review of the 50 Fastest growing Indian dailies. The list as in earlier years is compiled from an industry perspective with an eye on rising circulations, new plants and quality ratings (membership of Ifra International Color Quality Club 2012-2014), environment achievements, innovations, increased color pages, turnover and new editions. Attributes such as the reported ABC circulation in the past three years up to July-December 2012 were also considered for selection although we have mainly used the more publicly available NRS readership data. We have also added one more detail to the rating parameters which we are referring to as Transparency – how much information( including circulation, readership and financial) is readily available for the general reader.

The Indian newspaper industry is amongst the most vibrant in the world, and if it could have a heart of its own we surely would be seeing it pumping life and infusing hope to the entire newspaper fraternity worldwide. We continue to see launches of new dailies and new editions and with the impending state elections in five states and the Lok Sabha elections due next year, newspapers are going to remain hot for some time to come.

But the industry is not without its problems. With massive devaluation of the Indian Rupee, the newsprint prices, which are mostly imported, should be scaling new heights – at least Rs. 40,000 per ton already. With such pressure over raw materials, it will not be easy for the newspaper houses to increase circulation or launch new editions and new dailies with 'predatory' or 'introductory' pricing. Every major newspaper we have talked to is talking about reducing circulation although they are all talking about increasing color. With the high price of newsprint it hardly makes sense to print black and white when advertisers want all color pages.

Hopefully the situation may improve and the Rupee may earn some stability in the long run which should infuse some life back to our GDP growth rate. Apart from issues concerning the economy, the Indian publishing scene seems to be poised for greater heights. And with the general level of literacy set to improve over the years, penetration of newspapers is bound to improve in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, towns and villages. Whatever may be the medium of choice, people will read more and more and although matching the levels of penetration as in Scandinavian countries is only a distant dream, news houses should remain buoyant and encouraged.

Krishanu Dutta from the edit-blog page of September 2013 issue Indian Printer and Publisher

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Consumer demand boosts top packaging labels

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said at a Bengaluru press conference this month that the company will generate threequarters of its revenue from developing markets such as India and China by 2020 — almost 20% higher than today. Unilever labels like Kissan, Knorr, Annapurna, Tajmahal,
Bru, Lux, Rin, Ponds, Lakme, Close Up and Sun Silk that have straddled the urban Indian retail marts for decades are now moving to the smaller towns and rural interiors which have become the fastest growing areas for its Indian arm Hindustan Unilever. As per a Nielsen report released last week India’s poorest households with income below M72,000 annually will add US$ 3 billion (around M16,710 crore) to the sales of the consumer packaged goods industry by 2015.

The buoyancy in the FMCG and retail segment of packaged goods is unbelievable despite the fact that the overall economic situation is still to improve, with high fiscal deficit, low government investment spending, and extremely high interest rates prevailing in our country. Nevertheless
the demand surge has improved retail consumer spending significantly and its effect was observed by us at the recently concluded Labelexpo India in New Delhi, where exhibitors were happy and business was brisk. The live demos of narrow web label presses by both foreign and Indian manufacturers like Mark Andy, Gallus, Omet, Nilpeter, Gidue, Weigang, Multitec, RK Machines and several others livened up the atmosphere — creating a happening buzz for the show.

As per our information more than a dozen flexo label presses, digital label presses and other converting and inspection and finishing equipment were presold before the show and several more were finalized both during the show and immediately after. The label stock and associated consumables, accessory automation and software exhibitors did equally brisk business — established buyers and first time walk in visitors were impressed and looked satisfied. Another example of the packaging and label industry’s bouyancy came immediately after the Labelexpo India with the news of Huhtahmaki Paper Products acquiring Webtech. In our special Labelexpo review issue we cover these success stories.

Our article about Tata Elxsi in the Packaging Design and Marketing section reflects the growing awareness by consumer product companies for integrating branding and packaging design. In our packaging production section we cover FMCG packaging giants, Manjushree Technopack and Positive Packaging.

- Sandip Sen,