Wednesday 21 July 2010

Commercial printers and digital print

“We offset printers will have to install a digital press within the next few years come what may . . . The decision to go in for a digital solution is not one of choice — it is more of a compulsion” — Amit Tara, Tara Art Printers

Some of the vendors of digital presses may be frustrated by the slow pace of Indian commercial printers buying digital presses. It is true that to some extent commercial printers are pre-occupied with other issues such as the intense competition over printing rates, or building new plants and buying more presses and postpress equipment. However there are many printers who have bought digital presses, and they are quite frank that this is necessity. One forward looking commercial printer in Pune who has a relatively small digital press in addition to his new 4-colour offset, in fact says that it is a profitable activity and extremely advantageous. For instance he is able to produce a short run of auto maintenance manuals for just 60 to 70 dealers around the country.

We met another printer last week who does a lot digital printing for offset clients who need copies yesterday and for those who need advance copies before the entire offset run can be printed and finished. This printer also no longer proofs on a colour managed ink jet. Instead he simply gets a high quality digital output of the entire job. Right now digital print is outsourced but this does not seem to be a challenge. He does not believe that offset is viable below 2 or 3 hundred copies.

Another young printer friend of ours, Amit Tara is quite outspoken about the need for digital printing. In his comment he shares many of the beliefs of Indian offset printers whose investments in heavy metal have generally been remarkable both for their ROI and also for their very gradual market depreciation. He says, “In-spite of all the hype about digital you will see only a handful of people going for digital. The moment the system gets installed in your premises it has zero value in the market. And considering it is more electronic equipment and less mechanical there is a preference to buy first hand . . . Then when you compare it with capital equipment [such as an offset press], which you can resell for as much as 50 per cent of its initial value even after 10 years and after having recovered the cost from it, it is quite a comedown.”

He goes on to say, “We offset printers will have to install a digital press within the next few years come what may. We cannot afford to say no to a customer who is getting their 5,000 monthlies printed from us when they come to us for 200 hundred invites, and neither can we always afford to go to another quick print shop. Printers will not go to another printer for prepress work, instead they will go to a prepress bureau. Similarly offset printers will not like to send their regular customers’ short run jobs to other printers. The decision to go in for a digital solution is not one of choice – it is more of a compulsion. An offset printer will be very successful because he can decide what will be more suitable for each customer and job or even part of a job. To outsource these digital jobs when we know the margins these digital printers enjoy and are charging us, is just not palatable to us.”

-- Naresh Khanna

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