As manufacturing hubs emerge, printing requirements for packaging and other purposes also increase. Kuldeep Malhotra, vice president of Konica Minolta Business Solutions India Pvt Ltd, in an interaction with Baishakhi Dutta of Electronics Bazaar, shares how the company is leveraging various technology trends to revamp its India market strategy and usher in a new wave of printing solutions.
EB: What are Konica Minolta’s printing-related offerings for consumers?
We have three business divisions – the office product line, offerings for the production market and industrial printing products. We are actively servicing the appliances and consumer electronics (ACE) market—it is a part of the office product division. We have a share of around 20 per cent in this market.
We have both the black and white as well as the colour printer range. Our product range can cater to various operations – automatic document filters, flex printing, print tracking, scanners and more. The printing capacity of our products ranges from 16 to 75 printed pages (pp). We have different customer groups, right from SMEs to large corporations.
For industrial printing, we have three types of offerings – one is the B2-sized product, mainly used in the offset market. We have also introduced the digital Lumi-Ink technology. Next, we are working on a product called MGI, from a French company of the same name. In this product we have combined MGI’s exclusive inkjet technology with Konica Minolta’s drop-on-demand piezoelectric print heads. We have invested in a 25 per cent stake in the company and in the last three years of operations, we have already sold 50 units.
We have not yet launched divisions like medical electronics and healthcare in India, because the local market for these is too small at present.
EB: What are your latest products in the electronic peripherals and accessories domain?
Nowadays, a warm golden ink is being used on marriage invitation cards, business cards, marriage albums, etc. Older technologies for this purpose are more time-consuming and have quality constraints. With the new technology we offer, quality is assured. After the normal printing is over, the golden ink is added to the printed surface and a final foiling is done. This technique can be used with many other colours too.
Another new offering is the roll-to-roll printer. This is not a very high-speed machine, and is mid-sized. As Make in India is picking up pace, the manufacturing hubs need MRP stickers, bottle labels, box-set labels, and so on. Moreover, they prefer a personalised system for short runs. Roll-to-roll feedback provides the necessary flexibility that manufacturing facilities will need. We have launched the first such machine in Noida and have received positive feedback.
EB: What is your latest market offering?
Our latest printer is the KM1 (B2-sized) with UV ink, which is more of a water based technology. There are other options too, like tone-up powder technology, inkjet technology and so on.
EB: How has the business fared in India in the past year?
Last year, we closed our India business with a revenue of ₹ 5.87 billion for the business technology domain. We started our operations in 2011-12. In the first year, the revenue was ₹ 1.14 billion. After six years of operations, we have ramped up our revenue this far, which is a commendable feat. Right now, our mission is to achieve a turnover of ₹ 10 billion in the next five years (by FY 2022-23).
EB: How do you plan to strengthen the brand and product offerings?
The company that has the right strategy and the right talent wins at the end of the day. We have the right strategy – evaluating the right product for the right geography. The market is competitive in metro cities as almost all players want to deal in the easier markets. But we are looking to cater to markets beyond the obvious. The market is growing in areas like Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. We have a dealer network with 128 partners. They are taking the products to various parts of the country and across different verticals too. For production engines, we have a direct team of 36 people and two partners, too. For the IT business, we have appointed three IT experts who provide continuous consultancy.
EB: How do you see the SME market evolving?
The SME market is growing. The highest concentration of SMEs is in the Tier 2 cities. In metros, the market is saturated with the big corporates. The Central government is providing the funds for the state projects. The money is mainly directed towards education, healthcare and modernisation. We closely monitor the allocation of these funds and the states that are getting these funds. Following that, our partners reach out to those government departments. We have 20 partners, besides the 128 partners mentioned earlier, who exclusively focus on SMBs and corporates. Our direct teams in metros service only the corporates.
EB: Do the features of the printers change based on the target audience group?
The features only change based on trends – for instance, we started with black and white printers. Then came colour scanners. Now we have two-side printing. There are newer technologies coming out every day—biometric access of printers, colour scanning, etc. Requirements are changing with improving technology. Customers can now use different coloured films also. People are working on different applications too. You can print names and photos on bottles. In the US market, medication now comes with personalised prescriptions and medicine schedules printed on the back of the packaging – something that is very helpful for the elderly. Printers with touch screen panels and cloud connectivity are getting popular.
EB: How do you see India’s printing industry growing in the next five years?
The future is bright. However, we have to assess what the overall print volumes will be, down the line. The Indian market still has tremendous scope to grow. At any manufacturing hub, there will be a need to print, especially for packaging. Therefore there is immense potential.
EB: What is the reason behind the gap in demand and supply at present?
It’s a two-way gap. A manufacturing unit needs to have an in-house packaging station or something similar, within the locality. However, that infrastructure is not yet up. So it will need to import the packaging material, which requires a lot of time and money. This is the gap that needs to be bridged. There are a lot of problems at the grass-root level also, even in terms of following rules and regulations. People need to get properly educated about all these issues.
EB: Do you have any plans for 3D printing in India?
Not yet. This area is already flooded by the Chinese players. Without profits you cannot fund your R&D. And to make a profit, you have to stick to areas that offer better opportunities. In the offset market, the print volume demand is huge. And the technology for that market will change at some point of time to empower the next generation. We will have to be ready for that.
EB: Any new investments or expansion plans coming up in the country?
We are investing heavily in infrastructure. We already have our headquarters in Gurugram with offices across Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. We will be further improving the infrastructure, the cumulative investment for which is expected to reach the ₹ 10 billion mark over a period of time.