Today, technology and market trends are changing fast. Margins are shrinking in some segments. New innovations are taking over. Then there are challenges like shortage of products, increasing prices, delays in deliveries, rapidly fluctuating demands, and so on. The brands and partners who learn how to adapt and change can only survive and grow under the present challenging conditions. This Panel Discussion focused on the latest market and technology trends and opportunities in the imaging aftermarket industry.
Moderator, Mr. Sukanta Dey, a B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur and an MBA from IIM Kolkata. He worked in senior executive positions in several leading MNCs and domestic companies.
Mr. Sandeep Sanghvi, Managing Director, Itone India Pvt Ltd.
Mr. Nitya Prakash, Business Head, Supertron Electronics Pvt Ltd, Kolkata (a National Level ICT, printers, and printer consumables distributor).
Mr. Joseph Peter, Sales Manager – South Asia at Tomoegawa – Japan.
Mr. Gaurav Khetterpal, Managing Director, Greenlam Office Solutions (brand owner of Growlam).
Mr. Dhrutv Mahajan, International Business Development Manager at OCT Imaging HK Limited; and the Regional Partner for India for the China-based media house, RT Imaging World.
Moderator: Mr. Sukanta Dey, Recently, particularly, after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, Work From Home and Study From Home became the new normal, and automation has become the buzzword. I request the experts to throw some light on how this trend has influenced the imaging aftermarket industry and the future course.
Mr. Nitya Prakash: Supertron is the National Distributor in India for Pantum printers and G&G (a brand of Ninestar) compatible toners. During and after the pandemic, there was degrowth in the laser printer side. In 2020 & 2021, the majority of the consumers or home users started buying inkjet printers (for both black and color), and very few bought laser printers. There was degrowth even in the corporates and offices space due to lockdowns where laser printers are mostly used. Laser printer sales have not yet reached the 2019 levels. We expect sales to get normal by the second half of 2022. Coming to challenges, the first challenge is a shortage of chips and the second one is the Russia-Ukraine war that is indirectly affecting the supplies and prices in the imaging industry. Coming to the opportunities, with government offices started working, we expect improvement in sales in the coming months. We hope everything will get normal by the end of 2022. Another trend in the market is the demand for multi-function printers is increasing and for the single-function printers, it is decreasing. Managed Print Services (MPS) which started in 2016 are gaining momentum now. Organizations are now focusing more on opex as much as they used to focus on CAPEX, which is expected to boost MPS.
Mr. Sandeep Sanghvi: As a toner provider, our sales and growth depend on how well the laser printers and copiers sell in the market. Next, the GST has made it easier to sell even in the smaller cities in India. With lockdowns coming to an end and OEMs started coming up with several new printer and copier launches, we are expecting a decent growth in the toner market in the second half of 2022.
Mr. Joseph Peter: The Japan-based Tomoegawa is one of the largest and highly reputed top-class toner manufacturers in the world. We have one manufacturing plant in USA and two in China. We provide toners to many reputed printer OEMs in the world, in addition to several other compatible brands and traders in India and other countries. Our toners are also very popular in India where we have several customers. Today, MFPs usage is increasing rapidly and copier sales are dropping. Usage of color machines is increasing in India and abroad. Demand for toners depends on how OEMs bring out new machines. Tonegawa has world-class R&D and we quickly adapt to the changes in technology and market trends.
Mr. Gaurav Khetterpal: In India customers are highly price-sensitive and less quality-sensitive. We need to educate the users in this regard. Next, the anti-dumping duty on black toners has not benefitted the Indian users and traders, because the Indian toner manufacturers are not still able to offer the variety of black toners needed by the market. The anti-dumping duty only pushed up the costs adding an additional burden both to the users and also to the sellers in India. Overall, we see a lot of market potential for printers and office consumables. Currently, we stopped importing from China and shifted to other countries for imports. The other trend is the growing usage of eCommerce. Those who want to grow cannot ignore eCommerce. At Growlam, we are paying special attention to eCommerce to complement our sales.
Mr. Nitya Prakash: When we started selling Pantum printers in India, there were many challenges for 4 years. We took a lot of feedback from the market on what the market needs and redefined our target audience. We persisted and focused on T2 and T3 markets in addition to T1. Our channel partners also helped us a lot to take the Pantum printers to the remote areas. Now Pantum printers are selling well and partners are happy too. Users today prefer MFPs as they have become cost-effective.
Mr. Joseph Peter: The trend today is the demand for the A3 copiers is decreasing and for A4 printers is increasing. The challenge for the future is that organizations are gradually shifting to paperless offices as it is already the norm in developed countries. However, it may take several years more for paperless offices to become a trend in India so we can expect good demand for printers and consumables for another decade. Next, the old machines are getting outdated and the demand for refurbished and secondhand machines is coming down. Consumers are more inclined to purchase new machines. The derived demand for consumables is now dependent on new models to be released by OEMs. We at Tomoegawa are focusing more on developing color toners as a color seems to be the future. Those who want to be successful in this industry should adapt to changes from time to time.
Mr. Gaurav Khetterpal: I support the opinion of Mr. Peter that printing is decreasing in the developed countries, but in India it will take several years for this trend to set in. So there will be opportunities for printing in India for several more years to come. We still find a lot of scope in T2, T3, and T4 towns for printer consumables.
Mr. Dhruv Mahajan: I see the chip shortage as a big problem at present and hope this shortage will be over by the end of 2022. Despite the developed world shifting to the paperless office, I see continued demand for printing in India for several more years.
Moderator: Mr. Sukanta Dey, It is clear that despite the shift towards the paperless office in the developed countries, in India, there will be demand for printing and printer consumables for another decade or so. It is clear that color is the future in printing. Next, we learn here that we cannot depend on one country for components and raw materials but it is always better to have alternatives like Japan, Taiwan, etc. MPS is a growing trend. Chip shortage continues to be a problem for another 6 months.
Mr. Nitya Prakash: Today, consumers prefer inkjet printing for both black and color printing, due to the low cost per copy. So the demand for laser printers has dropped significantly during the last 2 and has not yet recovered to the 2019 levels.
Mr. Swapan Roy: “Today, there are a lot of opportunities in the printer consumables industry, but at the same time technology is changing very fast. So one has to smartly judge which segment gives them the best results. There are many new upcoming segments, like textile printing, large format printing, and the 3D printing segment. The make in India program also offers many new opportunities. With Covid-19, gradually receding, the markets are returning to their normal levels. I wish partners will make the best use of the available and the upcoming opportunities.”
To Sum up, Prices of all the imported products have gone up due to lockdowns in China, the Russia-Ukraine war, and chip shortages. The demand for laser toner printers and copiers and their consumables has come down after the outbreak of the pandemic and has not yet reached the levels of 2019. These challenges are expected to ease by the end of 2022. Next, color usage is increasing which is going to be the future. Despite the growing trend of paperless offices in developed countries, there is still scope for printers and printer consumables in the Indian market for about a decade. To survive and grow in today’s fast-changing industry, it is necessary for the manufacturers, brands, and partners to know how to quickly adapt to the changing trends. Let us hope for the best and prepare for the challenges.