Manish Gupta, DGM IP & PP marketing, Konica Minolta India, elaborated the strategies of the company in a chat with Smart Photography at the CEIF 2018. Excerpts.
How was 2017 for Konica Minolta in India and what are the expectations for 2018?
Three quarters have been good. One or two months were affected due to GST implementation. But in spite of that, it has been good so far. We have big expectations for 2018. The market is growing, not only in photo, but in other segments also, digital printing is growing. We are very hopeful of at least double digit growth. That is what we are internally targeting.
What will be your business strategies for 2018?
We are surely going to expand our product portfolio. We currently have complete solutions right from pre-press to printing, we have a couple of products going from entry level production to very high level production printing. Our machines can print up to B2+ size. Then we also have solutions for post-press. We can do spot UV and digital foiling. We have displayed the samples in our stall in CEIF 2018. Those are printed on AccurioJet KM1 and finished on MGI JETvarnish. Then we are also entering into label printing. So those are some of the segments, we as a company are getting into, besides photo.
How about consumer printing?
Our internal figures show that we are still growing in that segment. We are currently overall number three and number two in some of the segments in colour printing. But Konica Minolta, as a brand, is comparatively new, being less that 10 years old. So if we are at that position, it is a significant achievement. In production printing, for the last five years, we have been number one. So that is a very important strength of Konica Minolta as a brand.
With strong competition around, how do you plan to achieve your targets?
The more the competition, the better. So we have more customers, more people going to customers and as we grow, everybody grows; as the market grows, everybody grows. So we see this as an opportunity to prove the capabilities of Konica Minolta more against our competition. So it is growth for everybody in the growing market.
Could you elaborate on the recent trends that you have witnessed in photo printing?
In the photo side, on the higher end, what we have seen is that people are looking at more automation, and ways to reduce the file preparation time, printing and post printing activities. Maybe more than printed output, people are also looking at providing facilities like augmented reality or web experience of those same images, so that they are more connected towards the images they have taken. And the end customers keep remembering the service provider for that. On the lower end, RGB printing is getting obsolete. More and more people are adopting the new toner technology. So we have installs in B, C and D-class towns also. So that is where we are—the acceptance levels are increasing in small cities and towns also.
What are the new products you have displayed at the CEIF?
We are demonstrating our flagship product in photo—71 HC (High Chroma), a different toner technology, where the colour gamut is close to sRGB. So what we see is what we get. The machine has the capability to reproduce colour gamut close to sRGB, but using CMYK process. This makes the machine unique for photo applications, may be in terms of any RGB data. In India, wedding photography is very popular and people are using this machine for it. In lot of other countries, people are using it for different applications where they do a lot of working with RGB data.
Another flagship product we have recently launched is the AccurioPress XT100. It is a 100 pages per minute equipment. It can print on media up to 400 gsm in thickness. In most cases, people paste prints back-to-back to make thick albums. Now with 400 gsm, we can print on both sides and give similar effects. This machine allows printing in banner size also. We can print up to 13 x 51 inches. So people who printed the Karizma albums on a smaller machine now do the same on bigger machines.
Then we have our post-printing solutions—Digital Spot UV and Foiling machine. Both these are innovations from a company called MGI. They have brought it for the first time in the world. MGI is a Konica Minolta group company, in which Konica Minolta owns around 40 percent stake. This machine has Konica Minolta technology in it. The inkjet printing heads are from Konica Minolta.
What are your partner engagement strategies? What unique benefits can someone enjoy being a Konica Minolta partner?
The very basic partner engagement programme is the training programme we do. We do not differentiate between a partner team and Konica Minolta team when it comes to training programme. So whatever training is available for our team is also available for our partners. So someone who carries a Konica Minolta flag is important to us, whether he is an employee or a partner. When the Konica Minolta base gets stronger, we will have more avenues of training and we will regionalise them for more localised trainings. Then we have different programmes and schemes to drive the sales, just like any other organisation. But the key factor is engagement, the unique way we engage with our partners and share the knowledge. We are very transparent in terms of sharing all the information.
How wide is your service network and what are the customer support initiatives in India?
Service is the fastest growing division in our organisation. Close to 50 percent of our people are from the service team, and they are growing exponentially. So we currently have more that 3500 machines in production category, right from J&K to Kanyakumari. And Konica Minolta has the largest number of machines in the North-East also. Among all the OEMs put together, we have much more machines in the NE than everybody else put together. So we are catering to states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya etc. and we have installs in all these places. May be we are not very strong in many other states, but in North-East, we are the leaders. It is difficult to reach out to these parts, but still we were able to achieve this and we are thankful to our teams for this.
What are the major challenges you face in the market?
We Indians are not very organised. From the customer point of view, the lack of operator skill level is a problem. Another challenge is the way we assume that digital printing will do anything and everything. Every equipment has a certain bandwidth. It requires certain parameters to be provided to the machine to make it perform very well. The quality of paper that we have in India is another challenge. Majority of the papers are not manufactured locally. Infrastructure is a big challenge. After GST, the moving of equipment across the country is challenging, though it has smoothened somewhat. These are some of the challenges, but we see every challenge as an opportunity. Whenever we have such challenges, we try to create more infrastructure to overcome all these.