Press maker Manugraph India is 'sticking to its knitting', despite economic challenges.
The family-owned company - which claims 60 per cent of the domestic market in its segment - is focussing on innovations which help customers upgrade their print and colour-page requirements progressively, Pradeep Shah says.
And while currency fluctuations are challenging, it will remain "largely unaffected in a macro sense".
As managing director, Shah now leads the business founded in 1972 by his father Sanat - now chairman of the Bombay Stock Exchange listed company - and shares the role with his brother Sanjay, who is also vice chairman.
He says that while adding to its core single-width offering with a new compact press and novel add-on colour unit, Manugraph has recently inked a deal with Japanese maker Seiken Graphics which will see it bring the 80,000 cph Seiken 85 to India and Manugraph products - which include its own 4x1 press - promoted in the Japanese market.
"This is good exposure for MIL because we can finally tap into a market which has been out of reach before," Shah says. "Moreover, since both companies have well-established sales and service support systems in place, customers in both countries can benefit with this tie-up. Strategically, it will help us provide state-of-the-art printing solutions to customers in both countries and increase our global market presence."
In the single-width market, the new Ecoline press - anchored by a compact four-colour tower - is designed primarily for newspapers with limited space capacity and defined budgets, with better use of manpower through single-level operation. "With the growth and demand of smaller cities and the growing trend of outsourcing printing jobs to smaller printers in mind, we have succeeded in engineering a product that is highly suitable for this growing market and we hope to fill this niche space domestically, and later expand globally," Shah says.
Manugraph also introduced its add-on 2C print unit in late 2013, which mounts on existing Newsline/Hiline Y units to make colour possible with minimum investment.
These are part of a pragmatic approach to challenges - for both MIL and its customers - which include currency rate fluctuations, but which Shah is hopeful will not impact the business in a macro sense. "To counter such eventualities, we are working on innovative solutions like focusing on promoting add-on projects to enable customers to upgrade their print and colour-page requirements in a phased manner," he says. "In this way, they can keep their investments at a minimum during these uncertain times and wait for the financial markets to settle down before making any long-term commitments."
Budget constraints had been the primary challenge in the domestic 2x1 segment in recent years, and Shah says Manugraph felt that a more cost-effective solution for the 2x1 segment was needed in the Indian market. "With that in mind, the Ecoline was designed which addresses all the critical factors of cost, space and shorter run lengths, among other things," he says.
With the 2C, the 36,000 cph M360 press and BK folder are also part of the response, having all been designed "keeping market realities in mind".
"In fact, the book folder has surpassed our expectations with demand for it is growing, not just in India and neighbouring countries, but also in Southeast Asia, with a recent installation in Vietnam."
The book press was installed at a customer site in Myanmar last month, but its greatest success has been in India with installations in West Bengal, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh and more orders in the pipeline. Shah attributes success with the book folder to their quick response in attending to the book printing industry's requirements.
"The folder is designed to give customers 100 per cent folding accuracy with quick changeover times. Additionally, zero down time, consistency, quality and fast makeready times are all 'must-haves' for what is a 365x24 hours industry."
Currently Manugraph products for local and global markets are all manufactured in India, although its Manugraph America facility in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania, still makes its Dauphin-design units as required by its local market. "Its job is primarily to serve to the requirements of US customers for new machines and add-on projects, as well as upgrading old MDGM or 'other make' machines," Shah says. "Overall, our teams work in tandem to provide real-time printing solutions to customers."
As for the future, he still believes in the role of print: "Digitalisation may be the realistic future, but given that digital content is consumed across multiple platforms from computer screens to smartphones which are in some cases smaller than even six inches, some artful expressions that would be a pleasure to read in print might not be the same on small screens.
"Therefore, in my opinion, print will not be entirely obsolete even though the demand for it may evolve in time," he says. "Our priorities at MIL will always be to find complete and innovative printing solutions for customers, and we look forward to seeing how the future of the industry takes shape especially in India."