Digital to Continue Eating Away Into Areas That Analogue Printing Has Taken for Granted
In an exclusive interview with Print Pack, Ashish Panjabi of Jackys, speaks about the opportunities in the regional printing industry, the print jobs in demand, the impact of the pandemic on the regional industry and more
What are the opportunities for the printing industry in the region?
The traditional drivers for large format graphics printing in the region were billboards, shop tops, and vehicle graphics. Over time, we have seen this expanded to retail graphics and exhibition, and event graphics as major drivers. Most of this printing was traditionally done on flexible materials such as front-lit or backlit flexface or self-adhesive vinyls.
What sort of print jobs are in demand in the region?
The growth area for digital large format printing has changed as more materials have become available addressing new applications. For example, with the HP Stitch printers that were released last year, we saw the market for textile printing start to grow because textiles are used in some retail or exhibition applications for signage. We are also starting to see demand come from people working on interior decoration and fashion – which were both traditionally segments that relied on analogue printing technologies such as offset or screen printing.
In addition, the ability to print and cut on rigid substrates more efficiently with digital technologies has also meant, we’ve seen manufacturing and interior decorations segments adopt these products. For example, with the introduction of the HP R2000 Latex printer, a manufacturer now can print directly onto surfaces like acrylic, wood, glass or steel, with all the advantages of scratch resistance that Latex inks provide. The next bottleneck would then typically come in finishing as this was something done using manual labour in the region but with something like a Zund cutter, the cutting or creasing process can be automated. We’ve seen sectors like road signage also start to use this in the region.
What sort of impact has the pandemic had on the regional printing services sector?
Quite obviously during the lockdown, most retail and event-related printing came to a standstill but what we did see was a rise in the use of digital printing for safety-related signage. Initially, it was every hospital or supermarket that needed to quickly put in place safety signage to remind people about social distancing or hygiene.
Then as the UAE economy started to reopen, we saw most malls and retail outlets demanding the same as it was a requirement for them if they had to re-open. We have also seen a need for office dividers and social distancing stands and signs in the hospitality sector. Now as the education sector is poised to reopen, the need for printing for schools is starting and we are also hearing that many customers are looking at putting in place clear dividers, which may also have some printing on them.
What sort of demand has been seen in the e-commerce/home delivery sector in terms of printing, signage, and related services?
We expect the e-commerce market to start to grow. Traditionally, in this region, most PSP’s weren’t geared to capitalize or recognize opportunities that may come from end-users who submit print jobs to them online. As with most things, Covid-19 has shown them that end users are looking for these resources online and I expect to see a plethora of such online sites to emerge in the near future.
Do you believe there is enough bandwidth for future expansion plans in terms of facilities, machinery, and so on?
The bottom line with most digital technologies is they are always getting better and more efficient. Today, the vast majority of printing is still done using analogue technologies that have a higher fixed investment, require bigger print runs to be efficient and don’t cater to personalization of prints.
Digital will continue eating away into areas that analogue printing has taken for granted. Most limitations earlier were around the lack of materials that digital printing technologies could print on but that is a barrier that is crashing rapidly. It takes some creative thinking to find applications of these large-format printing technologies but new ones evolve all the time.
Have new opportunities opened due to the pandemic?
We’ve probably only scratched the surface of what we can achieve. The change in mindset and thinking will mean we start to see more creators in the region and more people wanting to localise their supply chains, reduce inventories and print more on-demand. Using digital technologies and the Internet, I can see many of these opportunities in the future.
How is Jacky’s Business Solutions approaching the challenging times in order to ensure business continuity?
We have been working with our customers and our vendors to provide more training and webinars on new applications that their products can be used for in the large format printing sector. Some traditional PSPs were happy with the volumes they had but they were seeing margins diminish as what some of their printing was becoming more commoditized.
We held several webinars during the lockdown that helped broaden the horizons of our customers to what the new possibilities are as well as highlight areas which are more profitable for them. With the support of policies that helped vital sectors operate, we were able to make sure ink supplies could continue during challenging times and after sales service was provided – whether remotely or onsite in the UAE.
You recently announced new business relationships and channel initiatives. Tell us more about it.
As with every business, you need to shake up the way you do things or risk going stagnant. We formed a partnership with Saasz Solutions, who will work with our channel and provide consultancy on new areas of growth. There is always an opportunity waiting to be unlocked and the team at Saasz will help identify this. The focus, at the moment, is to help our customers sustain themselves and many of them need guidance, which is what Saasz will provide.
Once they get past the stage of sustaining themselves, the team at Saasz can then focus on helping them grow. The ultimate objective of a supplier of printing technologies like us is to make sure we see our customers’ print. The more they print, the more they earn. The more they earn, the more we can earn, so it is to everyone’s mutual benefit to provide this level of support at this juncture.