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SOUTHBOUND EXPLORATION Glimpses of South Indian signage and printing industry

Talking about the growth factors encompassing the India’s printing and signage industry would surely lead you to the country’s southern zone where big players in the region are yearning for great boom. Significant growth in businesses of large-format digital printers, wide-format machine sellers and media suppliers has actually determined the current and future outlook of the region’s printing industry. In a recent insightful exploration across three major cities, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, leading conglomerates shared their views and strategies with Sign & Graphics during freewheel interviews.



Dwarak Digitals: Larger prospect

 Y Anirudh of Dwarak Digitals 
Established as a pioneer in reprographic service in 1979, Secunderabad-based Dwarak Digitals gradually upgraded its machineries from time to time to reach the podium they stand on today. Since its inception as a mere firm amid big giants in the sector, the company enthusiastically developed its portfolio with the installation of new HP and ColorSpan printers. In turn, Dwarak Digitals has become a name that signifies a quality to its clientele all over the region and the country at large. The company appoints well-trained operators who handle the machineries to offer the most accurate and satisfactory results to its clientele.

Talking about the company’s gradual growth and development, Y Anirudh of Dwarak Digitals said, “Since my career in reprographic printing started in 1979, we have tried our best to update our equipments and services at the level best in accordance with technological changes taking place in the market.” The name Dwarak Digitals came into existence in 2000 after the company installed a HP 5500 PS printer in their facility. “With better business with our new printing technology, we upgraded our facility to Eco-solvent printing with ColorSpan printer later on,” stated Anirudh.

Tech updates: In order to meet the maximum customers demands, Dwarak Digitals so far installed the industry’s reputed printers. Backlit flex reversible printer like Jeti 3312, HP Scitex 9000 as well as HP 5500 have been equipped in its site. Of these machines, the company has predominantly been using HP inkjet machines, which could meet larger demands of its customers. Commenting on the position of UV technology in the current printing industry of India, Anirudh said, “We really have wider scope for UV printing because it will be one of the best machines in terms of eco-friendly aspects when we compare with solvent machines. I would like to share that UV technology is more friendly to both operators and consumers.”

Dwarak Digitals has always been in alert mode to adopt any new technologies coming up in the industry. However, the company feels that certain drawbacks are still looming largely in India due to some economic constrains. For instance, every leading player in the industry doubtlessly proclaims eco-solvent printers being far better than solvent printers. However, common man is still at bay to afford eco-solvent prints in the country. Irrespective of its cost factor, Anirudh is very positive about the adoption of eco-solvent printers due to its safety reasons. “If you ask me for a choice, I will definitely go for eco-solvents. In addition to awareness of best quality prints, we must get rid of pollution-related heath hazards caused by other printers,” he reasoned.

Future format: As long as the future prospects of wide-format machines are concerned, Anirudh feels that the industry will grow tremendously with solvent machines in future. In his vision, Anirudh also puts some prospects about the area considered to be the domain of survival for digital printing in future. “Retail outlets in big malls all over the big cities in India have been expanded over the last few years. We must understand that this segment is the right place where digital printing shall always find application. Just four to five years back there were no proper signage/ advertisements what we see today in retail stores. Hope this signage trend will grow tremendously and digital printing will continue to be the ultimate solutions for this,” Anirudh said adding, “Digital signage will also grow in other domains like telecommunication and communication industries.”

Move on: From time to time, Dwarak Digitals explores the market and it works closely with its existing customers under mutual understanding. It is the way that the company keeps to get expanded its business in the years to come. Though digital printing has recorded swift development in all parts of the world, this segment still needs a lot of things to be improved. “In India, we just focus only on a routine printing. What we need to be conscious about is ‘quality’. My sincere suggestion in this context is that Indian printers should be aware more about quality than quantity,” said Anirudh.

Dwarak Digitals’s expectation to expand in both service and equipment installations in the next five to ten years is quite significant. However, digital printing is one of the most dynamic segments where nothing in terms of technology or service could forecast. “Just last year, we were so enthusiastic about UV prints then I recently stumbled upon bio-inks at an exhibition. This is why I would like to say this industry always keeps changing and sometimes I cannot identify the directional change that can take place in near future,” opined Anirudh.

Tech-zone Global Trading Company: High hope

 Rajesh Surana and Gyanesh Jain of Tech-zone Global Trading Company. 
Chennai-based Tech-zone Global Trading Company is a young but vigorously emerging company dealing with an extensive range of flex materials, PVC foam board, backlit, vinyl and inks in the Indian signage industry. Inspired by a visit to a Chinese exhibition held around three years back, Tech-zone is currently making a big way in the subcontinent. The company was sprouted as brainchild of Rajesh Surana who enhanced the business alive and kicking at its best level since its inception. “As of now, we are moving forward and hoping this pace will continue with better mileage,” said Rajesh.

Future pan: Since its establishment as a wholesaler in the industry, Tech-zone has carved a tradition of offering quality products to its clients. As long as the current growth in business is concerned, the company is moving fast forward to grab a big pie in near future. “We have future plan to expand our product range and I have no doubt that it would happen soon,” said Rajesh.

Market view: Panic about the possible increase in flex price due to dollar depreciation in the global market is what Tech-zone deeply concerned about. Talking about this possible flex price issue Rajesh said, “It is true that the current flex market is shivering due to dollar depreciation. Every importer is struggling a lot to increase price and market is crucial to compete among players. Even in China the current growth rate is declined. That’s why I can’t comment what would happen next in India.”

Great expectation: With an aim to receive 100 percent growth, Tech-zone ventures into different aspects of marketing as well as good relations with its clients. No doubt, business success of the company is all about good

terms and relations with its clients. Highlighting this point, Rajesh said that Tech-zone determines that the company will grow parallel with its clients.

GraphicdeSign: All under one roof

 Interior signage in a restaurant 
Reckon what in the list of work done by Chennai-based GraphicdeSign, it would include all kinds of signage under the sun. Ranging from LED, LCD and signboards to identification sign cards, the company deserves a wide array of signage products for all purposes. What makes difference in the products of GraphicdeSign from others’ is its uniqueness. For instance, the company prints menu card made of wood, which is designed to signify the category of foods you are looking for in a popular restaurant in your town. “For fish dishes, we design this menu in the form of fish. It could be in the form of fruits in case of salads. I would like to say that these are some of our specialities we have come across,” said M S Nasser, manager-business development, GraphicdeSign.

In-store signage: Being popular for its interior signage designs in restaurants and food corners, GraphicdeSign has done good number of in-store sign works in and around Channai city. Magic Ball! It may sound something surrealistic. Of course, GraphicdeSign’s magic ball is quite a mesmerising piece that can be placed anywhere in in-store setting. Talking about the advantage of this new product, Nasser said, “Both audio and video could be fitted into this 360o display. In addition, it is flexible on whatever colour, size and format a customer wishes to choose.”

Peculiar products: GraphicdeSign’s peculiarities go far beyond the production of interior signage and distribution of media/base-materials. In the outdoor segment, the company deals with LED screens at various malls all over the country. “Though we do not manufacture LCDs or LEDs, GraphicdeSign offers the guarantee of the products, service supports and customer satisfactions,” said Nasser. With its proven products and services, GraphicdeSign is looking forward to rope in clients from corporate sectors in future.

Justifying the company’s proficiency in LED signage service, clients from both India and abroad approached GraphicdeSign. To mention a few, GraphicdeSign has received enquiries from Thiruvananthanpuram, Coimbatore, Spain and Ireland. “With respect to the products we provide, our main objective is nothing but the customer’s delight,” outlined Nasser.

Upward trend: Concerning the future vision of the company and the industry at large, GraphicdeSign believes that how you are going to advertise outside is what the company is going to deliver inside. And the company forecasts this as an upward trend. “Now the advertising has got a good indoor prospect where signage has a great role to play in it,” said Nasser.

Rhine Polymers: Always innovative

 LP Flex 
Known for its new product range in the signage world, Bangalore-based Rhine Polymers recently added another feather in its cap with the launch of LP Flex sign system. Established in 2006 in this South Indian city with support from its parent company Blue Rhine General Trading, Dubai, the company boasts of its array of products enjoyed by sign makers, point of sale product manufacturers, exhibition stall builders, interior decorators, construction industry, architects, graphics and imaging industry, model makers, shopping malls and hypermarkets.

Rhine Polymers has been a popular name for its innovative contribution to the signage segment of the country. One must be aware about the company’s remarkable brands like PLEXIGLAS and YEARLONG acrylic sheets in the Indian market. But LP Flex, launched just a few months back, is another new arrival in the block, which opens a new chapter in the company’s history of innovative products.

LP Flex: Specification formulated in India and manufactured in Germany, LP Flex sign system is the first of its kind signage in India. “Being a complete signage product where the embedded LEDs create a unique glow different from other signage of this format available in local market,” said Anand V Joseph, managing partner, Rhine Polymers. He also added that basic technology that makes LP Flex unique is the one-to-one vector graphic format of the signage.

How does ready-piece of LP Flex come from Germany? Explaining the transportation process of the product from Germany to India, Anand explains that the design of the signage has been forwarded to their contracted German manufacturing unit. Once the price of the product is quoted within 24 hours, order will be confirmed and in the next 40 days, the product will be manufactured and shipped to India.

Physical structure: Maintenance free, waterproof and no dust particles could penetrate into the carved letters or designs on the signboard are what Rhine Polymers would like to convey loudly to every new customer of LP Flex. “Unlike other signage boards, you cannot find any messy wiring loops in the LP Flex design. Basically what you see here is the frontlit, backlit and the push letters collectively presenting a peculiar form of signage,” said P V Jai Prakash, business development manager, Rhine Polymers.

Size does not matter, this is what one must know about LP Flex. “There is no restriction on size because the main emphasis is on the number of LEDs used in the sign system. And what we would like to recommend to our customers is to maintain standardise size LP Flex,” said Prakash. So far so good, LP Flex signs have been seen in major cities like Bangalore, Pune and New Delhi. Disclosing LP Flex plans in the pipeline, Rhine Polymers has to embark on a new venture with Vodafone and towards this a demo was organised in a recent meeting in Mumbai.

No match: Thanks to technology provider and manufacturer, LP Flex is Rhine Polymers’ achievement and pride of Indian signage industry. In addition to all said about why this product is unique from others, Prakash further explained that every client stumbling upon LP Flex subsequently falls in love with it. “The peculiarity of this product is generally its durability, luminous power and particularly less power consumption, the last is a sort of ROI from this product,” he added.

LP Flex sign is quite a flexible product suitable in all locations whether public or private locations. All parts of the products can be displaced easily whenever the product is relocated to a new venue. Moreover, the glow of this signage marks a fantastic ambience at twilight. “Once you install an LP Flex, it has nothing to do but receiving impressive comments from passer-bys,” said Prakash.

LIPI Polymers Pvt Ltd: New makeover

Whatever business it has been into, LIPI Polymers made success over its 27 years of existence in the industry. The company has carved a niche for itself as a total solutions provider for the signage industry with superior infrastructure and a committed work force. LIPI expands its operations by opening branches in India and overseas under the notion ‘Be Local Worldwide’. In the process, the company acquired versatile products and has been diversified its product line from time to time.

Commenting on the company’s new venture, D Arun Kumar, managing director, LIPI Polymers said, “Now, LIPI Polymers is basically to bring focus on plastic welding application oriented products. Our activities include welding of flex and plastic sheets used in various applications like PVC flooring and of course in signage.” Representing four different companies–three from Europe and one from China–LIPI, in collaboration with Italian company Ritmo, works as a sole distributor in pipe welding in India. In addition, LIPI Polymers is also partnered with German company HSGM in thermal cutting that includes cutting of any polymers, such as nylon, polyester and other clothe-like plastics.

Signage business: In signage domain, LIPI has been a big name for its use of Leister Uniplan to weld flex in making banners and hoardings. Today, the portfolio extends into a new domain of backlit seaming. Earlier, LIPI Polymers targeted their Leister Uniplan activity only in frontlit parameter. “Our new machine called Unimat Tap is to seam long backlit sheets. We also sell this machines to our customers,” said Arun.

Regardless of complexity in backlit seaming, LIPI Polymers has marked triumph in the task. Commenting on the seaming of backlit signage, Arun explained, “We place two sheets together facing each other with a transparent plastic tape on the reverse and fuse it on both surfaces.” Since this product has been in the market before, its application goes beyond signage.

Foiler Weldy: It is quite obvious that the Indian signage market is bulged with cheap and sub-standard Chinese machines. So, the voices of many quality-conscious leaders are echoing to adopt move along the values and not with the prices. LIPI has recently launched a new low-cost machine called Foiler Weldy made by Lister. “Different from Leister Uniplan, this Rs 85,000 new machine is semi-automatic and we will be responsible for after-sale service,” said Arun adding that the product would surely cater to the next level of the country’s sign makers.

Krishna Tarpaulin Industries: Finally flex

 Jintendar Bhandari and Anil Bhandari of Krishna Tarpaulin Industries, Chennai 
Genesis of Krishna Tarpaulin Industries traced back to four years from now when the India’s printing in advertisement segments saw good business potential to the company. Everything in the company began with tarpaulin manufacturing at its own factory in Chennai using raw materials transported from Madurai. However, a transition occurred at Krishna Tarpaulin when its business changed from tarpaulin to flex. Explaining how the change took place, Jitendra Bhandari, director, Krishna Tarpaulin Industries said, “Basically we started flex business for tarpaulin purpose”.

Today, Krishna Tarpaulin gains a perfect momentum in flex business within its short span of establishment. Started merely with four containers a month in its own brand, the production now reaches to 24 and planning to attain 50 in near future. Krishna Tarpaulin is looking forward to erect a new milestone of elegance in the industry.

Broad vision: Apart from its primary deal with frontlit flex, Krishna Tarpaulin Industries’ product range includes backlit, vinyl, PVC foam board, inks, etc. And what the company is planning for future to switch to is in lamination films as well as other prospective products in the signage industry. “We specifically focus on the printers’ market, that’s the reason Krishna Tarpaulin Industries could successfully cover and deliver products to every nook and corner of South India. We have branches in all four states in South India and Ahmedabad that make us easy to develop our business. But our vision is not limited in these regions; we will extensively cover all over India soon,” said Jitendar.

Dollar alert: Krishna Tarpaulin Industries pays attention on current global economic crisis that could possibly result in the rise of flex price in near future. In this context, Arun reasoned, “Since dollar exchange rate has been fluctuating a lot due to current economic crisis all over the world, we really have the fear that it could eventually affect Indian manufacturers.” Despite the fear of global dollar depreciation, Indian flex market is gradually expanding. “One very important thing is: demand in the Indian market is still huge, just a few manufacturers cannot fulfil it. In this concern, good importers will play significant roles,” opined Arun. Though some importers claim decline in profit margins, Anil Bhandari stated, “Since we are dealing only with volumes, not much with margins, we are comfortable with what we perceive now.”

Welpac: Posing perfect

Not only being a hallmark of excellence in service and products, Bangalore-based printing giant Welpac is unique for its intrinsic attribute. Who else in the world would not be impressed to pay a visit to the company’s small but elegant gallery Mezzanine displaying a wide array of designs and products? Pertaining to what Welpac could offer to its clients, the list would include all types of printings on any medium, such as wood, aluminium, glass, acrylic, polycarbonate, rubber, ceramic tiles, PVC, vinyl, cork, etc.

Since its inception in 1980, Welpac has been a proven company serving at the best of its satisfactory outputs of digital printing and flatbed printing for clients from different walks of life. Machineries at the state-of-the-art facility site of Welpac producing remarkable ultra-wide digital prints for billboards, main dealer boards, scrollers and other media include VutekUltraVu 3360 eight colour and VutekUltraVu 3360 four colour respectively.

While talking about the company’s adoption of eco-solvents, Mayoor Kurva, managing director, Welpac said that the idea is great but it has not yet reached the mark in the current Indian industry.

Growing ahead: As the world markets have been crippled over the past few months due to the current global economic meltdown, Indian printing and signage segment has also been slightly impinged. However, Welpac sees well-being future signifying robust growth rate in future. “Due to current global economic crisis some clients detain payments,” said Mayoor explaining it however would not deter the growth of Indian printing segment. Irrespective of ups and downs in the economy he expressed Welpac’s recent momentum gained after the introduction of new UV machines.

Environmental issue in the large-format printing is one of the hot chats people all around the corners keep discussing about. In this respect, Mayoor sees the problem is not yet occurred seriously in India. However, he opined that the concern would shortly arrive in India. “In the US, hoardings are printed using UV technology, which are biodegradable. This trend will come to India in near future,” he said.

Looking forward: Every digital printer in South India has high ambition to achieve. On the revision of current market rates, Welpac managing director, Mayoor, expressed this viewpoint, “Many small printers have been flaunted in the markets and it should be considered precisely to structure the rates among these players including corporate as well as large printers.”

As long as the segment for survival for digital printing industry is concerned, Welpac focuses on in-door signage. It is obvious that outdoor signage like billboards has been on rise. “UV printers could print on all kinds of materials that would be utilised only in indoor signage. Since we have been doing this over the last three years, I am confident that indoor segment will have better prospects for digital printing industry,” reasoned Mayoor.

Graphic Technologies Sign Park Pvt Ltd: Serving the best

 (left Image : J GopalaKrishnan, technical director and G Ravikumar, managing director, Graphic Technologies Sign Park Pvt Ltd.) & (Right Image : Myjet printer) 






Perhaps he name Graphic Technology must be common to those who have been involved with solvent inkjet printing segment in South India. When it comes to discuss about buying a solvent inkjet printer, the name of this Chennai-based machine distributor would come prominently. On the eve of its 5th anniversary, Graphic Technology proves its infancy in age and maturity in service status. So far, the company has installed more than 200 Alpha inkjet printers and around 300 cutting plotters.

Machines at Graphic Technologies are predominantly of Chinese brands. Though there have been assumptions in the industry about non-durability of Chinese brands, Graphic Technology segregates myths and facts about those machines they distribute. “We maintain some qualities in the products which keep our business alive. Not only that, we are committed to service,” said J GopalaKrishnan, technical director, Graphic Technologies Sign Park Pvt Ltd, adding, “Though we are not as old as other companies in the industry, we have our own dignity to honour the value and quality in products and service we provide.”

What it takes to future plans of Graphic Technology is the establishment of the company’s own manufacturing unit in the region. It has not yet been decided whether it would be consumables or machineries but the company has vivid vision to make it happen shortly.

Market match: Graphic Technology closely connects with the Chinese market where development is always be India’s envy. Commenting on what makes solvent segment in China different from India’s, GopalaKrishnan said, “Indian market is totally depending on imports whereas Chinese market is mature to manufacture its own products.” He further added, “In India, 80 percent of machines are imported and people are happy with products trading. To me, equipment is not meant for just trading. You need to be educated to know the product precisely at its technology and mechanism level. Then people will appreciate your afford and have good level of confidence. What we have to create is not just money but the mutual market.”

“People in Indian signage market look for cheaper products. As far as the cheap machines are concerned, both the people who print and provide need not to invest too much. So, what I’m expecting in future is that the quality must take a front seat and then the prices will automatically stabilise,” said GopalaKrishnan. He further stressed on printers with XAAR printheads being economical can be sold effectively at large in India. But in case of Spectra it may cost double because of its technologies and high printhead price. In turn, he reasoned that Indian market will bring a drastic change when anyone comes out with costs equivalent with XAAR printers. “Quality and commitment are primary things a printer should firmly stick around. I always advise my clients not to go for lower price only. Print at reasonable price to produce quality output. This is my all time mantra,” GopalaKrishnan said.

Product line: Konica head based printer brought by Graphic Technology is the first of its kind machine to India after HP

eco-solvent printers. “We don’t want to sell an unreliable machine to our clients and it should also be at the price people can afford in the market, ” said GopalaKrishnan. He has a positive vision that Chinese manufactures would develop to produce affordable UV flatbed machines in near future for Indian market. And it will develop a new segment in the Indian large-format printing industry.

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