Industry stalwarts are rebuilding bonds broken by COVID-19

According to a PwC India survey, more than 59 percent of business in the country has been impacted by pandemic and over 90 percent business leaders feel they need to improve crisis management capabilities. The survey also reveals that most of the business leaders have already adopted new business plans and invested in new technologies in the aftermath of the pandemic. In this context, Sign & Graphics talks to some leaders in the signage and graphic arts industry who are substantially confident about their ability to evaluate the lessons they have learned from the pandemic and put them into action.

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Patience and perseverance is the key. Most of the leaders in the industry feel they have sailed through the turbulent market conditions and the growth is majorly depending on the economies of the sectors like advertising, expos, tourism and others. It’s time for everyone to keep up live in the business in whatever situation the switch must keep always ‘on’. Find out what the leaders say from three domains of the industry, viz. Machine Manufacturers & Suppliers, Ink and Media Manufacturers & Suppliers and LED Manufacturers & Suppliers.

MACHINE MANUFACTURERS & SUPPLIERS

As you know Mehta Cad Cam is growing faster in manufacturing different types of digital printers for the sign industry along with laser and CNC machines. We have been affected around 20 to 30 percent of our regular productions and sales during the lockdowns. Our business has not just fully recovered but it is increased around 10-15 percent more than it was in the pre-pandemic time. During the last two years, we focused more on development of new products and prepared ourselves for mass productions to cope with increasing demands in the post-pandemic. At the same time, we are also strengthening our branch offices and infrastructure for better sales & service support, even in international operations. My advice to our customers and all PSPs is that everyone must try to run little more after the pandemic, not just to cover the loss but to cope with the possibilities of increasing demands. We wish everyone should understand the latest requirement of their customers and establish the equipments to deal with the needs.

Shailesh Mehta, Director, Mehta Cad Cam Systems Pvt Ltd, Ahmedabad

What’s done is done! It’s time to think what to do now. We needed a brand new start for everything in the aftermath of pandemic lockdowns. I know every one of us had a bad time during the unprecedented pandemic times. We must learn to live with that! In our case, we have done some good deeds during the hectic pandemic times. Our company, which was a proprietorship firm, has turned into ‘private ltd’ company. We firmly engaged in the ‘Make in India’ activities and started manufacturing some versatile products, which we specifically engineer for the Indian market. In fact, we lost around 50 percent of our overall business during the lockdown times. When the lockdowns lifted and the market got slowly started to open up, we aggressively focused on producing some versatile and advanced machines. This is how we regained our 50 percent loss at 200 percent recovery rate.

Tejinder Singh, CEO, Colors Digital India (CDI),Greater Noida, Delhi-NCR

On the development front we have sold a UV flatbed with RICOH Gen 5 printhead for the first time to Bina Advertiser, Bhubaneswar. If we talk about lockdowns, it really hurt the business as the cycle stopped completely and again to get the ball rolling it takes effort and time and again the second lockdown came devastatingly. Now, the business is on the path to recovery but I think it will take some more time to resume the pre-COVID times. That’s why I would like to advice all PSPs not to refuse jobs and keep machines and workers engaged as much as possible even if the margins are reduced, so that you can make sure when big volumes come up your infrastructure is intact to handle it. Good times are coming so we have to be prepared and ready for it. We are looking at the launch of new products to increase our kitty and business volume to recover ours past losses in the near future. We are gearing up to introduce a set of new products early 2022.

Rajat Mitra, Director, Caldron Graphics, New Delhi

Telling you the bitter truth, we almost lost 50 percent of our overall business volume during the lockdown times. We can say we have somehow recovered it to an extent. This is very much part and parcel of business. We must learn to live in such situation. And one important thing I would like tell my industry fellows, partners, print service providers and everyone around that it’s time to think wisely while investing in a new machine or product with respect to ‘support system’. Everybody must aware of after-sales service of machines and local availability of spare parts — these are bare necessities. My ultimate advice to all my fellow customers is that knowing and understanding the demands and needs in the current market is at the centre of every successful business. We need to have this knowledge that can be used to take business to another level.

Girvir Singh Negi, Director, NEGI Sign Systems & Supplies Co, Mumbai

The pandemic has hit every industry and caused a distressing phase. But on the other side, the lockdowns have actually helped us in improving business since we have received some grants from the central government. It has actually led us to maintain the credit line for our clientele. We are now recovering and as a matter of fact if any business has to flourish then the supporting factors also need remarkable improvements. We have a portfolio of solvent printers with Starfire printheads. In addition, some of our clients prefer for that we offer various models like flatbed, roll-to-roll and hybrid models available with various printhead options. The most popular models are C 3202 SG PLUS, GZM 3200 KM and GZF 1808 D. All our machines have been performing both quantitatively and qualitatively for more than eight years. We supply to clients who own more than 60 printers from us. Such is the trust and bond created by us with our clientele. This proves our ability to stay stable and strong in the market.

Niya Jayson, Director, JX Enterprises. Chennai

Pandemic has been a universal thing which every one of us involves to face it. During the unprecedented times we wisely strategised to manage and run business efficiently without much hindrance and disturbance. We successfully maintained everything in work-from-home routines during the lockdowns. Our customers were quite co-operative and co-ordinated with us so well. Yes, the first phase was quite gloomy and but to an extent everything seemed under control in the second phase. What we could see was the bouncing of business in the month of August this year. Demands are surging and what I feel is that we have learned how to tackle business in the unprecedented times. We learn how to live life in new normal. We are capable to grasp the situation. At end of the day, my advice to our every single customer is that we must be capable of handling things in any situation. In addition, we must find a solution of every single problem. This is how we survive in situations like pandemic or so.

Umang Singhal, VP-India Signage Business, ColorJet Group, Noida, Delhi-NCR

A collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at a cordial level among every one of us in the industry. Existing threat when the pandemic first hit the market of Indian subcontinent was quite gloomy. Everybody crossed their fingers, fearing what would be the next. We somehow would be to foster an approach, strengthening our spirit and resilience to any future market trouble. It served greatly enhancing cooperation with our customers to improve regional and global production and distribution of our products and services. Here, the bottom line is that our business was affected in the pandemic lockdowns. We are now still on the road to full recovery. However, we all need to connect and share responsibility to cope with the situation.

Vitesh K Sharma, Country Manager— Greater India, Large-Format Production, HP India

Today our business has fully recovered from the loss we had during the lockdown periods. In fact, we recover better than before. Over the last few months there have been a lot of demands coming for our newly launched solvent range, UV and textile printers. As strategy to regain the loss in business during pandemic we have introduced faster and better printers to help our customers so that they can have faster, better and value for money equipment to accomplish their orders well in time. In this, my advice to PSPs to bring back business to normal is that there is lot of pent up demand and GDP expected to grow faster than before, we will be able to grow at around 20 percent per annum this year. There is lot of demands coming from corporate companies for innovative and value for money products, so focus on your strength and do belief in you.

Sumit Dev, Director, Britomatics, New Delhi

We have recently launched a new range of high-speed digital textile and UV printers for which we keep receiving positive feedbacks. Like many in the industry we also faced the trouble caused by the pandemic lockdowns. During the ill-fated days of lockdowns imposed in different parts of the country our overall turnover was less than half. Now, by the grace of god and commitment of our dedicated team we have recovered almost all that we had lost in the unprecedented times. We now are focusing on manufacturing some advanced machines suitably for the current Indian market. Nowadays, due to steep hike price of raw materials there is some hindrance in business. Hope the cost will come down soon and everything will be in normal in near future.

Bharat Bhushan Wadhwa, Director, Infinity Digital Solutions Pvt Ltd, New Delhi

Doubtless to say everything shut down in the time of complete lockdowns. However, it was just temporary for us. In the month of September last year business slowly started and then gained momentum in the succeeding four to five months. Now, there are some regions where we still need to boost our business. Still people are sceptical about new investment in machineries. In this respect, my suggestion to every industry fellow is that we must come out and closely observe the current market situation. It’s time to learn living in the new normal. Be safe, be positive and let’s move together to another level.

Raj Thakur, RTR Incorporation, New Delhi

For more than two years we have faced the most stringent periods of pandemic. But today we all are very much clear to bring all of us together to dispel the temptations of isolationism and address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of cooperation. We lost almost 75 percent of our overall business volume during the lockdowns. Let me tell you how we recover from the slowdown. We never gave up. We kept running during the lockdowns doing research and development on new machineries and innovations. As a result we have now a new line of machines. My advice to my colleagues, partners and end users of our machines is that the pandemic or any calamity is very much part of life and business.

Narayan Gupta, Goldtech Graphics, Ghaziabad, UP

INK AND MEDIA MANUFACTURERS & SUPPLIERS

We saw our business volumes reduced to less than half during the first wave lockdown as well as when the second wave hit in April and May 2021. However, since June 2021 we are back to better than normal business with sales soaring in the month of October 2021. This is how we cope with the market slowdown caused by the ill-fated pandemic. Today, our business in terms of volumes is almost back to normal. The challenge of raw material pricing, shipping costs and timely availability continues to create problems for us. It is expected that things will improve only after the first quarter of 2022. After all, my only advice to our customers is that ‘Print, Print, Print’—that’s the only solution to bring business back to normal.

Neerav Goswamy, Managing Director, Rextone Industries Ltd/AT Inks

COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges to the global community. It is very unfortunate that pandemic hit the graphic arts industry in a big way. We therefore committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe and efficacious environment. As long as we aware of what to do and how to cope with such situation there will be little or no problem in business or life. We believe that we all should work together towards a new normal for pandemic preparedness and response. In fact, we have taken part in the league of corona warriors. We have committed to responsible role in producing safety kits and awareness about the pandemic and its impact in business and day-to-day life. What I would like to say as an advice to industry fellows is nothing but to keep running for new ideas and innovative works to face any challenges in the market.

Deepak Gupta, Director, Sun Sign and Technologies, Delhi

Recently we have launched a plethora of products which can be used in varied applications across diverse industries. Our all time focus is to offer solution, not just adhesive, that is the reason we are known for developing and offering customised products to our customers. Lockdowns were surely a big blow to all the economies across the world and so was it to ours too. Certainly, our volumes were also affected considerably as all the manufacturing installations were under lockdown. However, we took it as an opportunity and studied business processes in greater details where we majorly supply our products and gathered all our resources to develop new products and creating awareness of the same. It wouldn’t be wrong if I say ‘yes’ our business has recovered now. But I would like to stress more on the fact that we were able to achieve this feat due to our optimistic approach and the initiatives taken to develop, promote and market new products virtually during the lockdowns.

Rohit Jain, Vice President, Benson Polymers Ltd, Delhi

We manufacture aluminium profiles and textile frames for LED-lit and non-lit signage solutions. With our years of experience we have gained superior expertise in manufacturing profiles, accessories and silicon edge fabric graphics for diverse customers in different industrial clusters. Over the last two years, as everybody in the industry faced downturn due to pandemic, we had a trouble time of nearly two to three months when the first nationwide lockdown was imposed. Then it was in the month of August, things started opening up bit by bit. As on today, I proudly say that the market is fully open-up and we have now recovered the volume of business we lost during the peak pandemic times. I would like to advice every industry fellow that we must learn to live with harsh time. I would like to tell every cloud has a silver lining. Be positive and let’s excel.

Deepak Patel, Director, Karni Alufab, Ahemdabad

LED MANUFACTURERS & SUPPLIERS

On the IoT front, our latest offerings include an eco-system of Smart Devices for both commercial and household applications. Our mobile application by the name of ‘Neenjas Konnect’ is available on both Android Play Store and Apple App Store. Since our products are completely manufactured in India, during lockdowns the factory was closed which in turn affected the revenues adversely. Now we can say business has recovered. In fact, post lockdown we have seen a surge in demand for many products. During lockdowns we focussed on honing our technical skills and worked on improving our knowledge base, marketing strategy, and our weaknesses so that new and improved products can be targeted so as to recover the losses and we can expand to new markets. My message to industry fellow is that innovation is the key and it can push clients to invest and bring businesses to normal.

Vineet Gupta, MD, Neenjas Technologies Pvt Ltd, Noida, Delhi-NCR

While everyone’s situation is different, some people have experienced tremendous difficulties and many have seen that it’s possible to be resilient in the pandemic crisis that crippled almost every single industrial sector. We have lost almost everything during the first phase lockdown. Out of the situation, we have learned about many things, it might be taking care of business, self care, change in routines and cut back on socialising. I absolutely believe in the concept of resilience because we have this effective reservoir inherent in all of us. But we have to also be practical as we must not step back whenever a challenge is around. My advice to our customers is that we must learn to live with difficulties in time.

Nitin Srivastava, Director, City Advertising

We were not spared when the market was badly hit by the pandemic. It was really hard time for everyone in the industry. Thankful to the government for helping MSMEs in the aftermath of the hardship lockdown period! In fact, the India government has played a big role in recovery of market slowdown. For us, we have magnified business to another level in the lockdown and post-lockdown times. Apart from the LED portfolio, we have added a new line of products such as inks and others. It would be wise decision for everyone to diversify business as per the market condition. My advice to our customers is that we must not retreat when the market is not in favourable condition. This is how business runs!

Suarabh Aggrawal, Managing Director, MonoSign, Delhi