The story of a leading digital printer that explored the online printing business to exploit an existing top-class digital printing set-up and also grow by leaps.
When Amit Gupta joined his father’s digital printing business, it was already one of the top digital printing houses at Nehru Place. Friends Digital, then based in Nehru Place – which was the hub of digital printing industry – was already having the best equipment. The Friends Digital facility housed the biggest and the fastest digital machines line-up which was led by two iGen digital printing workhorses from the Xerox stable. Nehru Place was known for its high competitiveness, as regards both price and products.
After having his higher studies from Australia, Amit, a tech savvy young man, looked for new opportunities in the fast developing digital platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal etc. He soon decided to shift Friends’ operations to Okhla Industrial area in Delhi. His plans took wings with the shift that happened about a year and a half ago. “We changed our focus from being a printer who used to calculate the number of prints produced in a day to a printer with major part of its range of products catering to online clientele,” relates Amit.
“With the competition growing to an extent where sustenance in itself had become an issue, I decided that we needed to move away from the rat race and find a niche segment in the digital printing arena itself to support our excellent infrastructure,” says Amit, who finds himself lucky to have got a complete state-of-the-art digital printing setup already in place.
“With the available online portals like Amazon, Flipkart, today we do not need to take out a million prints in a month; but just a couple of thousands is what’s more common. With proper value addition and things like personalisation, we can even get similar or more returns,” he continues.
Today Friends is doing business of about Rs.1 crore a month through the online platform. The customers include a diverse mix of those for high quality wall coverings, personalised posters, cushion covers, diaries, calendars, mugs, brochures and much more different products. In fact, they have over 50,000 product offerings online and dispatch about 800-1000 packets per day to customers spread across the country. And, Amit is also exploring the export markets online to further expand their reach and business.
Amit has found his own niche – he serves customers from smaller cities with demands chiefly constituting smaller volumes. According to him, “It is these types of customers who are always prepared to pay for quality. They place smaller orders and mostly because many printers ignore these orders, we found a great opportunity in serving them.”
“Big corporate customers are over demanding and also over-served. They have many options with printers bee-lining at their doorsteps fighting it out with unreasonable offers – often severe rate cuts and this is exactly what we have always tried to avoid,” he adds.
“The online platform has helped us to serve our customers with high quality printed products at excellent prices and at much faster delivery schedules,” he avers.
The world is the market for the discerning
Amit looks pretty optimistic about the online business model when he states, “The world is the market for the discerning.” More recently, he has also been occupied in developing his own brand of products. We got the opportunity to see their ‘Soundplug’ brand earphone during our visit to Friends Print Shop. The high quality earphone was a neat little device that came with a safe-keeping zipper pouch in an international standard duplex board packing case. Amit says that the product sells like hot-cake – about 8-10 pieces each day.
Along with the ear phones, Amit plans to have similar branded Bluetooth speakers shortly under the same Soundplug branding. The company owns the brand Paper Plane Designs which deals in customised wall paper designs and similar printed products. Meanwhile, the brand Code-Eye is another brand which Friends is developing for promoting unisex leather accessories for its customers.
“With amazing platforms like eBay, Amazon, Shopclues and Flipkart to name just a few, business opportunities are immense and I see it exploding exponentially – with the internet penetrating ever deeper into the smaller cities and towns of India.” He is also of the opinion that the reach that these online platforms can provide to a product is in itself a huge leap for mid-size vendors like Friends and he believes that it would ‘only increase’ in coming days. “These platforms have huge pockets with immense funding and they promote their website crazily to reach every corner of the market they cater. We can’t compete with them in what they are best at doing. What we have done is – continuing with what we do the best i.e., produce quality products. We can always benefit from their expertise by reaching an expansive customer base at one place and we have thus been able to boost our business turnover and profits,” shares Amit.
Apart from a good infrastructure, Amit believes, the second most important thing for success in this business is Creativity. “In online printing business, you have to be extremely creative – there is no end to what you can do with a single design that you own. You should be able to sell it as a poster, a coaster, a lampshade, a T-shirt, a mug, a pillow cover, wall covering or even a mobile/laptop cover,” explains Amit. He further adds that today one cannot survive as a simple printer; in fact, “a printer today must be ready to print on any substrate be it paper, textile, wood, board or even walls!”
The online print business of Friends Print Shop has a staff strength of about thirty people, which includes the creative team along with the production, fabrication and dispatch staff. “The creative team along with the fabrication team in our industry is the most important one; for us, they are the ones who create an idea that I conceive and then comes the sampling, production, photography and online promotion,” reveals Amit. At Friends, paramount importance is given to the target market, which is decided beforehand by the team. “A luxury product cannot be sold to the masses and the mass products may not be of interest to the luxurious,” Amit concludes with a smile, sharing a simple secret for business success.