The market is now gradually picking up pace: Tai Nizawa

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As things started to look good and the market picked up the pace in post-lockdown, sales of Konica Minolta India began showing signs of a new dawn. In conversation with Print & Publishing, Tai Nizawa, Managing Director, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Pvt Ltd, talks about leveraging advanced technology and digital adoption on the back of steady and progressive growth.

Tai Nizawa

Print & Publishing: How has the pandemic impacted Konica Minolta’s business?
Tai Nizawa: This unprecedented and never-heard-before pandemic brought travel restrictions, social distancing guidelines barring outdoor activities like marriage functions, luxury packings, corporate events, and multiple communication-related precautionary measures. The print industry is highly dependent on outside activities, and therefore we suffered several halting setbacks during the initial stages of lockdowns. However, our sales, particularly the label segment, began showing signs of a new dawn.

P&P: How did Konica Minolta adapt to the restrictions and uncertainty caused by the pandemic?
TN: The COVID-19 outbreak undoubtedly hastened digital adoption, encouraging people to become more agile and prepared to handle unpredictable situations. In the face of uncertainty and multiple restrictions, we also leveraged new-age technology and digital platforms to conduct webinars and virtual events. The idea was to stay in touch with our customers and stakeholders while updating them about our growth and development. We also explored the usage of in-house mobile applications for our customers to directly send service requests and get them resolved quickly and efficiently.

Furthermore, as some of our customers got essential services tags we delivered spare parts from Konica Minolta warehouses to our customers. Gradually, as the pandemic woes subsided, we restarted our field visits to address mechanical issues while continuing the online assistance methodologies provided by our engineers.

P&P: Do you see any lasting changes in the way you work because of experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic? (For example, remote installation, servicing, maintenance, and training)
TN: As I said earlier, this was an uncertain situation, and the only way forward was through the digital adoption process. At Konica Minolta, our sales patterns, business development, and financial transactions were all shifted to the online portal. We began leveraging online communication channels such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom to stay in contact with our customers. In addition, after acknowledging the highly-interactive values of social media platforms, we decided to use them to educate and inform our customers about Konica Minolta’s latest technological advancements. Today, we are far more efficient, productive, and prepared to face unforeseen challenges.

P&P: How did the pandemic impact the print industry in general?
TN: During these intense past few months, the print segment moved from large-run prints to short ones. This transformation is primarily due to the rapid pace of digital adoption by businesses globally. The travel restrictions proved to be a significant disadvantage for businesses like ours. It was tremendously challenging to serve customers satisfactorily during the peak phase of the pandemic. The short-run packaging and labeling segments slowly started witnessing steady growth, and it paved the way for potential future trends.

P&P: Did it impact the demand for industrial printers by Konica Minolta?
TN: COVID-19 impacted relatively less on industrial printers as they largely support short-run print businesses. As compared to large-run prints, short-run print businesses witnessed positive growth after the initial lockdown setbacks.

P&P: What trends do you foresee for the print industry?
TN: Foremost, the trend taking the world by storm is the emergence of the short-run printing business on the back of cutting-edge technology and the digital adoption process. Secondly, agility and quick adapting characteristics will be pivotal for organizations handling upcoming difficulties. And since the pandemic taught us that uncertainties are permanent, these trends are likely to continue evolving and revamping along the way.

P&P: Do you think technologies such as automation and Industry 4.0 will pick up in the near future?
TN: In order for organisations to continue being agile, ready-to-adapt, and sustainable, leveraging automation tools and advanced technologies is mandatory. At Konica Minolta, we developed exemplary workflow configurations, effectively collaborating between production and enterprise flow. This is an absolutely essential step to have a carefully structured future for the business. Those who follow this step will likely achieve more results than their counterparts.

P&P: In specific, how was the demand for Konica Minolta label presses?
TN: Far beyond our expectations, the print volumes increased on the digital label machines. In fact, we witnessed record growth last year. Simultaneously, in terms of the homegrown Indian market, we are proud to share that Konica Minolta has crossed installations numbers from single to double-digit. We hope to end this year on an upward growth trajectory.

P&P: And while the signage and the commercial print market saw a drop overall, did the company see demand for Konica Minolta’s production printers?
TN: Like every other business segment, we also faced troubles, business loss, and slow growth during the initial lockdown phases, especially due to travel restrictions. Gradually, as the market picked up the pace, our business trajectory began showing signs of positive growth. Those initial months were dreadful, and we are grateful to have a customer base that was incredibly understanding and supportive throughout this phase. It is a testament to Konica Minolta’s quality and consistent services that we were all together during the time of the unprecedented catastrophe.

P&P: How has the experience for you been personally?
TN: To be honest, after going through so many ups and downs, I am finally relieved, satisfied, and just happy. Somehow, we faced a global pandemic and lived to tell the tale. This transition period was long, challenging, and unforgiving, but we emerged like a phoenix. As leaders and entrepreneurs, we always try to evolve and continue leading innovative lives.

P&P: Any comments for the larger print industry?
TN: This pandemic taught us that agility is vital to steer a business successfully, even during a storm of uncertainty. Adopting modern technology is crucial to strengthen the industry, so always invest in it. Furthermore, since organizations need both physical and digital files to run smoothly, maintaining document lifecycles is something modern business leaders need to manage efficiently.

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