Xerox has always been bullish in marketing new technologies in the printing segment in India. In a candid interaction Vineet Gehani, Executive Director, Technology and Channel, Xerox India talks to Veerendra Malik, Managing Editor, Digital Impressions, about trends in the production printing business and company’s roadmap in 2020.

Veerendra Malik: Let’s start with 2019. How has last year been for Xerox in terms of performance and development? Market share?

Vineet Gehani: 2019 firstly was again an excellent year for Xerox, following up on a very good year of 2018, post GST wave in the printing industry. Xerox really caught and accelerated through the production print devices, the demand for which increased towards the second half of 2017 onwards when the government also brought in favourable policies like putting embargos on reconditioned machines etc. In that we did continue from 2018 into 2019.

The market growth in 2018 was higher over 2017 than in 2019 over 2018 and Xerox was happy to be a part of accelerating in both these years, in terms of market share as well. We are really looking forward to continue for 2020 and for coming years. The other thing what we are happy about is that a lot of new technology we have got into the market. In the range of production print equipment we carry, starting from the entry level, the C-series in colour, the D-series in mono, both of which we rolled over in the second half of last year onto the PrimeLink series. The colour segment we had launched in the market towards end of Q3 and the mono series we showcased at Pamex.

Coming to the mid segment of the market, the Versant series, the 180, the 3100, we have again upped the game in that with many installs, new customers as well as happy customers who have upgraded from the erstwhile Versant products to new Versant products or even to Iridesse at the absolute high end spectrum of the digital colour equipment. This has made really great waves. Launched in the second half of 2018, we only expanded numbers with new installs with customers last year following up in a good launch install customer base which we built in 2018. In fact, half of these customers are who have shifted from the erstwhile Color 1000, the Versant series and the other half is new customers and we are equally happy on both fronts. It also means that we are addressing and trying to cater to a bigger segment of the commercial print market. Like you also said a lot of offset printers have entered the digital front because they want more variable data printing, shorter runs and more optimised services. Also, because they want to go beyond just CMYK gamut to specialty colours, overlays and underlays without compromising on the output on the overall throughput of their machines and add more options that they can carry out. Overall a very exciting story and I would also say we are at a cusp of another good year.

V. M.: Start of 2020 was with a major print event ‘Pamex’. What was the focus at the show and the response you got there?

V.G.: Firstly, we were very keen and we showcased the entire range starting from the newly launched family of colour and the mono products. We showcased the Versant 180, the Versant 3100 and also the Iridesse. This year’s Pamex was a very successful event, for the event itself and also for Xerox. A lot of good prospects, good conversions at the event and soon after. We are happy that the customers we got are layered across the segment. We got jobbers who were excited about the PrimeLink series and some have already ordered products.

We also got some Versant 180 and the Versant 3100 conversions and customers interested in the Iridesse even after Pamex. Not only a great opportunity to showcase our products but also good throughput and ROI for Xerox.

On your question of repeat customers, yes, we have seen this every year. A lot of old customers, who are happy with the products that they are using over the years, actually come back and want to look at what’s next. Some are already at the journey of looking at the next machine and we want to continue our relationship with them. That’s one part, and we are also very possessive of our existing customers and remain with them and keep delighting them with new technologies and new products. We are equally interested in expanding into new segments, for example, in the last 6-12 months we have gone deeper into the commercial printing segment which has largely an offset user environment. We have also made foray into the photo segment now. We have a couple of good photo customers who have bought the Iridesse. Some of the mid photo lab customers have used the Versant series in the past but I think the Iridesse brings on a very different new flavour not only in terms of the effects of special colours but also its usage in wedding albums. So, it is really competing in that segment very reactively.

V. M.: What segments are being targeted with Gold, Silver options on the Iridesse?

V.G.: As of now it is a mix between the existing customers who have updated to the Iridesse for special colours and using it for normal transactional printing jobs like cards, calendars etc. plus new commercial offset customers that we have got and as I said, in the last six months we have started making foray into the photo segment also.

It is a journey we are trying to spread across various segments and it is obviously appealing to a wider set of customers, mainly because of the special inks and the CMYK+ story. You could always do special inks but they required multiple passes. The Iridesse does much more in effects, there is gold, silver, white and there is colour. This is a six colour station machine and you can do a CMYK, overlay, underlay, gold and silver at the same time. The other thing is that the print quality of Iridesse, because of the micro fibre toner that we use in that, is great and comparable to everything a discerning photo lab customer has been used to in the past.

V. M.: The Iridesse press was launched in 2018. Am I right in saying that nothing has come after that in the colour segment? Till a few years ago Xerox would introduce at least two new models every year. Why the long gap now?

V.G.: Well, I wouldn’t say there was no new product. On the high end part of the segment in colour, Iridesse is a story we still think there is a lot of potential in the market. We need to get it out to the wider set of customers and make them realise the benefits. and yes it is really working for us. This year one of the main initiative is that we have tried to add on a larger customer base than what the Iridesse can really cater to. I think the market is still very big.

The other thing is that on this part of technology this in any case is the best that is available in the market currently. On the ink part of the business, Xerox did launch a product called Baltoro, basically an inkjet product which is also going to get showcased at drupa and that is a recent launch. That segment is relatively small but we will be taking it to our customers and make them aware of it and see if it really works for them not only for quality but also in optimisation of their work.

We have also launched some products at the entry level. We always keep looking at the market from various angles and make sure that in various segments that we play in, we have got the best technology. Xerox will definitely want to be a leader in every segment.

V. M.: Majority of your marketing now is through Channel Partners. a) What is your current Channel Partner network and growth, any categorisation of specific markets addressed by them? b) What is your differentiation of Direct Marketing and Indirect Marketing?

V.G.: We have got a set of direct customers who we have serviced for many years. Largely they are big service bureau organisations and customers who further have large enterprise customers they end up serving. Hence there is a direct motion to them but the larger play for Xerox has been the market catered through the channel partners. We are very proud of that channel to begin with. There are channel partners who have been associated with Xerox for decades. At the same time, we keep looking at opportunities which get even stronger to market. I think the combination of both of these comes together beautifully and the endeavour is to keep scaling and enabling these channel partners not only through the best technology of the products we get to the market but giving them the right skills, enablers and the tools to sell better. It is a collaborative approach and a Xerox sales manager works very closely with the channel partner enabling them with not only the product but also tools like literature, collaterals and obviously doing the entire demonstration and customer walk through with the product they carry. That is definitely one of the cornerstones and a key pillar of the Xerox market strategy and that is somethinag that we will continue to keep and we are working very hard upon in this year as well.

V. M.: What are you doing different for Direct Marketing?

V.G.: The direct customer, to begin with, requires more information. I don’t think we do it differently, we carry a lot of product collaterals and information. Actually, these direct partners are a part of global programs also. There is a Xerox Premium Partner Program for example. Everything that comes as global download in terms of new products, information and tools, they are in any case a part of that. When we carry it to the other part of the market we try and enable our channel partner and the sales team to carry that in the market. A lot of these are highend customers using like the Color press and now the Iridesse etc. and they are large volume printers. It requires a more service-oriented approach and pro-active management for the equipment that they use. They cannot afford to have a high down time, ideally no down time. You have to be working with them very closely so that they are optimising their generating capacity out of their own business.

V. M. : In the monochrome segment of transactional printing, do you think we have come to a saturation point in usage?

V.G.: The direct customer, to begin with, requires more information. I don’t think we do it differently, we carry a lot of product collaterals and information. Actually, these direct partners are a part of global programs also. There is a Xerox Premium Partner Program for example. Everything that comes as global download in terms of new products, information and tools, they are in any case a part of that. When we carry it to the other part of the market we try and enable our channel partner and the sales team to carry that in the market. A lot of these are highend customers using like the Color press and now the Iridesse etc. and they are large volume printers. It requires a more service-oriented approach and pro-active management for the equipment that they use. They cannot afford to have a high down time, ideally no down time. You have to be working with them very closely so that they are optimising their generating capacity out of their own business.

V. M.: What are you doing different for Direct Marketing?

V.G.: No, this segment has been growing most rapidly. There are two or three things happening. Firstly, the overall requirement for discerning print quality in this segment also is moving into the next notch. Everybody wants better output and better machines that they print on, more software solutions that help them manage their workflows better. All of that obviously they were not getting out of reconditioned machines a lot of these jobbers were using and with the added situation of the low input out of the reconditioned machines that were coming to the market. This story is only getting accelerated. That is one thing. Secondly, in any case with vendors and Xerox also focussing on bringing out new technology with better products in this segment, the printers are actually seeing a lot of benefit in this. Now if you compare it to over a 3 year period, I am not even getting into the 5 years or 10 years as some of this equipment does go into that kind of usage levels also, over a short period of let us say 2-3 years, works out to be a very successful story from Xerox than even a cheaper reconditioned machine.

That is a scenario very well understood by customers and that is also what is driving the overall monochrome market. We expect this to continue further this year and we are hence excited with the new PrimeLink launch as well.

V. M.: Many OEMs in graphic business are investing heavily in R&D resulting in new launches and upgrades. What is happening in that direction at Xerox?

V.G.: Irrespective of where the R&D facility is, Xerox in any case continues to be very focussed in evolving new technologies like what we discussed for Iridesse, Baltoro and the new series. Interestingly now what is the global priority, we want to now take the print environment also onto the next level enabling lot of solutions and services. Some of them built in the hardware and some available on the cloud off the product in terms of value-add product available to the customers. I am talking about Xerox further investing in products like XMPie which enable a lot of variable data printing, easy communication, campaigns which make the whole communication digitised and customised for the end customer use. Now XMPie does come bundled in some products that we have, PrimeLink for example, and is also available for some customers who want to value-add over and above that. When you start mixing it with ColorLogic software it becomes a multiplied offer for the customer and hence for those that they are catering to through their products.

We are investing again in Freeflow, Xerox ConnectKey apps. The whole idea here is basically to create more than only a hardware solution in the form of Iridesse and then over and above this easy to use, optimised and customised applications that make it either easier for the customer to carry on all the jobs that they have or give them customised solutions, communicating campaigns and top of all that layer it with security. Once you start accelerating in the digital journey, one of the things you really need to take care of is to have a completely secure integrated environment that the customers don’t compromise on over any other value-add that they have.

One of the focus areas that we started last year and are going to accelerate this year is on a whole lot of solutions and working with the customers helping them enable to go to the next level.

V. M.: B-2 presses are the industry’s next boom area. Most of the OEMs are focussing on developments and launches in this segment. Nothing from Xerox. Why not? And any plans in the near future?

V.G.: I will just say that we have some events coming up later this year, let us see if we get something on this front and some surprises there.

V. M.: Your approac to Industrial printing – Labels and Packaging?

V.G.: Great question. We have taken our time getting internally convinced that products like Iridesse are not only catering to the existing set of customers but what are the new segments we can possibly cater to. We are very confident with the virtue of installations as well as back end work we have done to be sure that commercial print and photo printing are great segments. We are in very serious conversation with many customers who are looking at Iridesse helping them in labels and packaging applications as well. We will be able to share some success stories in this year on that. The Iridesse is really making waves in more than only the segments we have catered to in the past. These are some things we are definitely looking forward to.

V. M.: Finishing is a very important aspect of digital print production. Online finishing on digital presses has never picked up in India, possibly because of economics of investment. Any move to promote that configuration in the Indian market?

V.G.: There are two parts to this. One is hardware value add that we can have and then there is also a solution that you can provide to the customer. Xerox has not invested in the hardware part for some of the reasons you have mentioned and also because there are other vendors who can probably do it cheaper. The customer is also happier looking at those solutions, post press and offline.

On the software side, for example, the Freeflow solution that we have takes care of trying to stack up the post press application so that even if it is going off to a different post press hardware, we just route the job so that it makes it easier for the customer. When it comes to XMPie, we are starting from receiving jobs from the customer right down to sending out to their customers, this switch so as to say on that.

To answer your question, there are no immediate post finish hardware plans that we have but definitely we have software solutions plans to help customers go through this entire process efficiently and in a more optimised way.

V. M.: We have been through Inkjet Drupa, B-2 Drupa and enhancements in these two sectors in the 2016 edition. (a) What do you feel will be the trends at this year’s show? and (b) Xerox’s presence at some earlier shows was in occupying a full hall. What is the level of participation at drupa 2020 and the highlights from Xerox?

V.G.: We are all excited as always about the single biggest global event and Xerox will have a very prominent presence and visibility. Currently, I can share that we will have all the products in our range not only from the equipment perspective but solutions as well. We expect to create end use cases and showcase to the customers how one can help them from end to end, pre-press to post-press, the entire gamut.

We are looking forward to seeing globally how we are able to put together the entire piece and appeal to the customers that we are more than only a hardware manufacturer with the best technology that we have always had. We definitely expect to have the Baltoro, which is the new inkjet launch. We are all looking forward to Xerox unveil something new. Let us hope the event goes through given the current circumstances. We are going to be very prominently visible out there and definitely we will not be compromised by space for the entire solution that we want to showcase.

V. M.: Xerox entered the inkjet market with the Baltoro, Trivor and Rialto based on developments from Impika. Now with Impika off the radar, what next in that segment?

V.G.: The Baltoro is what Xerox will carry to the market in the inkjet product and will be a Xerox production.

V. M.: How does business look for Xerox in 2020? Any particular challenges or opportunities?

V.G.: Continue the growth story that we have had. I can’t share the numbers at this stage but we will definitely be going faster that the market this year. With the government policies in place, where they are helping the industry and the way the growth is, we are keeping our fingers crossed.

V. M.: Any new technologies to be introduced from Xerox?

V.G.: New technologies in the form of what we have in terms of specialty colours, I think we will keep adding on to that story and most definitely in the software solutions we carry.

The customer today is looking at three things. How we are making it easy for them using the same technology, how we are making it more optimised and cheaper to keep printing and how we can help them carry more to their end customers. This may be in the form of end product and in the form of offering newer updated solutions. Like we have a lot of print customers, we have now in the service segment. Even SOHO are small offices who own their complete communication campaigns. For example, a person sitting in Ludhiana wants to cater to the textile and hosiery market, will be making their collaterals, calendars, stationery and will also be creating digital customised communication campaigns. That is where we want to participate in such customer stories going forward.

V. M.: Many offset machine manufacturers are now also targeting short runs. Do you think that is going to be a challenge?

V.G.: Let me put it this way. If I was there, I would do the same. After all they also have to find ways and means to be a part of this wave but it is more than that. Digital as a platform offers not only short runs but a whole lot of other applications, options, communication platforms and a host of other things like specialty colours, which is one part of it. I think it will be a whole lot of time before the other industry actually catches up on this. We are definitely happy in the space that we are in and we couldn’t be better at this point of time and we will keep growing in this segment.

V. M.: Coming to a sensitive topic making news for the last few months. The Xerox – HP deal. Your comment on that and if and when it happens, how will it affect the Indian market?

V.G.: I can only comment on what is in public domain. There are talks going on and there are various options available and both parties are now talking to each other. Let us see what direction it goes in.

Obviously, Xerox is going to focus in its own market. It is a dynamically evolving and changing industry. In India currently it is business as usual and nothing to be concerned about.

V. M.: Finally, your views on the digital print market in India in the next few years. What growth figures do you predict for digital color and monochrome printing and the road map for Xerox India?

V.G.: First things first. One of the trends that has really been there and it is only accelerating and growing by the day is that gone are the days when people could do only the big runs and 5000-10000 lots. Now printers want to have solutions where a customer who wants 100/200/ 500 prints also, they are able to have customised solutions. All of that is obviously not possible in offset. I think that is a single biggest transformation to digital. Over and above that the new products that we add to the market, when you start layering them with new technology, solutions and softwares, like the Iridesse even the PrimeLink that we launched, make it more relevant and attractive for the customer to be a part of transformation.

89 out of the 100 customers surveyed are interested to be a part of the digital story. I am talking about the relevant customers in the print environment. So that is a big enough data for us to realise that it is going to continue. It is definitely about what the industry is doing and Xerox will be very much a part of it and continue to keep going ahead of the market.

We will have a great product, a great channel, a great entire solution and we are very excited. We have a very positive outlook for the balance part of the year and also the next two years.

Back to In-Conversation

All Copyright Reserved @ Sumi Publications 2020      Site Design: Photo Monkey