Organizations’ growing affinity towards digital, the influx of millennials or digital natives into the workplace and the adoption of digital and collaborative workplace culture across organizations have been gradually reducing the reliance on paper and printing.
The employees and working professionals today are quite comfortable to read from a screen, rather than from a piece of paper or printed documents and hence have different expectations altogether from printing hardware in the workplace.
Also, with an increasing number of geographically dispersed workforce and mobile workers, organizations need printing solutions which will enable them makes it easy for mobile workers to print documents from any Internet-enabled printer, without any hiccups.
In this rapidly evolving technology landscape, print manufacturers need to develop innovative solutions and business models to sustain growth. But, as the profits still continue to come from existing printing products and services, printer manufacturers are facing great difficulties to switch to new business models. They need to maintain a fine balance between upgrading traditional printing hardware and developing radically different capabilities to cater to the new business requirements.
The overall India printer market in 2017-18 was pegged at around 3.8 million plus units (Inkjet, Laser, Dot Matrix printers) and saw a growth of 12 percent over the previous year, as per leading vendors in the fray. The introduction of GST played a significant role in the growth as it required businesses to maintain accounts and copies of electronic invoices to claim GST refund.
The Indian printers market witnessed a significant technology shift, with customers preferring inktank printers over the entry-level laser printers. The main reason behind this shift is the increased vendor push, the low cost of printing, high printing volume, and low maintenance.
Driven by the new inktank printers, inkjet remained the dominant technology, with 1.7 million unit shipments in 2017-18 and registered a growth of 13.3 percent over the previous year. Inktank printers made up for nearly 40pc of the overall printer volume and around 70pc of the inkjet volume. The small business and home users, which were earlier predominantly driven by cartridge-based Inkjet printers users are shifting to inktank printers.
Laser printers traditionally have shown a continuous rise in demand due to its economical per page cost, higher printing speed and superior printing quality. But it suffered a marginal decline as inkjet printers market continue to grow with the new inktank variant. Although single-function printers (SFP) used to contribute to most of the growth in the laser market segment, laser copier–based multifunction printers (MFP) market shipment grew steadily last year due to greater demand from the government and corporates as well as the government’s crackdown on the reconditioned copier market. The drop in the GST slab for MFPs and cartridges from 28 percent to 18 percent also had an impact on the users preferring MFPs over SFPs.
With the users gradually switching to laser/inkjet printers, the dot-matrix printers market declined marginally by 6.4 percent in terms of volume. 203,000 units of dot matrix printers were sold during the year.
The key vendors in the printers market are HP, Epson, Canon, Brother, Samsung, Xerox, Ricoh, TVSE, WeP, etc. Epson, which has been a leading player in the inkjet market, said although it will address all the segments which have a requirement for printing including commercial, office and home segments, the home segment will be a key focus. Usage of Inktank printers and WiFi features is increasing for this segment and it will focus its efforts to address the needs of this segment.
“For the office segment, we will continue to drive the shift from Laser to Inktank printing. The key benefits of low CPP for black and colour printing, high yield ink bottles, high bundled yield, low power consumption, duplex printing will drive this. The lower Total Cost of Ownership of Inktank printers over Laser printers will play a key role in the shift,” said Siva Kumar, General Manager, Inkjet Printers at Epson India.
As printers are becoming an important part of the connected world, print manufacturers will have no choice but to integrate more mobility features in the days to come. The advances in the mobile devices, especially the business-focused tablet devices, have already started seeing printers becoming increasingly compatible with phones and tablets, allowing the documents to be printed directly from printers rather than requiring them to be passing them to a desktop or company server before printing or the scans delivered directly to the device, rather than passing them through an e-mail server.
Going forward, software innovation will also become a key differentiator for the print vendors. Besides deepening software competencies, leading vendors will also start to invest in emerging technologies to introduce new features or capabilities such as virtual voice assistants for printers. Sharp recently announced the integration of its MFPs with Amazon’s Alexa for Business, which will allow Sharp’s customers to interact through simple, verbal commands with their Digital MFPs, thereby improving the overall usability of the devices.
It is also needless to mention that as printers become more connected, they will be more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Hence, while developing new capabilities in the areas such as integrated workflow apps, proactive service and maintenance with IoT and machine learning algorithms, manufacturers also need to address new challenges like cybersecurity and data privacy with anomaly and intrusion detection capabilities.
Also, in the coming years, instead of a dedicated copier or printer or a scanner, a single machine with multi-function features will become more popular with organizations. Therefore, rather than paying for multiple machines, organizations will prefer to pay for a single versatile and cost-effective unit.