Digital Vision claims to be one among the leading suppliers of printing inks in the country’s wide format printing industry. Starting his journey in the Indian ink market as a distributor (from 2002 till 2009) of AT Inks – the country’s leading ink manufacturer and supplier, Ramesh Patel, Digital Vision’s managing director decided to explore new horizons.
It was the time when printing market in India was yet to pick up its pace. There were either no or only select takers of those inks. Even printing machines were not many in terms of number, while print service providers were yet to evolve as a community. Patel used to sell inks as a street hawker in that period of despair. He took up a challenge and went on to establish the brand – Vision Jet Ink.
Today, the company has six top quality vendors for its ink variants, all of whom are renowned & specialist manufacturers, and provide high-quality inks in its own brand i.e. Vision Jet Ink. While speaking to Sign & POP World’s editorial team, Patel shares his viewpoint on the evolution and future of Indian ink industry. Here are the excerpts of our chat:
How has the country’s ink industry evolved?
We are into inks from more than a decade. Over the years, we have noted generation change in the printing industry and ink had nothing to do but to follow the path of technological development. When we entered into ink industry, the printing capability was just of 60 sq. ft. per hour, which has now leaped to reach 5000 sq. ft. per hour. This has certainly increased the ink’s consumption, with of course, sea change in the quality of ink. Together all this has drastically impacted the price line.
Of late, what is the major technological breakthrough in the world of printing?
Earlier when only solvent ink was there, the printing technology was facing acute speed barrier at 13 picoliter droplets, which has nowadays improved to touch 2.5 picoliter. The technology has brought in revolutionary change, especially after Xaar – the European printhead technology major – introduced its much-talked about printhead ‘Xaar 1201’, which shows the possibility of 2.5 picoliter droplets, thereby enhancing the print quality besides speeding up the process of printing. All this could become possible only because of the continuous upgradation in technology, which stands behind the rapidly increasing popularity of printing process and printed materials. Once UV technology entered into the fray, almost everything in the name of printing got a revolutionary change.
Which other major technology changes have you noticed?
Another notable change was observed in the number of printheads installed in a printing machine. Starting with four printheads, it graduated to become eight, and nowadays, printers are even available with 16 printheads. Also, a key change was noted in quality of prints owing to the enhanced capability of printheads. For instance, earlier it was KM512i, which has now been upgraded to KM1024i. This has changed the way printing was experienced a couple of years ago. Quality of prints has continuously been improving. This has further escalated the consumption of inks.
What’s the current trend in ink – solvent, eco-solvent or UV?
Nowadays, we are focusing mainly on UV. This is mainly because UV is based on the ‘Go Green’ principle, which of course is environment-friendly when compared with its predecessors – eco-solvent & solvent inks. The invasion of UV though has not yet impacted drastically the existing market of eco-solvent owing to the high price of the former; but has opened up innumerable possibilities, which were not there with eco-solvent, solvent or any other ink for that matter.
What made the addition in applications?
This is mainly because with UV, direct printing on any substrate has turned into reality. By any substrate, I mean to say, one can directly print on to wood, iron, steel, marble, tile, PVC, WPC, etc. using digital UV printing technology. Take any surface and UV has the capability to print on to it. The latest inclusion is leather, which is also getting printed over with UV technology. Earlier, the decorations were done by wrapping up the substance with printed vinyl or any other option.
How is the performance of UV especially in the outdoor arena?
When it comes to outdoor applications, UV has greatly contributed in improving the print quality. Take for instance, day & night visioning of a signage is like a dream come true. This has attracted many brands’ attention following the possibility of back-to-back printing only because of the UV technology. Earlier, in the absence of UV, it wasn’t possible to keep the visibility alike both in the daytime as well in the night time of the same signage.
What is the lifecycle of Digital Vision inks?
As far as outdoor life of prints is concerned, for solvent it ranges from six months to two years while in eco-solvent and UV it goes up to three years. When it comes to shelf life of our inks, it is one year – from manufacturing date to expiry date. We also supply sublimation inks, for which we have an expanded market especially in Surat and other nearby garmenting and textile hubs.
How do you see the future of UV?
There is no printing alternative but UV technology, which has completely changed the panorama by bringing in volume. This is also because of the rapidly increasing applications of UV, which has been continuously penetrating into various other industries. As I said, the latest in the list is leather and accordingly, we are finding ways to expand our clientele and hence, market. Today, we have our customers in almost all the places wherever leather industry is well established – be it in Kanpur, Indore, Kolkata, Guwahati, or down south in Thiruvananthapuram. Owing to all this, there is an upsurge in the demand side of the story, which has forced the price to come down. Today, the price is almost halved than what it was at the time of introduction of UV inks.
How do you ensure the quality of your inks?
All our products carry a certificate of lab test as a proof of the quality that we claim to offer. First of all, we are sourcing these inks from quality vendors from Taiwan, Korea, China & the US. All these are our OEMs and supply us in our patented brand name, which itself is a proof of quality. Further, if any customer wants, he can get the test done in a lab of his own choice, which he believes is for best results.
How is Digital Vision placed in the Indian printing industry?
As I mentioned, we have now created our own brand and we are supplying to lot of printer manufacturers in India as an OEM. We source our inks from top quality ink manufacturers from China, Taiwan and Korea.
Where do you stand when it comes to market positioning?
Our brand is approved by many reputed corporates including Airtel, Vodafone, Ultratech Cement, Indian Cement, Tata Steel, etc. This is because they believe in our quality. All these corporate brands require hoardings and signage for their outdoor promotion. For this, they need the kind of inks which are sturdy and weather-proof. While most of other inks fade away just in three months period, we offer inks with two-year for solvent and three-year guarantee for UV in written when it comes to outdoor applications.
How do you see the competition gearing up in the Indian ink industry?
Quite a few ink manufacturers/suppliers are prone to duplicity. They copy the brand name and start selling their substandard inks in that copied brand. They even supply inks at a considerably cheaper rate. By doing so, they are not only playing with our brand image, but are also degrading their own reputation in a market which believes in them and took their products considering that they supply original stuff.
What is your supply-chain model?
For us, we don’t supply without advance payment irrespective of the order size. We are maintaining this trait so that people can’t let us down and remember that original quality stuff comes at a price. The market is already running slow, business has been slashed to almost half than what it was in the last year mainly because of the country-wide economic slowdown, and people are still awaiting their payments from the market.
Who all are there in your clientele?
Our inks go to distributors, wholesalers, printing machine sellers, media sellers, etc. We have inks for almost all the leading printhead brands according to their specifications. We have also got the box/bottle design patented for our branded inks. We are selling our inks to all across the country and now have also started supplying to our customers in Nepal.
How about setting up a plant here in India?
There is an urgent need to set up a plant for fulfilling the rapidly increasing demand. It will also help us bring down the soaring prices and help industry become more stabilised. But for all this, we are still at a planning stage and need some more time to reach out to a decisive level. As far as future is concerned, we see ourselves as the number two in the country’s rapidly increasing ink footprints.