‘By January 2019, we are aiming to launch new products targeting the laser segment’

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Satyajeet Satpathy

In the past few years, the printer industry has witnessed many major changes. Satyajeet Satpathy, Director of Inkjet Printers, SIDM & POS, Epson India, in an interaction with CRN’S, Rachana Jha, speaks about the emerging trends in the industry and Epson’s successful marketing strategy

Can you describe the printer industry and what are the current trends? What are your views on the future trends since printers are changing day by day?
The printer market and its consumers are constantly evolving. The major driver of the printer market is the continued need for low cost and affordable printing across the various segments that use printers. Due to the low CPP from Epson InkTank printers, more and more people are opting to print in color as it costs only 18p. Once the cost need is met, the consumer focus is on the products that have a larger connectivity offering. Consumers want to be able to connect their products via WiFi, Bluetooth and through their phones to make it a seamless experience regardless of which device they are using.

With people becoming more & more environment & cost conscious, there has been a constant change & improvement in technology in this respect. Customers are looking for products that are eco-friendly and have low power consumption. The success of our EcoTank printers, which use refillable ink tanks and consume a fraction of the power that erstwhile inkjet printers did is proof of this. Also, the quality of the final output has got better and better even as the cost of printing has become more and more affordable.

Do you see any difference in terms of printers in Indian market and outside market?
When compared to the global market, we see that India is still growing at a rate of 8.2% and it is an emerging market. As per 2018 Q2 end results, we are at number 1 and have grown at a rate of 55% GDP, which is exceptional. The Indian printer market is still emerging and will take some more time until it comes at par with overseas market.

If we talk about Indian market, what challenges do you face in printer industry?
As competition gets more aggressive in the InkTank space, we welcome it with the realization that it is helping the market expand. Inkjet InkTank printers will continue to eat into the less economical and less environmentally friendly cartridge based printers, (both Inkjet and Laser printers) and Epson will be at the forefront driving this change. We have been constantly evolving at Epson with our innovative products. We have small printers catering to office and home segments. Then we entered the mid segment and eventually into the high volume printing segment. We keep upgrading our products according to the demand, need from the customers, and we are geared up to take care of the innovations, which will cater to the market requirements.

The market is changing very quickly so how does the Epson keep itself as the leader and capture the market?
We keep innovating and come up with new products every six months targeting different geographical areas. We have divided the entire geography into three parts: metros, mini metros and tier 3-4 regions. People are well aware of Epson products in metros and they trust our products and solutions. Social media is also helping us reach out to customers, both in metros and mini metros. The challenge we face is in the tier 3-4 markets because not a lot of people know about the technology behind Epson printers. Our focus is to create awareness about our products in these regions. We have been conducting roadshows and other focused initiatives for our partners and customers. Epson has constantly pushed the boundaries of printing in terms of quality, convenience and affordability. We will continue to do so now more than ever. Be it printers for commercial use, office use or home use, Epson products will bring images alive in a convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly way.

How is your engagement with the partners in India?
Channel plays a vital role in Epson’s growth story, our long-term strategy involves working closely with selected partners who have a thorough understanding of how Epson products and technologies work. We invest regularly in various initiatives to empower and educate our channel partners. For new product launches, we organize demo sessions for our partners to ensure a better understanding of the products. It’s a continuous engagement with all the partners associated with us. We have a long-term association with 95% of our partners. Currently, we have more than 150 EAPs (Epson accredited partners) and 4000 resellers – ECCs (Epson certified channel partners) across India. We constantly conduct dealer meets and we have monthly, quarterly & annual incentive programs for our partners. We also have a web portal to be in touch with them constantly & share regular updates.

For your partners do you have any program?
We have been doing programs to motivate and support our partners by creating branding, training programs etc. We have been working very closely with over 1000 partners to build a strong partner eco-system and help them perform better consistently.

There are so many players in the market, how do you differentiate Epson from them?
We were the 1st to launch original Inktank printers in 2011 & Epson has more than 20 types of InkTank printers based on the customer’s requirement unlike the competition brands that have only 2-3 models. We are a pioneer in the inkjet category, because we are the only ones in the market to use advanced micro piezo technology which is the core technology used in the ink tank printers. Micro Piezo technology is the backbone of every Epson inkjet printing system. Since our printing systems form images by directly depositing microscopic droplets of ink on sheets of paper or other media, they generate virtually no waste ink, are far superior to current analog and laser printing systems in terms of the environment and efficiency. To differentiate ourselves from the market, we decided to rename Epson InkTank printers to EcoTank printers in 2018.

What verticals does Epson cater to?
We are presently catering to home segment, large and small offices and contribute to government printing as well.

How do you see this changing conversion the market?
Epson’s printers are categorized into three segments: Home, office and commercial segment. Earlier the industry trend was more towards business printing and office printing but off late, we are seeing a growing trend in the home printing segment as well. We have created an awareness among the masses since the time we have launched InkTank printers in 2011. Since then, there has been a drastic shift in the home printing solution as well as in the office segment. Offices using dot matrix printers and laser printers have also shifted to Inkjet printers as they help in reducing cost and are also environment friendly.

Coming back to home solutions, earlier we had 17-18% penetration with our Inkjet printers and now we have gone up to 25% and our focus on the home segment is increasing. It’s a slow process and there needs to be a change in perception that EcoTank printers are expensive & cartridge printers are cheaper. Epson is trying to penetrate deep into the masses and educate them about the newer technologies. Today we are offering the lowest cost per print in the market, which is just 7 paisa for b/w and 18 paisa for color. Slowly, the awareness is sinking in especially among school going kids and college students.

If we talk in terms of turnover and targets, can you help us with how much you have achieved?
Epson India has been growing exponentially and reached a turnover of nearly Rs. 1,664 crore in the financial year 2017. We have been growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 20 per cent and targeting a turnover of around ₹2,000 crore by March 2019. We are aiming for a turnover of over Rs. 900 crores in inkjet printers, led by a rise in demand from both home users and offices. We clocked business of Rs 760 crores from inkjet printers last year. We have grown our market share to 45.03 % cent from 42.08 %

Any upcoming product or development that you would like to mention?
We launched 5 new integrated InkTank printers in early2018. These printers cater to home and offices segment. In 2019, we are aiming to launch new products targeting the laser segment.

Where do you see Epson five years down the line?
We are constantly trying to drive the message of low cost, high value, high quality printing to all the various segments and the consequent benefits of InkTank printing. We intend to address all the printing needs of home, commercial and office whether low print volume or high print volume with EcoTank Printers and make Inkjet EcoTank Printers as the de facto technology replacing Ink Cartridge and Laser technology in India.

What is the plan for channel segment?
We have regular engagement activities with our channel partners. We are trying to boost our sales via retail segment. We are focusing on retail outlets across countries to take care of walk-in consumers and their queries. This will increase our sales, help us build a good rapport with customers and gain their trust.