Mr. Puneet Datta, Senior Director-PPP, Canon India, shares his experience with challenges of the pandemic, about innovative methods to serve customers in changed times and more.
The recent months have been tough for the global as well as the domestic industry. “At global level the markets in which Canon competes shrunk due to spread of COVID-19 in early parts of the year,” says Mr. Puneet Datta, Senior Director-PPP, Canon India, apprising PRESSIdeas of the changes and modifications adopted by Canon in the present significant altered environment. “Some of the markets recovered faster than expected in Q3 2020 and so globally Canon has modified its projections especially for profits thanks to the sales of full-size mirrorless cameras and inkjet printers for home segment. In India we saw similar trends. However the print volumes in our office printing space and commercial printing space have reduced significantly due to work from home adopted by majority of the large organisations and the continued lockdown of schools and colleges India. Though it was full of challenges, the present situation has also provided us with immense learning, which will always provide a framework to plan and execute our future business,” he adds.
For Canon, staying connected with both their customers and partners has been key in this lockdown period. “We utilised our investments in technology and digital infrastructure to stay connected with our customers and partners to ensure business continuity. We assured our end customers and partners that we are in this together. Our service personnel continued to provide services to essential service providers during this tough time,” says Puneet.
Canon’s service and support team did an incredible job during these times, as they went the extra mile to support the customers and ensured on-site services when required. Remote support by Canon engineers was also a delight for customers as it enabled them to operate without hiccups even in the challenging times.
Canon strengthened their service and sales during the recent slower months. “Canon India operations are deeply entrenched into the length and breadth of India. Our foothold is in various Indian cities with a strong customer base including Tier II & III Cities. Our flagship imagePRESS Series has yielded numerous installations across India before lockdown and continues to draw attention of the professional printing industry,” informs Puneet Datta.
There was definitely an impact on the printing industry and sales of machines during lockdown. However, Canon saw good momentum again Q3 2020 onwards and saw good customer purchase execution happening in Q4 2020 as well.
Adapting strategy to changed customer outlook
The pandemic has changed the consumer outlook in many ways and one of their focus areas has been to ensure business continuity amidst the turbulent times. Adapting to this mindset, Canon’s strategy has been to help customers to ‘DO MORE’ from each investment and further aiding the growth of printing industry in India. In this line, they launched the new entry level production Printer to the imagePRESS series – imagePRESS C165. “The newly indroduced imagePRESS C165 is designed to meet the varied range of requirements, whether it is for print shops, creative agencies or corporate offices,” says Puneet.
“As business today are undergoing turbulent times and in alignment with the market needs, we recently launched the latest addition to the imagePRESS series, the imagePRESS C165, which has been well received by our users. We will continue to partner with our customers to help them build their businesses with the use of state-of-the-art technologies and offering them business efficiency and increased profitability. Further, we are slated to launch new Series of Production Printing Products in 2021 to meet the upcoming demand in Digital printing segments,” he further adds.
With the exhibitions and shows postponing or getting cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, it is a major setback for the printing industry, thinks Puneet. “However, with virtual events becoming the new norm now, we can expect relevant platforms to stay connected with industry peers and potential customers. While these platforms may not have a similar impact as physical shows or exhibitions, but they will provide a good head start for sure,” he says. “In India however,” he opines, “virtual exhibitions have not fared that well due to various reasons. So we see that as India returns to normalcy, the exhibitions and road shows would start returning back albeit in smaller format.”
As the virus continues to spread throughout the world at a rapid pace, Canon focuses on how swiftly they can continue with new installations ensuring complete safety and security. Soon after the lockdown, they continued with contingency planning that helped them built every link into the value chain to ensure survival. “Besides, post lockdown, the period has given us the opportunity to re-look at the entire communication and collaboration process which has helped us to continue our businesses remotely. All this time we have been constantly in touch with our consumers and partners helping them to adjust to the new ways around business. As Canon operates in diversified markets and segments, we have seen good growth in certain segments which has reduced the impact from the printing segment,” explains Puneet.
Coping with the ‘new normal’ – by adapting
With COVID-19 continuing to cause uncertainty, Canon has adopted the concept of ‘new normal’ intensely across divisions. Their key strategy has been to focus towards resource optimization, and at the same time, to help businesses to look for operational efficiency, cost reduction, improved turnaround time and serviceability. “Besides, technology infrastructure plays a pivotal role for organizations to adapt to the new work environment and Canon’s business solutions are well equipped to help in achieving the desired objectives effectively,” emphasises Puneet.
Consumer and market trends during the COVID period
“As we know these are trying times and printing trends have always been different across various decades in the past. Now apart from technology, the adoption of said technology is different across geographies of the world and a lot of it is to do with the economy and IT advancement of the nation and the privacy laws prevailing in the said geography,” believes Puneet, and foresees, “Print technology that allows the user experience to be enriched and maybe blurs the boundary of print world and digital world will see far more adoption.”
He observes that Sales & Marketing approach has undergone striking changeover in lockdown era. As customers were comparatively less accessible physically so Canon adapted quickly & used digital marketing medium to reach their customers. For instance, they set up a live demonstration infrastructure at CTEC, Noida for customers to have one on one demos on Canon products. “It has worked well so far, however in Printing Industry, customers are used to touch & feel characteristic of Printing substrates/ Products and this requires adaptation from Customers as well,” says Puneet. He thinks, post Lockdown, mix era of digital & traditional Sales & Marketing Tools will be adopted by marketer, as digital marketing is also developed as an alternate option to reach customers. “Our sales teams have started travelling and meeting customers and providing them support wherever needed. We have also launched various indigenously grown software solutions that can really help customers in this time of disruption,” reveals Puneet. He expects that our industry would be picking up pace in the coming months as we emerge stronger from the pandemic. “We foresee that the consumption pattern especially in the FMCG segment will be strong driving force for the print industry. There will be a need to have faster turnarounds, less inventories, reduction in wastage of media and time, all of which could possibly lead to faster adoption and high demand of digital printing. Short run printing & localization of print requirements have also increased post COVID. Another key segment which will drive industry back to print requirement is Education, as we see School and Educational institutions gradually resuming in 2021. Collectively, this will bring Digital Printing requirement back to previous levels,” he says.
Revenue and profits targets of almost every major brand have been certainly affected due to COVID-19 and operations of Canon in India have been no exception. “The economy of the whole world is badly impacted, and the spending habits of consumer and customers will evolve as the economic situation improves globally. As with every economic setback, the printing industry especially gets impacted the most. However, we have seen higher adoption of Digital printing and solutions post the economic turnaround and COVID-19 should not be an exception. We expect slow and gradual recovery in India,” says Puneet.
Novel ways – remote management, webinars etc. to cater to customer demands
“In the past few months, our focus shifted early onto skilling up of our partners and staff. We immediately started using virtual trainings to our advantage and we could really skill up our ecosystem,” says Puneet on Canon’s adoption of novel ways to serve customers in changed times. They conducted a lot of webinars for their customers in various segments. They utilised technology to remotely support their consumers and customers. Besides, they created Online demonstration facility at their Technical Excellence Centre and used it extensively to demonstrate Canon products and technologies to the end customers. “This has helped the partners and the customers to gain confidence during these tough times,” he asserts.
He sees confidence of the industry and customers building up in recent weeks. “From this month, post starting of the vaccination for essential personnel in India, positivity has started to creep in. This coupled with less cases of infections have infused confidence in consumers and customers to start getting back to normalcy. Also, people have learnt to live with new normal situation and now are certain that this pandemic may not get over soon, so they need to move on with their plans with safety. However, many corporates are still opting to ‘working from home’ scenario. We see situation is getting to normalcy slowly and steadily. As per our estimate it will take another 6 months to come back to the new normal. If we have learnt something from this pandemic, it is that the situation could possibly never return to same old normal of pre-COVID era. There will a new normal for each business and that is the new normal that will be considered as the foundation from which growth strategies will be formed. Having said that, we strongly feel that digital printing will see boom in post covid era,” claims Puneet.
In 2020, the printing industry has witnessed a substantial increase in the adoption of innovative workflow management solutions that can enhance and optimise print operations for businesses. Organizations are willing to empower users to quickly adapt to the increasing demand for fast and safe information access through an easy-to-manage workflow automations solution. “We at Canon are working consistently to come up with solutions and products to take our Print 4.0 vision to the next level in the years to come,” concludes Mr. Puneet Datta.