Pre-media industry is making good progress

The advantage of pre-media stems from adopting advanced workflows and technology, says Sethunath Padmanabhan of Reproflex3

14 Nov 2023 | By Ramu Ramanathan

The pre-media business is facing global challenges with margins coming under pressure due to its labour-intensive nature, but the pre-media industry in India is experiencing positive growth

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): A lot of brands are now outsourcing their designing, labouring requirements to pre-media specialists now, especially in India. What, according to you, is the reason for this surge in the importance of pre-media in publication as well as packaging? Particularly your solutions?
Sethunath Padmanabhan (SP):
A decade ago, pre-media was focused on providing artwork and pre-press services. However, the scenario has since evolved as brand procurement teams seek cost efficiencies in graphics reproduction. This shift led to the transition of adaptive works to pre-media, which has now gained a significant advantage in ecommerce CGI capabilities. Pre-media companies excel in generating consistent and scalable outputs, making them well-suited for eCommerce needs. Their advantage stems from adopting advanced workflows and technology, while agencies tended to invest more in creative talent during that time.

RR: In a webinar hosted by PrintWeek you said, the emergence of specialist wings for packaging graphic creation within pre-media companies is a positive development that offers brand owners better integration of graphic development and reproduction. How?
Over the last two decades, there has been significant consolidation in the global pre-media market, with notable investments from private equity funds.

RR: Because of brand owners?
Yes, as mentioned earlier, brand owners are seeking both speed and cost efficiency in their graphic development and reproduction processes, which has driven pre-media companies to adopt automation and explore outsourcing opportunities. India has emerged as a major offshoring destination for pre-media services due to its skilled workforce, language proficiency, and efficient management practices. Many global pre-media companies now have offshoring centres in India to capitalise on these advantages.

RR: How lucrative is the business?
The pre-media business is facing global challenges with margins coming under pressure due to its labour-intensive nature. However, the pre-media industry in India is experiencing positive growth and making good progress. Despite this, there are still challenges to address, such as the escalation of costs year-on-year and the issue of low employee retention.

RR: How does one ensure the continued success and growth of the pre-media industry in India?
It is essential for institutes to not only focus on teaching software and technical skills but also emphasise the importance of professional behaviour and ethics to the students. This will create a more skilled and reliable workforce, further increasing the attractiveness of the pre-media business in the country and opening up opportunities for more talented individuals.

RR: Should the focus be on the domestic market?
Firms that focus on the Indian market may face difficulties in maintaining healthy margins due to the competitive landscape. To sustain healthy profits, pre-media companies may need to diversify their services and expand their horizons. This can include offering additional services such as CGI, design, retail, and more, which can provide value-added services and attract higher-margin projects.

RR: What is the technology at the core of any pre-media company that makes it successful?
At the core of any successful pre-media company is a combination of technology that ensures efficiency, productivity, and high-quality output. While Adobe software remains a fundamental requirement for various graphic design and pre-press tasks, investing in advanced software and workflows is crucial for staying competitive in the rapidly evolving pre-media landscape.

RR: There are a slew of small and big software companies introducing new pre-media software every day, what does one choose?
When considering which pre-media software to buy, several factors like, scope of work, client base, workforce capability, return on investment, scalability, etc should be taken into account.

RR: How does one know what to buy?
To make an informed decision, pre-media companies should conduct thorough research, explore software options, and potentially take advantage of trial versions or demonstrations to evaluate how well each software aligns with their specific needs and goals. Engaging with software providers and seeking advice from industry experts can also be beneficial in making the right software purchase that enhances the company's efficiency, productivity, and overall success.

RR: How does one solve the proofing dilemma? Brands ask for print approvals on the process before the commercial job, but this is time and resource intensive. How does a pre-media company or convertor engage with a brand on a journey that helps them approve a digital proof/digitally-produced proof?
It is beneficial for everyone involved to achieve greater predictability before the job is sent to press. However, it's essential to determine the extent to which predictability can be achieved. With the advancements in colour management technologies offered by GMG, Oris, and others, and the use of an Epson printer, it is now possible to produce highly accurate proofs on paper. While various solutions exist for on-substrate proofing, I personally prefer using fingerprint profile development and GMG substrate Epson prints as the benchmark, as this approach is more scientifically grounded compared to other methods.

RR: Software on cloud. Is it the new normal? Benefits of cloud management? Data security?
Cloud-based software is rapidly becoming the new standard, and this trend is also evident in the pre-media industry. Working on the cloud offers several benefits. With improved connectivity, on-premises servers are becoming less necessary, allowing prepress specialists to focus on their core tasks without the burden of managing servers. Cloud-based solutions provide 24/7 accessibility, enabling remote work and seamless collaboration across locations. Additionally, cloud services are cost-effective and scalable, allowing businesses to adjust resources based on demand. Cloud providers prioritise data security, implementing robust encryption and access controls to protect sensitive information. Regular automatic updates ensure users have access to the latest features and security improvements. Overall, cloud management offers greater efficiency, global integration, and enhanced data security for pre-media companies and related industries.

RR: Cloud, big data and the internet of things, are they going to change the way we print today?
Indeed, the convergence of cloud computing, big data, and the internet of things (IoT) is set to revolutionise the print industry. The transition is inevitable, and print institutes must place special emphasis on Technology in Print to stay relevant in the changing landscape.

RR: What will the impact of these technologies be?
Basically, twofold. Firstly, they will drive efficiency in print production and management processes. Cloud-based solutions will enable seamless collaboration, remote access, and streamlined workflows, leading to greater productivity and reduced operational costs. Big data analytics will provide valuable insights into consumer preferences, market trends, and print performance, empowering businesses to make data-driven decisions and optimize their print strategies.

RR: And secondly …
The integration of print with cloud, big data, and IoT will enable a new era of interactive and personalized print products. Printed materials will be embedded with smart tags and sensors, allowing them to communicate with other digital mediums such as mobile devices and websites. This integration will revolutionise marketing communication, enabling targeted and dynamic content delivery to consumers. Additionally, it will enhance product traceability, sustainability efforts, and compliance tracking, as printed materials can carry relevant data throughout their lifecycle.

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