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Printing Impressions-February 2006 Article
Printers Around the World

THINK A printer in Delhi, India, has different worries than a printer in Dallas? Think again! Although Dallas and Delhi may have different cultures, printers in Delhi have many of the same concerns as their counterparts in Dallas. Interestingly, eagerness to learn varies, not necessarily between Dallas and Delhi, but even within cities in the United States.

How do I know this? After more than 30 years as a printer, suffering all of the deadlines, panic and craziness common to this business, I became a consultant. Now I am having fun writing and speaking at seminars all over the U.S. and around the world.

The seminars usually feature a range of top industry experts, and the companies that I have worked with rate speakers on the educational value of their program content and discourage focusing on product promotion. For printers, these seminars are a great opportunity to get some valuable information and to exchange ideas.

In delivering seminars throughout America, the top concerns of printers everywhere are competition, pricing pressures, new technologies and more efficient workflows.

Business Development

Moreover, the big question that printers ask: “If I invest in a new technological solution, how do I develop the business and where can I get help?” Having been a printer myself, facing the same concerns, I was able to relate and bond with the U.S. audiences. The same held true when I began delivering seminars in Europe; similarities between U.S. printers and those in major European cities shouldn’t surprise anyone.

However, I thought a speaking assignment in Istanbul, Turkey, would be different. It straddles Asia and Europe, which contributes to making it one of the most interesting and exotic cities in the world. What would the printers be like there? Would they be years behind U.S. printers? Would they have the same interests? All of this and the language barrier played heavily on my mind.

As it turned out, many attendees spoke English and the simultaneous translators seemed to do a good job. At least the audience laughed at my jokes and, more importantly, didn’t laugh when I wasn’t telling a joke. I discovered that the seminar was like any I had delivered in the U.S., with the same level of interest, questions and concerns.

What proved to be most interesting was a visit to a local commercial printing operation. The plant, complete with offset presses and the latest digital presses including a Xerox iGen 3, looked like it could have been anywhere in the United States. The owner lamented how he wants to improve his workflow to help him grow and face the competitive pressures. Sound familiar? He also wanted help with business development, particularly new business opportunities like variable data printing.

Uncharted Territory

I didn’t know what to expect as I continued on my journey to South Africa, but Cape Town proved to be love at first sight. In addition to the breathtaking natural beauty, Cape Town is a very modern city with a solid infrastructure. The English language is prevalent, with a bit of a different dialect. And delivering seminars in both Cape Town and Durban were just like facing audiences in many places in America. Although there may be a slight lag in the adoption of some new technologies, the medium-sized commercial printers I spoke to were as up to date as their U.S. brethren. Once again, worries about pricing and competition resulted in a keen interest in adapting new technological solutions and how to use these solutions for business development.

Delivering seminars in Delhi and Mumbai (formally known as Bombay), India, were quite different, to say the least. The infrastructure left much to be desired. In fact, I didn’t see any major highways—even to Agra, which is a relatively short distance, but still a five-hour ride from Delhi. Yet Agra is a top tourist destination with one of the world’s most spectacular attractions, the Taj Mahal. Although Bangalore is said to have a more modern infrastructure, Delhi is the capital and it certainly didn’t make me feel like India was up to the standards of today’s modern world. Thus, I really didn’t know what to expect from the printers.

I knew that they had the ability to capitalize on abundant, inexpensive labor. But would they be interested in learning about new solutions and more efficient workflows? Not only did they, but I can truly say that my favorite audiences were in Delhi and Mumbai. The printers had an easy, friendly sense of humor with a huge appetite for learning and a quick responsiveness.

The funny thing is that they thought U.S. printers didn’t have to deal with the tough competition and pricing they faced. Of course, I set them straight. I didn’t visit any printing plants in India, so I am not sure if they are on par with U.S. printers.

My speaking tour continued to Shanghai, China. It is one of the most modern cities in the world, complete with a first-class infrastructure of roadways and high-speed public transportation. The new, ultra-modern Pudong Airport is about 18 miles from the city.

No problem; the Maglev, a high-speed train that literally floats on air using magnets, can whisk travelers to the city in about six to eight minutes. Once in Shaghai, you will see modern skyscrapers and fantastic shops with designer clothes that rival Fifth Avenue in New York. You won’t see local people wearing Mao jackets. The streets are crowded with people dressed just like in any American city.

There were Chinese and a group of Korean printers attending the Shanghai seminar, so my seminar had to be translated simultaneously into Chinese and Korean. Besides language, the culture difference was very evident in the audience’s polite reluctance to speak out or ask any questions. In fact, no hands were raised in response to usual speaker audience composition questions like how many commercial printers are in attendance, how many in-plants and so on. But make no mistake; this was a bright, attentive and eager-to-learn audience that was interested in implementing the latest technologies.

Although nowhere near the immense size of Shanghai, Singapore was also an impressive city, with a very responsive group of printers, some coming from Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia. Moreover, I had a wonderful seminar experience in Bangkok. All of which bears witness to the fact that Asia is most definitely a formidable, growing economic power eager to learn and to prosper.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here because you get my point. We are not alone; the world is full of printers like us who face the same problems we do. The key is that they are very eager to learn and take full advantage of the opportunities to do so. Hopefully, so do you.

Harry Waldman

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