In the middle of July, Manan Mehta bought the Epson EcoTank L3152 printer after doing some initial product research. The new purchase was made mainly for his four-year-old daughter who is currently studying from home.
“We’ve a lot of printing requirements as my kid is growing and approaching five years,” Mehta told Gadgets 360. “There are a lot of interactive activities that we want to do with her while staying indoors.”
The Mehta family has been using the printer quite actively since its arrival at their home last month. Sometimes, the printer is used for completing homework requirements of the kid, while in most other cases, it helps creating stuff including fun games such as ludo and sudoku that the family plays together.
“As homeschooling has started,” said Mehta, “we have a lot of things to print, and it is not convenient to go to a store every time because of the lockdown or maybe even in the unlock situation, we want to remain safe. So, that’s the key reason we’ve bought the printer.”
Mehta is amongst the customers in India who’ve purchased home printers since the national lockdown was imposed by the government on March 24. The top three players in the home printer market in the country, namely HP, Canon, and Epson, are seeing a notable increase in the demand for home printers.
“This can be attributed to the increased ambit of home printing needs — be it from the home learning segment or the work from home professionals and small and medium businesses (SMBs),” said Sunish Raghavan, Senior Director, Printing Systems, HP Greater India Market. “We are also seeing a consistent shift towards blended learning patterns that includes a mix of both digital and physical learning that is also driving home printing demand.”
Nishant Bansal, Senior Research Manager of the IPDS (Imaging, Printer, and Document Solutions) domain at IDC, echoed Raghavan’s views and added that while schools largely don’t mandate printouts, parents are wary of exposing their kids to too much screen time and hence taking hard copies of documents to reduce eye strain.
“For certain professionals, such as lawyers and chartered accountants (CAs) who must read through high-volume content, the uptake of home printers is higher as it is easier to read and review hard copies than soft-copies. A lot of scanning requirements for reimbursement claims and GST claims are also being done from home now by consumers,” Bansal pointed out.
According to an IDC report, the printers and peripherals market in India registered a year-over-year decline of 4.7 percent in the calendar year 2019 owing to weak consumer segment demand. The market is now seeing a positive sign through the increase in demand of home printers in the last few months.
“Even though it may be difficult to estimate, we foresee there may be an increase in demand by 1.5 to two times for home inkjet printers,” said Siva Kumar K, Senior General Manager – InkJet Printers, Epson India.
Aside from Epson, Canon is also estimating a double-digit growth in printer usage at home in the country.
C Sukumaran, Director, Consumer System Products Division and Imaging Communication Products Division, Canon India, told Gadgets 360 that alongside people started using home printers for their kids and professional purposes, there are some users who’re spending more time and effort in capturing their lockdown memories.
“We are [thus] expecting to see a rising in demand for photo printers this year,” he said.
Ink-tank continues to lead the market
At present, the demand is at peak for ink-tank printers that have Wi-Fi connectivity, supporting wireless printing. Experts believe that since ink-tank printers are more economical over laser and existing inkjet cartridge printers, along with higher page yield of printing per ink bottle, people are preferring them more against laserjet and traditional cartridge inkjet options.
Bansal of IDC said that while the overall inkjet printer market was flat in 2019 versus 2018, within the inkjet market, the ink-tank segment grew at seven percent year-over-year last year, while the ink cartridge segment declined by 19 percent year-over-year. This suggests that the earlier trend has continued in the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Kapil Khurana, an owner of Delhi-based retailer Srichand Computers, told Gadgets 360 that he’s currently selling 25 to 30 ink-tank printers a week on an average ever since the pandemic has started growing in the country. This has been increased from the 10-15 units sold earlier, he said.
Growth across online and offline channels
The retail market in India is indeed offline dominated so far. However, the growth of home printers demand isn’t limited to offline stores as several people are placing orders through online marketplaces as well.
Akshay Ahuja, Category Leader – Consumer Electronics, Amazon India, said Gadgets 360 that sellers on Amazon.in have seen a significant surge in demand for home printers since April, with two times increase in unit sales. Ink-tank and ink-advantage printers were the two categories seeing considerable uptake amongst customers on the e-commerce site.
“Apart from the metros, customers from smaller towns such as Ajnala in Punjab, Chandi in Bihar, Aspur in Rajasthan, and Baliapur in Jharkhand are shopping for home printers on Amazon.in,” said Ahuja.
Similar to Amazon, Flipkart is also seeing a spike in demand for home printers on its platform. A Flipkart spokesperson told Gadgets 360 that there has been a 75 percent increase in searches for various kinds of printers (inkjet, ink-tank, and lasers), especially wireless printers. The Walmart-backed marketplace has also seen two times increase in ink cartridge purchases during the lockdown.
“This increase in demand is being witnessed across metros such as Bengaluru and Mumbai, while South has seen a higher increase than other regions. Furthermore, an increasing number of consumers are opting for affordable payment constructs with one out of every four customers opting for a card offer or a no-cost EMI offer for printers, suggesting that affordability is important criteria for most buyers,” the spokesperson said.
Would growth help improve the overall printer market?
As people have shifted from carrying documents physically and putting them in a cloud storage as well as accessing them on their smartphones, printers saw a massive dip in interest from home buyers in the past few years. The latest trends, however, show that there are improvements on the demand front. Nevertheless, analysts believe that printer manufacturers would still see some negativity in the market.
“The surge in demand for home printers will help improve the overall market to some extent, but it might not be sufficient to fill the gap (by volume or value) created by a shortfall in demand for laser printers, primarily from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), corporates, and the government,” said IDC’s Bansal.
Printer companies including HP, Canon, and Epson also need to consider the evolving purchase behaviour of customers to bring appropriate models in the market. It has also been noticed that as e-commerce sites have chiefly seen an increase in demand from many small towns, there is a need to improve reach in terms of retail and after sales services in such regions.
“After sales service will be a critical parameter for customers going forward… The need of the hour is to ensure seamless and remote technical assistance to customers, increasing the brand loyalty amongst them,” said Sukumaran of Canon India.
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