ME Printer speaks to Som John, the General Manager and Director at Agfa about his company’s plans for 2018
How was 2017 for the company and what do you expect from 2018?
The year 2017 was an average year for us in terms of sales and business achievement. It was a year in which everyone was anxious to see what would happen in 2018, especially with the introduction of the VAT. Sales was a bit stagnant.
The year 2018, however, started very differently. We started with a good note. We launched a wide range of printers on the market. We launched the Anapurna H1650i 1.65mm wide Hybrid UV LED machine for the sign and display professionals.
During SGI, we also spoke about the new machine. Our prices are usually on a higher side and hence our machines cannot be compared with inferior-quality machines available on the market.
Is there a great influence of Chinese products on the market?
The market is definitely influenced by Chinese products and the market has also become very price sensitive now. This trend actually started in other Asian markets such as India and Pakistan, 2-3 years ago when everyone was talking about Chinese products and their prices. Now that is moving slowly into this market as well.
Our products are much better in terms of build quality, features, and performance. But to provide more value to the market, we are planning to come up with some promotional prices for some of our machines. And after we prove on the market that our machines are top notch, we may go back to the same pricing strategy. The promotions will be for the entire Middle East region.
Which products will you be launching on the market this year?
In 2018, at the Shanghai Show, we launched a new printer called Tacana 3.2 meter roll to roll machine. The main purpose was to compete with other such machines on the market. This is an economical printer because the investment from the companies will be on the lower side. We are glad that people at the event liked the machine and there were a number of enquiries about the machine.
We installed a high-end roll-to-roll LED machine this year called Agfa Jeti Ceres 3200, which is a 3.2-meter machine. This is for big volume productions and is priced at around $200,000. We have introduced some promotions on the machine in line with FESPA.
We also launched a textile machine at SGI, which was originally showcased at the Shanghai Show, called Avinci DX3200. The Avinci DX3200 dye-sublimation printer is designed primarily for the soft signage market. The 3.2m-wide machine enables users to create large-format soft signage prints at 1,440x540dpi. At FESPA 2018, Agfa Graphics will be launching the Jeti Tauro H3300 printer. With these machines, we plan to capture a good market share this year.
I believe your strategy for launching products in various markets is very different?
Correct. Out strategy with our products is very different. We usually launch the products in one market and then install it at one of the customers’ facilities. We then wait for the feedback from the market about the product, about the quality, reliability, and durability of the machine. Once we are satisfied with the outcome, we announced the machines in other global markets.
Which markets in the region do you currently focus on?
Our Dubai office handles the entire Middle East and Africa region and all the SAARC countries. We are targeting all these markets – Saudi is one of the biggest markets for us in the MEA region. Other markets have also started responding nicely, such as UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait. In Africa, French-speaking Africa is more supportive, since Agfa is a European company.
We have also had some installations in Kenya such as the Jeti Ceres. Congo and Uganda are also responding pretty well. We recently signed up a new partnership in Pakistan with GSS (Grapholine). In Dubai, we have tied up with Grapholine for the textile machines in the Middle East region.
What sort of trends is evolving in the inkjet industry especially?
The technology has kept on improving in the inkjet market, especially in the quality and the technology of print heads. Our printheads are mostly those from Konica Minolta in the Anapurna range. On our Jeti range, we use Ricoh Gen 5 heads. Many companies have started to use Kyocera heads also, especially in the Chinese machines.
We will be participating in most exhibitions this year. We are planning some red carpet events in June this year at our headquarters in Belgium. We will be inviting all our VIP clients and partners to Belgium to our state-of-the-art demo centre, where they will be able to see, feel, and experience our entire product range.