Power of freelancers in Indian print industry!

Printing industry is full of freelancers acting as a link between the print-buyers and the printers. They meet print-buyers and service them right from procuring the order (even design part) till the final delivery. On the other hand, they create business for the printers, supply them paper for the job, supervise the execution and then get it delivered to the print-buyers. There is a lot of trust involved between the freelancer and the printer... and none can afford to breach that out.

Freelancers in the printing industry? This might look surprising to some in the ever growing technological era, especially in today's well equipped printing houses which employ substantial number of qualified marketing staff on roll. But, still the system of freelancers has grown over the years. Let’s see how?

I remember having once read in one of the issues of British Printers (published in UK) that there was a freelancing company in London who were able to serve their set of clients so well that clients used to patronise them greatly and avoided dealing with printers directly. That freelancing company could expand so much that they had their own helicopter reaching out to printers situated in far off places but enjoying very competitive rates (obviously they could because of low overheads as compared to big London city printers). Apart from that, printers had no risk of job rejection because of being supervised by representatives of the said freelancing company.

In India too, perhaps there could of some of these reasons mentioned above where clients feel more secure in dealing with the individuals/companies who can give them efficient service, guide them technically well, offer them the latest technology and timely delivery. Contrary to that, the marketing person of a particular printing house may not offer everything as his press may have limited facilities. On the other hand, freelancer companies always have multiple numbers of printers on their panel and they also know the specialisation of each one of those including the cost/rates benefits. They can jolly well make use of those and offer the same to customers confidently.

Printers’ perspective...

In conversation with printers of Delhi and Mumbai, it is revealed that most printers feel comfortable to deal with freelancers as they save significantly on marketing efforts and with very little risk of jobs going bad or rejected. And very important factor is that freelancers themselves supply paper and as such printers need not invest, which otherwise is a costly preposition. As Amit Tara of Tara Art Printers puts it, “We give top most priority to the freelancers as they are coming to us with a lot of trust. Besides they give us regular business, from where our marketing personnel cannot reach. And we need to trust them for payment when they trust us with their set of clients.” He further told that he cannot recall even a single instance when the freelancer has not paid on time. Besides, he also shared that his father late SN Tara had also started as a freelancer and later established his own press.

Another freelancer-turned-printer Vinaay Bavejaa of Viba Press says that working with a freelancer has both positives and negatives attached. Talking about the benefits, Vinaay shared, “Freelancers supply paper for their jobs, which brings in a relief for printers and with the flow of jobs from freelancers we can utilise the machine’s idle hours. Also, they can provide better service to the clients as they do not need to worry about labour, infrastructure and other investments.” But, there is a downside too, he says, freelancer often give the clients competitive rates, which printers cannot afford to offer, thereby affecting the industry. As Deepak Chhiber, printing technologist puts it as regards to freelancing, “It incurs no investment in building, plant and machinery. The overhead costs are low and one can make use of the latest technology. Sky is the limit for turnover and there is no worry about capacity utilisation.”

The staggering numbers...

With a brief conversation amongst printers it was revealed that there could be around 5,000 freelancers operating in NCR region. These individuals not only cater to private or hospitality sectors like multinational clients but to Government sector as well. Taking a look into the rough figures mentioned above, it is estimated that there could be around one lakh people involved in this segment if we account for all over India and their contributions to the print volume may go significantly high.

In fact, this should not bring much surprise to this grand figure of freelancers. It is a very convenient career option as it is easy to operate in this manner, without having the need for any costly infrastructure. One just need an experience of few years as a marketing person with a printing house or as production executive with an ad agency and of course little bit of entrepreneurship with understanding of basic costing. Further helping hands do come from printing houses who generally can't afford to hire regular professional marketing staff. With moderate investment in the beginning, one can very easily take up this initiative and keep growing. If one talk to some of the established freelancers, it will reveal most of them started with a capital investment of few thousand rupees which they might have got at the time of quitting their regular jobs.

However, while speaking to Amila Singhvi, managing director, International Print-o-Pac, it was revealed that most of the freelancers handle small-time print buyers or they cater to clients where they have good interpersonal relationships. “We as a large organisation generally don’t prefer to accept those smaller jobs. Infact, bigger jobs like calendars, diaries or related to packaging etc attract excise duties, etc, so billing has to be done directly in the name of the client, she added. As a matter of fact, Amila revealed that they did cater to freelancers a few years ago but faced some payment issues, which were generally based on freelancer not getting their payments from their customers. “As of now, we do not have a system of catering to freelancers and I believe printers of large magnitude like us would also be doing the same,” she shared.

Nevertheless, this community of freelancers generally don’t like to be called freelancers but operate under the banner of some organisations like "...Graphics" or "....Communications" "...Advertising" or "...Marketing". Slowly but gradually, they make a mark for themselves and invest in good client-printer relationships. There are lot of such success stories spread all over the country, starting from North to deep South like Sivakasi and from East to west regions. They are and will always be an integral part of our printing industry. Today if an extensive survey is conducted, it will not be surprise to find that most of today’s big names as printers would have come to being, having started on freelancers pattern many years ago.

-SK Khurana

Freelancer companies always have multiple numbers of printers on their panel and they also know the specialisation of each one of those including the cost/rates benefits.
It is a very convenient career option as it is easy to operate in this manner, without having the need for any costly infrastructure. One just need an experience of few years as a marketing person with a printing house or as production executive with an ad agency and of course little bit of entrepreneurship with understanding of basic costing.
With moderate investment in the beginning, one can very easily take up this initiative and keep growing. If one talk to some of the established freelancers, it will reveal most of them started with a capital investment of few thousand rupees which they might have got at the time of quitting their regular jobs.

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