Is printer demand surge shaping 2021 better for vendors?

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During the last one and half a year, India remained under a prolonged lockdown due to severe COVID-19 restrictions. This forced large enterprises, organisations and businesses to shut their offices and operate in work from home (WFH) mode. Surprisingly, even in this scenario, printer demand has continued to surge strongly this year so far.

According to an IDC report, India’s HCP market grew 38.5% Y-o-Y in Q1 and it further improved the performance in Q2 with 103.5% Y-o-Y growth in 2021.

Increase in printer demand in 2021
“In CY20, the HCP (hardcopy peripheral) market stood at 2.9 million units but for CY21 and CY22, the projections are 3.5 million and 3.0 million units respectively,” says Bani Johir, Senior Market Analyst – IPDS, IDC India.

The HCP market is recovering steadily from the prolonged pandemic and vendors have been able to make better of the situation adds Johir. She points out that the volume shipment and revenues of most of the vendors in 2021H1 may not be close to that in 2019 H1 but they are certainly better than that in 2020H1.

Consumer and SMB segment
Interestingly, it is the consumer and SMB segment that is driving the printer demands in India and not the enterprise segment. “In fact, 2021H1 grew by more than 60% over 2020H1 in (printers) volume shipment and about 43% in value. In terms of unit shipment, the Indian market saw strong demands from consumer/home and SMB segment,” says Johir.

Since late last year, there’s been a major shift towards ink tank printers within the inkjet segment compared to laser. “Owing to prolonged work from home and online classes for kids is driving significant printer demand particularly ink tank printers,” she points.

In Johir’s opinion, these demands from the SMB and home/consumer segment may compensate for the fall in demand from the enterprise segment in terms of volume.

Inkjet printers in high demand
IDC India data revealed that the inkjet printers continue to witness high demand from home users since schools/colleges and many offices are still closed. As the stock availability of inkjet printers improved, the category grew 41.5% Y-o-Y in CY20 Q4 and 56.2% Y-o-Y in CY21 Q1, the highest Y-o-Y growth since 2000 Q1.

While SOHOs, SMBs, and some medium-sized businesses have started operating from the office, most of the large corporates are still operating in work from home mode.

“This had led to reduced demand for laser printers and copiers. In FY20, the laser segment (including copiers) observed the sharpest Y-o-Y decline of 28.5% since 1997,” states Johir. The inkjet segment grew 71.9% Y-o-Y in Q2, 2021 as per the IDC report.

“Ink tank technology has witnessed a major growth this year. Ink tank printers are replacing laser printers in big way as they offer more prints and are cost efficient compared to laser printers,” says Siva Kumar, Epson India’s Senior GM – Inkjet Printers.

In terms of total prints, Kumar points out that an inkjet printer can print up to 6000 pages at a 12 paisa per page print cost but a laser can print up to 2000 pages. Not only the print cost of inkjet is far lesser than laser printers but also they are smaller, lighter and easier to maintain. On the other hand, laser printers are a bit expensive with costly cartridges and refilling challenges.

Growth in the printer market in India
During the first half of 2021, HP, Epson and Canon maintained their dominance among five vendors in the Indian market.

In Q1, 2021, HP topped the market with a 34.1% unit market share and achieved a 39.6% Y-o-Y growth in shipment. With a 30.4% unit market share Epson was the second dominant player and it registered 27.% Y-o-Y growth. While Canon stood at third spot with a 22.8% market share and recorded a 62.1% YoY growth.

(source – IDC )

Likewise, in Q2 2021, HP maintained its leadership position with a 36.3% unit market share and 148.3% Y-o-Y growth in shipment. While Epson with 29.2% unit market share was second and it achieved 103% Y-o-Y growth in shipment. Canon stood third with a 22.6% market share with 64.1% Y-o-Y growth in Q2, 2021.

(source – IDC)

In 2021 Q1, Epson sold 258,769 units of inkjet printers in India. It dominated the inkjet printer market (508,882 units) in India with a 50.85% market share. The total inkjet printer market size has increased from 325,857 units in 2020 Q1 to 508,882 units in 2021 Q1.

Further, Epson expects the market size of inkjet printers to grow to 400,000 units in 2021 Q2 against 231,530 units the same quarter the previous year.

Enterprise printer demand remains sluggish
According to Kumar, the ink tank printer market is showing a faster recovery this year compared to COVID’s first wave last year.

“Enterprise and office segment remained impacted even during COVID’s second wave, however work from home, remote working, e-learning and online education are among the key factors that have pushed printer demands in the consumer segement this year,” he explains.

Given these demands, Kumar expects the printer market in India to recover faster with incremental sales this year. The pandemic has started to show signs of slowing down considerably with massive vaccination drives across the country. And this helped authorities to lift some COVID-19 restrictions.

Because of that, there’s a high possibility that larger corporates and enterprises may reopen their offices by this year-end or early in 2022.

This scenario could further push printer demands in the enterprise and office segment. Instead of having a centralised network printing with one larger size laser printer, companies will buy smaller size inkjet printers for small groups of staff in offices to adhere to social distance norms, opines Kumar.

“As organisations open up offices, some short term spike in demand can be expected for laser copiers and printers before eventually stabilizing,” comments IDC’s Johir.

Certainly, the emerging demand pattern of printers indicates that vendors are dealing with the sluggish demand for enterprise printers, specifically laser printers.

The pandemic and prolonged lockdown also gave rise to the new concept of hybrid work environments.

“The concept has gained grounds especially with office remaining shut still but this has reduced the enterprise printer buying over the last year and a half. This has impacted the enterprise printer demand, specifically that of laser copiers and printers,” explains Johir.

2021 – A better year for printer vendors
For vendors, this year has been much better despite COVID-19’s second wave and prolonged lockdown in India compared to 2020. Globally, printer vendors and manufacturers suffered because of sluggish supply and other challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“From a supply perspective, almost all brands suffered from stock shortage since the pandemic hit globally in Jan ‘2020. The production facilities in China, Vietnam, the Philippines and others places still face shutdowns from time to time due to COVID restrictions,” informs Johir.

“Container availability for shipping is another challenge that vendors are facing at present. And that’s why containers are often rerouted before they finally reach Indian ports causing delayed in shipments,” she adds.

The supply situation has improved much since last year, the same period when India went under its first lockdown concludes Johir.

(Image source – Which)

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