Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Russian office printing market: Current state, trends and prospects

The Russian printing services market is currently standing at the crossroads and facing fundamental changes. But the main trends and prospects for the next few years can be identified.

Alexey Sukhorukov / RIA Novosti

Suppliers divided

Vendors are behaving differently. Some companies like HP, Canon, Epson and Xerox have completely left the Russian market, retaining a minimal legal representation to fulfill their obligations to the clients and partners. Other manufacturers went into hibernation mode: they did not shut down their offices but suspended all activities, including the delivery of printing equipment.

And finally, there are three vendors that continue working on the market, supply equipment and accessories, and provide warranty support. There are also companies that do not manufacture their own equipment but bring it from abroad and sell under their own brands.

Import substitution in printing is unsuccessful because of its economic unviability and the fact that it is impossible to manufacture printers without the consent of the printing technology patent holders.

Trends

The market profile shows the following four key trends:

Parallel imports

There are 2-3 vendors that currently operate in Russia, but they cannot meet the needs of all companies. Therefore, parallel import schemes are being actively used for the products of the manufacturers that left the market, and will probably continue to develop.

Focus on the East

The Western vendors (HP, Canon, Xerox, Brother, Kyocera) are currently updating their model range. As before, they develop it for a concrete regional market, such as the Asian, American, European markets, etc. If earlier Russia received only European models with relevant accessories, many companies engaged in parallel imports now prefer models from the Asian markets due to their lower cost and more reliable logistics. New models from the Asian markets will use accessories that have not been represented in Russia before.

Changes in warranty liability system

Suppliers set terms of warranty on their own; in the future, they might become more standardized and will resemble the former warranty programs provided by manufacturers.

The counterfeit problem

Amidst the absence of manufacturers and experts that could assess products authenticity, we see the growing amount of counterfeit consumables offered to customers, including as part of the tender process. Consumers face new challenges while picking the product, often choosing counterfeits due to their lower prices, and then find themselves in awkward situations such as handling cartridges with printing defects.

Without effective legislation and mechanisms to regulate this sector, customers will switch to using compatible consumables to avoid overpaying for fakes.

The emphasis is expected to be made on print outsourcing services as the risk of investing in unknown consumables and equipment is too high. Outsourcing will allow customers to minimize all difficulties, with vendors handling them instead.

Prospects: Outsourcing, cloud services and print management software

In the next 3-5 years, print outsourcing companies may face a whole lot of challenges and opportunities. Those that show expertise and offer reliable solutions for smooth operation of printing equipment will have a chance to carve out a niche, becoming a partner for many major customers. Guarantees of smooth operation of equipment used in long-term projects as well as quality service may be the key to success.

Yet, there is a slowdown in the transition to cloud environments and the overall impact of technology on the commercial printing market. This is mostly due to the increasing interest in data localization and boosting information security, which make options for paper and local IT environments data storage more relevant.

There is also poor availability of software for managing corporate printing tasks; hence the need for developing domestic solutions.

Most western manufacturers had their own products present in the Russian market, such as Canon uniFLOW, HP Access Control, HP Advance, and others. Independent software products were also featured, including YSoft SafeQ.

Here, we observe a situation that is fairly similar to hardware import substitution: there are solutions that are called Russian, but the release of fully functional software products of this class poses great risks due to the possibility of losing access to leading vendors’ software platforms.

Therefore, certain fancy solutions may become unavailable, such as printing with IDs, when users swipe their identification cards onto an MFP to choose options through a personal menu with necessary functions and documents submitted for printing.

Now we have either to seek these solutions in friendly countries – and these solutions do exist – or use products from vendors that are displaying loyal attitude to Russia so far and are ready for further cooperation.

* * *

Although we see many changes occurring in the corporate printing market, those appear fairly beneficial for Russia as they provide the opportunity for using best quality equipment and consumables from around the globe, without  overpaying for western vendors’ exclusive supply rights.

By Kirill Rubtsov, Founder and Commercial Director, SPRINT

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