"Indigo manufactures all its printers and ink, critical components of the company's business, in Israel. It not only employs 3,000 people directly, but indirectly provides 9,000 jobs. If you multiply that by households, you'll reach 40,000 people whose livelihoods are earned from Indigo, 0.5% of Israel's population," Benny Landa told "Globes" editor-in-chief Hagai Golan at the "Globes"-Ernst & Young Israel Journeys Conference. Landa founded Indigo, which he sold to Hewlett Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and most recently founded Landa Nanographic Printing Ltd.
"HP acquired Indigo ten years ago," said Landa. "At the time, I told myself that I would leave the printing industry. 25 years is enough and I felt that I should invest in more important things, like health and energy. Even though I never intended to return to the printing industry, because of my DNA, ink is in my blood, and I could not control myself. I didn’t plan to return, but we had the key to all future printing -nanopigments. A few months ago, we launched a new technology, called nanography, which promises a second revolution in the digital printing industry."
Commenting on how many people Landa Nanographic Printing will employ at the plants it will establish, Landa said, "We hope to build several plants, at least one plant for the printers, and one for the ink. We launched the product in Germany a few months ago, and demonstrated many products - seven prototypes. We expected interest, but we didn’t expect to have sales. We received more than $1 billion in orders at one exhibition. What can you do? There's demand, so we must build plants to meet it."
"Globes": Aren't you afraid of investing in printing in the digital age?
Landa: "I know that everyone thinks that printing is yesterday's technology, and that there are iPods, iPhones, and so forth. But this industry, in which man prints on paper, has existed for 600 years, and man has communicated on paper for 5,000 years. The print industry is an $800 million a year industry, and out of this industry, only a small part - 15-20% - is for newspapers, the media, and magazines. All the rest is for daily commercial activity.
"Even if part of this disappears - books will certainly vanish, along with magazines, newspapers, and catalogues, marketing communications will not disappear, because people love it. There is something personal about paper. You can touch it, smell it, it has beauty and depth. An $800 billion market will take generations to vanish.'
Landa adds that the packaging market, which totals $312 billion a year, accounts for 40% of the printing market. "Everything in supermarkets and pharmacies will not disappear. No one is going to package cornflakes in an iPod or iPhone," he says.
I'm from the old generation who wanted to build an industry
"I don’t like exits," said Landa. "I think that there's a difference between the old generation and the new, and they see that I'm from the old generation who wanted to build an industry and not start something in order to sell it to someone. It pained me to sell Indigo. My condition was that HP would continue to develop the company in Israel, and continue manufacturing in Israel."
So why was the exit to HP all right?
"Because exits are made here too soon. You should build something that contributes to society and then you should sell and benefit. I have no problem with the sale of companies, but you should build a business and sell it at the start of the road and close the operations in Israel. I have nothing against entrepreneurs who seek foreign financing and support, but I think that it's unhealthy for the country to praise such early exits, which simply drain our strength."
Do you want Landa Nanographic Printing to go through the same process as Indigo: found the company, consolidate its business, and then sell it? Make an exit?
"I want to establish a big business, bigger than Indigo. A business that manufactures in Israel and exports from the country that will influence the economy. I think that there is no greater satisfaction than that. But don’t misunderstand me; I don’t criticize entrepreneurs who for one reason or another find it necessary to sell after a year, or two, or three. But in markets where this can be done, it is possible to build an industry in Israel for manufacturing and exports. I think that this should be the paramount goal of a start-up."
We need an educated country
You once had some harsh comments about Israel's education system. Have you had problems finding a sufficiently qualified workforce in Israel?
"The best there is. There's nothing like the Israeli worker, at least in high tech, which I know. There isn't this initiative or loyalty in America, where everybody is number one; that's its cultural core, that's individualism. The Japanese are smart and diligent. But Israelis work for a paramount goal; not just for the bank account, but to create something. There's a greater reason for life than just you. The power and desire to make your mark on the world, to change the world, to put Israel on the map - that is something that I know in no other country, and in my opinion this is what makes Israel a power as great as countries with oil. This is a true high quality resource. It's why Indigo is successful, and why I think that we'll succeed now."
In the past, you've been very critical about the non-integration of Arabs and haredim (ultra-orthodox) in the work force. Has anything changed?
"It's not that I don’t have criticism about either Arabs or haredim in the workforce. We're a country with few earners and big families, and this balance cannot go on. We must be a country with educated people, with education that everyone can contribute to society and receive an education, and I fear for a country in which a proportion of the population does not receive the basics - English, mathematics, physics, and studies that contribute to a modern society. We are not preparing this population for life in the modern world. Who will support them? This is a major concern."
What drives Benny Landa?
"I don’t know. I've had a constant gut feeling, for as long as I can remember, of panicking that I don’t have enough time, life is too short, and I won't be able to do what I want. As you mature, you panic more and more. There is so much for me to do and I don’t have enough time. I'd interview people for Indigo and ask them about their hobbies. The people whose eyes lit up, I would tell them, 'Thank you very much. Goodbye. Next candidate please.' Because the person who earns his livelihood from the thing that he loves the most, which fills him with satisfaction, these are the people who are living their dreams. I had something like that."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 28, 2012
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