PhotoXport, a leading British supplier of printing supplies for the global photographic and specialist print industries, has recently confirmed exclusive UK distribution for LayFlat. A groundbreaking solution for premium book binding that is taking the industry by storm. We spent a little time with Djawad Khorosh, CEO of LayFlat to learn a little more about the company, its products and why PhotoXport makes for the perfect fit as an official reseller within the company’s rapid expansion.
Q: Hi, Djawad. Please tell us where we find you at the time of this interview, (mid-September 2023).
Djawad: Hello, and thank you for the call. I have been travelling a great deal throughout this year as the LayFlat brand continues to grow. As we speak, I am in Spain and will be moving towards Porto; then to Madrid for an exhibition. Then, it’s off to Valencia before I head off to deliver training in Paris.
Q: So, lots of travelling!
D: Yes. Although, I like travelling, while mixing business with personal time to experience the locations I find myself in. Particularly in the summer. From October, I will be travelling to Belgrade for more exhibitions and to the US, (Atlanta) before returning to China. I really want to get to know people, face-to-face. At least, to have the opportunity to get together after such a long time since the COVID situation. So many people could not meet and interactions were purely conducted over Zoom, Google and Teams. It is okay, but it’s just not the same as real human interaction.
Q: Indeed. Please tell us a little about the business and its beginnings.
A: As you might expect from the name, the business concentrates on the classic LayFlat industry. That is where the business and the people within it are from. LayFlat is a sister organisation of the company, Imaging Solutions, which is in turn, the inventor of the classic lay flat market. Imaging Solutions have produced products that have set the benchmark with single-sided print, creased folding and hot melted glue in industrial automated standard. These products can be found traditionally in the wedding industry. It’s usually a manual process with double-sided cardboard with two sides of pressure pressure-sensitive or heat-sensitive gum sheet. From there, you will build up your 10 or 20-sheet wedding album. This is where the ‘regular’ lay-flat books originated.
LayFlat is a sister organisation of the company, Imaging Solutions, who are in turn, the inventor of the classic lay flat market.
Q: If Imaging Solutions invented the category, how did that lead to the current business model?
A: It was Imaging Solutions that automated the process and that happened in line with the Indigo press coming into the market. This affected the photo segment as photo books became more accessible and affordable, although the quality wasn’t great and it was still a manual process. This was where the industry needed to be improved. In combination with Fujifilm, we designed a machine to make photo books automatically and this was an industry first. With LayFlat.com, we changed the entire concept of the Imaging Solutions, whose model was designed to sell directly to ‘the’ large labs with direct service, direct support, and a price to match. This offered great reliability, and as a result, you’ll find the solutions in all major labs, such as Harrier, Cewe, Graphi Studio etc. From there, our goal was to offer a model to introduce the same technology and quality to the other areas of the print market.
Q: Please explain more. How would you define this customer base and how have you approached the delivery of this?
A: Essentially, the smaller targets are made up from the independent or small chain labs, where productivity would look like 20-30 books per day. These would typically be high street facilities, whereas the middle tier is made up from the pro-lab sector, where productivity and quality are likely to be a little higher. The direct sales/service model didn’t work with these customers as the cost was disproportionate to the value of the new products we had produced to suit their needs.
Q: And how did you go about developing these products?
A: We were quite aggressive in our approach. We came from a position of authority and knew how to manufacture high-end products for the mass market and had been doing so in our own facilities in India and China for some time. We have had many years of developing and building top-quality printing and bookbinding systems. This allowed us to identify the exact needs of the product that are now serving the lower volume sectors, but with the same trusted, reliable commitment as our larger clients enjoy. Our goal is to be a ‘one stop shop’ for our customers and for our partners. We want to be like one big family instead of just entrepreneurs selling to each other. The products have been selling well across India and the southern part of the world. We’re now making our moves in the European market and it’s very exciting.
Q: Can you please give us a snapshot of the range that LayFlat is currently producing?
A: Of course. We have considered the complete, end to end workflow for the types of customers and applications we are catering for. These are all based on the market-leading technologies and solutions that have been tried and tested by Imaging Solutions over the years and are successfully driving businesses across the globe. These include the range of LayFlat bookbinding products, which are the bedrock of the company. There are a number of products in the range, including the LF 1000 All-in MAX, which is a fully automated book block system which can produce LayFlat book blocks from single sheets. An all-in-one machine, the LF 1000 All-In Max includes a creaser and a folder and makes books by glueing papers back-to-back as well as inserting cardboard in between sheets. It’s a revolutionary machine.
The LayFlat range includes market-leading, patented technologies that have been developed to ensure a reliable workflow, great value and unbeatable results.
Then, we have our V-Shape LayFlat Binding range, which include an innovative patented technology. Our V-Shape LayFlat Binding has been developed for duplex prints, (double-sided printed sheets) and the technology accurately binds the duplex prints with utmost precision, generating a true LayFlat look when the book is opened. These products are complemented by our bespoke casing-in, book press, coating, folding, creasing and lamination products, which are all compatible and make for a robust and reliable overall business solution for a broad range of businesses and applications.
Q: You are developing a reseller network across the globe for the LayFlat business. How does this look for the UK and for the rest of Europe?
A: We’ve been very careful in selecting our European network. It’s critical that the teams we work with have a great deal of experience in the market and have the skill and dedication to match our own. We work closely with our partners, offering high levels of training, which includes first-hand experience of working on an installation. This is critical for a level of understanding both the products and the client’s needs from the outset.
Q: And please describe how you have aligned with PhotoXport in the UK.
A: Our association with PhotoXport is really very exciting. Derek, (Fieldhouse, Managing Director) is known in the traditional photo industry. That’s actually where the relationship was born. A referral from another trusted partner who explained that, if we need someone to represent LayFlat in the UK, he was the guy to meet. With this in mind, I went along to the Photography Show exhibition in Birmingham last year and we met for the first time. There was no pressure. No pressure on either side and from there, we supported PhotoXport with sampling and to create a test centre. Naturally, his customers liked the solution and orders followed. It has quickly become the perfect relationship, much in the way that we like to do business. It’s more like a friendship and a family than a business relationship in many ways.
Derek and the team at PhotoXport have photo-printing DNA in their blood, and they understand that there is a significant potential market outside of the traditional photo sector.
Q: And where do you see the opportunities for LayFlat in the UK and European markets?
A: LayFlat is a photo product. That’s where its DNA originates. Derek and the team at PhotoXport have this DNA in their blood and they understand that there is a significant potential market outside of the traditional photo sector. The future growth is in the commercial printing market. We have the door open and they’re going to keep pushing in that direction. The intention now is to make sure that these more affordable solutions and, ultimately, more affordable books are available to the end user and for a vast range of applications. The solutions we are producing are perfect for lower volume installations and therefore, open up endless opportunities for short-run commercial applications, such as car dealerships, product launches and other marketing activities, alongside individual products. We are excited to see where PhotoXport takes the business.