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What is the print-packaging spend in the USD 2.1-trillion Indian economy? - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

06 January 2018

As we tiptoe into 2018, the question the Sunday Column poses: Are we focusing on 2% rather than on the 98%? If a print firm CEO looks at the USD 2.1 trillion Indian economy, and the BSE market cap of USD500 billion, the question to ask is: if the print and packaging ad expenditure is about 15% (on the higher side) and 10% (on the lower side) are we doing enough?

Or as a company have we become small, competitive and status quoist? Have we ceased thinking afresh? Are we spending too much time fighting each other instead of growing? Or obeying every single diktat of customers? Is our growth governed by zero-sum processes rather than brand building and innovations?

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What’s in store for 2018?

While it’s nice to predict what’s in store in the year ahead, let's look at what transpired in 2017.
 
In the sheetfed segment, there were approximately 75 installations of new presses, most with advanced features. In the digital print segment, PrintWeek India estimates installation of around 960 units of colour digital presses in 2016-17, plus another 240 installations of mono digital presses during the same time.
 
The two major shows in India, PrintPack India in February dispelled the gloom in the post-demon months; while Pamex, towards the end of 2017 did the same with GST. There were deals and sales galore. Market sentiments are good.
 
And I expect 2018 to be a tad better than 2017.

Looking back, looking forward

Yesterday's news was 6.5% growth. So, the Indian economy will see its slowest growth pace in the last four years.
 
CG Ramakrishnan, CEO at TechNova says, “Structurally, India growth story will play out for the next decade. Many of the fundamentals of the economy are emerging towards a positive shape sooner. When I look at the macroeconomics in terms of growth rate, many of us are not happy with the 6.5% number because our expectations have gone up to 7.5%, and everything in the world is relative. So, 6.5% is an absolute growth. If you compare it on its own, it will look good. When you compare 6.5% with the countries that are growing at 2%, then it is fantastic. Today when you compare it with your potential of 8-8.5% then it is not good.”
 
The finance minister said the deceleration reflected lower growth in the industry and the services sectors, due to a number of factors including structural, external, fiscal and monetary factors. But there is no doubt that it was also due to the twin policy blows of demonetisation and hasty implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).
 
Those in the manufacturing and supply of equipment for the Indian printing industry believe that, as for the rest for the country, demonetisation did slow down the business in general, primarily due to the shortage of available funds for purchases. Almost everyone PrintWeek India has spoken to says, GST has "simplified the taxation process, and is a good fit for the growth in the economy".
 
This brings us to the point where the GDP will be used as a benchmark for indices in the Union Budget 2018, a few days away.

Beware: Union budgets are taxing times, too. So? What do you expect the Union Budget to be like? Do let me know at noel@haymarketsac.com

 

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We live in binary times

As the legendary David Trott said, Binary is a way of simplifying things down to their most basic.

Growth or no growth.

Black or white.

Pro PM or Anti PM.

Offset or digital.

Humans or machines.

No subtleties, just powerful, simple clarity.

Fast, easy decision.

Then quickly move on to the next big bang decision on TV.

That’s why computers work so fast.

Every decision is 0 or 1, that’s it.

But is it possible for us to use that kind of brutal reductionism for what we do?

My answer is a resounding, no.

As our world of print states, life isn't black and white. It has many shades of grey.

Charles Wigley, the chairman of BBH Asia Pacific, said, "When the internet came along, TV didn't immediately die, as every new-age media guru proclaimed it would. In fact, most media plans now feature a strong combination of the two. Just as even earlier, video recorders didn't destroy the appeal of going to the cinema with friends. Nor did the arrival of McDonald's in Asia signify that societies here had suddenly become Westernised."

If you want to succeed in 2018, stop thinking binary.

Simply because it is dangerously simplistic.


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Ten non-binary print mantras for 2018

Think collaboratively with your customers. Do not think competitively. Co-create, don’t be the boss nor the minion. Be ready to come up with new ideas.

Think 10% of staff evolution. Do have a plan. Who is mentoring the next generation in your organisation? Who is doing the junior work? Remember: print firms need a plan which enables staff to evolve. You cannot leave it to AI (artificial intelligence).

Think about interacting with at least one professional from another industry.

Think about following the rules. To do that ensure not just you but even your staff knows what are the latest FSSAI norms.

Think about disruption. Today, luxury materials are the new frontier. Disruptive print firms are seeking to create alternatives to traditional items or innovating. Are you? Remember: being savvy also means having the right judgment.

Think FMCG. Even today, digital disruption has been slower to impact packaged goods companies than other sectors. A majority of FMCG brands are still sold offline, in familiar distribution, at familiar price points. However, a cluster of direct to consumer propositions have sprung up in recent months to challenge that orthodoxy. Are you ready? As and when the shift happens?

Think women. As a market, women represent an opportunity bigger than China and India put together, controlling USD20 trillion in consumer spending. The aesthetics and use of technology for this powerful group (50% of the buying power on your planet) are very very different.

Think small. A wave of new, small companies is offering premium beauty, personal care, and groceries at a fraction of the cost of branded equivalents. Travel to Erode or Salem; and even Vapi and Valsad, you will see these products. Ask yourself the question: who has created the print for these companies?

Think millennial. Today, the millennials are reputed to be budget-conscious travellers. But this generation is rapidly shedding its gap-year lifestyle. Will the travel industry grow up with them? What does it mean for brands? The next generation of adults will soon command significant disposable income: USD1.4 trillion in annual spending in the United States alone by 2020. Expect millennials’ taste to evolve beyond hostel-hopping and budget flights. All this is going to change print and packaging.

Think wellness and stay ahead of the game. Being aligned with health and wellbeing is a must — particularly for women and younger generations. What it means for brands: the tide for health is turning and personal care brands are aiming not to be left behind. As nearly all aspects of consumer life get wrapped into wellness - food, beauty, travel. The new brands are ready to move into this area.

So, what are your predictions for 2018? Do let me know at noel@haymarketsac.com

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