“Keep a healthy approach to business” - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Unexpected challenges can come from any quarter. Relying solely on low-profit margin jobs can be a risky strategy for print-packaging companies, Sheena Parikh, joint managing director of TechNova, tells Noel D’Cunha in this interaction. Being different, being agile and providing a bouquet of products is the 2023 mantra.

14 May 2023 | By Noel D'Cunha

Company update – an update on the last 12 months? Are we back to pre-Covid-19 levels?
2022-23 marked a year of revival for the print industry as all segments returned to pre-Covid levels. While packaging has emerged as the growth engine, digital print technology has become the preferred choice for short runs and personalisation in commercial printing. The publication segment has also experienced a surge in domestic and export jobs. Further, we see a significant demand for environment-friendly green products. TechNova’s efforts and resources are fully aligned with these trends.

Challenges, if any?
The industry still faces significant challenges, including the rising cost of raw materials, persistent supply chain disruptions and geopolitical uncertainties. These challenges are expected to continue in FY 2023-24. Despite these challenges, we remain committed to meeting the evolving needs of our customers.

We have attended a few training sessions for commercial and wide-format print service providers about entering the packaging segment. Do we have the data and trends that can prove packaging business is an industry well worth exploring? India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. Currently the fifth largest sector of India’s economy, packaging is growing at a CAGR of 12% to 15%. This growth is expected to drive the demand for packaged consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and other products, creating opportunities for packaging companies.

The Indian government’s emphasis on making in India has led to increased investment in the manufacturing sector, which, in turn, is driving demand for packaging solutions. Further, the adoption of digital printing technology is increasing, enabling print service providers to enter the packaging segment more easily and cost-effectively.

Lastly, a growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions is driven by increasing awareness of environmental concerns and regulations. This presents an opportunity for print service providers to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge by offering sustainable packaging options.

Can you share an example of your customer diversifying/ entering into commercial printing, packaging or labels, after seeing your kit in action?
We have many such cases. Recently, a large flexo label firm acquired the HP Indigo 6K digital printer after seeing it live in action at our TOUCH Centre As per our understanding, they are doing exceedingly well.

Is social media affecting the print and packaging industry? What’s the impact on the printing and packaging business?
With the rise of social media platforms, many businesses have shifted their advertising and marketing efforts to digital platforms. These platforms offer a new way to reach the target audience, allowing businesses to deliver personalised, targeted content directly to consumers. This has impacted the need for mass-produced print materials.

However, despite the impact of social media on the print and packaging industry, many products still require printed packaging, such as food products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products. Moreover, some businesses still prefer to use print advertising materials for certain types of promotions, such as trade shows and conferences. The industry has adapted to these changes by offering more personalised and innovative packaging solutions. Printing is the only medium that invokes all five senses, giving the consumer a unique experience.

Importance of understanding the packaging market - what should one look for?

  • Understanding the packaging market:
    It’s important to thoroughly understand the packaging industry, including the different types of packaging materials, packaging styles and printing processes.
  • Quality manufacturing:
    Unlike other printing types, packaging requires a high level of precision and quality in manufacturing. This includes factors like accurate cutting, precise folding and gluing, and consistent ink coverage.
  • Digital package printing:
    Digital printing technology has transformed the packaging industry, making it easier and more cost-effective to produce small runs of customized packaging products.
  • Training and education:
    It is essential to have knowledgeable and well-trained sales, production and customer service personnel. This includes training in areas like colour management, substrate selection and finishing techniques.
  • Regulatory compliance:
    Packaging is subject to a wide range of regulations and standards, including requirements for food safety, environmental sustainability and product labelling. It’s important to stay up-to-date on these regulations and ensure your packaging products comply with all relevant standards.

Most of the CEO’s energy is focused on taxes. How does one try to find one focused on the business? 
To find a CEO who is more focused on the business, you could look for someone with a track record of successfully growing and developing businesses and someone who is passionate about their industry. 

Any learnings from CEOs in other parts of the world? 
It’s difficult to generalise about CEOs in other parts of the world, as there are many different management styles and approaches to business.

Any learnings from CEOs in other parts of the world? Do they also micro-manage their business as much as Indian print and packaging CEOs?
As for micro-management, it’s important for a CEO to strike a balance between being hands-on and giving their employees the autonomy to make their own decisions. I feel, successful CEOs understand the importance of delegating tasks and responsibilities to their team members and empowering them to make decisions that benefit the company as a whole.

Most CEOs of print-packaging companies who I meet and talk about growth but also say keeping the machines running with wafer-then or no-margin jobs is essential. Isn’t it a risky strategy – a low-profit margin leaves little room for error and may struggle to sustain itself if it encounters unexpected challenges or market downturns?
Keep a healthy approach to business. Relying solely on low-profit margin jobs can be a risky strategy for print-packaging companies. If unexpected challenges or market downturns occur, such as, changes in consumer behaviour or new technology that disrupts the industry, the low-profit margin jobs may not be enough to sustain the business.

Therefore, it’s important for print-packaging companies to diversify their portfolio and explore higher-profit margin jobs or alternative revenue streams. By doing so, they can mitigate risk and ensure long-term sustainability. Optimising operational efficiency and minimising waste is essential to increase profitability and maintain a competitive edge.

The number of levels in a factory almost always directly correlates to more bottlenecks. One simple parameter everyone should follow in their factory that can benefit our audience?
One simple parameter that can help alleviate bottlenecks in a factory is to establish a clear and well-defined production flow. In addition, it is important to regularly monitor and evaluate the production process to identify any bottlenecks that may arise over time. This can help to address issues before they become more serious and impact the overall efficiency of the factory. By implementing these measures, manufacturers can reduce bottlenecks and improve the overall productivity of their operations.

What makes digital print technologies come closer to meeting lofty sustainability goals like no waste, reuse and such, than their conventional predecessors? How is your company better placed than its competitors?
Digital printing technologies help in sustainability by virtue of a reduction in waste, reuse of materials and better energy efficiency.

At TechNova, we consider the ‘Go Green’ movement to be more than just a trend. It is a value-system and philosophy that guides our entire approach towards creating a cleaner and greener future for the printing industry.

We offer the widest range of green solutions for printers, including process-free, chem-free, and zero pre-heat offset plates, IPA-reducing and eliminating fountain solutions, water-based and UV coatings, water washable deglasers and decalcifiers, VOC-free press washes and cleaners, PVC-free digital print media, spray dampening systems and effluent and solvent treatment solutions.

Our approach to ‘Go Green’ is holistic, starting from our internal manufacturing systems with zero-discharge processes to our products like chem-free plates and VOC-free chemicals that have saved millions of litres of water. We also focus on efficient green logistics, mapping the carbon footprint of how we deliver our solutions.

At TechNova, we are committed to making the printing industry greener and more sustainable, and we believe that our ‘Go Green’ approach will play a significant role in achieving this goal.

Recently few print companies informed us that there’s a spike in the cost of spares. An upward revision of service rates followed this. It’s become a cause for concern. How would you explain these hikes as a print/print converting equipment/ software supplier?
There have been several recent increases in costs across different sectors and industries. I can discusses some of them. One is: global supply chain disruptions. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain, leading to raw materials, components, and finished goods shortages. This has resulted in increased prices for these items, including spares for printing equipment.

Inflation is a general increase in prices of goods and services, which has also impacted the printing industry. The rise in the cost of raw materials, labour and other overheads has increased the prices of spares and service rates.

Then there’s the shipping cost. The cost of shipping goods worldwide has increased due to a shortage of shipping containers and higher demand for shipping services. This has led to increased costs for businesses that rely on international trade. We all know about the exchange rate fluctuations, with the value of the Indian Rupee against other currencies such as the USD and Euro.  It has impacted the prices of imported spares and equipment.

And finally, environmental regulations. Governments around the world are implementing new environmental regulations, such as carbon taxes and emissions caps, which can increase costs for businesses that produce or use energy.

It is important to note that these factors are not within the control of the print/print converting equipment/software suppliers. However, our endeavour has always been to mitigate such increases by offering innovative cost-saving options to our customers.

Final question. The market is changing. Commercial print runs have declined, but it still offers better margins. The other good news on the packaging front is that nothing will replace packaging, as far as we know. But, with change inevitably come challenges. How should the print and packaging industry prepare itself for 2023 and the foreseeable future?
The print and packaging industry should consider the following strategies to prepare for the future. Embrace digitalisation. The industry should invest in technology and equipment to streamline their processes, reduce waste and improve efficiency. This includes digital printing, automation and data-driven decision-making.
Focus on sustainability. The industry should work towards reducing their environmental impact by adopting green products, eco-friendly practices, using recycled materials and developing biodegradable alternatives.

Offer value-added services. The industry should look for ways to differentiate themselves and offer more value to their clients. This includes design services, personalised packaging and integrated supply chain solutions.

Develop new revenue streams. The decline in commercial print runs means the industry needs to diversify its revenue streams. This can include exploring new markets such as e-commerce, and expanding into adjacent markets like labels, flexible packaging and smart packaging.

Invest in talent development. The industry should invest in training and development. This includes upskilling existing employees, hiring new talent with the right skillsets and fostering a culture of innovation and continuous learning.
By embracing these strategies, the print and packaging industry can position itself for success in 2023 and beyond.

Pamex 2023 done, what’s next?
We are looking forward to Drupa in 2024 and LabelExpo Europe 2023. These tradeshows provide an excellent opportunity for companies to showcase their latest products, technologies and services. They also provide a conducive avenue for visitors to network with industry peers, gain insights into the latest trends and discover new business opportunities. TechNova will be present with our alliance partners, such as, HP Indigo, Konica Minolta, ECO3, Duplo, Amsky, Asahi and Toray, among others.

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