How print can play the leveraging game

At the BMPA Vision Conclave held in Goa from 5-6 June 2022, the delegates were asked if they still believe in the India story. All the delegates responded with a resounding, "Aye". No doubts whatsoever. A couple of industry leaders went as far as to say that the Indian economy is in a position to leapfrog the projected USD 5-trillion mark in the next three to five years.

21 Jul 2022 | By Aaditya Kashyap

Aaditya Kashyap, managing director at Mark Emballage, Baddi

Whatever the numbers may be, the industry outlook after nearly two years of the pandemic slump, is bullish. In fact very bullish.

Personally, I believe in the India story, too. I believe the worst is over. The world is ready to move beyond Covid. And I can see that print is growing. Print in publishing and print in packaging both will see healthy growth due to long-lasting shifts in consumer behaviour during and post-Covid. There is increased adoption of packaged goods accelerated by eCommerce and food delivery. At the same time, interestingly, consumers are reading more as per the data shared in the 2021 Nielsen Book India report.

Now, as we return to the market with renewed vigour, I think we must not forget the lessons the pandemic has taught us. For me, the biggest takeaway from the pandemic would be to keep your eyes on the bottom line. And so, over and above, the balance sheet, do focus on everything in the organisation, from hiring and retaining talent to quality systems, from fixed to variable costs, from product portfolio review to customer review.

Talking about Marks Emballage, for the next five years, I am looking at boosting the value chain and working to diversify beyond labels into rigids and evaluating opportunities to get into contract packaging and fulfilment as well. Ideally, we would like to become a complete packaging and fulfilment partner for brands.

For me, the three pillars for future growth are premiumisation, personalisation and sustainability. While digital technology can help drive personalisation, I think the industry in India has failed to leverage the true potential of digital print owing to three factors – low labour cost in the print industry, the market size (even short-runs in India involve big numbers, and low digital output is not good for short-runs), and the availability of good quality pre-owned print equipment being imported from the
Global North where the digital print is rapidly replacing old technology. This made the investment in older kits much more profitable.

You don’t necessarily need huge budgets or high-end labs costing millions for R&D and innovation. Money cannot buy innovation. If it were the case, all the world’s problems would have been solved by now. R&D means a disciplined effort to look for solutions, whether big or small. At Baddi, we have a small team working on a couple of interesting problems in the label segment to offer smart solutions to our customers.

Automation, of course, is a key driver of growth. For me, real automation is an end-to-end digital factory, from order to production to delivery, from HR processes to accounting entries, and from digital marketing to production forecasting. We need to look at each of the business processes and look for improvement opportunities through automation. I think the best way to look at automation would be to drive customer experience, business growth and bottom line.

Sustainable packaging is the next big thing. That’s what the big brands are saying, but I believe they are not doing enough. Sustainability needs to be driven by brands and not by printers or converters. Sustainability is an investment that brands should be ready to put in. Without this, printers cannot do much.

What we plan to do on sustainability is to educate the brands on the availability of sustainable and responsible materials, more importantly to create products that the customer believes in.