Nine industry trends that stand out in The Power 100

The Power 100 list showcased thought leaders in the best possible manner and showcased the industry’s clout. The following are the top trends.

10 Jun 2024 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Ramu Ramanathan, editor, PrintWeek and WhatPackaging?

AI-driven design. The Power 100 says artificial intelligence (AI) holds a lot of promise for design and pre-press. The point is to create a design language that ensures a wider appeal. Otherwise, AI becomes more of a design trick with no real functionality. The other concern is, the definition of what is artificial intelligence? My guess is as good as yours. Other than all the excitement, is it “just” more software?

Boom in books. Pitambra Books in Jhansi executed a single order of printing and supplying 5,46,55,760 textbooks. This is a staggering number. Obviously, backed by a solid post-press division. The good news for our industry is p-books are doing well. The India Book Market Report 2022 pegs Rs 98,920-crore for the print book market by 2024-25. It was Rs 30,660-crore ten years ago. The point is, p-books are growing. 

Consolidation. Advent International. Blackstone. Kedaara. Premji. Somerset. Warburg Pincus. Today, private equity players have invested  in the sector. It represents 85% of the total capital invested in the Indian packaging sector.

Eco-friendly innovations. Let me share two examples (among thousands). For example, a MOD sustainable and germ-free pack for Himesh Foods. This is an elegant, eco-friendly, and microbial-resistant package. Then there is the Treat ice cream tub and lid for Innodis, an eco-friendly product that replaces rigid plastic with paper-based packaging..

Made in India. Rasna, is a prime illustration of a Made in India brand. Today, the group has 10 factories and is available in 1.8 million outlets with 90% market share in the soft drinks concentrate category and a growing presence in more than 50 countries worldwide. Trivia:  Rasna is the only player which has withstood not one but around four multinational onslaughts through all these decades. A lesson for the Indian print and packaging kit manufacturers too?

Packaging growth. The Indian packaging market size is estimated to be USD 71.9-bn in 2023. It will be USD 130.14-bn by 2028. This translates into 12.6% CAGR during the forecast period 2023-2028; at an expected growth of 22%. One thing that the industry seeks from the NDA government is recognition, so that India becomes a preferred hub for the packaging industry.

Quality-oriented buyers. Four trends are visible in the new India. The first one being health. Covid has altered our perspective on food. The second is convenience, whether it’s in the form of food, ready to cook, in the form of delivery, in terms of eCommerce or a variety of new flavours.  The third trend is consumer consciousness about the ease of reading labels plus the opportunities for the growth of organic or local food. And finally, the use of technology for data mapping, as well as QR codes or deploying digital technologies for distribution.

Smart automation. The challenge for growth is how much automation to bring in. Again, the key is what and how much to invest in top-notch algorithms and what to do with zoned-out (or non available) humans to boost productivity. Rajesh Ananthakrishnan of Reflex Automation said. "India needs Automation 2.5 and not Automation 4.0 or 5.0." He said, “The Indian milk industry is dominated by 75% doodhwalahs, for the provision of fresh milk. Thus, automation technocrats in India need to find smart and sensible technology solutions to cater to this segment instead of focussing only on the 15%.”

Sustainability. It is “the” buzzword. Many factories which I have visited in recent times are improving their products and processes. A factory in Bengaluru has created a need-based usage. This means paying attention to wrong practices like compressed air usage for cleaning practices. Then there was zero wastage of energy.  For example, arresting chilled air leakages and compressed air leakages and arresting non-productive run-ability of machines. And finally, efficient operation of all equipment. That is, not running beyond the design speeds, achieving benchmark efficiencies in energy-guzzling equipment like boilers, chillers, compressors, ovens and fryers. Tiny nuts-and-bolts things.

The point is, the industry in India is busy. Both packaging and commercial (books) segments are bullish. With consolidations, investments (look at the Drupa deals), exports. . 

These are the my nine take-ways from PrintWeek's The Power 100.