P Narendra: Print and Packaging Scenario in India: Technology and Trends

All of us are going through a very difficult phase of the world. With Covid taking its unprecedented toll followed by supply chain issues, logistics nightmare and now this war. The unprecedented price hikes in raw materials are something we haven’t seen in many decades, if ever. We’re having to take many blows, one after another. We have to face these and still go forward. A tall order but none of us have a choice.

28 Mar 2022 | By Narendra Paruchuri

P Narendra: India is expected to become the fifth largest consumer market in the world by 2025

As far as print technology goes, today, lithography is the primary printing technology used all over the world. Printers are working ever closer with designers, who are looking to have their brochure or package stand out in a crowded environment by using six- seven- eight-colour presses, they are incorporating more Pantone colours for a stronger printed product. They are adding many UV finishes in-line during printing. At every Drupa we expect to see a whole host of enhancements that will make an offset press even more viable. These include closed-loop systems, in-line finishing capabilities, and longer press configurations in commercial and packaging.

Digital printing is here
There is an area, short run printing, where a digital and offset cross lines. The lower the quantity, digital stands out. Also when the job is wanted immediately, then few copies are printed on a digital press for the CEO to catch the flight. Advantages are that you can print fewer numbers as and when needed. So digital is the winner here. But the real advantage of Digital is the variable data printing. This is what will make money for the printers. We printed four-five years ago a job for ITC Cigarette company. One million cigarette packs with unique graphics and numbering. I am told that it still holds the world record for the largest number of packs printed in this fashion. Digital is no doubt growing. But I would like to emphasize here that we shouldn’t get Don’t get carried away with the percentage. The base of digital presses is small and if it goes at an astounding 20/30%, it is still tiny as compared to offset.

The point is: Offset (this includes UV and web offset inks) has about 50% of the market and the rest is shared by flexo, gravure, screen, digital and inkjet. Offset is here to stay as it reproduces a very good quality at a low price.

Digital presses were constrained by the smaller 13-inch x 19-inch size and speed for taking on mainstream print. But now we have viable alternatives in larger size – the HP 10/20/30K, Komori Impremia, Konica Minolta KM1, Fuji JPress, Screen Truepress. No doubt Landa presses will be installed soon. I have seen the results on HP 15000 and the Komori Impremia – and the quality is excellent. But at that cost, I am not sure how many will be installed. And how many will be able to be running jobs competing against offset.

Instead one needs to focus on doing jobs which cannot be done by offset – and have the short-run jobs as a filler. The advantages of digital are short run, urgent, variable data – so see which applications can make full use of these advantages. As an example, if we look at photo books, it was a market which did not exist (ultra short-run). It grew at a rapid pace due to digital presses. Offset and digital will co-exist and shall cater to different market segments.

One point I would like to make here is that many printers depend on service bureaus for their pre-press work. If any printer wants to go into digital printing, knowledge of pre-press is essential and the data to be handled will be in Terabytes. So I would like printers who want to migrate to digital to spend a lot of time getting themselves acquainted with these technologies. For example, to print with variable data one needs a whole set of additional skillsets such as data cleaning (checking for completeness, validity, consistency, etc.).

I would like to think back about my own transformation – when I joined Pragati, we were a letterpress unit with one single colour Russian offset printing machine. Plates were zinc ones which we used to grind with sand and make egg albumin coating. This was the technology then. This changed to MF Aluminium, PS, CTF, CTP, CTCP. And so, from lead Type to typesetter to PCs and Apple Macs. Manual colour separation to scanners to direct image capture (digital photography). One colour machines to multiple colour ones with online coating, UV, etc., etc. As we know, change is the only constant in our life and we (the print community) have adapted well. And we will continue to do so.

India 2025
By 2025, India is expected to become the fifth largest consumer market in the world, according to CII. The inception of new technologies along with a rise in e-commerce, changing lifestyles, urbanisation and increased personal health awareness has boosted the growth of the print and packaging markets.

Globally, the packaging industry sector has positioned itself as one of the fastest growing industries across all countries. The industry is worth over USD917 billion (in 2019), growing at a CAGR 2.8% to reach USD1.05 trillion by 2024. Packaging is the world’s third largest industry following the food industry (1st) and energy (2nd) and the only industry that has to do with every single product produced in an economy.

In India’s case, packaging is the fifth largest sector in its economy and is one of the highest growth sectors in the country. According to the Packaging Industry Association of India (PIAI), the sector is growing at CAGR 22% to 25%. Even with this steep rise in the last decade, there is significant headroom for growth in this sector when compared to other developed regions across the globe.

Indian packaging industry
As per the industry insights, the Indian packaging industry was about USD31.7 billion in 2015. It has grown at a CAGR of 18% till FY20 – to an estimated USD72.6 billion, according to an ASSOCHAM-EY joint study. “The growth is driven by key factors such as rising population, increase in income levels and changing lifestyles. Increasing media penetration through the means of the Internet and television are fuelling the demand for packaged products in rural India as well,” noted the joint study.

While per capita packaging consumption in India is quite low at 8.7 kilograms as compared to countries like Germany and Taiwan where it is 42 kilograms and 19 kilograms, respectively. But the study suggests, and experts too claim that the growth in the packaging industry in India is mainly driven by the food and pharmaceutical packaging sectors. The large and growing Indian middle class along with the growth in organised retailing in the country are fuelling the growth in the packaging industry.

The rise of the Indian middle class, the rapid expansion of organized retail, the growth of exports, and India’s rising e-commerce sector is further facilitating growth. According to the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), packaging consumption in India has increased by 200% in the past decade, rising from 4.3 kg per person per annum (pppa) to 8.6 kg pppa.

The e-commerce retail packaging sector has grown to 65 million monthly unique visitors, accumulating an annual increase of 55%. India’s e-commerce revenue is predicted to be the highest in the world, growing at an annual rate of 51% and increasing to USD120bn in 2020 from US30bn in 2016, according to an ASSOCHAM-Forrester report.

The C factor
China has been the factory to the world and supply chains were dependent on this. China did a good job. But putting all the eggs in a basket turned out to be a nightmare. I expect about 20% of this business to come to India. No one will come to India because they love us but we have a huge market ourselves of 1.4 billion people. ALso, we have the people to man the factories. I expect the Make in India wave and the PLI scheme to take off and the decade of 2021 to 2030 to be the decade of India. When Maruti cars were made in India about 40 years ago, even the glass fuses used to come from Japan. Today India is the small parts automobile hub of the world. We can do it and we will. Hum Honge Kaamyaab. All this will increase the need for packaging printing.

Another factor that has provided substantial stimulus to the packaging machinery industry is the rapid growth of exports, which requires superior packaging standards for the international market. With this, the need for adopting better packaging methods, materials and machinery to ensure quality has become very important for Indian businesses.

“In coming years, the Indian packaging industry will see substantial growth. The increasing awareness regarding clean water, safe food, and pharmaceuticals along with adoption of next gen digital technologies will aggressively penetrate and drive the Indian packaging industry” - Thomas Schneider, President of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO).

This rise in consumption is driven by key aspects of the rising Indian economy namely, strong favourable demographics, increasing disposable income levels, rising consumer awareness and demand for processed food. The growth of individual end user segments of food, beverages, FMCG and pharmaceuticals will trickle down into rising demand for packaging solutions.

The next decade
In the coming decade, India will focus on transitioning this industry towards sustainability. The implementation of single-use plastic ban policy along with a focus on recycling and biodegradability will bring about a major transformation in this sector. Currently, the Indian packaging industry consumes more polymers compared to the global average. This creates a unique opportunity for India to drive this industry towards sustainability, bio-based/paper-based packaging.

The packaging sector has a much wider exposure to other sectors of our economy. The growth of these sectors in the coming decade will have a combined effect to take this sector to new heights. The Government of India recognised the potential of this sector and released a slew of policies like the single use plastic ban policy, profit linked tax incentive for food packaging, adoption of the National Packaging Initiative, to further incentivise innovation in this sector. As a result, there are numerous champions which have come up to the task and have posted significant profits in the last five years. There has also been a rise in material technology research-based start ups to create new sustainable packaging materials. I reiterate again that Achche din aayenge.

Now I would like to focus on the student delegates present here. Having worked in this industry for 44 years I can tell you that it is a great industry. There is no monotony. Yes, the IT industry pays well to start with but as the years pass by you will get a much better life in our field. What does it take to make it in any industry? Passion. You have to have the burning desire to do good and achieve name and fame. Money would be incidental. We have to keep on learning, look for better ways to do things, compete with ourselves to improve efficiency, and to improve the eco-friendliness of the packaging. The day you stop learning that would be the beginning of the end. There is only one person in your life that you have to satisfy. Work hard and make sure you are satisfied. Everyone around you will recognise you and you can climb the ladder faster. I must tell you, once again, that this is a great industry.

P Narendra delivered his speech at the Future Printing (Scope for India) - International Conference hosted at the CUH, Mahendragarh, Haryana

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