The BMPA Vision Conclave charts industry’s future

The two-day event held in Goa from 5-6 July 2022 saw 82 industry leaders from across India deliberate on the state of the Indian printing industry. A PrintWeek report

08 Aug 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

The Bombay Master Printers Association (BMPA) hosted the gala event, BMPA Vision Conclave, in Goa from 5-6 July. According to Faheem Agboatwala, a key member of BMPA’s Share-to-Benefit (StB) forum, the Vision Conclave has been organised to establish the grounds on which the India story holds its grand promise. The idea is also to focus on specific outcomes for the print and package-print industry.

One of the highlights of the event was the Q&A session where the leaders present shared their opinions on a host of questions regarding the state of the Indian printing industry. The Q&A session was hosted by Mehul Desai of Mail Order Solutions.

The delegates said the capacity utilisation for the packaging industry is 70-80%, and less than 50% for labels. The capacity utilisation for local book printing is 40% and books for export is 20-25%. However, a notebook manufacturer present at the conclave said that with the reopening of schools, the notebook section is doing well. On the other hand, a tag-maker said his business has gone up by 120% thanks to the rise of eCommerce.

So, what’s the outlook for the future — will the demand increase, or will we see some units shut down to maintain the demand-supply balance? The consensus among the delegates was that the end result will be a mixture of both; the demand will pick up, but some units may close down.

One delegate said one needs to create a niche to combat underutilised capacity. Also, there are new verticals that are coming up. So, there are opportunities.

But what about the cost of capital? This is a concern. One delegate said the labour is at 50% capacity. This again depends on the supply chain. Most units do not have enough raw material to feed the machines. Therefore, the industry needs to look towards backward integration so that machines do not remain idle. Another suggestion was to look at the market opportunity and diversify according to the market demands. You need customers who want your services and are ready to pay a premium for it, one delegate said.

Another delegate said the future lies in innovation, productivity and saving on raw materials.

Now, the million-dollar question. Do the delegates present believe in the India story? The answer was a resounding, “Yes”. The delegates agreed that the industry has a lot of issues, the biggest among them is that printing is still not recognised as an industry by the government, yet there is hope for the future. There are new opportunities opening up and it’s time Indian printers looked towards capturing the global market.  

One delegate said that the Indian printing industry is valued at Rs 7 lakh crore, at par with auto industry. But for the government to recognise it as an industry, we need to have documentation. The ministries believe in numbers, and we don’t have the number. For this, all stakeholders must come together. 

Green Initiatives
Speaking on the importance of shifting to natural energy, K Selvakumar of Lovely Offset said solar power ensures guaranteed return on investment. The company has invested in renewable energy systems such as solar panels and windmills. The company generates 2,000 KW and 100 KW of clean energy with the help of wind and solar generators respecitively. Selvakumar asserted that the company took the initiative on its own, not out of regulatory compulsion.

Ramesh Kejriwal of Parksons Packaging and Ravi Shroff of Nutech Print Services both agreed that solar power offers good return on investment. Both the companies have also invested in solar panels to an extent, and Shroff said, “We can get our money back in four-five years.”

The second day of the conclave saw a panel discussion with MN Sreenath, founder-director, Firmus Ventures; Rajiv Vohra, co-founder and executive director, Repro India; Nishant Shah, founder CEO, Group Bayport; and Jikul Purohit, co-founder, Packfora. The session was moderated by Naushad Panjwani, chairman, Madarus Partners.  

There are three reasons. The first reason is ambition, coupled with hard work. Those who are ambitious, they aspire for growth. A panelist gave the example of Dainik Bhaskar. The first generation had already established it to be the No 1 Hindi daily in Madhya Pradesh. But the second generation, armed with foreign degrees, wanted to take it further. The patriarch advised hard work and patience. So, they waited for a whole year, and did their homework before starting the Jaipur edition of Dainik Bhaskar. The second reason is the ability to withstand adversity. The panelists gave an example of a Marwari business that left Rajasthan to survive the drought, but established themselves as legendary business houses in the process. The third reason is when you make mistakes, turn them into opportunities.

Industry disruptors 
Fundamentally, there are four disruptors — designed for online, designed for speed, designed for sustainability, and designed for technology. These are the keys that are changing consumer behaviour and how the industry is responding to it. 

Explaining the design for online disruption, a speaker said that earlier packaging was about the physical aspect of the product, the touch and feel of it in a shop. It was the first moment of truth. But the rise of eCommence has changed that. Now, it is about how the product looks on screen. So, the first moment of truth is no longer relevant. 

Again, speed is the currency today. Earlier, a new product development may take 12 to 16 months to reach the market. But today, the industry doesn’t have such luxury. Today, everything must happen fast. This is why speed is the currency. This is why everyone is talking about digital and how digital can play a role in this.

Sustainability is a new innovation and the industry needs to be a part of it. Today, the focus is on the circular economy. Earlier, it was not the concern of the industry as to where the waste will end up. Now, you have to consider the cradle-to-cradle lifetime of a product, not even cradle-to-grave. That’s why sustainability is a disruptor. 

Today, companies are increasingly using the latest technologies, ranging from AI, sensor data to RFID, facial recognition, and live product tracking to enhance the consumer experience. And for this, the printing industry at the backend must be ready to adopt such technologies as and when required. 

Changing printing business 
Earlier, the printing business was hyperlocal because there was no industry standardisation, and there were limitations in logistics and limited customer reach. A customer will come to you because he knows you. Now, things are changing. Now, there are players who are looking at national tenders. They have solved the earlier problems. There is now standardisation in material and quality. Communication is now more effective. The logistics are in place. That’s where we are seeing larger players and investments come in. 

Getting value for work 
The industry will have to take the lead in changing the consumer mindset. At times, the customer is not aware of the technologies available, or ways to make the product better. In this, the industry must step up and educate the customer and bridge the gap. This way we can show the value of our work. 

What’s next in packaging?
The goal is towards less packaging, better packaging, and no packaging. One big trend is that there will be a shift from volume to value. In many markets, the volume of print will reduce, but the value will keep growing. In South Asia, the volume may drop by 2.5% in the next 25-30 years, but the value will increase by 10%. This is a good news. So, we need to think about how we play the value game instead of the volume game. We need to start thinking about value-addition.

Secondly, we need to consider how technology can be an enabler for both the converters and the customers. Take the example of blockchain. If it really comes to the play, we need to consider how we can give the benefits to the customers. Again, we need to consider how we can use technologies, such as AI, IOT and robotics to help change workflow optimisation.

The future is digital: Benny Landa
During the second day of BMPA Vision Conclave in Goa, Benny Landa of the Landa Group addressed the delegates via a prerecorded video. Stressing on the fact that in the future, everything that can be digital will be digital, he reiterated that print, especially in packaging cannot be replaced by the digital media, “at least not in our lifetimes and not in our children’s lifetimes”. Of course, there will be more demand for shorter runs and greater customisation. 

“We live in an online on-demand world, where products need to be tailored, customised, even personalised to appeal to today’s consumers. That’s why we invented the digital printing press in the first place decades ago,” he said. 

He said there has been a huge increase in the variety of products being offered to consumers, spawning the need for mass customisation, and the need for on-demand just-in-time production, especially in today’s era of online shopping. This makes the packaging opportunity not only huge, but also capturable by digital print providers. 

He added that not only packaging, but also digital printing is helping direct mail, books, especially educational books, point-of-purchase posters and displays and overall general commercial printing.

Landa then went on to answer the question of how digital printing has fared since Indigo was first introduced 28 years ago. “Digital printing has seen spectacular growth. Today, it accounts for 1.6-trillion printed pages. This may sound impressive, but that’s just 3% of the 50-trillion printed pages overall, while the other 97% is still printed mechanically.”

Therefore, Landa believes digital has a huge potential for the future, especially with the increased demand for short-run and customised jobs, which traditional offset printing cannot deliver. 

“So notwithstanding Covid-19, and despite the volatile economic climate of the past couple of years, we have seen our customers prosper,” he said, adding, “And I hope to see that the Indian printing market is at the forefront of digital print adoption.”