There's plenty of Farzi things for which print has a solution

PrintWeek's friend (and a master printer) watched a web series Farzi; and he was angry. He said, "It is supposed to be a show focussed on counterfeiting ... but the print technology showcased in the web series should put all print technologists to shame." He added, "I suppose Bollywood knows more about graphic arts than all the gurus of our industry put together. Two sets of 45-gsm paper sandwiched to make a Rs 500 note!"

10 Jun 2024 | By Ramu Ramanathan

And so, based on this note-worthy criticism, I mustered courage and took a peek.
The things that made the ink in my blood churn were — a single colour press that can do four-colour, watermark, UV, and micro text guilloche patterns. Plus, the paper is perforated (miraculously) to insert security foil! And then one-colour by web offset and three-colour by sheetfed + water colours, fugitive ink. And the UV? Well, it happens on its own.
Every letter/font is hand sketched by Artist (called Sunny Kapoor whose grandfather owns a printing press and used to publish a pamphlet called Kranti). This design which is hand sketched by an artist is passed onto the pre-press which involves a vertical camera and a whirler. Considering that the web series claims to talk about paper, design, printing and inks - it's quite obvious no print master was consulted for Farzi.
Everything defies science!
The eight-episode show has been receiving rave reviews. But I give it 0.1 out of 5 for printing.
My reason is — the infantilising of a serious issue. In 2013, globally, the counterfeiting business was USD 1-billion. Today, in 2024 it is USD 3-trillion.
This is a serious matter. Fake liquor claims thousands of lives in India, each and every year. Prescriptions of branded companies are being substituted with unbranded companies and charging 3x the price. There are exam paper leaks in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for government recruitments.
According to The State of Counterfeiting in India Report 2022, 25-30% of counterfeiting can be observed in key products. This is a huge number. What is worrying is, this is pan-India.And 27% of the consumers that are buying have ended up buying duplicates. These consumers are unaware that there might be a duplicate. The awareness levels are relatively low. Another striking point from the report is that 31% of people are willing to buy knowing that it's a fake. There are a lot of intangible effects and, it ends up impacting the revenues of the company.
India’s anti-counterfeit packaging market is expected to grow to USD 24-bn by 2030. This translates into a growth of 11.8% from 2022-2030. The larger issue is how many counterfeiters pay income tax? How many counterfeiters pay GST? How many counterfeiters pay any form of direct or indirect taxes? So, the first thing is the revenue loss which is due to the government. Even if you consider the figures which have mentioned been thusfar, it will add an average 50% GST to the government treasury.
And then, there is the impact of counterfeiting on We The People. Other than a crumbling value system, there is the issue of funding. The biggest funding for terrorism comes from counterfeiting. The profits are huge, and to protect the profits, the funds are channelled through narco smuggling and cross-border terrorism. Although we would like to pass the buck, consumer apathy is the biggest problem and the largest source of counterfeits.
The point is, this is an opportunity for the print and packaging industry. Today there are a range of solutions like security inks, digital inkjet, various substrates, security software, and track-and-trace technologies that can be used to develop tax stamps, various types of QR codes, guilloche, holograms and more. Techniques like real-time traceability are print-related activities.
One of the things, most anti-counterfeiting experts say is that there is no one- size-fits-all solution, and each industry must have customised defences in place.
Remember, when you step out to purchase a toothpaste or engine oil, every third or fourth product available in the Indian market is a fake. So, roll up your sleeves and understand the pain points of your customers. Find out the challenges they are facing, and how big the impact of counterfeiting is. For example, whether they are a start-up and need anti-counterfeiting as an additional feature. If there is a space constraint. And if, in packaging, they want security — then what kind of investment are they willing to make? You can easily provide a solution which is one step ahead of the game.
Just ensure it is not a Farzi solution.

Ramu Ramanathan is editor at PrintWeek and WhatPackaging?