InkWeek Day One: Pain points, trends, sustainability, and the way forward

The much-anticipated celebration of inks – InkWeek – has commenced. A-listers and technical gurus share their thoughts on how the industry should navigate itself during 2022

21 Mar 2022 | By Aultrin Vijay

(clock-wise) Ramu Ramanathan, Chandrakant Ghadia, Gautham Pai, Priya Singh, Ashesh Mukherjee and Ashwini Deshpande

PrintWeek kickstarted its weeklong celebration of inks – InkWeek – on 21 March 2022 with a power-packed panel discussion that shed light on the perspective about the industry. The discussion saw over 900 registrations and more than 200 delegates attending the session.

The discussion was moderated by the PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? editor Ramu Ramanathan. Ramanathan elaborated on some of the findings by PrintWeek polls and set the tone for the discussions.

Speaking about what’s in store for the industry in 2022, Gautham Pai, executive chairman of Manipal Technologies said that although the past two years were challenging, it accelerated some transformations. “Adapting to smaller runs is forcing us to move towards digital and new capabilities are in place to handle that shift.”

Shedding light on what is transpiring behind the packaging fraternity, Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder and director, Elephant Design said, “The sentiment is: cautious optimism.”

She said, “In packaging and design industry, there is a boom. If you look at a larger picture, Metaverse is a big challenge, which is staring at us. Clients have seen a five-fold boom in eCommerce packaging.”

Ashesh Mukherjee, vice president and business unit head – sheetfed business, tobacco business, Siegwerk said, “In 2020-2021, the industry faced multiple challenges. According to a Nielsen report, the quarter ending December 2021, packaged FMCG products saw 2.1% decline, but value growth was 9.6%, due to inflationary pressure. Rural markets saw 2.5% degrowth, whereas 0.5% growth in urban.”

However, his mantra for 2022 remained, “Let’s stay positive, let’s stay optimistic, let’s stay cautious and let’s stay agile.”

Meanwhile, Chandrakant Ghadia, vice president at Marks Emballage the company saw remarkable change in the pharma industry. “Some sanitiser labels we were supplying were delivered within 24 hours. Everybody was ready to approve jobs, all thanks to the technology adoption during the Covid times.”

In the book printing business, Priya Singh, vice president – production and digital resources at Hachette India said, “In 2020, we had four months of zero sales. It was disastrous. But in the last six months, we ended up having the best year. Compared to 2019 we have grown over 20%.”

According to a Nielsen report, as cited by Singh, 2021 tracked the highest volume for trade publications. “It was a major time of upheaval, in spite of that we ended up having the best year,” she added.

Pointing to the changes induced by the pandemic, Singh also mentioned, “We are very positive about book business. Books are not going anywhere. Digital is not going to take over.” Concurring with Singh, Pai said, “Print on demand has been accelerated.”

According to Deshpande, one word that cropped up in all conversation during the pandemic was – immunity. “Consumers were looking at everything for immunity, including detergents. Taking care of health when buying something was not something that happened before the last two years. Autopilot purchases really changed. Now the question is “is it good for me/family?”

She said, after the second wave, consumers believed “I deserved better”. “Consciousness triggers started appearing in purchase decisions. We’ve never seen this level of triggers happening in a short span.”

Deshpande says, “Unless you have something new, you won’t make news.” However, she cautioned that innovation cannot be done in weeks. “When you are in a hurry to introduce something, it may not work as planned and puts pressure on the supply chain.”

Pai highlighted the labour constraints faced by companies. “Today, getting people has become more challenging. However, I don’t see that as a problem. We adapt with it quickly.”

Talking about sustainability, Mukherjee said, “We [Siegwerk] want to ensure that the product which comes from us is the safest, not only from the converter's perspective, but also from the end consumer perspective.”

“Design a product that is not only safe, but also superior. We launched mineral-oil free inks Vega for sheetfed offset keeping this in mind. Also, look at how to design a product with a higher level of renewable components. With this, you are not only designing a sustainable product, but also a product that’s ahead of its time,” he added.

However, Deshpande had different views. “There is very poor awareness about sustainability in terms of packaging. We always tell our clients we cannot look at it unilaterally.”

Ashwini posed a question to the fellow panellists, “Do we have commercially available plant-based inks?” She highlighted how a newspaper recycler in Gujarat was struggling with the massive dump of ink waste that was separated during the paper recycling process.

Mukherjee replied, “Mineral oil-based inks have some health drawbacks. We have decided to replace it with vegetable-oils. There is no regulation in the country as yet.”

Meanwhile, Singh was wondering whether there was a quick solution to replace shrink wraps. She said that if a solution is not found, it would create a problem if the government suddenly bans single-use plastics, like the one that happened in Mumbai in March 2018.

Pai concurred: “’Why did you put in the thermocol? Why did you put bubble wrap?’ These questions are being posed by the millennials lately and they are aware.”

Ghadia, however, slammed the label industry as “most inefficient”. “We are not doing anything about the liner. PET liner is not completely accepted in India. Applications such as eCommerce and barcode labels should be shifted to linerless labels. There are economic benefits in adopting this.”

He also hoped the government would provide some relief for those importing machineries. “We are heavily dependent on machinery imports, with major GST impacts. There should be a refund on unused import tax credit. If machines are made in India, manufacturing will benefit.”

Pai believes that if the government could take initiatives considering geopolitical position, where other countries are looking at India as an export hub, that could really benefit the business in exports.

Singh, however, wanted GST on books. “It will start getting input credit.”

Please don’t miss Day Two of InkWeek. Six experts, including ink manufacturers and flexo printers from reputable companies in India, will come together to celebrate and discuss inks.

Don’t wait, Register Now.