P Narendra says, Indian print and packaging is in a positive zone

P Narendra of Pragati Offset and Pragati Pack speaks about Print in the Post Covid era: Opportunities & Challenges at KMPA's Print and Beyond seminar in Kochi. He said, Last three years we have seen the world affected by Covid, supply chain and logistics nightmare, unprecedented price rise, the war and the China lockdown. How can India rise up to these challenges?

27 Feb 2023 | By Ramu Ramanathan

P Narendra of Pragati Offset and Pragati Pack delivering the keynote address at KMPA's Print and Beyond seminar

P Narendra of Pragati Offset and /Pragati Pack said the reasons for the Indian growth story was diversification of supply-chains from China; rapid growth of exports; need for packaging that meets international standards; and increasing awareness for clean food / drink / pharma. He said, "We cannot plan for a big storm which comes once in 100 years or a Tsunami, which is a once in a lifetime event. We have to redefine our lives and go forward. None of us have a choice."

P Narendra made four predictions. He said, "Textbooks etc will grow at a decent rate as per the population. With increase in industrial production, marketing material might grow. Transactional and security print will be on a growth path. And finally, packaging is growing at a good pace."

P Narendra of Pragati said publications will grow as far as India is concerned. He said print media is 21% of the advertising spend. 20,000 crore rupees and growing at 9%. But he cautioned the delegates, "The ad revenue generated by Facebook and Alphabet at 171 billion USD was more than the aggregate ad revenue of every magazine, newspaper, radio station in the world. And without ads ... publications cannot survive. The maturing Generation Z – the generation which has had the internet from their cradle – their behaviour and buying habits is something which we do not know but will influence all businesses including ours."

P Narendra said "Globally, the packaging industry is the third largest after food and energy. It is worth USD 917 billion (in 2019), with 2.8% CAGR." The packaging industry was valued at USD50.5 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach USD204.81 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 26.7% from 2020 to 2025.

He added that sector growth is around 22-25% CAGR (as per Packaging Industry Association of India) and the Indian per capita packaging consumption is 8.7kg. Total – 13 kg. This is low as compared to 109 kg in the USA, 65 kg in Europe and 45kg in China. However he was bullish because of 100% growth in the last decade from 4.3kg to 8.7kg per person per annum.

He said, "E-Commerce growth has crossed a trillion USD/ 89 lakh crores. He said, "The year 2021 saw India’s real-time transactions moving up to a staggering 48.6 billion, almost threefold that of the closest challenger China with 18 billion transactions, and close to seven times greater than the combined real-time payments volume (7.5 billion) of the world’s leading economies: U.S., Canada, UK., France and Germany, as per an ACI Worldwide Report). These he felt were "opportunities since it directly impacts packaging requirements."

P Narendra urged the industry to focus on sustainable packaging. Two trends P Narendra spoke about: Ban on single-use plastics; and drive towards bio-based/paper-based packaging. He said, the Government of India has recognised the potential of this sector and multiple policies have been released. These are: profit-linked tax incentives for many industries and adoption of national packaging initiatives. "The point is, " he said, "When we look at these numbers, even taking an average of figures given by various agencies, 20%, we should grow by 100% in four to five years."

P Narendra touched upon digital print. He said, "Digital is here to stay. It has its advantages like short run, variable data print, urgency. The quality is good. Newer markets like photo books have developed due to availability of this technology. He spoke about digital print output. He said,  "As far as western markets are concerned, by 2024, 50% of print value output will be digital for graphics, 18% for publication and 7% for packaging and 3% by volume. So we need not worry that digital will usurp the game. Offset will be the main work horse."

P Narendra of Pragati spoke at length about the possibilities in the pharma sector. He said, the Indian pharma industry is currently valued at USD49-bn and is the third largest in the world. It is expected to grow to USD130Bn by 2030. He pointed out how pharma exports stood at USD 24.62-bn during the last FY and expected to close this FY at USD 27-bn.

He added, pharma outlook is "very positive and on a growth path" But the pharma partner must meet brand owner expectations plus try to bridge the knowledge gap in the pharma companies. Even today, age old practices like 5 ply vs 3 ply corrugated boxes are continuing. More control with purchase teams than marketing teams – price becomes the key lever here. He felt paper mills and printers need to continue educating the pharma companies to try and bring a change. For example, he pointed out, GSM is still the norm for testing – we continue to educate the companies on the importance of other parameters.

Next he turned his attention to solid boards. He said "Market will grow substantially. Today, availability of boards within India is a saviour especially during these volatile times." He added, "Premium packaging and gifting are synonymous with rigid board packaging."

The impact of e-commerce has been felt by the industry since there is a choice of seller on the e-commerce site. Also there are examples of products losing sales by opting for a cheaper packaging option.

He felt, effective plastic replacement is a huge opportunity. And Molded Fiber Packaging could have a larger chance and impact.

He requested the delegates to focus on three things. One. Eco-friendly products. Clear track of sustainability and cradle to grave tracking. Two. Track and trace solutions – for tracking supply chain as well as end-users to engage better. And finally, extended colour gamut printing. Will be big and very useful printing short run cartons. Teach pharma and other companies this technology.

He concluded his keynote address by saying, "The world population is 8.6 billion by 2030. This means, India will overtake China in 2024. Urbanisation continues. 43 megacities with a population of over 10 million. It will drive demand for advertising, signage and packaging printing. All this information tells us that we are in a good period. The recession predicted in the west might have some impact. But I feel that India would do okay."