Both big note currency demonetization at the end of 2016, and the current goods and services tax (GST) one-tax one-country regime have been optimistically cheered on by much of the publishing and printing industry. Both large and small commercial printers since 1 July 2017 when the GST came into force, are saying that their presses are mostly idle or working single shift even as they spend countless hours in meetings with other printers and publishers and consultants.
The problem with one tax one country is that there are multiple GST lanes—0%, 5%, 12% and 18%—for the most part. There is apparently one rate for books where the publisher provides the paper and another if the printer provides a turn-key solution. At a Capexil seminar in Delhi attended by leading book printers, it was not really clear if the rate on printed books is 0% or 18%. For status holding book printing exports, the tax is apparently 0% but large print exporters do not want to be caught out later as ITC was this week when the taxes on cigarettes were steeply revised upwards.
In the context of even senior government officials attending GST seminars being candidly less than authoritative, a leading book printer and exporter says, “If you are the creator of a half-baked cake and you don’t have any answers, who or what are printers or publishers supposed to do?”
2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India
Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and
multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.
The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry.
While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately
their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book
printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.
The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.
Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.
Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.
Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.