Commercial offset not contributing much to ink industry’s growth

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Commercial offset not contributing much to ink industry’s growth
RY Kamat of Hubergroup India

The commercial offset industry is not contributing much to the growth of the printing inks industry and most of the growth is coming from the packaging segment, RY Kamat of Hubergroup India told Indian Printer and Publisher recently.

“There is not much demand coming from the commercial offset industry and whatever growth we are seeing is because of the packaging industry. One of the reasons for this slow demand from the commercial offset segment is because a lot of volume has shifted to the digital commercial segment in recent years. Especially in the last one year, the effect of demonetization and the advent of new GST system has been severe on the commercial offset industry,” Kamat says.

Nevertheless, he points out that Hubergroup continues to offer great solutions to the commercial offset industry, which are very enviroment friendly such as non-toxic inks and UV inks.

Ink industry still to recover from recent shocks
Although the Indian economy seems to be coming out of the impact which was the result of twin shocks of demonetization and GST implementation, Kamat argues that the print industry is yet to adjust to the changed scenario. While much of this is connected to demonetization and GST, the rise in raw material costs is also playing a role.

“Not only did we go through the impact of demonetization and a new tax system, the inks industry has also faced a severe pressure on the costs. In the last three to four months, crude oil prices have been rising and are now at very high levels; the rupee too has depreciated sharply. Also, we have not been able to pass these on to the customer by raising prices. All these factors have severely impacted the bottom-line as well as the top-line of the Indian ink industry in the last financial year. But we are hoping that things will improve from now on as economy grows,” Kamat states.

Packaging segment brings hope
While the Indian commercial offset industry is mostly stagnant, the country’s packaging industry is thriving. Kamat expects the packaging industry to drive growth in printing ink demand.
“I expect both folding cartons and flexible packaging to grow at a healthy rate and that should positively impact the ink industry as well as Hubergroup India. We are offering some great solutions for packaging printers using offset, flexo and gravure technologies. For example, for customers in the folding cartons segment we offer low migration inks as well as cobalt-free inks. For flexible packaging customers, we have solutions like the Gecko ink system,” Kamat says.

The Gecko ink system was launched in India a few years ago. The Gecko system for flexo and gravure processes is designed taking into consideration important global regulations and the inks are manufactured under strict GMO guidelines. Since a large proportion of food packaging is printed using solvent-based ink systems, a major risk with regard to migration is present. For Gecko inks, the raw material selection follows stringent parameters keeping in mind issues such as toxicity and migration. The Gecko brand is already an established one by Hubergroup in Europe.

Flexo growing in flexible packaging
The Indian flexible packaging industry has traditionally used gravure technology but in recent years there has been a clear move towards flexo technology. Kamat believes that this shift will continue and flexo will be an important technology for convertors in the flexible packaging industry in India and Hubergroup will be looking to offer more solutions for convertors using flexography in India in the future.

“I am not saying that gravure will disappear. It will very much be part of the Indian flexible packing industry. What I am saying is that flexo technology will take a lot of share as we are seeing a lot of flexo presses being installed in India in recent years. This trend will continue and we will bring in fantastic ink systems for this segment,” Kamat concludes.

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.

– Naresh Khanna

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