Less demand for inks from commercial and newspaper industry in 2018

RY Kamat interview

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newspaper industry
RY Kamat, executive director, Hi-Tech Inks

With tradition commercial offset printing industry witnessing stagnate growth, the consumption of printing inks too has been affected, making 2018 a tough year for the printing inks industry, RY Kamat of Hi-Tech Inks told Indian Printer and Publisher.
According to him, even demand for printing inks in the newspaper industry has slowed down in the last couple of years as dailies have been reducing pages to cut costs amid rising newsprint and raw material costs.

“The traditional commercial offset printing business has been witnessing anaemic growth for some years now because a lot of volume has shifted toward short-run digital printing while a large chunk of work has disappeared altogether due to popularity smartphones and other hand-held devices. Newspapers, especially regional ones, were growing but there has been cost pressure in the last two years. These factors have led to slowdown in demand for inks in these segments,” Kamat said.

A veteran of the industry, Kamat recently joined Mumbai-based Hi-Tech Inks as executive director after working for Hubergroup India for close to three decades. Hi-Tech Inks is a fast-growing manufacturer of inks for flexible packaging applications.

Rising raw material cost another blow

If demand slowdown in commercial offset and newspaper segments were not enough, the printing inks industry faced a tough 2018 also because of high price of crude oil and other related raw materials. Depreciation of the Indian rupee against USD further made imports expensive, exacerbating the impact of rising raw material cost.

“Despite all these major developments, the industry has not been able to raise prices. This has had an adverse impact on the bottom line,” Kamat stated.

However, he sounded a lot more positive about 2019 because of recent sharp decline in crude oil prices and cost of other raw materials.

Packaging is the major driver for ink demand

A bright spot for the printing inks industry in India has been the packaging sector. According to Kamat, demand for printing inks in the packaging industry has been growing in double digits in the recent years.

“All major areas in the packaging industry, flexible packaging, folding cartons or corrugated, are growing at a robust rate which is driving demand for printing inks. This will continue in the year ahead,” he argued.

Hi-Tech to expand capacity

With growth outlook of the packaging industry robust, Hi-Tech Inks is expanding its ink manufacturing capacity to leverage this growth. The company currently has a manufacturing unit in Vapi in Gujarat, where it manufactures solvent-based printing inks for flexographic and rotogravure applications.

By April 2016, Hi-Tech Inks will commission a new state-of-the-art manufacturing unit, which will have a capacity to produce about 1,800 tons every month, double the capacity of the old plant. Once the new plant becomes operational, the current manufacturing of solvent-based inks will shift there and the old plant will most likely be used for manufacturing water-based inks.

“We are very excited about growth in the Indian packaging space and that is why we have double our manufacturing capacity. Now, we will also focus on getting a bigger footprint in north, south and east India,” 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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