While paper demand is strong, India’s largest paper manufacturer weakens

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While Indian offset printing paper together with liner, coated stock and paperboard is in robust demand, India’s erstwhile largest producer is weakening. Lenders have taken control of BILT under debt restructuring in May 2017, converting their loans into a 51% stake. Meanwhile, the parent group of BILT , Avantha Power and Infrastructure is at the National Company Law Tribunal over debt default. There are various ideas about the group’s losses in its various businesses and ambitions.

Commercial offset printers and book printing exporters have been crying out for offset paper while prices have risen enormously in the past three years. Capacities have been added by mills such as JK Paper, Century, ITC, Emami and TNPL. International Paper, which bought AP Paper several years ago, has also managed to make that company profitable. While it is true that most of the investments are for value-added paperboard, Asian companies are also investing in new mills in the country. The perennial complaint that India is a fiber-short country has also been proven to be erroneous by mills that have assisted plantations with saplings and have been able to create sustainable fiber resources. BILT is unfortunately a perennial sad and dissappointing story for Indian printers.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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