Orthodox business practices may fade from the printing industry

Impact of COVID-19 on the printing industry

15th Printpack India exhibition – 20 to 24 December 2021
Sangam Khanna, deputy managing director of Komori India, Yoshiharu Komori, chairman and chief executive officer of Komori Corporation and Hirofumi Hoshino, managing director of Komori India at the Komori stand at Printpack 2019

The lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus that originated in China is pretty sure to have an impact on the printing industry in terms of value. Sangam Khanna deputy managing director of Komori India ventures to give a figure of losses to the offset printing industry in India that could be as high as US$ half a billion (approximately Rs. 3500 to Rs 3800 crore) on the basis of the lockdown continuing for another 4 to 6 weeks.

Currently, many printers operating in the lockdown conditions maintain not more than 25% of their daily workforce. The government has asked companies not to slash jobs and to continue to pay the employees regularly. “However, most of the print businesses in India are either small scale or from the MSME sector – which employ the majority of the workforce in India. A major part of this sector survives precariously. The industry was already affected by an economic slowdown, and the COVID19 situation will only add to the woes of all these printers,” adds Khanna. He also says that the organized sector and larger companies in the packaging and publication sectors may also find it difficult to sustain their businesses if the lockdown continues.

The coronavirus situation, together with the cancellation of drupa, may not have a direct impact on the print buyer. Still, it may have a significant effect on the press suppliers and the exhibitors. “There is cash-loss along with a disruption in the planned schedule pushing the print calendar by almost ten months. But, one must be thankful to the organizers for taking a call just in time. The postponement of drupa may also differ with the plans that printers may have made. However, those who cannot wait or have their plans and projects in place will go ahead despite the disruption,” says Khanna.

As the demand from the world slows down, suppliers are also facing the heat. As the numbers fall, the cost of production must increase as the economy of scale will not justify most manufacturing costs until the time COVID-19 situation no longer dilutes demand. “While it is difficult for one to predict the revival of the industry at this stage, it is imperative for printers not to undercut rates to survive in the market. However, the COVID-19 situation has offered a good opportunity for companies big and small to save and be better prepared for unforeseen emergencies in the future.

“The demand in the printing industry will now undergo a seachange, and business models will transform rapidly. Those who are willing to change and transform will do exceptionally well, and the ones who don’t may even have to close their shutters. This emergency will pave the way for various new verticals and block orthodox business trends abruptly, which may be painful to see,” Khanna 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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