Orthodox business practices may fade from the printing industry

Impact of COVID-19 on the printing industry

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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.

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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