Press imports to fall sharply in FY 2020-21

Provin webinar on how to restart presses

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Printing Industry
Vinay Kaushal, director of Provin Technos.

The impact of the Covid-19 virus looms large on the printing industry. In the past several years, the printing industry has gone through ups and downs as a consequence of specific measures and regimes put in place by the Indian government. Similarly, the impact of COVID-19 is going to be extremely harsh on the overall economy, which was already in bad shape before the corona effect came to India.

“This is a unique situation that the world is facing for the first time. The printing industry is directly dependent on various core industries and will surely be affected. However, at this point, we can only make some assumptions about its impact, which seems very fluid at this moment, largely because the decision on lifting the lockdown is still uncertain. Surely enough, every business is under serious threat right now and is merely looking to survive this phase. There will be a serious cash-flow problem once we get back to work, and that will be the real challenge,” says Vinay Kaushal, director of Provin Technos.

Government’s support will define recovery

As the printing industry is hugely dependent on various core industries, there will inevitably be an impact on print demand. “The worsthit will be the commercial printing sector, which will witness a steep fall in demand due to a severe lack of cash flow. The publication industry is another that may be equally affected by a fall in demand. The packaging industry will only be hit in the demand for the luxury packaging segment, but the demand from the FMCG sector will compensate for this shortfall. Overall, print demand will severely decline even though it may pick up in the latter part of the year. However, the government’s support for the small and medium sector industries will define how printing in India picks up,” Kaushal adds. The pharma sector has been classified as a part of essential services during the nation-wide lockdown and remains operational. The central government’s lifting restrictions on some life-saving drugs gave pharma companies a once in a generation opportunity to dominate the global supply of certain critical medicines. The Indian pharma sector witnessed a brief moment of euphoria during the pandemic, although specific constraints continue to affect the supply chain. “The pharma sector will be the least affected,” says Kaushal.

Press imports may decline sharply

The coronavirus added to the drupa exhibition postponement is undoubtedly going to have a drastic impact on the number of presses imported by Indian printers in FY 2020-21. While some will wait to take a look at the new technologies to be launched at drupa before investing, others would have to tackle the more considerable challenge of survival in the market after the lockdown ends.“Captial investment will be the least important consideration once the industry opens after the lockdown. The immediate challenge will be to survive. The import of new machines will be severely affected, and achieving even 25% of the FY 2019-20 sales is going to be a huge challenge,” Kaushal explains.

Provin organizes customer webinar

At this moment, almost all printers remain shut except the few who service the essential sectors. “Hence, there is nothing much which needs doing on the machine support side. We, however, are in regular touch with our customers. We conducted a webinar a few days ago, to educate our customers on the procedures to be followed for restarting the presses after the lockdown ends. The webinar highlighted the minor issues that arise in Indian conditions keeping in mind that the stoppage of the press happened in a very sudden and unplanned manner. This procedure or protocol was established in discussion with RMGT Japan, and the webinar was well attended,” explains Kaushal. In those places where Provin doesn’t have local engineers, and there is a severe breakdown,
Provin immediately arranges a customer visit. Since RMGT in Japan remains operational, technical, and other support from Japan remains available at all times.

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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