The index of optimism

Organisms that survive are capable of self-correction

Various sectors of the Indian brand owners, printers, packaging converters and suppliers vary in their views from optimistic to realistic about the economy and industry recovery after the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted. Graphic IppStar 2020

As technical and science writers, we speak on the basis of evidence and facts. We gather evidence and opinions to understand and interpret the evidence from various points of view. We argue the evidence. And we question and criticize the statistical information delivered daily by the financial press, which often quotes handouts from research and consulting companies.

Our informed questioning of data and ready-made statistics has persisted for over 30 years. We have looked at the industry process, and technology changes to understand migration, which is one of the most potent tools in trend forecasting. Needless to say, when we began our research, most of our respondents and expert informants noted that what we were trying to do – to put numbers on an incredibly fragmented industry – was impossible.

In 1999 we began our formal research our organization of the Indian printing, packaging, and publishing industry, for both global and Indian clients. In 2001, we set up a separate company, IppStar – Ipp Services, Training and Research. Ever since, several clients have entrusted us with repeat projects. On occasion, we were invited to present our findings at industry fora in India, the United States, Germany, Japan, and the Middle East.

Although, we always felt that bankable numbers were an input needed for any industry to mature and thrive, expecting a fragmented industry to invest in such work was always a bit optimistic. Nevertheless, we have persisted in the search for numbers, nuances, growth drivers, levers, and links to the overall economy. The analytical aspect of the research process has made us reasonably close students of the Indian economy.

Our magazine’s readers, who are often also our research respondents, share information with us honestly. We have interviewed some of them more than ten times in the past 20 years, building a degree of trust that the information will be treated responsibly. Ethically, without sharing individual company data with anyone. We have never given anyone any gift for filling out a questionnaire.

However, research is not pure science, where we identify the unknown in a test tube by adding reagents and putting them in a centrifuge. Our quest for reliable ideas and trends is based on several beliefs. One belief is that the industry verticals or domains that we are expert in – publishing, print, and packaging will grow and become more organized. And for this, they will ultimately want better and more precise research.

Our work is also driven by the belief that societies and economies are continually trying to improve themselves. And that our industries will succeed as long as they find a way to be part of improving entertainment, information, communication, science, education and, in the instance of packaging, modern trade practices.

During the recent COVID-19 lockdown, we conducted a research survey to ascertain our industry stakeholders’ views as to when the lockdown would end and how quickly the economy and their segment or sector would recover. In the main, we found that our more than 200 respondents were resilient – and a relatively high percentage, 23% across segments, were optimistic about a quick recovery of the economy and their business from the lockdown. A significant portion, 53% across sectors, felt there would be a slow recovery. The results of the survey with graphs and charts are available in the overall analysis.

We have kept talking to the respondents since the survey and to several industry experts keeping in mind that 18% of the offset and commercial printers expected a quick recovery. Recently a senior supplier of digital presses and a significant global publisher said this figure could not be seen as pessimistic.

The publisher says that having lost at least two to three months of sales, he expects turnover to take a 25% to 35% hit in this financial year, and the negative effect will partially linger in the next year as well. Rebuilding the economy and our businesses are going to require a careful and global process. And, like any successful organism, we should boldly expect our economy and government to be capable of self-correction and adaptation.

This article has been slightly corrected on 6 June 2020 by the author.

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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