April to September offset multicolor press installations stall in India

Pandemic and lockdown crash commercial print in India

Team Print Point with the Speedmaster CX 75: (From left): Ashok Kumar, Sadanand Singh, Dhirresh and Kranti Kumar Photo Heidelberg India
Team Print Point with the Speedmaster CX 75: (From left): Ashok Kumar, Sadanand Singh, Dhirresh and Kranti Kumar Photo Heidelberg India

Installations of multicolor offset presses have been sparse, to say the least. These were mostly machines ordered in the previous financial year and were installed as the lockdown was lifted in May, June, and in August. Altogether, only seven presses have been installed since April in its unlikely that the number will go higher than 13 or 14 installations till the end of the financial year in March 2021.

Some of the more optimistic manufacturers were hoping to limit the damage this year with installations reduced to 60% of the previous year. Others were forecasting a total wipeout. However, it is more likely that the actual number will be half of what the optimists were hoping. Though higher for digital press installations, the numbers are nevertheless proportionately similar compared to the first five months of the previous financial year.

Commercial print down while monocarton printing is holding up

What is noticeable is that India’s commercial printing market seems to have completely collapsed with the Covid-19 infections raging at a daily rate that is the highest in the world at over 90,000 cases. The economy shows a very slight or gradual recovery. While the drastic and complete lockdown of March 24th has been gradually lifted in many sectors since the beginning of July, demand has not returned. Retail sales, automobiles, real estate, education, travel, and hospitality are not rising, although all sectors are hopeful that the festive season will bring back consumer demand.

Of the seven offset press installations from three of the five major global manufacturers, only two have come to the commercial printing segment, a 2-color press, and a 4-color press since April. The other five, including two 5-color plus coater presses, two 6-color presses with coaters, and one 7-color press with coater, came to packaging printers and converters.

This correlates well with both the collapse of commercial printing and the relative strength of the monocarton segment that relies on highly configured multicolor presses with coaters and often with both interdeck and end of press UV curing. The number of impressions of cartons printers has also been holding up since May since many of these were part of the food and pharma and essential goods supply chain and obtained permission to open their plants even during the lockdown.

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