Nulith’s Shah: ‘Indian newspaper industry recovery to be slow’

Newspaper recovery poor, packaging recovery strong

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Nulith team
L to R: Kaushil Shah, Suresh Shah and Naineel Shah of Nulith Photo Nulith

The Indian newspaper industry’s recovery will be slow. The industry may not get back to the pre-lockdown levels in the current financial year, Suresh Shah of Mumbai-based consumables supplier Nulith told Indian Printer and Publisher. While Shah’s newspaper related consumables business is down to 20 to 25% of pre-lockdown levels, he says the packaging business has recovered to 70 to 80% of pre-lockdown levels.

“We have seen a sharp decline in the circulation of newspapers due to the imposition of the lockdown. There is some recovery since June, but the distribution of newspapers remains a challenge. We may see some jump in advertising revenue during the upcoming festival season and recovery in circulation due to more unlocking. However, I feel the industry may not be able to get back to pre-lockdown levels this financial year,” said Shah.

During the early phases of the Covid-19 induced lockdown that came into effect on 25 March, many parts of the metro and non-metro cities did not receive any newspapers. Metro cities with large housing complexes and especially Mumbai and Delhi, which had many active cases, were significantly affected. Since the first phase of unlocking in June, there is an improvement in circulation, but it is still much lower than pre-lockdown levels.

In a survey published in July and reported by us, EY said that only 32% of metro respondents were getting newspapers at home while 65% of non-metro respondents were getting their papers delivered at their doorstep. “Our newspaper related business now is only 20-25% of the pre-lockdown levels. This indicates the damage that the industry has seen due to lower advertising revenue and disruption in circulation. I expect newspaper circulation levels to go back to about 70% in the coming months,” Shah added.

Mumbai-based Nulith has long supplied blankets and press consumables to the newspaper industry and offers press maintenance services. To the packaging industry, it provides flexo plates, coating solutions, and inks.

Sharp recovery for Nuliith’s packaging consumables  

In contrast to both the newspaper and commercial printing sectors, the Indian packaging industry has been relatively unscathed because it plays a role in the supply chain for essential goods such as food and pharma. Although it suffered from various constraints due to the lockdown, especially in April, it has seen a relatively quick recovery in recent months. Nulith’s Shah says his packaging related consumables business has bounced back to 70-80% of pre-lockdown levels.

“Due to the essential nature of the packaging business, the industry has been more or less unaffected by the Covid-19 related lockdown in India. Our packaging related business has seen an excellent recovery, and I expect the business to go back to 100% very soon,” Shah said.

Nulith distributes water-based coating solutions from Germany’s Actega and flexo plates from China’s Lucky Graphics. The company is also developing new coating solutions in association with other local players. “The base materials for these coatings will be imported, but all the value addition will happen at our facility in Bhiwandi (near Mumbai). These coatings for flexible and paperboard packaging are expected to hit the Indian market in October,” Shah 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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