Bringing sustainability back to the front burner

The year of living carefully


In the past year of living carefully in the shadow of Covid-19, the packaging industry has been one of the fortunate exceptions in the economy with continued growth and capacity building. The suppliers of film, board, liner, or labelstock or those of gravure, label and offset presses and converting equipment for flexibles, corrugated, and carton packaging have done well. The packaging printing and converting suppliers have delivered on notable projects that were in the pipeline. The filling and sealing segments have also added considerable capacity.

The aggressive capacity building in the Indian packaging industry continues with belief renewed by the pandemic in both the necessity of Indian packaging and its still considerable headroom for growth. With plans made and, in many cases, equipment with long lead times on order, a great deal of capacity building is in progress for the coming two years. However, the question being asked – even by sellers of equipment, technology, and raw materials, is whether we have sidelined packaging sustainability. This subject was on the front burner at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

In the last year, many expert commentators have pointed out that there is the danger of arriving at the new normal by taking the ‘Covid bypass.’ Will the economic recovery and the packaging industry’s prosperity overlook the tough questions of waste collection, sorting at source, and recycling packaging in India? Will sustainability remain merely lip service and greenwashing while each material and segment champions its virtuous green credentials to the detriment of others?

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that it is one of a series of recurring events in which we have perhaps irreparably damaged our natural world. Consumers are aware of the crisis widely and are demanding hygiene and safety in products and sustainability, wiser use of finite resources, and recyclable and recycled packaging.

In recent surveys, a majority of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the number one issue that companies need to tackle now and in the future. They are no longer satisfied with the possibility, and they are demanding hygienic and sustainable packaging with recycled content now.

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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