Rex-tone India’s digital AT Inks

The Indian signage industry is maturing

AT Inks
From L-R: Nitin Goswamy, president – AT Inks with Neerav Goswamy, director – AT Inks at their stall at Media Expo 2021. Photo IPP

Based out of Vadodara, a city two hours drive from Ahmedabad in Western India, Rex-tone Industries is India’s first and largest manufacturer of digital inks. With four manufacturing plants spanning 55,000 square meters in the city, it produces solvent-based inks, eco-solvent inks, mild-solvent inks, UV inks, LED inks, water-based dye sublimation inks, and water-based reactive inks under its AT Inks brand. The company also makes primers and coatings.

With its experience of 27 years in the ink manufacturing segment, the ISO 9001 certified Rex-tone has amassed extensive know-how and expertise in impact as well as non-impact printing on diverse substrates. It provides inkjet inks for substrates such as paper, textile, flex, PVC, vinyl, clear vinyl, backlit, front-lit, reflective media and wet on wet ceramic printing.

The family-owned Rex-tone Industries was started as a trading company by Harish Goswamy in 1994 after acquiring rich experience in the dyes and textiles field in various multinationals. The company began manufacturing inks for the wide-format printing market in 2002 and solvent-based inks for large format printers in the following year. According to Rex-tone director Neerav Goswamy, AT Inks are compatible with almost every possible printhead in the piezo inkjet market including Xaar, Spectra, Ricoh, Panasonic, Seiko, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, and Toshiba.

AT Inks
Samples printed using Rex-tone Industries’ AT Inks at their stall at Media Expo New Delhi 2021. Photo IPP

Rex-tone supplies its branded AT Inks to 38 countries across the globe and claims to be the largest player in India for digital inks. The company participated in the recently concluded Media Expo New Delhi 2021 to interact with industry peers and end-users, and introduce its innovations in the signage space.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the Indian signage industry

According to a recent report by Mordor Intelligence, the global printed signage industry was estimated to be worth US$ 40.283 billion in 2020 (approximately Rs 3,05,874 crore) and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 0.19% during the forecast period from 2021-2026. According to our sister organization, research company IppStar ( the Indian signage industry is currently above US$ 2 billion and expects to achieve a CAGR of 10% in the five years from 2022-2027.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a tremendous negative impact on both the indoor and outdoor signage industries with nationwide and local government lockdowns. These have adversely affected the demand and the ink supply chain for both domestic and international markets resulting in a gradual decline for printed signage during the pandemic period. 

However, the healthcare market witnessed an exponential increase in both indoor and outdoor signage with an unprecedented demand for signage. Signage depicting Covid-19 precautions and safety measures across pharmacies, grocery stores, retail outlets, testing and vaccination centers, public spaces, points of purchase, banks, airports, and transport stations have contributed to the prevalence of scientific information and control of the virus. 

Creating new markets

Goswami shares his view of the Indian media and signage industry during the pandemic, “The April-May period for 2020 when it was the first wave and the second wave in April-May this year were very, very depressive. It was very difficult for us to manage the situation, but we have come out much stronger. 

“We saw two very good quarters in the second half of the previous financial year and we are seeing a good quarter starting this October also. So we expect that things are starting to get back to normal.”

The Indian signage segment has seen a gradual uptick with the opening up of malls, exhibitions, offices, and educational institutions. However, the segment suffers from counterfeit ink products that not only dilute brand trust but also increase competition within this close-knit industry.

Goswamy concludes, “The Indian signage industry has reached a level of maturity when it comes to specific products. There is much more that we can do. We need to move towards innovating and creating newer products that the industry itself can be proud of rather than just copying something that is already there in the market and trying to eat out of the same market size. Creating new markets – I think that is the more important part over here.”

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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