Report on Printpack India 2022 at Greater Noida

A successful show for sales – the print revival is a barometer of the economy

India Expo Centre gets ready for PrintPack India 2022.
India Expo Centre gets ready for PrintPack India 2022. Photo: IPP

In May I attended three exhibitions. The first was in Milan – the Ipack-Ima, Pharmintech, and Print4All event from 3 to 6 May. The second trip was to the Paperex Exhibition in Greater Noida to talk about emerging from two years of the pandemic and the future of the print industry at its conference. We also moderated a panel of publishers, printers, and a papermaker to evaluate where we are after the trauma and where we are going. The third was the Printpack, also in Greater Noida – where apart from our usual activity of learning about technology and meeting printers and suppliers, we also produced the Show Daily that some of you may have seen or read in print or digitally. 

We were curious about our initial optimism for the event since there were challenges such as the Delhi heat wave and still unclear but seeming waning Covid-19 infections. In the first two days, we met about 15 manufacturers or supplier exhibitors at Printpack. We challenged them: “Is our optimism about the recovery of the print industry warranted or are we just giving a pep talk to the already converted who would like to believe it or hope that it is true, even if it isn’t?”

We asked because on the first two days we did not meet many of the big business owners or equipment buyers. However, we observed a sea change of improvement in the equipment exhibited by the Indian manufacturers – shifts towards book production, paper bags, packaging, and increased automation and options. Although deals were being announced we assumed that these were sales done before the show.

On the second day, even before we reached the show phone calls came from people wanting to meet us – they had something important to share. In our first hour at the show, in the three meetings out of four, we learned that the Indian print industry is hot – that several deals have been made in the past month and the most recent deal was signed that morning for a highly configured sheetfed multicolor offset packaging press. For multicolor offset presses, the current financial year seems to be similar to one of the better years before the pandemic, not only in the number of printing machines, but also in terms of complexity, automation, and value.

We learned that approximately seven or eight multicolor offset press signings would take place during days of the show and perhaps another ten presses in the next thirty days. Not from any one manufacturer but several deals, both for commercial printing including a couple of fully-loaded 8-color presses, and for monocartons are in their closing stages. Over the next few days, the sales of die-cutters cutters and folder-gluers seemed to rise exponentially. Reports of the luxury hard box sales also came in. Sales of packaging software and sampling tables also arrived and were reported in our Show Daily. 

The situation is similar in the flexible packaging industry. Apart from serious ongoing expansion, orders are in place for new blown and cast coated film lines, gravure and flexo presses, and converting machines from leading global and Indian manufacturers. Multiple label press sales were also announced at Printpack

What is the reason for all this investment activity? One explanation is that there is immense pent-up demand from two or three years of no investment. Also, if the big presses and converting equipment are selling, then it’s good for the die-makers, rule and rubbering suppliers, the ink, adhesive, chemical, coating, paper, and labelstock suppliers too.

At our Paperex conference panel, the publishers and printers said that demand is already higher than 2019 levels – that the print industry is not only resilient but also that it is a first indicator of the economic revival based on the immediate and unmet hunger for print and packaging. As one of the suppliers said, “If our big machines with automation are selling at this rate, it is a barometer for the entire industry – it’s going to be a hugely successful Printpack.”

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.

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– Naresh Khanna

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