Interview – V K Seth, managing director – Sakata Inx India

Another 10-15% recovery in the upcoming festival season

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Sakata
V K Seth, managing director – Sakata Inx India. Photo IPP

Correspondent Priyanka Tanwar recently had a conversation with V K Seth, managing director of Sakata Inx India on their bouquet of products for the newspaper and commercial printing industry in India, and the demand for the commercial and newspaper industry as the Indian economy recovers.

Indian Printer & Publisher (IPP) – What kind of inks are you supplying to the Indian newspaper industry? What press speeds are these compatible with?

V K Seth – The newspaper industry in India is rapidly changing because of various international factors, including the raw material and newsprint situation and Sakata is rapidly adapting to these quickly changing demands of the market. We are making inks that are both mineral oil and vegetable oil based. We are catering to different speeds – high-speed newspaper printing which can range up to 85 – 90,000 copies per hour to maybe as low as 35 – 40,000 copies per hour. 

We have a very versatile bouquet of products which we offer for the varying needs of our customers. The industry is changing very quickly, and as you may have also noticed, the government is going toward licensing the import of newsprint so the focus is shifting more towards using locally produced newsprint. Currently, the local newsprint quality is definitely not as good as the imported substrates that we were getting in the past, so our inks have to cater to the requirements of newsprint with higher fluff, show through, and strikethrough. We need to have inks that are compatible with these newsprints without compromising the basic features of the ink. We are continuously designing and redesigning based on the customer’s needs.

IPP – What paper grammage are these inks compatible with?

V K Seth – Our news inks are working effectively for substrates starting from 40 gsm onwards to 44 and 45 gsm. The grammage is not a big challenge for us because we are used to running our inks even on very low grammage newsprint.

IPP – Are you supplying inks to the textbook printing and commercial printing industries also?

V K Seth – Yes, we have a large portfolio and we are continuously supplying textbook printers and also for magazines, catalogs, and even coffee table books. We are supplying our inks to very renowned publishers. We have an entire bouquet of products along with the UV, aqueous, and different types of coatings that can cater to different needs required by the customer.

IPP – What are some of the special features of the inks that you’re supplying to the textbook printing industry?

V K Seth – A good ink must be safe and especially inks that are used for printing children’s textbooks. We make sure that we have more vegetable oils and they should have the features of lower migration, they should have features of difficult rub-off properties. Depending on the need or application for which it is required, we are able to supply inks accordingly.

IPP – Would you like to comment on the health risks of newspapers being used for serving food in India?

VK Seth – While we are in a very transient situation where the government is trying to focus more on the sustainable development goals. As far as the newspaper industry is concerned besides the INCQC color standards there are not many standards still in place which prevent certain toxic substances in inks that go to the newspapers. Unfortunately, in our rural areas still, many food items like sugar, pulses, and grains are being sold wrapped in newspapers. This is not a very safe situation, we are continuously worried about this use while the government is focused on the health and safety of citizens and this is one area that I personally feel needs more attention.

IPP – How has the demand for the commercial and newspaper industry been in 2022?

VK Seth – After Covid, the demand was seriously impacted and there was a substantial loss of readership, especially for newspapers. We did some market surveys and found out that there is a permanent loss of readership because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the good news is that in the current year (2022) the ink consumption is recovering from its reduction to 50% since the economy is recovering.

If the consumer economy is not doing well then advertisement revenue goes down, and less ink is used as the pagination of printed pages is reduced. Circulation is one part of the story but when the pagination also declined, the ink usage came down to just about 50% of the pre-Covid levels. The good news is that in 2022, we are seeing about a 10% percent gain. How far in the coming days, as we enter into the festival season, further growth may happen is a matter of speculation at this point but we do expect another 10-15% growth coming from our current levels. However, we are still far from the pre-Covid situation.

As far as commercial printing is concerned, in between, it was affected because of books not being printed because of schools and colleges being closed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. Now, we are seeing commercial printing along with the packaging growing so that it is near about the same as the level before the pandemic. We only expect that from here it will go back to normal.

IPP – Tell us about the raw material situation and the pressure on prices.

VK Seth – This is the most important thing today. The raw materials are in very short supply – some of the raw materials’ availability has been a big question and the costs have risen. Raw material prices along with the availability issue have had a serious impact on the overall costs – as freight rates have gone up, international trade rates have gone up, and petroleum is going up. There is a very serious impact – an increase of about 40 to 50% has happened during this period only on the pricing part of the raw materials.

We have been able to recover some of this, but at this point, the market is not able to support more than what we have received so far, which is not enough for us. We only hope that in the future when the economy starts doing better and the newspaper circulation goes back up, probably our customers will be able to afford better days and better pricing to us.

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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