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

Another 10-15% recovery in the upcoming festival season

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.

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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