Sakata Ink in India has primarily been a supplier of cold-set offset inks to the newspaper, commercial, and packaging industry segments and also of liquid inks to the flexible packaging industry. In the past two-and-a-half years that have been affected by the challenges of the Covid pandemic and the war in Europe, the company has shown resilience and even growth – in terms of capacity expansion. This seems a reflection of the company’s belief in long-term growth in the subcontinent for high-quality products.
Sakata India’s managing director VK Seth says, “It’s been a double whammy for global companies like us in the past few years. First, the pandemic hit the print industry and, especially, the newspaper industry for which we had built up capacities earlier. And then just as it subsided and there were signs of economic recovery, in spite of the higher raw material prices, the war in Europe has disrupted the global economy and further increased the prices of energy and raw materials.”
Sakata has nevertheless held to its long-term plans and has just in the past year commissioned its liquid inks plant for flexible packaging near Dhaka in Bangladesh. Similarly, it has built a new capacity for toluene-free liquid inks at its Panoli plant in Gujarat in India. The site already contained the plants for newspaper cold set inks and liquid inks manufacturing. The Panoli plant will start producing UV and energy cured inks by the end of 2022.
Revival in monocarton inks demand
The new Sakata plant in Panoli will produce inks for the highly configured multicolor offset UV presses with coaters that are being imported by many of the monocarton and litho-laminated carton converters in India and the subcontinent. Seth, who is conservative in his analysis of the industry and the economy, reveals that there are some recent signs of revival and a pick-up of ink demand by the monocarton industry.
The energy-cured inks plant will produce not only normal UV-cured inks but also LED and eBeam-cured inks. As we have written recently, an RMGT 7-color plus coater UV-LED press has already been purchased by HBD Packaging in Noida. The press, which is to arrive in the January 2023 time frame, will use LED UV curing for its interdeck units and normal UV for the coater, which should lead to significant energy savings.
New inks for Indian newsprint
The pandemic and the lockdowns were devastating for much of the economy and also the newspaper industry not only in terms of circulation but also for the skyrocketing cost of imported newsprint and other consumables, which in turn were affected by the prices of raw materials and adverse logistics. In this area, Sakata India’s ink designers came up with formulations that have worked efficiently on local newsprint grades that tend to have unique characteristics that include rougher surfaces and more show-through. This has been a difficult process of trials and improvements that brought the company closer to several newspaper printers and motivated the company’s ink engineers to demonstrate their capabilities.
In our conversation with Sakata India’s managing director, we sense both realism and resilience. The circumstances remain challenging. The flexible packaging industry which we thought is booming is actually beset with very low margins at a time when it is also beset with concerns about sustainability and recycling.
Sakata India has held its course of steady expansion of higher quality products in the belief that the demand for these products will eventually increase as the industry appreciates its enhanced capabilities and capacities in both India and Bangladesh. However, as the company’s managing director said to us, the company’s [and indeed the industry’s] growth cannot or should not come at the cost of viability and profitability, and even in the reduced circumstances of the past years, the company has done well for itself.