India commercial print overview update

Offset and digital press installations, orders, and expectations remain high

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commercial print
Heidelberg Speedmaster SX102 8-color

Although this is a drupa year and that too after an eight-year gap, the Indian commercial printers are not waiting for the event to place their orders for multicolor offset and digital presses in the last months of the current financial year. While the digital press market is growing by a remarkable number of installs till 31 March and several orders for web-fed inkjet book presses are to ship near the beginning of the next financial year from April onwards, the sheetfed multicolor orders (and announcements) are also mounting up.

The significant increase in the number of new monochrome and color digital presses of all types, including drum and toner and inkjet presses installed by book printers in the 2023-24 financial year, is likely to be strengthened by good sales in Q4 of FY 23-24. The total annual installs are expected to exceed even optimistic forecasts by about 30 to 35% by 31 March 2024. FY 24-25 is expected to continue the growth trend for drum and toner presses as well as the web-fed inkjets digital book presses with two presses already scheduled for installations after April. 

As we wrote earlier, web-fed inkjet digital book presses are gaining traction and there is now increased competition between overseas manufacturers. Domestic producers such as Monotech and Vinsak continue to make inroads and gain market share with Monotech also exporting its inkjet book presses. If there is one great area of interest for Indian printers at drupa, it may be their expectations for the new B2 sheetfed ink presses to be demonstrated and ready for market at the seminal event. The Indian buyers are optimistic about their markets but are also clear that the capital cost of these digital machines has to come down considerably to make them viable in one of the liveliest print markets in the world. Their skepticism about new technologies and their non-speculative viability calculations have generally proven them to be wise – even if they are middle to late adopters of new technologies.

Offset press demand is robust

The trend of increasing installations of 8-color offset perfecting presses continues and we should see a mixture of brand-new and good-condition presses installed in this segment in the coming year. As I am writing this in the second half of January, a Heidelberg Speedmaster SX102 8-color perfecter is being installed in the Okhla industrial area in New Delhi. Including the installation of the 10-color used Heidelberg perfecter at Nutech in Faridabad, one would guess that three or four long perfecters will be commissioned in the current financial year. In FY 2024-25 it is expected that two or three new 8-color perfecters will be installed in addition to a similar number of used machines in good condition.

The overall orders for new multicolor offset presses include some backlog of previous sales and these are robust – together with packaging presses sheetfed multicolor should resume the pre-covid growth trajectory in installations. Most commercial printers are not waiting for drupa as they believe that many of the new automation and innovations have already been revealed, demonstrated, and talked about.

Neither the manufacturers waited for the big event to show their new features and nor can customers who are facing long delivery cycles apart from the usual delays in tying up loan agreements, and land and building construction. Capacity building is a continuum and for the Indian printers, buying a new multicolor press that will happen several years after they have seen it at drupa is no longer the case.

There are a significant number of commercial print businesses for whom higher domestic and export demand is driving the need for new presses. Their purchasing time frames are based on their business cycles both for production efficiencies, that make them globally competitive, and which also require tax management. Every new press buyer is optimistic about buying a more automated and efficient press in the future – and there is no harm in using the drupa learning for plans and intentions.

Lastly, raw material prices have been relatively benign but this could change quickly given the various conflicts that are increasing shipping costs for exporters to Europe. In some cases, the lower paper and board prices in the past year have eroded toplines, which can be a concern to the bankers of the industry, who do not recognize that lower and less volatile raw material prices are good for the long-term competitive position of the industry. However, all exporters, including book printers who have CIF contracts, will be compelled to bear shipping and logistic costs that are at times five times higher than they had hoped for. Overall it has been a healthy beginning of the year for commercial print press sales and capacity addition in the country.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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