Women frontline workers Bangladesh
Development workers in the frontline combating Covid-19 under the LIUPC project of UNDP Bangladesh.Photo: UN Women/Fahad Abdullah Kaizer

It is quite easy to forget, but it has been a brutal year for the human side of the industry. We lost several of our brightest and best to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in April and May. It is too easy to forget that some organizations, especially those that are family-owned and run will have to live with this emotional loss that came at a critical time in their expansive growth. And that the young and educated talent that brings new ideas and love for the industry and a passion to risk and build new projects is not only hard to find but irreplaceable. For those of us who have not suffered as greatly and personally, it is never too late to count our blessings.

It is a time to thank those who have stood by us and helped and supported us in whatever small successes that may have come this year. Much of the brutality of the year has been borne by our colleagues who don’t live as luxuriously as us, who have children in school and college that have suffered in their growth, and whose job functions make it hard to work from home. They have had to use public transport and keep themselves well and safe for their family’s very survival.

What are the prospects for the Indian packaging industry in the coming year? The consensus is that it has been one of the fortunate industries during the past 21 months of the pandemic. It has suffered least from ambiguity as a great part of it has been able to pass itself off as essential services – particularly to the food and pharma supply chain. 

Our industry went into the pandemic with immense growth and investment plans and these are back on track. Look for the continued expansion of the Indian packaging industry to grow in double digits for the next three years as the economy recovers beyond consumption and the government gets its act together with investments in infrastructure, education, and health.

Do not expect help from the Indian banks which are in total disarray – unable to lend to small and medium businesses that make up a substantial part of the packaging industry. This will mean further inroads by private equity and foreign investment in our industry. At the top of the pyramid, it will mean consolidation, acquisitions, and mergers but for the small and medium businesses, it will mean continued hyper-competition and lack of capital at a reasonable cost for expansion and even survival. 

It is ironic that while this government places so much emphasis on manufacturing in India and has now started giving handouts to attract investments for the manufacture of medical devices, textiles, electronics, and chip fabs, it cannot control or liberate its banking system from rent-seeking and corruption. 

Local purchasers of Indian manufactured world-class packaging presses and machinery cannot get a decent corruption-free loan to buy this equipment. It is far easier to import globally manufactured equipment that comes with a loan based on a balance sheet, and a reasonably honest project report, and deferred payments for the first 30 months.

Lastly do not expect this government to take rational steps on the management of packaging waste or the collection, sorting, and recycling of plastic and plastic packaging. If it acts at all, this year it will be some drastic and draconian measure in the middle of the night that will throw the industry into disarray. 

Nevertheless do expect the Indian consumer to stand up and sort waste at the source and to demand responsible packaging. Already we see major brand owners shifting high volume food, household, and personal care products to single polymer laminates and safer production processes. We also see the improvements in paper packaging that with appropriate innovations are ready to replace plastic packaging for many critical applications. 

The global commitments for circular packaging by governments, brand owners, and packaging suppliers have targeted 2025 as the deadline year for significant change. We begin the new year a bit closer to the need and opportunity of aligning ourselves with this  – one of the more useful and scientific ambitions of the global industry.

Note –  this article is from the Packaging South Asia January 2022 issue to be posted to subscribers on 4 January 2022.

Packaging South Asia — resilient, growing and impactful — daily, monthly — always responsive

The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers. This is a large and complex canvas – the only thing that can work is your agile thinking and innovation together with our continuous learning and persistence.

The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

For editorial info@ippgroup.in — for advertisement ads1@ippgroup.in and for subscriptions subscription@ippgroup.in

– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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Naresh Khanna
Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy. Elected vice-president of the International Packaging Press Organization in May 2023.

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