Cross currents for labels in a growing economy

Demand volatility and raw material supply

Packaging and labels which cannot perform without information, inserts, outserts, QR codes, and barcodes apart from the variable printed manufacturing.

Society and business may be going digital but it is unlikely they will get wherever they are going, without print – which is in fact in the middle of everything. The same goes for packaging and labels which cannot perform without information, inserts, outserts, QR codes, and barcodes apart from the variable printed manufacturing, sell-by, and use-by dates. Nevertheless, print has taken a knock in the pandemic because of the closure of schools and retail shops while packaging and labels have held up and become stronger in an era of remote shopping, commoditized choice, hygienic, or at least layers of packaging, handling, and last-mile delivery. All riding on the cellphone and digital backbone of the country which although cantankerous and occasionally frail is more than good enough for an emerging economy. 

However, as the packaging and label industries grow even with the moderate 5 to 7% real GDP growth for the Indian economy that we expect – there are several overall trends that could even be described as cross-currents. Firstly, the economy has reached a level where even small growth matters for industry, especially for its consumer product segments since it is still a consumption-led economy. Secondly, there is more interest in our economy from global investors and manufacturers partly because we have reached a critical mass or size in consumption, and partly for other factors such as the need to diversify manufacturing supply chains from other parts of Asia. 

The startup culture is also gaining traction. New organic, sustainable consumer products are also emerging which directly benefit labels and packaging. Cross currents are those of business or demand volatility which is normal from day to day but which has been accentuated during the last 22 to 23 months on a practically monthly, or quarterly basis. The positive side of volatility is that customers return and generally with erratic volumes and new demands. And this makes the more frequent (than earlier) shortages of raw materials such as label stocks a problem, because converters’ calculations and productivity go haywire. 

Several of these issues, trends and cross-currents become apparent when we visit and talk to a mix of label printers who may have active plans to challenge the everyday trends in the industry and others who are also growing but more modestly or incrementally. However, the overarching issues are similar for the wide range of converters. There are the newbies with or without deep pockets who may have entered the industry with locally manufactured or high-end imported label presses, to the biggies who are scaling up with good access to investors. And in the middle are the established players with three or four label presses who feel the price competition, skill shortages, demand volatility, the raw material prices and delays more intensely.

The impact, resilience, and growth of responsible packaging in a wide region are daily chronicled by Packaging South Asia.

A multi-channel B2B publication and digital platform such as Packaging South always aware of the prospect of new beginnings and renewal. Its 16-year-old print monthly, based in New Delhi, India has demonstrated its commitment to progress and growth. The Indian and Asian packaging industries have shown resilience in the face of ongoing challenges over the past three years.

As we present our publishing plan for 2023, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2023 will reach 6.3%. Packaging industry growth has exceeded GDP growth even when allowing for inflation in the past three years.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 33% over the past three years. With orders in place, we expect another 33% capacity addition from 2023 to 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels have grown similarly. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

Even given the disruptions of supply chains, raw material prices, and the challenge of responsible and sustainable packaging, packaging in all its creative forms and purposes has significant headroom to grow in India and Asia. Our context and coverage engulf the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and further – to waste collection and recycling. We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers.

In an admittedly fragmented and textured terrain, this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing support communication – in our impactful and highly targeted business platform. Tell us what you need. Speak and write to our editorial and advertising teams! For advertisement , for editorial and for subscriptions

– Naresh Khanna

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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.


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