In May I attended three exhibitions. The first was in Milan – the Ipack-Ima, Pharmintech, and Print4All event from 3 to 6 May. The was the Paperex Exhibition in Greater Noida to talk about emerging from two years of the pandemic and the future of the print industry at its conference. We also moderated a panel of publishers, printers, and a papermaker to evaluate where we are after the trauma and where we are going. The third was the Printpack, also in Greater Noida – where apart from our usual activity of learning about technology and meeting printers and suppliers, we also produced the Show Daily that some of you may have seen or read in print or digitally.
We were curious about our initial optimism for the event since there were challenges such as the Delhi heat wave and still unclear but seeming waning Covid-19 infections. In the first two days, we met about 15 manufacturers or supplier exhibitors at Printpack. We challenged them: “Is our optimism about the recovery of the print industry warranted or are we just giving a pep talk to the already converted who would like to believe it or hope that it is true, even if it isn’t?”
We asked because on the first two days we did not meet many of the big business owners or equipment buyers. However, we observed a sea change of improvement in the equipment exhibited by the Indian manufacturers – shifts towards book production, paper bags, packaging, and increased automation and options. Although deals were being announced we assumed that these were sales done before the show.
On the second day, even before we reached the show phone calls came from people wanting to meet us – they had something important to share. In our first hour at the show, in the three meetings out of four, we learned that the Indian print industry is hot – that several deals have been made in the past month and the most recent deal was signed that morning for a highly configured sheetfed multicolor offset packaging press. For multicolor offset presses, the current financial year seems to be similar to one of the better years before the pandemic, not only in the number of printing machines, but also in terms of complexity, automation, and value.
We learned that approximately seven or eight multicolor offset press signings would take place during days of the show and perhaps another ten presses in the next thirty days. Not from any one manufacturer but several deals, both for commercial printing including a couple of fully-loaded 8-color presses, and for monocartons are in their closing stages. Over the next few days, the sales of die-cutters cutters and folder-gluers seemed to rise exponentially. Reports of the luxury hard box sales also came in. Sales of packaging software and sampling tables also arrived and were reported in our Show Daily.
The situation is similar in the flexible packaging industry. Apart from serious ongoing expansion, orders are in place for new blown and cast coated film lines, gravure and flexo presses, and converting machines from leading global and Indian manufacturers. Multiple label press sales were also announced at Printpack.
What is the reason for all this investment activity? One explanation is that there is immense pent-up demand from two or three years of no investment. Also, if the big presses and converting equipment are selling, then it’s good for the die-makers, rule and rubbering suppliers, the ink, adhesive, chemical, coating, paper, and labelstock suppliers too.
At our Paperex conference panel, the publishers and printers said that demand is already higher than 2019 levels – that the print industry is not only resilient but also that it is a first indicator of the economic revival based on the immediate and unmet hunger for print and packaging. As one of the suppliers said, “If our big machines with automation are selling at this rate, it is a barometer for the entire industry – it’s going to be a hugely successful Printpack.”