The talking points in Indian flexible packaging are gravure and flexo, sustainability and price, mixed polymer and single polymer recyclability, and big and small converters. Simultaneously, two of these parameters are seemingly about technology and the other two about costs and capital flows. The functional relationship or tension between all these parameters could make for a useful quadrant diagram.
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing total lockdown on 23 March and its phased removal since the beginning of June have been a catalyst to packaging, particularly the country’s flexible packaging industry. Packaging as a no-touch, hygienic, sanitary, branded, trackable, and authentic concept for the distribution and sale of food and pharma has caught on. The most economical form of reasonably high-quality packaging has been flexible packaging.
When the lockdown began, some of the dominant packaging converters immediately received permission to open up, and even with fewer employees, were able to supply materials to the supply chain. Many smaller converters had difficulty getting approval and retaining as many employees in safe conditions to open their plants. The brand owners preferred the bigger and middle-level converters who were able to manufacture their films and laminates, and this segment of converters has produced high volumes at least till mid- or end-July. The smaller converters who produce, let’s say, just 50 metric tons a month of flexible packaging, have suffered in contrast.
In IppStar’s informal back of the envelope calculation, about twenty gravure presses have been installed in India and Bangladesh since the Indian un-lockdown began in June. While most of these are presses under 200 meters a minute, one can estimate that about 8 or 9 are 250 meters a minute and above. In this estimate, we are counting Indian manufacturers such as Kohli, Pelican, Uflex in the main, and the global manufacturer Bobst.
North Indian converters growing fastest
The converters who have installed the approximately eight Bobst gravure presses so far since April include Skypack, GLS, and Jupiter in the Delhi NCR, Aditya Flexipack in Kanpur and Aadinath in Indore, Arihant Flexi Pack in Delhi, and Prakash Flexibles in Chennai. Indian manufacturer Kohli Industries has installed a gravure press at Vidya Polymers in the Delhi NCR. Kohli has been particularly successful in exports over the past six months and has remotely installed four presses overseas.
Amongst the eight Pelican installations in India in the past four months are Taurus, Tri-seal, and MCJ Multipack, all in the Delhi NCR and ColorFlex in Bengaluru. Uflex has about five installations of its gravure presses in the past four months, including Osho in Haridwar, Savera in Amritsar, Som in Rajpura, Prakash in Kashipur, all in North India. We estimate that flexible packaging converters in India installed between two dozen and 30 gravure presses from April to mid-September. Another 30 will likely be installed by the end of the financial year in March 2021. In support of this growth, there are also a significant number of large film lines ordered that should arrive in 2021.
An exciting aspect of the installations is the high number in North India and particularly in the Delhi NCR, which includes the adjacent parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Also notable are the several machines installed in the Northern states of Uttarakhand and Punjab.
This article first appeared in the September print issue of Packaging South Asia. The web version has been slightly corrected on 3 October 2020.