The high number of gravure press installations in India continues

Flexible packaging in the Indian Covid-19 lockdown

Pelican-Cerutti R982 ELS Rotogravure press Photo Pelican
Pelican-Cerutti R982 ELS Rotogravure press Photo Pelican

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.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– 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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