The 45th FCBM Conference, organized by the Himachal Pradesh Box Manufacturers’ Association in Chandigarh, opened avenues for corrugators to come together and share their views to help in the industry’s growth. Held from 18 to 20 November 2016, the conference saw delegates participating from all major regions of the country and even overseas. Alongside the conference was held an exhibition, which allowed the exhibitors and visitors to reacquaint themselves with the latest trends and developments taking place in the country.
While speaking to the delegates, NX George, president of FCBM said that the corrugation industry in India has seen many ups and downs over the last few years. “Corrugation box is so universal and simple that nobody gives much importance to it. The fact is that the people and the economy as such fail to notice the importance of corrugated box,” he said. With paper prices surging, the customers have been reluctant in compensating box makers for increased cost of inputs. In this see-saw situation, the corrugated box industry is hit with margins coming down. George said, “The annual growth rate of packaging in India is around 12% and it is expected that the current turnover of the Indian packaging industry will touch almost Rs 1,92,000 crore by 2025. Corrugated box industry is growing at a higher rate due to penetration of corrugated box in new areas like horticulture and vegetables. At present, the corrugated industry faces sluggish market conditions which is due to the fall in exports from India. Lack of expected growth in certain sectors of the industry has also affected the demand for corrugated.”
He further added, “Even products of daily use reach customers in corrugated boxes. The entire logistics is based on corrugated boxes and the modern world cannot function without them. Corrugated box manufacturers are a key economic factor to India’s and world economy. The situation will definitely improve for the better in the future. The growth of corrugated industry in India is guaranteed because of the general economic growth and also due to its potential in new areas. Corrugated packaging is the eco-friendly. Though corrugated industry is vital for the functioning and growth of economy, the government’s support to the industry is insufficient. Two key areas where the government may immediately attend to are the modernization of corrugated industry to world standards and to make international quality kraft papers available at competitive prices. For modernization we need advanced machinery and lab testing equipment.”
He pointed out that the corrugated industry in India still remains low-tech behind advanced economies such as US, Japan or Europe and even other Asian countries such as China or Thailand. “Growth of our economy in general and our exports to the international markets demand better functional boxes. Corrugated industrial units will have to modernize and be more automatic. Modern machinery and lab equipment of international standards are expensive and thus the government should make way for easier credit and subsidies for investment in plant and machinery. Kraft paper of premium quality is still not available in India, and the government should allow duty-free import of kraft and other papers.”
ML Agarwal of Central India Packaging and Ankit Packaging explained in his keynote speech that the Indian corrugation industry is caught between the paper mills and corrugated box users. He explained that with focus on better printing and demand on quality and consistency, it is time to make the necessary changes to go to the next level and capture a major share of the world GDP. He also reiterated the need for modernization and skill upgradation. “The world is now moving towards Industry 4.0 standards and we should be prepared for it as well,” he said while emphasizing on transparency. He also pointed out that lack of statistics and data is a problem for the industry, which should be addressed as a priority.
Multi-color web flexo printing in corrugation is another emerging trend in the country. Chiranjeevi Sastry, sales manager of Emba Machinery, highlighted and demonstrated some samples which, he said, could change the boredom associated with the look and feel of corrugated boxes. These samples were printed at a facility at one of Emba’s customers in India.
Also during the conference were presented the Corrustar Awards, designed to generate awareness, improve the standards of packaging, and also to generate new avenues for the use of corrugated board and boxes. Additionally, Lifetime Awards were awarded to Satish Tyagi, Anil Reddy, ML Agarwal and Sushil Sood. The SN Harlalka Award 2016 was awarded to Milan Dey while V Bhaskar Reddy was honored with the BK Doshi Award 2016.
In a technical session themed ‘Customer needs more’, AK Chatterjee, director – operations of Genus Paper & Boards, pointed out that the key characteristics required in a corrugated box is porosity of the liner and flutings, which are important to avoid cracking and de-lamination. He said, “The Indian per capita packaging consumption is growing strong and promises to offer mammoth business opportunities to manufacturers.” Yuvraj Gulati of Empire Packages noted that shelf-ready cartons will be in good demand by FMCG companies in the imminent future. Also, other segments such as beverages are also projected to boost up the demand for corrugated boxes. Another latent market for the industry is fruits and vegetables, which continues to rely on other forms of packaging at the moment. Corrugation should be a preferred option for these segments as inherently corrugated boxes are a much cleaner form of packaging.
One of the key points raised during the session was by Avtar Singh Matharu, associate vice president – business development, International Paper India and Sachin Chandsarkar, manager – strategic sourcing, Godrej Consumer Products, who pointed out that box corrugators, paper mills and brand owners need to work together not only to increase the quality of the products but also heighten efficiency as well as profitability.
Greesh Sardana was announced as the next president of FCBM. Overall, the general mood and intent of the annual conference was geared at enthusing the corrugators to improve their business. With several challenges still plaguing the industry, Indian corrugators need to up their game pretty fast if they want to remain competitive and profitable. As George said, “Many developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia are growing at a faster pace than that of USA, Europe or Japan. These are countries comparable to our own economy. This is the challenge for us to race ahead in development.”