Commercial offset not contributing much to ink industry’s growth

Interview – RY Kamat

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RY Kamat of Hubergroup India. Photo PSA

The commercial offset industry is not contributing much to the growth of the printing inks industry and most of the growth is coming from the packaging segment, RY Kamat of Hubergroup India told Packaging South Asia recently.

“There is not much demand coming from the commercial offset industry and whatever growth we are seeing is because of the packaging industry. One of the reasons for this slow demand from the commercial offset segment is because a lot of volume has shifted to the digital commercial segment in recent years. Especially in the last one year, the effect of demonetization and the advent of new GST system has been severe on the commercial offset industry,” Kamat says.

Nevertheless, he points out that Hubergroup continues to offer great solutions to the commercial offset industry, which are very enviroment friendly such as non-toxic inks and UV inks.

Ink industry still to recover from recent shocks

Although the Indian economy seems to be coming out of the impact which was the result of twin shocks of demonetization and GST implementation, Kamat argues that the print industry is yet to adjust to the changed scenario. While much of this is connected to demonetization and GST, the rise in raw material costs is also playing a role.

“Not only did we go through the impact of demonetization and a new tax system, the inks industry has also faced a severe pressure on the costs. In the last three to four months, crude oil prices have been rising and are now at very high levels; the rupee too has depreciated sharply. Also, we have not been able to pass these on to the customer by raising prices. All these factors have severely impacted the bottom-line as well as the top-line of the Indian ink industry in the last financial year. But we are hoping that things will improve from now on as economy grows,” Kamat states.

Packaging segment brings hope

While the Indian commercial offset industry is mostly stagnant, the country’s packaging industry is thriving. Kamat expects the packaging industry to drive growth in printing ink demand.

“I expect both folding cartons and flexible packaging to grow at a healthy rate and that should positively impact the ink industry as well as Hubergroup India. We are offering some great solutions for packaging printers using offset, flexo and gravure technologies. For example, for customers in the folding cartons segment we offer low migration inks as well as cobalt-free inks. For flexible packaging customers, we have solutions like the Gecko ink system,” Kamat says.

The Gecko ink system was launched in India a few years ago. The Gecko system for flexo and gravure processes is designed taking into consideration important global regulations and the inks are manufactured under strict GMO guidelines. Since a large proportion of food packaging is printed using solvent-based ink systems, a major risk with regard to migration is present. For Gecko inks, the raw material selection follows stringent parameters keeping in mind issues such as toxicity and migration. The Gecko brand is already an established one by Hubergroup in Europe.

Flexo growing in flexible packaging

The Indian flexible packaging industry has traditionally used gravure technology but in recent years there has been a clear move towards flexo technology. Kamat believes that this shift will continue and flexo will be an important technology for convertors in the flexible packaging industry in India and Hubergroup will be looking to offer more solutions for convertors using flexography in India in the future.

“I am not saying that gravure will disappear. It will very much be part of the Indian flexible packing industry. What I am saying is that flexo technology will take a lot of share as we are seeing a lot of flexo presses being installed in India in recent years. This trend will continue and we will bring in fantastic ink systems for this segment,” Kamat concludes.

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