The most important trend in the Indian economy as well as the Indian packaging industry is hardly a trend; it is more or less a fact of life – uncertain and gradual but positive expansion of the industry and the continued evolution in its use of technology and best practices.

Growth, because we still use relatively little packaging and the structured economy of consumer products and organized retail is still in its infancy. Urbanization and the growth of Indians entering the packaging economy are parallel trends. Whether they are buying essential products such as soap, food, clothing or white goods or frills like gadgets, eating out in restaurants, ordering in or going on holidays, Indians are increasingly buying these goods and services with labels, tags, pouches, cartons and other kinds of packaging. In some cases they are looking for biodegradable and reusable packaging or no packaging at all.

Evolution of the packaging industry requires better understanding and use of technology to create packaging that enriches consumers in terms of simplicity of communication and use. It also implies simplicity in sorting at source and disposal of the packaging materials for recycling or composting. In India, landfills are unviable owing to lack of space and because they are a source of pollution and poisonous fires. Both industry and consumers are also aware and sensitive to the fact that those who live near the landfills face severe health issues that can no longer be either hidden or swept under the carpet, or indeed the problem of the indigent people who happen to live near them.

Evolution also implies gradual change and where, eventually, only the fittest and most adaptable survive and thrive. This process is especially slow in our industry because various legal and financial constraints limit rapid consolidation by mergers and acquisitions. Innovation and invention are also slow because of the lack of investment in basic science, research and development in our industry. The industry has little or no interface with basic science research and most of its energy and cash is devoted to immediate application issues.

The single polymer for flexible packaging order

Sustainable packaging will perhaps be the most significant trend in the packaging industry in India in the coming year. For one, some important compliance legislation or government orders such as the use of single polymer based plastic packaging are expected to take effect from 1 April 2018. Although there are perhaps appropriate technology solutions, there will also be considerable resistance to this if it is actually implemented in full and on time.

In speaking with several converters, what emerges is first of all skepticism that the order on the use of single polymers for flexible packaging will be implemented. Secondly, there will have to be informed and intelligent exceptions, especially in food packaging where the value in preventing food waste must greatly outweigh the benefits or difficulties in collection and recycling. Thirdly, there are some converters who say that the single polymer order could be an advantage since they will be able to come up with innovative solutions and sell these to brand owners at a premium.

Separation at source is the only solution

No matter how the single polymer order takes shape, the issue of solid waste collection and recycling is much larger. In 2018, the movement to separate waste at source and then to process it for various cascading uses and even recycling will take root. This is not a new trend and it has been championed by the Centre for Science and Environment for the past two years, who recently signed up more than 20 cities that are cleaning up their act to share their experiences in this massive exercise. This will require waste collectors to be paid more by every household – perhaps Rs. 90 or Rs. 150 per household every month according to the CSE. This money will go to the waste collectors and then the housing societies, the residential colonies and the government will have to come up with the capital expenditure for further sorting, processing and recycling facilities to turn waste into value.

This trend is in alignment with the government’s Swachh Bharat campaign to clean up the country. To again repeat, what Sunita Narain said at the recent forum of cities that segregate waste: “We are a frugal society. We understand that waste can be a resource. We understand circular economy.”

Packaging South Asia — resilient, growing and impactful — daily, monthly — always responsive

The multi-channel B2B in print and digital 17-year-old platform matches the industry’s growth trajectory. The Indian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle East packaging industries are looking beyond the resilience of the past three years. They are resuming capacity expansion and diversification, with high technology and automation in new plants and projects.

As we present our 2024 publishing plan, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 will exceed 6%. The packaging industry growth will match the GDP growth in volume terms and surpass it by at least 3% in terms of nominal growth allowing for price inflation in energy, raw materials, consumables, and capital equipment.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

For responsible and sustainable packaging, with its attendant regulations and compliances, there is significant headroom to grow in India and the region. Our coverage includes the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and to waste collection, sorting, and recycling.

We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers. This is a large and complex canvas – the only thing that can work is your agile thinking and innovation together with our continuous learning and persistence.

The coming year looks to be an up year in this region, and this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing communication – in our rich and highly targeted business platform with human resources on the ground. Share your thoughts and plans to inspire and mobilize our editorial and advertising teams!

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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Naresh Khanna
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. Elected vice-president of the International Packaging Press Organization in May 2023.


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