Several crises at hand and yet we are blissfully doing business as usual


There are several crises in the printing and packaging industry and at times we (or our governments and its institutions) apply band-aids or other medicines for temporary relief rather than addressing the causes and looking for real cures. In some cases, the cures take longer than the life-span of a government and what’s needed is longer term and politically neutral planning.
The crisis stemming from the Plastic Waste Management order of 2016 seems to have passed because the new order issued on 27 March 2018 says that almost all types of plastic packaging can continue. Thus, it’s back to business as usual and the real environment issues in relation to plastics are again in danger of being ignored until the next draconian order.

As S Chidambar points out in our pages, if one reads the PWM orders carefully, there are still many obligations that brand owners, packaging producers and cities and towns
have to address that require serious and concerted action and will have to paid for – right from households, to industry and government. Waste collectors need to be trained, given
the right tools and paid, and capital expenditure is needed for composting and recycling facilities. Turning plastic into energy and landfills cannot be a realistic answer.

The other major crisis is that of poor economic and industrial growth which, not with standing upward government statistical announcements, is not borne out by the facts on
the ground – at least as far the uptake in consumer good packaging and more importantly in the profit margins in packaging. At the same time our customers – the globalconsumer product manufacturers – are making big announcements even on social media about being water and carbon positive by 2020 but in a general and global way, that seems to average their global activity.

However, these same brand owners seem reluctant about the specifics of their products and packaging in India where they continue to encourage participation in reverse auctions
to keep on squeezing margins while at the same time demanding the use of sustainable inputs such as FSC-certified packaging boards. They do not seem to understand that to establish a chain of custody for sustainable inputs and to monitor and certify these also takes effort and costs money.

There are many other crises, but here I will touch only one more – the anti-dumping duties sought to be applied to both the import of coated paper and board and to offset printing
plates. Apart from the structural issues, one of the biggest problems is of the quality of domestic products, where some of our bigger manufacturers seem to be unable to provide
quality products in comparison to the imported papers, offset plates and even aluminum foils that are now required to produce competitive and high-quality printing and packaging for both domestic consumption and exports.

Our printing and packaging industries may be fragmented but collectively they are not small, merely focussed on themselves and the short term. We need greater maturity in
working with our industry colleagues and our government. We cannot continue to do business as usual.

The impact, resilience, and growth of responsible packaging in a wide region are daily chronicled by Packaging South Asia.

A multi-channel B2B publication and digital platform such as Packaging South Asia is always aware of the prospect of new beginnings and renewal. Its 16-year-old print monthly, based in New Delhi, India has demonstrated its commitment to progress and growth. The Indian and Asian packaging industries have shown resilience in the face of ongoing challenges over the past three years.

As we present our publishing plan for 2023, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2023 will reach 6.3%. Packaging industry growth has exceeded GDP growth even when allowing for inflation in the past three years.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 33% over the past three years. With orders in place, we expect another 33% capacity addition from 2023 to 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels have grown similarly. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

Even given the disruptions of supply chains, raw material prices, and the challenge of responsible and sustainable packaging, packaging in all its creative forms and purposes has significant headroom to grow in India and Asia. Our context and coverage engulf the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and further – to waste collection and recycling. We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers.

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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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