10% of the Indian label industry is operational during the lockdown

Labels in the time of Coronavirus

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Labels for essential goods can be produced during the lockdown
Labels for essential goods can be produced during the lockdown

The 21-day lockdown announced by the government which came into effect on 25 March has severely impacted economic activity across sectors. India’s label printing industry has also been impacted despite many companies having received permission to print label that would be used in essential goods such as medicines and hand washes, among others. As per major industry players, currently only about 10% of the Indian label industry is functioning.

“As of now what we have gathered is that only about 10% of the label printing industry is operational. Also, the companies which are working are operating with only 20% staff. Obviously, printers are supplying only those type of label which are used in essential goods,” says Ajay Mehta of SMI Coated Products.

According to Mehta, lot of companies have obtained permission from authorities to start operations but are unable to do so because of lack of transportation and also because workers are unwilling to venture out of their homes because of concerns about their health.

SMI Coated Products is one of India’s leading suppliers of label stock and has its manufacturing base in Ambernath.

Rahul Kapur of Mumbai-based label solutions provider, JK Labels, says label printers are facing some challenges when it comes to starting work. His company is not operational at the moment.

“As a company we are mindful of the gravity of the situation and will only resume once things begin to normalize. Even if one gets permission from local authorities to manufacture labels for essential items during this lockdown, one has to consider various aspects that would create hurdles in running operations at the moment,” Kapur adds.

Kapur says in addition to unavailability of public transport for workers, label printers are finding it difficult to source all the raw materials required for production of goods, as very few vendors are functioning at the moment.

Manish Desai of Mudrika Labels also estimates that about 10% of the industry is functioning at the moment. Vasai-based Mudrika Labels is not operating at present.

“Mudrika Labels is not functioning at present although we have obtained all the necessary clearances required. We will start only if there is some urgent requirement by our customers,” Desai says.

Things will take time to normalize

By all indications the 21-day lockdown is expected to be lifted on 14 April but things in the label printing industry may take some time to get back to normal.

“There will be a lot of issues to deal with once the lockdown is lifted. Quick return of workforce to factories will be a challenge as they may feel hesitant to get back to work so soon given the fear of infection. There will be other financial issues as well. Things will become clearer in the coming weeks,” argues Mehta.

Desai of Mudrika Labels feels cash flow and liquidity will be a big issue for companies after three weeks of shutdown. He feels the industry may take 8-12 months to get back to normal.

Kapur of JK Labels is of the view that sectors such as the pharmaceutical, food and beverage and personal care industry will continue to give steady business. However, sectors such as automobile, that were already going through a rough period prior to the lockdown, will take a long time to recover and give the kind of business it used to give during its prime.

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.

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– Naresh Khanna

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