Robust capacity building in films, monocartons, flexibles, corrugated and labels

Packaging in India and South Asia in the time of drupa 2016

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corrugated monocarton

There has been a great deal of capacity building in the South Asian packaging industry since the last drupa. The last four years have seen an influx of high speed gravure presses built both in Europe and in Asia. India itself has five quality manufacturers of gravure presses. Wide web flexo has also taken off, finally in India with the influx of presses increasing from two a year to something like a 10 to 12 new CI flexo presses from the likes of W&H, Bobst F&K, Soma and CMYK just in India. Flexible packaging continues to grow in double digits throughout the subcontinent with half a dozen new film manufacturing lines scheduled for installation in the next two years in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. As we had written earlier, major investors include Jindal Polymers and Cosmos as well as a new entrant to film manufacturing in Bangladesh.

On the workflow, prepress and imaging side of the packaging industry, the past financial year (1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016) has also seen several technology and automation break-throughs. The first direct laser for flexo plate engraving from Lead Lasers has come to the Uflex plant in Jammu, while the first two automated and robotic cylinder preparation, imaging, engraving and finishing plants from Think Labs have come to two of our neighbours in Noida in the Delhi National Capital Region – Afflatus and Uflex.

The digital flexo imagers as a whole have declined slightly this year to about ten machines from a previous banner year of 15 imagers. Electronic engravers for gravure cylinders continue to be installed at a rate of more than two dozen each year since it is widely believed that approximately 30% of the more than 200,000 gravure cylinders manufactured in India each year are still produced by film and chemical etching and will eventually have to be produced by more modern methods.

Corrugated packaging seems to be undergoing a renaissance in India driven by Amazon and Flipkart on the one hand which use high quality cartons brown boxes of various sizes and mountains of bubble wrap. The other driver is the increasing use of bleached liner for fruit and vegetable trays and beer cartons printed in 4-color not just by the huge number of Asian manufactured flexo presses but increasingly by flexo printer, slotter, diecutters from Bobst and Emba. While the second Bobst flexo printer slotter has come to Gujarat, Emba is leading the race for Indian installations with at least six installations in India.

Monocartons can be glamourous although most cartons in India still leave a great deal to be desired in terms of design and innovation. Nevertheless the past financial year saw unprecedented capacity creation in terms of multicolor offset presses. More than two dozen 6-color plus coater presses were imported from Heidelberg, KBA, Komori and RMGT with a large share of these being highly configured 7-color plus coater UV presses. In the past two years, cold foiling units that sit atop the first two units of these presses have also struck the fancy of monocarton producers hoping to lure brand owners into unique value adds. While there are still just four such cold foilers installed and running in the country, we have sighted a number of monocarton printers looking to add foiling machines as retrofits to their existing presses.

The label industry continues to grow steadily if not dramatically although there is still a huge gap in both innovation and quality between what is being done in South Asia and the more developed parts of Asia such as Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan and Australia. In those countries there are many innovations including reverse scratch labels and several types of security labels. One must admit that some innovation is taking place in security label solutions and also the digital printing of cartons and even in the upsurge of hard boxes for luxury packaging but these are still exceptions. Much more innovation is needed and in the South Asian region the real excitement can only come from creativity for bottom of the pyramid packaging.

Packaging South Asia is the cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which is scheduled to be held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany.

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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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.