If the number of visitors at recent printing and packaging shows is an indicator of growth in demand, it sure is a time that indicates that demand is rising, and the shadow of gloom spread by the pandemic seems to have faded if not disappeared completely. So scary was the impact of Covid-19 that despite the resilience this industry portrayed, all investments were put on hold as uncertainty prevailed. Indians are largely brought up such that as a deliverance of heritage, when anyone questions, “how is business?” Most of the times the prompt answer is, “Good!” This is expressed so, even though there may be a slowdown or other challenges in the workplace. However, when an Indian answers “Very Good” with a broad smile, like we have witnessed at the recent packaging shows, it surely indicates happier times are back again.

The exhibition industry has faced some of the most challenging times due to the pandemic but when the shows returned, the number of visitors and participants have been on the rise. Last May 2022, as PrintPack India drew to a close, reviewing that event , Noel D’Cunha managing editor of Printweek India wrote, “A feeling of business returning back to normal was apparent”. Many found that despite two postponements and the scare of Covid, the Greater Noida event to be busier and more successful than expected. IPAMA, the organisers of Printpack reported 1,03,412 visitors from 52 countries visited the show that was showcased by 487 companies. In July 2022 PackPlus in New Delhi also reported success with 12239 visitors and 153 exhibitors. Labelexpo Americas in September 2022 saw 362 exhibitors and 13,569 visitors from 77 countries including India. It is surprising that many Indians travelled such long distance for a label show. Later in November 2022 Labelexpo India also reported a triumphant return after a hiatus of 4 years, they reported over 12000 visitors, a 22% increase over the  last show with 250 exhibitors.

After being postponed for over a year, Pamex 2023 being organized in Mumbai from 27th to 30th March 2023 is heading for a massive success. The last edition of the show witnessed over 35,000 visitors and 375 exhibitors. The current edition of the show is slated to be 25% larger than the previous one.

It will be spread over 12,000 square meters in 3 halls with 425 exhibitors and the organisers are expecting over 40,000 visitors. According to Anil Arora President Print-Packaging.com, the organizer of Pamex, “despite no direct participation from Chinese exhibitors, the show will be at least 25% larger in terms of space sold over the last edition. We hope to see a similar growth in visitor footfalls”. The label, printing and packaging industry is already optimistic and looking towards a great show with networking opportunities with not just national but also global peers.

There are diverse estimates of the market size of the packaging industry in India but a conservative figure hint at close to USD 200 billion growing at around 10%, but this all includes many segments of packaging. The Indian pressure sensitive label industry is a miniscule portion of the total packaging industry though it is the largest segment of the overall labels industry. Labels have now moved into different tangents like wet glue, shrink sleeves, wrap around, in-mold labels, etc. The global pressure sensitive label market is estimated at about 50 billion US Dollars.

As for the market size of pressure sensitive labels industry in India, it has been estimated at very diverse figures. The author’s personal estimate has always been considered higher, but the author asserts it is more realistic and estimated on strength of his experience in the Indian market. The finished label market size according to the author’s personal estimate is between Rupees 4500-5000 Crores which by current conversion rate amounts to 610 million US Dollar. The figure translates in less than 1.5% of the global pressure sensitive label market size, indicating a huge potential for growth. This estimate includes all the labels in roll form, sheet form, Barcode/EDP labels, plain labels and manually produced pressure sensitive or self-adhesive labels.

Current trends as witnessed from the moves and actions of the labels and packaging industry indicate a robust growth in capacities. The increased demand for packaging has been witnessed with the advent of developments in ecommerce, tempting more and more consumers to make purchases online from within the confines of their homes. Innovative and attractive labels and packaging ensure a greater brand recall without dependence on shop shelves to decide what to buy and where to buy. There have been challenges due to a dire need for sustainability, but the good thing is industry is now making efforts for the betterment of humanity by taking these challenges positively. Now industry is moving away voluntarily from single use plastics, compostable or bio-degradable, using materials that are recyclable or reusable and reducing adverse impact on environment.

New investments are being made with such sustainable measures in mind. Reducing production waste, producing to economies of scale and managing waste responsibly  are imperatives considered when expansions are being made.

Another change that one has witnessed in the last few packaging shows is that the Make-in-India effect has become evident and acceptable not just for consumer products but also for equipment and tooling. It was interesting  to see so many Indian label press manufacturers offering good acceptable quality equipment that is comparable to the international presses.

All the press manufacturers who exhibited at the labelexpo India reported sales and some of them multiple sales with information of them having made numerous installations successfully not only in India but also around the world. The Make in India concept was not limited to press manufacturers, there were Indigenous manufacturers of magnetic cylinders, anilox rolls, tooling, inspection systems, plate mounters and in fact the whole gamut of requirements of the printing and converting fraternity. The best part is that the offerings not only perform fairly well but are also affordable and come within the reach of middle level printers and converters.

With the middle level printing companies increasing their capabilities by investing in new India-made modular all-UV and all-Servo presses with all accessories as in the international brands, there is intense competition. Such label printers have an advantage as the impact of the capital expense on input cost is substantially reduced.

Thus, there is a need for the top end printers to further enhance their capabilities by investing in higher end equipment with hybrid printing presses employing diverse printing technologies including digital, gravure, screen and offset besides flexo, embellishing and innovative possibilities, quick changeovers, reduced dependence on manpower, faster job setup with high-end automated registration controls ensuring minimal setup waste, lower energy consumption, nonstop continuous production for longer runs, etc. There is compelling evidence of new demands from print buyers.  The industry is in an evolutionary phase, on one side there is increasing competition due to increasing number of label printers on the other hand, print buyers big and small are also demanding  short runs with digital printing for variable and personalized labels. It is time when the sustainably endeavors indicate efforts to cut down on secondary packaging, the need for higher end more embellished labels with security features are in demand to aid aesthetics that will enhance brand value. The growing Indian population and increased literate workforce is ensuring an increase in demand with better labels and packaging. At this time when the growth is becoming evident, the better equipped and the fittest will excel!

Written By Harveer Sahni, Chairman, Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi  March 2023