In this interview with The Packman, KS Murthy, deputy managing director of Toyo Ink India, talks about the de-growth in the time of pandemic and how manufacturers are forced to improve their finished product costs to keep their overall operations afloat. Furthermore, he shares how cost pressures due to the supply-demand gap have been a major challenge to cope with. Murthy expects that printing and allied industry will be able to achieve the pre-COVID level only by the last quarter of 2021 and improve thereafter.
Mahan Hazarika: What is the impact of the pandemic on the ink industry? How have you coped with it?
KS Murthy: To be precise, overall business in the first quarter of 2021-22 was disappointing. During the first wave of COVID-19, we saw the commercial sector being down completely, but the packaging sector has been steadily growing. However, during the second wave, the commercial sector business was down by 40 – 50%, even the packaging sector saw disappointing figures. On the other hand, the publication sector continued to be worst affected as most of the studies became online and the requirement of the textbooks dropped drastically.
It was not anticipated that the overall business would see approx. 25% de-growth compared to the pre-COVID scenario.
With COVID infection slowing down and all eyes on industry revival, we are up now against one more challenge of rising input cost, freight, etc. Most of the manufacturers are forced to improve their finished product costs to keep the overall operation afloat. Moreover, the supply-demand gaps due to delays in the shipment, force majeure declared amidst the second wave have acted as spoiling spots in the revival process altogether.
These are challenging times for us all, and our foremost priority is to keep the ball rolling till we see normalcy in the overall supply chain in turn easing down the overall cost structure. Thanks to the proactive and comprehensive team efforts, Toyo has managed to salvage the situation and has been stable post the twin-impact of the pandemic.
Mahan Hazarika: What does the next year look like?
KS Murthy: As we mentioned above, there has been notable de-growth for the overall industry with the twin impact of the COVID situation, and still, the third wave is expected. Over and above, the cost pressure due to the supply-demand gap has been a major challenge to cope up with.
On a positive note, we foresee that the vaccination drive will be having a major impact on our growth. If the vaccination drive is going in full swing, we expect the lockdown affected areas will open up, opening the business/economy in totality. We, therefore, presume that in probability, printing and allied industry will be able to achieve the pre-COVID level only by the last quarter of 2021 and improve thereafter.
Mahan Hazarika: What are your future plans in India?
KS Murthy: We have been actively pursuing our objective toward becoming a sustainable solution provider. We had slight slowdowns when the pandemic started, but we have been actively following our plan like; for example, we completed Solar Panel installation last year in a bid to pursue green production initiatives.
On the business side, Toyo has been at the prime spot in the commercial segment in India, and the major emphasis now is to reach a similar milestone in the packaging segment. We are gradually increasing our presence in the packaging sector in the form of a one-stop solution provider to them. Unlike others, we are not just ink and allied products manufacturer. We have other products, such as masterbatches, pressure-sensitive adhesive, that are already being catered to Indian customers, and many other products are in line to debut in India.
Mahan Hazarika: What are the kinds of inks and coatings that Toyo has the most success in?
KS Murthy: As you know, packaging demand is on the rise as consumers are looking for effective packaging to ensure hygiene standards are maintained and food remains fresh. Thus, shipments of rigid packaging inks have been robust, shipments of gravure inks are also booming due to the increased demand for packaging in line with the rising demand for ready-made meals.
We have a wide range of inks and coatings for rigid and flexible packaging as well as labels – conventional oil-based, UV, water-based coatings, gravure/flexo inks, and water-based flexo. Toyo will continue to play a crucial part in the packaging and label printing supply chain. We are beyond inks, and our wide portfolio has enabled us to serve various segments and be an integral part of people’s everyday life.
Mahan Hazarika: What are some of the latest product developments at Toyo?
KS Murthy: At Toyo, we never stop innovation, and we are continuously revamping our products and introducing new products in alignment with market trends and growing business needs of our consumers. Our prime motto is to add value to our customers and communities through our products and services.
One product which we would like to highlight here is the next generation MULTISTAR. It is a next-generation non-toluene, non-ketone ink series suitable for all three lamination processes viz. solvent-based, solvent-free, and PE extrusion lamination with necessary regulatory compliances, including Nestle.
Mahan Hazarika: How has the printing/packaging ink market evolved in the last five years?
KS Murthy: The printing ink sector in India is estimated at 3,60,000 tonnes for 2019-20, valued at around INR 55 billion; the market witnessed a growth of around 7.5% per annum during the last ten years, and the market is projected to achieve a CAGR of 5% during the next five years.
Backed by strong demand from key end-user segments such as packaging printing, newsprint, commercial and digital printing, the overall printing ink market in the country has grown tremendously and is expected to maintain its current healthy trend for several years to come.