In the past financial year, from 1 April 2022 and ending on 31 March 2023, IppStar estimates that about 55 narrow web flexo label presses were installed in India. In the current financial year. There is a significant jump in label press installations by converters in the country – with the number more than doubling to slightly more than 120 presses. However, this increase of more than 115% is not merely for the production of pressure-sensitive labels – it represents a diversification of the market to in-mold, shrink sleeve and wraparound labels, short-run flexible packaging and monocartons.
As we do each year, IppStar has spoken to the label industry machine suppliers and converters in the country, for its back-of-the-envelope calculations. The estimate for the 2021-22 financial year which ended on 31 March 2022, of about 40 to 45 narrow web flexo label presses installations were borne out and confirmed. In that year (FY 2021-22), about 65% of the installations came from Indian manufacturers.
The major trends are the continued dominance in the market of label presses manufactured in India which now represent more than 90% of the flexo and digital presses installation in the country in the current financial year. In this category, we include Nilpeter India with its factory near Chennai, which primarily builds the FB label presses for global exports, and this year is placing almost half of its production with Indian converters. There are altogether eight Indian label press manufacturers if we include Nilpeter India.
Exports of label presses from India have also boomed in the current year with more than 30 presses being exported, with Nilpeter being the leader and Multitec not very far behind. While the local industry is growing and diversifying to new product segments, exports are key to the growth of the Indian label press manufacturers. These exports have been helped by the continued high energy and steel prices in Europe. Nevertheless, as the manufacturers say, “We sell our presses in India at very competitive prices and we will not survive if we do not export.”
The third significant trend is the continued increase in the installation of digital label presses in the country. These now include about 15% of the overall installations and some of the very top-end hybrid presses from leading global manufacturers. Significantly, Monotech, which is the leader in digital press sales in the country, has a good number of exports scheduled before March 2024.
The fourth trend in label press capacity creation in the country is the diversification by converters to new segments such as in-mold, shrink sleeve and wraparound labels, and short-run flexible packaging. There are installations for monocartons as well and although the installations in the recent past have not fared well, there are others expected to meet with better success this year.
The Indian label presses have improved in quality on the whole and the factors of local service and competitive prices make them a compelling possibility for label converters who earlier exclusively purchased narrow web flexo presses from the European, American, and Japanese manufacturers. The market is still growing although one can foresee increased demand, the competition and even some hyper-competition are likely to intensify in the coming two years.
Nevertheless, when we were told more than a year ago about expectations of more than 100% growth and that the manufacturers were doubling their production capacity, we were sceptical. We were proven wrong or let us say pleasantly surprised, as domestic purchases and exports have more than doubled in just this year – and the Indian label industry boom is expected to continue for at least another couple of years.