Packaging etc at Pamex

This is the final part of my report from the Pamex show in Mumbai, India. The show proved to be an interesting snapshot of the Indian print market, covering a broad range of commercial print technologies, from prepress through print to finishing.

Many of the vendors that I met at Pamex told me that they felt the Indian print industry had just about recovered from the effects of the Covid pandemic. This is in stark contrast to Europe where most people have already moved on from the Covid crisis, though that is mainly because there have been so many shocks to the European economy since the pandemic: firstly with the supply chain crisis; quickly followed by high inflation and rising bank interest rates; then the Ukraine war; the energy crisis and the cost of living crisis, which is not technically a depression or recession but only because of the wealth imbalance that has become endemic to most developed economies now. 

India also has a tremendous gulf between the rich and the poor and this meant that the pandemic and all its associated lockdowns hit India far harder than more developed economies, with much less help from central government for both citizens and businesses. At the same time, India has benefited from the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, and has been able to import oil relatively cheaply. Equally, many Western companies are increasingly looking to India as a safer manufacturing centre, free of all the tensions between the West and China, and with a far more advanced IT skills than many other developing nations. 

Moreover, as more wealth has trickled down, so the economy has benefited from more consumer spending, coupled with a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. There are signs of this everywhere, from the numerous stalls that line every highway and the huge numbers of cars on the roads to giant billboards advertising everything from holidays to cheap finance. And everywhere you see people using their cell phones, for everything from chatting to ordering food and paying for taxis. 

Pooja Rajpal, a director with Zhongke India.

Naturally, with more cell phones there is also a need for more packaging for those phones. This is something that the Chinese company Zhongke, which makes box making machines, has picked up on. Pooja Rajpal, a director with Zhongke India, points out: “There are a lot of cell phone manufacturers in India and they all need boxes. And the box makers are part of the supply chain for the phones.”

She adds: “Cell phones are growing in India. The technology is changing so fast and everybody wants the latest phone. So the business for us is good. And then there are the smart watches. Most of the factories are not doing the watches yet.”

She notes that previously making the boxes to go with the phones was a very manual process. The Zhongke machines are all manufactured in China though the company has a demo centre in India and can test the machines before installing them at customer sites. Rajpal says: “We have around 11 models for different types of rigid boxes. Some are better for mobile phone boxes, some are for the luxury sector.”

Rajpal says Zhongke India tries to help customers reduce their costs without compromising on the quality of their boxes, since most Indian box makers are using recycled boards rather than virgin Kappa. She adds: “The customers are using corrugated 3-ply board and our machines can support these materials. The cost of production is less and the weight is lower, which helps reduce the shipping costs for the finished products. And the brands want to be seen as more sustainable.”

She adds: “And we believe in sustainability. It’s not just about using paper but also the process for making our products, the electricity used, how efficient the machine is, how fast it can run and the wastage – it all contributes to the sustainability.”

She says that Zhongke has over 200 machines installed in India, with over 1000 customers in ten years in several countries including UAE and Bangladesh, noting: “It’s been very challenging for us because we started very small and had to gain the trust of the industry. We have a very strong after-sales and support side. It’s not just the installation and commissioning of the machine.”

She feels that a key aspect behind Zhongke’s success is its willingness to customise machines as needed, pointing out that many European suppliers will expect customers to choose only from their standard options.

She says that it’s also necessary to understand the cultural needs of the consumers, pointing out that many Indians are vegetarians but that many glues used to make boxes use animal fats, saying: “So we were able to eliminate the non-vegetarian glues.”

Puneet Kumar Aggarwal, managing director of DGM in India.

DGM is another Chinese manufacturer but with a large factory in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi, complete with offices and a demo centre. Puneet Kumar Aggarwal, managing director of DGM in India, says: “People prefer a demo centre because they can show the machine properties.” He adds: “companies with Indian factories did well in the pandemic because they had also engineers available in the country.”

DGM sells a range of equipment including folder gluers, where it competes directly against Bobst. Aggarwal says: “Most of the customers are Bobst users. So we tell them to send us the jobs they can’t do on the Bobst. If we can’t do it we send it to China and they find a way. So it’s a customised solution, and we see how to do it in the future.”

He points out that there are different meanings to corrugated so it’s more accurate to refer to it as micro carton, saying: “They call it corrugated but people who are in corrugated call it micro carton. But this is where the corrugated industry is growing. As the micro carton side becomes more automated.”

He says that the labels and corrugated industries are growing side by side with people moving from one to the other, and that in some cases these businesses are merging together. He adds: “Also they are family run businesses and as the family grows they need extra business divisions.”

Sajith Pallippuram, managing director of Bindwel.

Bindwel showed off a number of its book binding machines under its SigLoch brand, including a fully automated binder with an inline 4-sided trimmer. Sajith Pallippuram, managing director of Bindwel, says: “We are trying to show a concept that if publishers and printers standardise there offerings more, then you don’t need to have so much versatility built-in to the machines, which could bring the cost down.” He points out that many digital printers have limited the substrates they work with to simplify their operations and costs, adding: “So they could learn from digital printers.” He says: “That way the whole value chain would change because you can have lower cost machines.”

Pallippuram says that the book market has recovered from the covid shock, helped by the increasing demand from parents that their children should spend less time in front of screens and more time reading actual books. He adds: “So there is more and more demand coming up for international and Indian schools that want their books to be customised to their brands. So publishers are printing more books but the runs have come down, from 25,000 to 5-7,000. So there is an opportunity for inkjet printers to have a huge potential in India. We can see the digital printers entering the roll-fed business, and the sheetfed printers as well.” He says that this is also leading to demand for hybrid bindery solutions for both offset and digital printing.

Karan Talwar, sales director of Esko India.

Esko also had a stand at Pamex, with Karan Talwar, sales director for Esko India, noting: “We had about 17 percent growth last year in South Asia” (which he defines as mainly India plus Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). He added: “We only go to the packaging guys so if we are growing then so is the Indian packaging market.” 

He points out that many customers might only buy one software license but that it might be part of a multi-press investment, which gives some sense of the scale of growth across the Indian packaging market as a whole. He says that there are more short runs and more SKUs to produce and so more customers are looking to digital printing, adding: “They need automation in prepress to feed the presses.”

Esko now offers most of its workflow solutions as SaaS systems with everything kept in the cloud. Talwar says: “We are working with Amazon AWS and it’s all certified for security. Even the large pharmaceutical brand owners are now putting their formulations in the cloud. And we are getting 99 percent uptime, which you don’t get in an on-premise setup.”

Esko’s main competitor for its software is the Hybrid Software group but Talwar claims that Esko is stronger in the Indian market. In terms of flexo and imaging systems, Esko’s main competition comes from Miraclon and Flint plus a lot of cheaper Chinese players, with Talwar claiming that Esko has installed around 20 of its XPS imagers.

Heiner Muller, sales director packaging for CGS Oris with Gulshan Pahwa, director of the Indian distributor RSG Solutions.

RSG Solutions, which is based in New Delhi, India, showed a proofing solution that has been developed by Mutoh and CGS Oris and combines a Mutoh printer with resin inks and CGS Oris colour management software. This allows customers to print directly to the substrate they are using, which can include films or even metal sheets. 

Heiner Muller, sales director of packaging for CGS Oris, explains: “The big advantage is that you can exactly match it to whatever print process you are using, whether it’s offset, flexo or gravure. The idea is to generate a proof but also you can give a customer a finished mock-up. And it can handle specialities like in-mould labels and can make an immediate sample.”

Muller says: “The interest is everywhere. The problem at the moment in Europe is that there has been a shortage of jobs from the brand owners. So they are suffering from about a 40 percent reduction of jobs in the market. Even packaging printers are suffering. So the Indian market is rising and the European market has a downturn.”

Muller says that customers are looking for workflow automation but that many printers also use this solution as a marketing tool. He continues: “The other trend we see is extended gamut printing. There is a severe resistance from the printers. It saves you about 35 percent so the question is who gets that 35 percent? But there is a certain momentum to that. The printers can use the same inkset for proofing and printing so they can show the customers directly from this.” Naturally it still involves a degree of simulation but Muller says the solution can reproduce almost 100 percent of the Pantone range.

Muller says that the resin inks have a number of advantages over UV inks, which tend to exhibit a slight colour shift immediately after printing, as well as an unpleasant odour. That said, CGS Oris also continues to offer an older system based on a Roland printer. This has the advantage of using metallic inks so it’s particularly suitable for proofing special effects and textured finishes. This has also led to some interest in the home decor market, for both ceramic tiles and wood products such as flooring. Muller notes: “It’s an exploding market because there are so many new single pass inkjet printers coming to the market.”

Omnitek has developed this Braille Inspector.

I also came across Bodhi-Pro and its founder and chief technical officer, Satish Nayak. The company offers services in print quality and colour management and deals with all aspects of printing as well as industrial areas such as automotive. Bodhi-Pro works with most of the well-known vendors covering these disciplines including Alwan, Mellow Colour and X-Rite. The stand also contained several Inspection systems from Omnitek including Print Inspector, and an interesting variation, Braille Inspektor, which checks the height of the Braille dots and the way they are formed and that they are in the right place. 

Surrinder Chita, of Omnitek explains: “We take the print ready file and we scan in the printed sheet. Depending on the print run this could be from the first few or after 5000 copies or whatever you set. Then it will automatically locate where the issues are and how many of them.” The system can produce a report and also export the data as an XML file that could be imported to other systems such as an MIS. 

Omnitek also produces Smartproof, for online collaboration and proofing. Chita continues: “We also have a 3D Inspektor where you can check out 3D images. We look at the PDF file, we take the outline of that and chop it up into different planes and put it together in a 3D viewer.” This gives an interactive way of checking packaging to make sure that the flat file will lead to the desired result. He adds: “A lot of the development has moved out here to India so it’s easy to go out to customers. And they can do all of the packaging tools.”

In conclusion, Pamex proved to be an extremely effective introduction, not just to the Indian market, but to the dynamics underpinning emerging markets. It still feels strange to me to refer to India as an emerging market, given just how well developed its IT sector is. But it’s clearly a very price sensitive market, albeit one where those that can achieve high volumes can also afford to invest in the latest digital devices. I was struck by just how many people told me that they felt the market had just about recovered from the Covid pandemic, which clearly hit the Indian economy very hard. Yet, it’s equally clear that India represents a vast and growing market, free of the geopolitical tensions that come with China, with huge potential that suggests the country is on the cusp of a huge transformation.  

This is my final report from the Pamex show, but it is not the last story from my trip to India with more to come in the next week or so. Pamex itself returns to Mumbai in January 2026, with more details from pamex.in.

In the meantime, you can find the first two parts of my Pamex report here and here


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