Day 2 Newsletter, 25th October 2013
The first day of the eleventh Paperex exhibition – Paperex 2013 – saw many pulp and paper and companies and allied companies not only from India but also from across the world showcasing their products. Representatives of these companies also got a golden opportunity to interact with one another and to increase the chances of striking profitable deals in the future.
The welcome address was given by Mr. Pramod Agarwal, President, Indian Agro & Recycle based Paper Mills Association. In his welcome address he said, “Paperex, with a humble beginning in 1993, has become a major world event and many pulp and paper mills and allied companies look forward to participating in this event in order to get an idea of the developments taking place in the industry, especially technological developments.”
Speaking on the status of the Indian paper industry, Mr. Yogesh Agarwal, President, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association said: “Our industry is getting in sync with the global cycles of various business variables like capital availability, interest cost, plantation cost and market demand. Adapting and staying on top of these business cycles has become the number one priority of every management. As we speak today of emerging markets, economies are going through precarious times. Globalisation has clearly paused and walls have been going up. The Indian economy has posted the slowest economic growth. Inflation is untamed and currency has depreciated by over 20 per cent in the last four months. The silver lining is that the Indian currency is not the only currency that has depreciated. Many other emerging economies are facing the same challenge. With the election round the corner, the government is likely to push the long-held projects especially in infrastructure, and one may see increased efforts in attracting FDI in various industries by bringing more policy changes. However, the investor’s reaction is likely to be muted till they get clarity on policy issues and results of 2014 elections. As far as pulp and paper industry is concerned the gravity is shifting to Asia and large markets like North America, Western Europe and Japan started posting negative growth in demand for writing and printing paper from 2007. This shift is also visible in the pulp industry. The market capacity has shifted to Latin America. When we look at the supply of fibrous raw material and wood chips, we find the gravity has shifted to countries such as Vietnam and Thailand; they have become leading suppliers of wood chips to countries like China, Japan and South Korea, leaving traditional players like Chile, South Africa and Australia far behind in the race. There is very little scope for the price of wood to go down further. In India a majority of pulp and paper companies have made investments in the last four to five years in technology upgradation and capacity building. So, now is consolidation time for most of the industry players and most of them will work towards strengthening their balance sheets. However, in the last one year, Indian wood prices have almost doubled and competition for raw material has intensified to unprecedented levels. Apart from increasing operating costs, rupee depreciation has also made matters worse. Encouragement for the industry come only from growth. The Indian paper industry is growing at a healthy rate of 7 to 8 per cent annually. And I am positive that these growths rates are here to stay. Consumption too has a lot of scope for growth. Besides the growing market in Middle East and Africa is another opportunity available to India for further growth. On the one hand fragmented market, unsecure, logistic bottlenecks and taxation structure are the factors that dampen the spirit of paper merchants.
“I’d like to summarise what I have said by saying the Indian pulp and industry is going through very interesting times. This industry is used to organic growth and is still going through an organic phase. The industry is witnessing a paradigm structural shift with respect to scale, productivity, technology, market interface, etc. Such structural changes would obviously challenge the existing business models but also open up a wide range of opportunities for progressive players both in India and elsewhere – both in manufacturing and distribution.”
Giving the keynote address, Mr. Rajinder Gupta, Chairman, Trident Group, said, “The pulp and paper industry is not as progressive as few other younger industries. Why is it so? The main reason is that paper industry does not spend as much on research and development as other industry does. The auto industry spent 15 times more on R&D than paper industry. Health care spent 50 times more on R&D than paper industry. Paper manufacturers in India must remember that R&D and quality innovations are key drivers for any industry. So, we as an industry need to invest more in research and development.
The pulp and paper industry also need to attract talent and creativity. How many young technocrats, young engineers and young scientists want to be part of the pulp and paper industry – that’s a question that we as part of paper industry need to address. What should we do to attract them to our industry – that’s the question. We need to bring cross-functional competencies, capacities and different creative minds to the industry. On the contrary, we give more importance to experienced people than to young creative people.”
After presenting the achievement awards, Dr. E.M. Sudarshana Natchiappan, Hon’ble Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, said that paper occupied a divine place in Indian tradition. “We used to consider paper as goddess Saraswati. In the past, touching paper with feet was considered an unholy act. If ever we committed this unholy act unwittingly, we would pray to goddess Saraswati for forgiveness and request her to grant us more knowledge. That was the way we were brought up,” said Dr. Natchiappan.