We, at Sign & POP World, find it apt to cast spotlight on the rapidly growing domestic media manufacturing wherein some indigenous leading manufacturers are aspiring for big chunks at both domestic and international arenas.
State of Indian Flex Industry
Growing publicity stunt and rapidly increasing importance of outdoor space has pushed India’s flex industry into a transformation phase wherein country’s flex industry may find tacit opportunities. The on-going scenario indicates exuberant growth potential for flex in time to come with major market share in terms of advertising & promotion – both in value & volume. No wonder, the indigenous flex manufacturers are adapting to all the technological advancements so as to beat the heat of competitions from both fabric as well as imported stuff.
According to the industry estimates, the print value of the Rs. 51,000-crore signage industry is around Rs. 5,000 crore. When being inclusive of the costs of creative, fabrication, rentals and agency commissions, but excluding digital electronic display screens, the value goes up in the region of Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 crore. In fact, the industry has scaled to a level where around 15 Indian manufacturers of flex materials for signage are busy exploring the hidden potential and showing ways to many other aspiring entrants.
In the past few years, flex has gain visible share and has grown significantly, of course, riding high on the back of the ever-growing signage industry. This is not it as the expanding empire of outdoor promotions guarantees a fail-proof promised business with huge opportunities in time to come. However, a certain level of ambiguity has been noted regarding the rapidly changing policies as the growth of the industry would largely depend on the measures taken by the government in coming days.
Indigenous Manufacturers are Delighted
We, at Sign & POP World, decided to explore as to how the domestic flex players are fairing amidst all this. In our hunt for information, we tried meeting and interacting with many but end up with only a few as more time was required to complete the list which currently has Pioneer Polyleathers, Apollo Poly Vinyl, Sun Lex, Canadian Speciality Vinyls (CSV), Cleena Industries, Navratan Specialty Chemicals (MegaSign), Shree Ram Fibre (SRF) and AllFlex. In fact, we couldn’t make our reach to other manufacturers in time. Perhaps, we can do another article taking their inputs bringing in the developments hereinafter.
Once contacted, the manufacturers’ views about the country’s flex industry vary from stagnant to dynamic and fast growing. Stagnation is attributed to a state of the industry where supply has taken over the demand. Apart from that the interaction with manufacturers also evinced that the machines, materials and technologies in the current Indian flex industry are mostly imported from the overseas, predominantly from China, Korea or Taiwan. Many manufacturers used this as the base to claim their quality that since they have the same infrastructure as the overseas players have, they can deliver indigenously produced printing materials of the same quality, but at a rather competitive price.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that considerable part of the industry still constitutes solvent-based printing where flex is the only way out as no other substrate or media is there for substitution for now. The point to be noted is the rising consumerism that has led to an increase in the demand for outdoor publicity. In the meantime, growing demand for quality signage is inducing the industry to shift to UV and latex technologies, which would force improvement in the quality of flex too.
The Growth Bearers
The drivers for the growth in flex industry are many as several verticals in the Indian signage market have seen the surge over the last few years. Except for a couple with their strict opinions, the indigenous flex manufacturers firmly believe that a sizable economy has a high expected growth rate in areas of infrastructure, real estate, manufacturing, with special reference to the organised retail sector where the potential is immense. All this would definitely accelerate the pace at which the Indian signage industry is taking its strides, in turn bringing businesses for the flex manufacturers.
Besides, there are rapidly emerging overseas markets for flex where Indian manufacturers can set their export destinations. Geographies like Middle East, Africa and South America are on the verge of rapid developments and outdoor publicity is picking up faster than ever before. While quite a few have already made inroad to grab the opportunities right from the very beginning, many have their plans ready to jump on to the bandwagon once expansion (capacity/SKUs) on their respective cards is done.
The Policy Jerk
Recently, on the recommendation of National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Chhattisgarh Government has banned the use of chlorinated plastic and short-life Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) in the state. The advertising and promotion of materials like PVC banners, flex, and hoardings have also been banned with immediate effect. The published report mentions that it may not solve the problem but it is bound to do its bit as the chemical used to make PVC is a known human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). But the whole exercise has developed a fear psychosis in the minds of flex manufacturers across the country.
Recalling the first-of-its-kind drive that was flagged off from the state of Karnataka when the beginning of a plastic-free environment was announced by imposing a complete ban on plastic, irrespective of its thickness, thermocol and, of course, on the products made using these materials in the State. The decision to this ban was taken by the State cabinet and the legislature, reasoning out that plastic has been becoming a hazard to the environment, blocking of gutters, sewers and drains apart from resulting in pollution of water bodies in urban areas. And, this is not false.
The notification cites, “No shopkeeper, vendor, wholesale dealer, retailer, trader, hawker or salesman shall use plastic carry bags, plastic banners, plastic buntings, flex, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling films and plastic sheets for spreading on dining table irrespective of thickness including the above items made of thermocol and plastic which use plastic micro beads.”
The notification barred manufacturers from producing the aforementioned plastic products, storing or supplying or transporting the same. However, exemption has been given to plastic carry bags manufactured exclusively for export purpose against any export orders located in a special economic zone and export-oriented units. Also exempted is the plastic used for milk and milk products, apart from those which constitute an integral part of packaging in which goods are sealed prior to use at manufacturing/processing units. The exemption is also extended to use of plastic in horticulture and nurseries.
The trait was followed by Kerala where it was later on moderated to make it a bit relaxed. According to an official release no flex boards would be allowed to be used for advertisements and campaigns without permission from local self-governments. The local bodies should remove flex boards put up without authorisation under provisions of Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules. Use of flex boards stand banned on government institutions for functions and advertisements. The use of flex boards in public places require special permission, and must not cause any hindrance to traffic. Billboards, notices, and flex boards fixed on electric posts without authorisation were removed.
However, advertisements of fixed size on painted metal claddings remained permitted. Advertisers should approach the Clean Kerala Company for this. Local self-governments should issue licenses for specific periods at specified places wherein flex boards carry name of license holder, number and the license expiry date before which the boards are to be removed. Fresh licenses would not be given to persons violating the conditions. The boards should be returned to the advertisement agency or printer for recycling. Advertisement agencies or those installing the boards would be responsible for compliance. Flex boards should not be fixed to trees using nails. The Cabinet had earlier decided to impose a total ban on flex boards.
This change in approach of the government brought a sigh of relief for the signage community comprising flex manufacturers, flex printing companies and workers.
Nevertheless, flex manufacturers seem busy looking for ways to mark their presence in almost every segment of the economy with varied solutions at each price line, including the high-end market. Meanwhile, they are also finding eco-friendly manner that may include recycling of flex, which is popular for reasons – being cheapest media option and multi-layered usages. For this, the industry association is busy devising ways to separate the plastic from flex to make more of a polyester fabric than merely being counted as plastic, the hazardous substance.
Constant evolution and rapidly increasing the number of indigenous flex manufacturers is nothing but a milestone that the industry can mark as its development. Most of them looked ambitious while talking about their products and quality thereof, taking them to the global markets. All this evinces that the home-grown media manufactures have marked their respective successes in production of quality printing materials, which are now increasingly in demand all around. In the follow-up is the transitory spotlight on those emerging global flex giants of tomorrow.
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