Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

The importance of packaging in Aatmanirbhar India


In a recently attended ‘Chintan Shivir’ on packaging the bureaucrats, academicians, industry professionals from across India deliberated on innovative packaging solutions, latest global technologies, incubations, collaborations, sustainable packaging and India’s role as the global manufacturing hub for packaging materials.

Packaging is a combination of art and science. It is the face of the brand and without packaging they will be like a book without a cover. Santosh Kumar Sarangi, Additional Secretary and Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, spoke about the 1.2 trillion international packaging market with tiny countries like UAE and Sri Lanka manufacturing more packaging materials than India.

“Earlier the queen pineapples from Tripura were wasted due to improper storage facilities, but today, due to the use of advanced packaging techniques, Tripura has exported horticulture products like queen pineapples, lemons and jackfruits to West Asia, Europe and South East Asian countries apart from retailing in States across India,” said Sarangi.

Sarangi gave pointers to increase India’s packaging competitiveness – Advance authorisation scheme, increasing research and development in the packaging industry, collaborating with premier institutes like IIT’s for the innovative indigenous technology, using E commerce for marketing and preparing a talent pool to supplement the skill sets required by the growing industry.

Sunil Barthwal IAS, Commerce Secretary, reiterated the need for good inputs and feedback from the stakeholders for good policy making. “In today’s world a good product doesn’t sell by itself unless matched with aesthetics in an increasingly competitive world as consumer preferences change,” said Barthwal, using a metaphor to compare packaging to an art and the industry to an artist; where every article in the household reflects our personality.

The keynote speaker Agnelo George, CEO at Bisleri spoke about a brand owner’s perspective of strategic packaging management and stated that plastic is an integral part of our lives and that two grams of plastic can extend shelf life to 14-21 days. “If we allow it to rot, it will result in 5X more carbon emissions in the atmosphere. The way forward is to use plastic safely through recycling, reducing virgin plastic consumption and ensuring repurposing of used plastic,” said Bisleri CEO, adding, “These efforts make them water positive and plastic neutral which is documented by Bisleri in its sustainability report emphasising ‘Plastic circularity is good’ and launched the recycling program, Bottles-for-Change.”

The panel discussion with the industry stakeholders underlined how around 40% food is wasted from harvest to the market, especially perishables; with the major problem being the infrastructure and the supply chain and hence support is needed for agriculture exports, where a chili can travel for six weeks before it reaches its consumer.

The panel discussed how a simple packaging finds many manufacturers, while for a complex one like injectables in a pharma industry, they develop cold feet and prefer to import from China. This underlines the need for collaboration between the industry and academia, role of government in fostering better research and development by giving concessions to industry and public-private partnerships for intricate packaging solutions.

As far as the challenges go – the industry doesn’t have to deal with only the domestic consumer but the global consumer as the country ups its exports and the world becomes one market. For packaging, special attention needs to be focused on carbon emissions, sustainability, reused ingredients, deforestation etc. And as ESG comes into play, the compliance burden will only increase on the industry. Today, the buzzwords are minimalist packaging, returnable packaging, green packaging which are the future of the industry. Also Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Quality Control Orders (QCO) are aligned to the international markets, but they must also keep domestic issues in mind. There are also micro enterprises and ‘One district One product’ whose packaging requirements vary, hence capacity building programs at the grass root level is the need of the hour as also using traditional methods to increase shelf life.

As the country looks towards being Atmanirbhar in the true sense, along with the need of ‘Make in India’, ‘Pack in India’ is also required.

(The writer is ASSOCHAM Goa Women Empowerment Chair, Managing Committee Member in GCCI and Executive Committee Member in Laghu Udyog Bharati, Goa Chapter)

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