NEW DELHI (Feb. 1, 1:15 p.m. ET) — If emerging markets are supposed to provide an economic lift to the world economy these days, India's plastics sector seems ready to oblige, with its leaders opening the PlastIndia trade show Feb. 1 by predicting they'll maintain double digit growth over the next decade.
Led by that growth, they said that PlastIndia has now become the third-largest plastics show in the world, trailing Germany's K Fair and the Chinaplas exhibition. It opened its doors in New Delhi with 1,800 exhibitors, 100,000 square meters (1.07 million square feet) of exhibition space and estimates of 100,000 trade visitors over its six days.
While it's hard to directly compare trade shows –organizers of the NPE show in the United States argue that metrics like purchasing power of the buyers on the show floor matter more than visitor headcount – India's plastics leaders were striking a confident tone.
At their opening ceremony, PlastIndia leaders did not mention by name any other plastics shows that in the past would have been larger than PlastIndia, such as NPE in the United States and Japan's IPF show.
But those shows have seen attendance drop in recent years, while PlastIndia has been getting larger.
The last NPE in 2009 had a little less than 1 million square feet of exhibition space, 1,851 exhibiting companies and 45,000 registered attendees. In October, NPE organizers estimated the 2012 edition, in April, would have 1 million square feet of exhibiting companies and draw 50,000 industry professionals.
PlastIndia is optimistic of continued growth because emerging markets like India and China will be the drivers of global growth, with India growing 12-15 percent a year, said S.B. Dangayach, chairman of the National Advisory Board of the New Delhi-based PlastIndia Foundation. The Foundation organizes the show, which is held every three years.
Some Indian executives interviewed at the show said they did see a slowdown in the second half of 2011, as both global economic uncertainty and factors specific to India like rapidly rising interest rates started to bite.
That meant the 15 percent annual growth the industry had been seeing dropped to about 12 percent in 2011, said Ashok Goel, president of the PlastIndia Foundation and vice chairman of Mumbai-based plastic packager Essel Propack.
India's plastics growth is largely domestically driven, so it's been more immune to global problems than export-driven Asian economies like China, PlastIndia organizers said.
India's plastics sector, however, remains much smaller, with per capita plastics consumption of only 7 kilograms a person, well below the world average of 27 kg. per person. Figures presented at the opening ceremony said India is only four percent of global plastics consumption but accounts for 18 percent of the world's population.
While the ceremony focused on economic opportunities, there was an undercurrent of concern about environmental pressures facing Indian plastics firms.
India's Secretary for Chemicals and Petrochemicals, K. Jose Cyriac, told the assembled executives that while their economic accomplishments are good, they must do more to address waste management problems and litter from packaging, because that is what the public sees and associates with plastics.
The industry needs to “take up projects for plastics waste management,” he said. “That is where we suffer. The brand image of the industry suffers.”