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Dealing with Asia’s rise in brand counterfeiting – How does print keep businesses on track to success

Dealing with Asia’s rise in brand counterfeiting – How does print keep businesses on track to success


By Arnon Goldman, Director and General Manager, HP Industrial Business, Asia Pacific & Japan, HP Inc.

The pandemic has changed the way we shop, purchase and sell goods. Asia’s e-commerce revenue is predicted to grow to 1.92 trillion U.S. dollars by 2024, which will account for a whopping 61.4% of the global e-commerce market then.[1]  As consumers are increasingly compelled to use online marketplaces, combined with increasingly available trade goods, an influx of new threats in relation to brand counterfeiting has emerged. The counterfeiting industry is currently estimated at 509 billion U.S. dollars[2] and is set to grow at an accelerated rate. It is thus paramount for brands to step up now to save resources and protect diminishing market share.

Many organizations have been addressing these challenges publicly, pledging commitment to adapt in line with increasing threats. They are also working more closely with print service providers (PSPs), as well as technology enablers to continue improving security solutions. In tandem with digital growth, the print industry in the Asia Pacific is anticipated to grow at the highest rate from now till 2026.[3] Countries such as China, India and Japan are leading the way in commercial and digital graphic print to support the significant growth in industrialization. As part of a collaborative effort of the print industry to stay one step ahead, digital security printing has become an instrumental tool against counterfeiting. Even the most sophisticated counterfeiters find it extremely difficult – often impossible – to replicate these features unique to digital security printing. This also makes fake goods easier to spot, helping authorities track them down to stop them from travelling any further.

Security Printing as an emerging trend

The Asia Pacific security printing market is expected to witness steady market growth of 4.6% CAGR within the forecast period of 2021 to 2027.[4] As it expands, the industry is also diversifying to incorporate an ever-wider range of features to serve the needs of different brands and accommodate different use cases.

One of the main applications is advanced brand protection, where enterprises use secure-printing features to demonstrate the authenticity of a product. This helps to keep low-quality counterfeit goods that are often dangerous out of the supply chain, in turn, keeping consumers safe while protecting brand revenue streams and reputation. Another use case is security printing. Often used by governments, regulators and other institutions which produce printed materials, such as forms and documents, security printing allows brands and organizations to track, authenticate and identify different points of the workflow. This is very much similar to how countries need to identify a passport not only by its authenticity and validity, but that is belongs to a single, unique individual as well.

Brands are increasingly turning to PSPs to power the high-growth, high-revenue digital security printing market. In a digital security printing perspective, PSPs offer value in ensuring that the printing process for brands is anchored on multi-security layers, printing one pass in a secure environment at one time. Tech enablers are also important players in the ecosystem. For example, HP provides PSPs with technology such as the HP Indigo Secure platform, enabling them in providing value-add services including multi-layered measures of overt and covert elements, with any combination of invisible inks, infrared inks, variable data printing, unique serialized IDs, QR codes, serialized microtext, guilloche patterns, and cloud-connected track and trace.

The most common threats PSPs currently face

The change in landscape accelerated by the pandemic benefited e-commerce merchants, consumers, but also counterfeiters. As shoppers increasingly rely on different sales channels like E-commerce and M-commerce, it has become easier for counterfeiters to impersonate authentic retailers and brands. This causes a concern not only revolving around revenue loss, but also brand equity, which will be damaged because of customer distrust. During this time, the industry that suffered most in this regard was the pharmaceutical sector, where demand and supply for counterfeit medicine reached all-time highs. Retrospectively, applying multiple layers of security to documents, labels and packaging would have created a safer pharmaceutical supply chain. Nosco Inc. is a great example – the company printed variable barcodes invisibly to allow customers to scan and trace barcodes across any country to ensure the medicine’s legitimacy.

In today’s competitive business landscape, brands that are unable to curb counterfeiting will find it tougher to obtain their business goals, whether that is to enter a new market or to gain market share. As consumers become more discerning in their purchasing values and behaviours, and where brand equity is now perceived highly, the authenticity of goods is of paramount importance. While digital security printing has been proven to be a reliable and effective way of curbing counterfeits and fake goods, the action (or inaction) ultimately lies with brands and businesses.