Partition of India uprooted Jai Gopal Khanna from his birthplace in Multan, now in Pakistan, and he migrated to Mumbai. By 1950 he took on the profession of being a commercial artist. His work was good and his customers were happy with his work. Creativity had a different meaning those days when no computers were there to aid designing. Those days the only cosmetic cream that sold around the year was called snow. One of his customers, a snow manufacturer, was so impressed by Jai Gopal Khanna’s work that he urged him to start printing and converting of packaging material for them. They partly funded Khanna to buy his first treadle letter press. His work increased and he started to carry his designing work home. His sons lived with him and in typical Punjabi tradition, they also joined his business. While working on his designing the elder Khanna let his little grandson play with the colors that he was using. In fact he encouraged the child to play and enjoy the colorful experience. Little did he realize that he was delivering his first lesson as a mentor to the little boy, Chandan Khanna.
As Chandan grew, he saw his father and uncles work hard to make Ajanta Printarts, their startup venture, a successful packaging Co. but his mentor remained his grandfather. Ajanta got their first Japanese four color offset press in 1987 and did not have to look back thereafter. They started to acquire new presses and equipments every couple of years. After graduating in commerce stream, from NM College in Mumbai, Chandan Khanna left for London for specialized training in Offset Printing. He returned to join Ajanta in 1992. While the business was growing, customers like Unilever and Wipro were driving them to further expansion, Chandan was restless. He wanted to do something else, he wanted to be different.
On an international flight to an industry printing event he met Vivek Kapoor, now owner of Creative Prints and President of LMAI. During the journey Vivek answered all of Chandan’s questions about the nuances of self adhesive label industry. Little did he know at that time, that Chandan would soon be a competitor to him. Nerker of Unique Photo Offset and Gautam Rajani of PM Industries are others who influenced Chandan to satisfy his urge of doing something different by indulging in production of self adhesive labels. He started studying a lot about narrow web label presses. Letterpress was not of interest to him and his heart was in offset printing. He finally bought an Iwasaki waterless offset narrow web press in the year 2000. This was the only one of its kind in India and hence it was different! People in the industry thought he had made a big mistake by opting for a new technology when there were no operators available for such a press. They were laughing at him. Though momentarily, yet Chandan wondered if he really had made a mistake. Not ready to accept defeat, he worked hard trying to get knowledge about the press and the technology. Six months down the line he successfully printed the first self adhesive label in roll for clinic shampoo. The label was well accepted and appreciated. Another few months of running the machine was making profits and Chandan was having the last laugh. Ten years after joining work, Chandan decided to acquire further skills and he joined the S P Jain institute in Mumbai and to get his masters degree in Family Managed Business (FMB). I personally feel happy to have suggested to him this course at that time as my own son was pursuing that course and I was pleased by the outcome.Chandan has a busy family. While he and his father look after the joint family’s label business, his wife is a successful solicitor and his mother, who was a teacher till a couple of years ago is now devoting much of her time to social work. A five year old son and an eight months old daughter account for Chandan’s spare time. I asked him when he will make them splash colors like his grandfather did. To this he laughs it out and says, “It will be good if they take to family business however I will not force them”.Ajanta packaging has steadily grown since then. With 150 employees they have production facilities at three locations i.e. Daman, Baddi and Dubai(UAE). A total of ten label presses have been acquired till date. Three waterless offsets and a one Nilpeter at Daman, One offset and two MPS flexo presses at Baddi and two offset presses at Dubai. Even though he is an outrightly offset man, Chandan surprised all at Labelexpo 2008 in Brussels by announcing the purchase two Flexo Presses, a nilpeter and an MPS in one go! As his business continues to grow he gives all credit to the team he has put in place. Important customers like Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, Wipro, etc. have helped him to implement efficient management systems. He is committed to excel in labels and reach the topmost slot in five years from now and would still be doing something different!
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008