SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Punjabi’s tryst with labels

Prem Khanna

Born into a family who migrated to Delhi from Lahore (now in Pakistan) at the time of prtition of India, Prem Khanna, is a typical Punjabi who works hard, enjoys good food, makes a lot of friends, loves to entertain and puts up a brave front with a smile, even in times of adversity. While he has been born and brought up in Delhi and is an alumni of Delhi’s Kirori Mal College yet the Lahore culture and style is evident on his personality, “Doing everything with a flair!” Prem Khanna started his professional carrier as an employee of a custom clearing agent. Even as he worked hard at his job he knew one day he will be running his own show as an employer. It was just a matter of time and firm resolve that soon he started his own custom clearing company and found success. As he moved ahead in business, he struck a close friendship with one of his customer P C Jain, who was a trader and regularly imported Hand Held Labelers, Labels, etc. from companies like Pitney Bowes and Monarch Marking Systems. The concept of gun labels, as they came to be called with time, was introduced in India by P C Jain. Being a pioneer in this field, Jain saw the potential and need to start a manufacturing operation to produce these price marking labels in India complemented by trading in the imported hand held labelers. He proposed the venture to his friend and custom clearing agent Prem Khanna, inviting him to invest in equity and join the board of the start-up venture Great Eastern Impex Pvt. Ltd., as a director. Khanna, with his urge to diversify and grow, saw it as an opportunity and accepted to invest and join the board of the company as a director. This was in the year 1983-84, Prem Khanna made his tryst with self adhesive labels and silently pledged to excel in this field.

Most of the work in the initial years at Great Eastern was done by PC Jain who continuously travelled and Khanna preferred to remain a silent partner, observing the business as it grew. It was in 1987-88 when the company moved to their new premises in Gurgaon that Prem Khanna started to take active interest in the working of the company to understand the manufacture and marketing of self adhesive labels. He fondly remembers the high margins that they roped in those days. A product that they now sell for just Rs.680.00 used to sell at in excess of Rs.2000.00. Great Eastern is a success story that I intend to chronicle another day. The company grew at a fast pace and expanded with time. It was in 2002 after Shakti Jain, PC Jain’s son returned to India after completing his studies in the United States and joined business that things started to change. In time P C Jain proposed to Prem Khanna to end the partnership and split the business into different business segments and marketing zones and still maintain an association. This looked interesting on paper and appeared to work for a while but eventually the reality prevailed, the partnership had come to an end. Prem Khanna realized he had reached the turning point of his life and he was left with his start up venture Rachna Overseas Pvt. Ltd. (ROPL) to move on in life. Time had come to keep his tryst with self adhesive labels and redeem his pledge to excel in the field. In true Punjabi tradition he put his mind and soul in the venture. He was assisted in his endeavor by A S Shekhawat an alumni of IIM who also had worked as Vice President at Great Eastern and had left them at that time to join ROPL as a director.

With a Mark Andy 830 label press, an Ihle ribbon slitter and some staff inherited from Great Eastern, Khanna and Shekhawat went ahead to establish a pan national marketing network to sell the same product mix they were doing earlier. Space was initially a constraint and finance was difficult but Prem Khanna managed it well. The first success came with a contract from Hindustan Paper Corporation followed by orders from Hero Honda and others. Thereafter it has been continuous growth and expansion at ROPL. Starting from less than 10000 square foot factory they have now moved to a 30000 square foot smart looking facility producing primarily a range of variable data labels, barcode labels, price marking labels, thermal transfer labels, etc. They also import and sell point of sale items like barcode printers and scanners. With their manufacturing facility in Gurgaon near Delhi, ROPL operates out of six more offices located at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. They have added more equipment and now have seven label presses, 2 Ihle ribbon presses and a host of ancillary equipment. ROPL has a workforce of over 150. Prem Khanna himself overseas all administration, while his son takes care of marketing in Delhi and Mumbai. The production and the branches are handled by A S Shekhawat. “Rachna Overseas Pvt. Ltd. has been growing at a fast pace of 35% per annum” says Prem Khanna and goes on to add with a flair, “In the next five years we will grow at least three times if not more” They have started to test their marketing with RFID and would like to start production when they feel the technology has stabilized. Digital printing has not been considered so far. As for their foray into international business, they have been exporting for a while but soon they will be a multinational of sorts. Commercial production will soon begin at their joint venture Rachna Overseas (Bangladesh) Pvt. Ltd. in Dhaka. ROPl aspires to start another manufacturing facility close to present one.

Prem Khanna’s wife Rachna, after whose name his company has been named, is a homemaker and his moral support in all endeavors. His only son Karan has joined him and given the energy levels of Prem Khanna, it will be a while before he hands over the baton completely to Karan. Prem Khanna is a dedicated family man. When he finishes for the day he heads straight home looking forward to spending time with his two granddaughters. His only daughter Nupur is married. His success has not gone to his head, he reminisces that he was innocent and slow in his younger days, his father used to tell him, ”I wonder what you will do in life?” Today a successful Khanna lends support to his extended family including his brothers and sisters. On Sunday mornings he does allocate his time to play Cricket, which has been his passion for long years. Prem Khanna goes pensive when asked about his love for going on holidays, “There is no time” he complains, “the growth in labels is addictive and compelling. It changes your priorities; they become your first love”.

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 1st June, 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hyderabad, Goa and Brussels, Label Printers on the move

Vivek Kapoor and wife Shveta
holidaying in Abu Dhabi
As we get into the middle of summer holidays, most of the bigger label printers seem to be heading to some exotic destinations with their families. They have worked hard to achieve success and so it is appropriate to reward themselves with relaxing and fun-filled vacations. When they return to work rejuvenated, it will be start of yet another bout of hard work to chisel their success stories with print. The retailing revolution in India has unfolded a growth in the Indian label industry that needs constant indulgence and continuous expansion to achieve excellence in printing with enhanced capabilities to produce defect free labels at high speeds and be cost effective. The market keeps on getting bigger and consumers get more demanding both in terms of quality and prices. With raw material prices sky-rocketing, the pressure on the label printers is evident. In such a scenario the time-off is justified, so that they come back and get back to work with enhanced vigor.

Hotel Park Hyatt, Goa
The Label Manufacturers Association of India has been toying with the idea of holding a conference for long time. The event has finally gone beyond the planning stage and has been announced. The LMAI Conference, “Innovations in Print” is scheduled to be held at Hotel Park Hyatt, Goa on the 29th, 30th and 31st of July 2011. The event is just two months away and preparations are in full swing. The management team at LMAI headed by their President Vivek Kapoor is making efforts to make this conference a big success. The industry has welcomed the move and the event appears to be heading for a fully sold out situation! Leading equipment and material suppliers have seen the opportunity in this conference where the “who is who” of the Indian label industry will meet, and have come forward with sponsorships. Most of these renowned international companies are also sending in speakers to make presentations that will impart knowledge on innovative developments in the field. LMAI is making efforts to make this event a memorable one by arranging lunches, dinners, entertainment, celebrity performances, African drummers, etc. This is an evident effort to add value to the meet with good content, good entertainment and great networking. It is interesting to note that with the announcement of this event the LMAI membership has started to grow.

Before the LMAI conference, earlier on in July from the 1st to 4th “PackPlus South 2011” is being held in Hyderabad. Though it is primarily a packaging show yet it does have a converting zone where important industry suppliers to the label industry as also some leading label printers will be exhibiting. Given the event organizers heritage and links with the label industry, it is expected many of the constituents of the label industry, more so from South India will be seen at the show either as exhibitors or visitors. The show also gains importance from the fact that it has established a foothold in the south Indian market in recent times.
Two months later in the end September, “Labelexpo Europe 2011” will be held from 29th September to 1st October 2011 at Brussels. This show is the Mecca for successful Label printers across the world. The last show in 2009 marketed as, “Greatest Label show on earth” lived up to its tagline with over 24000 visitors from 125 countries, despite the fears of the impact of economic slowdown. The show in September 2011 is going to be the biggest ever label event with some innovative features. Last year at Labelexpo Americas, the event promoters Tarsus had tried a new concept of organizing, “Technology Print Workshops”. The huge success of these workshops has prompted them to introduce the same at Labelexpo Europe this year. Three printing technologies (dry toner, liquid toner and inkjet) will be compared against each other during live machine demonstrations run by an independent moderator. The technologies will be represented by Xeikon, HP and EFI Jetrion respectively. There will be four sessions per day, three of which will see the different companies printing the same job – a food, pharmaceutical or personal care label – on the same substrate. The fourth session will allow participants to print a label of their choice. Visitors will also get to see the narrow web printing and converting technology undergoing a transition so as to integrate label printing, flexible packaging and package converting technologies on to the same press. This would enable a label company to acquire one high end press and have the capability to produce labels, shrink sleeves, flexible packaging, folding cartons, etc on the same equipment employing diverse print technologies. The developments displayed at this event will be an eye opener for the future trends in the label industry.

The no. of visitors from India to Labelexpo Europe this year is expected to be exceptionally high. They will definitely be the select band of visitors to watch and woo. They will be the ones ringing the order bells for the equipment suppliers. Most of the printers are holding their order to finally announce their acquisitions at this premium event. The year seems to be getting busy and interesting for the label industry. Hereon it will be Hyderabad followed by Goa and then finally Brussels. They will be doing business, partying and networking, all the way!

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 1st June, 2011.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Indian Label printer Wintek, Bangalore, wins prestigious Finat label awards!

Finat, the worldwide association representing the interests of the self-adhesive labeling industry, has announced the winners of its latest label awards competition at the recently held Finat congress in Sicily, Italy. It was a highly successful congress attended by over 330 delegates from across the world. The 31st Finat label competition, a part of the congress deliberations, received a record number of entries. It was also reported that entries were of higher quality than average, making selecting winners 'very difficult' and resulting in many more Highly Commended awards.

Hameed of Wintek receiving the award from Tony White
with Gururaj in the middle.
 Tony White Chairman of the judges said,"‘We received just over 360 entries from 50 companies worldwide, an eleven percent increase over last year’s record numbers’.

It is a matter of pride for us in India that Wintek, Bangalore and UPSL, Chennai a member of the Manipal Group headed by the enterprising Gautham Pai were recipients of awards at this prestegious events. I was extremely thrilled to hear my friend Gururaj Ballarwad say, "I am pleased to inform you that we have won two Category Awards and six "Highly Commended Certificates" at the FINAT Label competition in Sicily, Italy".

In picture the winners! Hameed, Helmut Schreiner,
Isidore Leiser, Gururaj and others

The Award function was attended by Gururaj and his partner K M Shahul Hameed on behalf of the Wintek. "Keep it up Gururaj and team Wintek, you have worked hard and it is a journey which gets decorated by the day, with more awards coming by".

Harveer Sahni, Managing Director Weldon Celloplast Limited. 16th June 2011.