Ananth K Rao
In the early nineties at the first Screen Print Exhibition in Nehru Centre in Mumbai I was standing at my booth in the show when I saw a tall handsome man walking with long steps briskly toward me with another industry friend on his side. As they reached my stand they impulsively stopped and I was introduced to this man Ananth K Rao owner of Stay-on Papers, Hyderabad. I was really amazed by the friendly vibes this man emitted and am happy to say that he became my best friend in the industry that moment onwards. It was later that I realized he was the industry’s best friend. Ananth is a labelstock producer in Hyderbad who ventured out in the field, when the industry was still at a nascent stage and maturing to find acceptability of self adhesive labels amongst the industrial consumers of labels. It was a time when the self adhesive label was still a sticker and was in the process of being accepted as regular label. Wet glue labels were the order of the day. The kind of friendship Ananth Rao extended was exemplary. I remember a very interesting incident. I went to Hyderabad and it was my first visit there to explore the possibility of supplying to him release papers, which he later started to produce himself. From my landing in the town till I departed, he took me around and was the perfect host. He also took me to screen print dealers who were his customers requesting them to buy from me. At one shop where the customer did place the order, I asked for advance payment. While customer refused, Ananth pitched in and offered to pay on his behalf. I was embarrassed and let the order pass. That evening I was invited to Ananth’s house for drinks and later dinner at a famous restaurant. Before we left his home, he went in and brought a packet which he later handed over to me saying that was the advance money and I should send that dealer’s order. I was stunned! How could this man do this without there not being anything in this deal for him? I was overwhelmed by the extent of his magnanimity. It is a matter of record when most labelstock customers of mine started opting out to produce silicone release papers themselves, Ananth forced me to start producing labelstocks and in other terms be a direct competitor to himself! He is an amazing person. Over the years I realized that anyone in the label industry, whether he is a supplier, a customer, a machine supplier, media person or a competitor… Ananth is the natural host for them in Hyderabad. He goes on to offer unconditional help and support. It is for this and many other reasons that I call him, “Gentleman of the Label Industry”.
Born into an agriculturist family with large landholdings, Ananth Rao went to Lawrence School, Lovedale for his basic education until ISCE (Indian School Leaving Certificate) followed by Pre-University course at Loyala College Chennai. He then completed his B.Com. from Badurka College Hyderabad, affiliated to Osmania University, before proceeding to United States to pursue further education in management studies. After completing MBA from University of Florida, USA in 1979, he did a two year stint with Southland, owners of Seven-Eleven Stores before returning home in 1983. Self adhesive labels had caught his fancy and he decided to venture into the field. He initially started trading in Labelstocks procured from another pioneer in the field, Kilaru Prasad of Prasad Accumeter Pvt. Ltd., also based in Hyderabad. Prasad, who also had moved to India from USA where he had worked for Accumeter, makers of hotmelt coating equipments, had taken the agency from Accumeter to sell their products in India. He had also installed an 8 inch wide demo hotmelt coating machine in Hyderabad. While trading in Labelstocks, gave Ananth the opportunity to study the market and help him establish, it also helped Prasad to showcase the equipment to prospective customers while he was producing material. In fact they were both complementary to each other. Prasad was successful in selling two more 8inch coaters one to Ananth’s Stayon Papers and another to Klaas Equipment who later sold it to Interlabels. Thereafter Prasad went full time into producing and selling self adhesive labelstocks.
The initial years into production, Ananth faced many problems. Though technically he had support from Prasad, yet raw materials were difficult to source due to import restrictions and licensing. Release base paper to this date is imported and even Hotmelt adhesive is imported. He found his cost of production higher than his competitors because he was coating 8 Inches width while other units coming up those days were coating 20 inches. His wastages were higher and volumes were low. In 1991 Ananth found his first success when he got orders to supply labelstocks for state excise labels on liquor in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. As volumes started to swell, it was time for him to move on and expand. In 1994 he decided to integrate backward by investing in a silicone coater and start producing release papers himself, which were outsourced till that point of time. A year later he started to produce Hotmelt pressure sensitive adhesive however presently he outsources most of his requirements of adhesives. In 1998 he felt it was imperative to invest in another wider coater to produce cost effectively. He bought his second hotmelt coater, this time a 20 inch wide equipment. In 2000 to cater to diverse needs of the label market he installed an emulsion adhesive coater. His total coating business now employs a workforce of 40 and operates from premises spread over 50000 square feet. The equipment that they have include two 1.5 meter coaters, 2 one meter adhesive coaters for labelstocks and tapes, three hotmelt adhesive coaters of widths 1 meter, 500mm and the old 200mm coater modified to coat 250mm (10 inch) which is still working alongwith a range of finishing equipments.
Ananth now wishes to consolidate his position by investing in modifications on existing machines so as increase coating speeds to achieve economies of scale and to make efforts to reach full capacity utilization. He hopes that in 5 years his company will be double the size of present operations. He loves the industry because it brings him in contact with people from very diverse fields due to labels being used on every product. However he feels bad that the industry is too price sensitive with long credit terms, leaving business exposed to increased risk.
Ananth’s wife Sree, is his perfect companion and a homemaker. Both love to socialize and are extremely active in the Hyderabad social circuit. His daughter Sagari is happily married to Arjun, a software engineer based in USA while son Rahul is actively involved in the affairs of Stayon Papers. Ananth does not plan to diversify in other fields and feels on this matter, his son Rahul is free to take a call. His other business interests are in real estate, he also owns a hotel in Hyderabad. He is on the governing body of Hyderabad Race Club and he has been the President of the famous Secunderbad Club. Most evenings Ananth is seen at the club with his eminent friends from the city and industry friends visiting Hyderabad. He loves to make friends, be with friends and look after his friends. No wonder I call him “Gentleman of the Label Industry”
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 December, 2011.