Winds of Change-II
Over a year back I wrote an article, “Winds of change” in the Indian label industry, I now relook at this subject.
The subject has wider implications in India, as global players descend on the scenario with commitments to environment, sustainability, innovation and the threat perception from new and emerging technologies. An industry in India for whom change meant just a new printing or
converting process, will soon have to show decisive indulgence in innovative products, waste management, sustainable production, implications of new technologies for getting a firm foothold. When confronted with the change perception, it is a normal answer from a large no. of printers in India, “this will take time”. Let me ask, “Does time wait?” As is well said, time and tide, wait for none.
My family’s traditional ink and glue, stationery business flourished in the country and our main
product was fountain pen ink and office glue. When Ball pens came in, we felt it will be another 50 years before fountain pens will get eliminated in India. We have most of the country living in the villages in India where people believe if you use ball pens, you will spoil your hand writing. What happened? Before we knew India started to get literate and knowledgeable, television provided widespread information, everything was available to the young and growing Indian population. Fountain pen ink became history and ball pens were in. Fountain pens became the decorative assets of the rich and famous. As for office glue, well the stickers and glue stick did the job! If we did not change even then, we would not have been in any kind of reckoning now.
In the early part of the first decade of the new millennium I was researching the market size of labelstocks in India. When I presented my findings at the pressure sensitive symposium in St. Moritz Switzerland 2003 organized by the Cham Paper Group, it was widely appreciated. I noted that the filmic label segment was the fastest growing label segment in India as regards the self adhesive label industry. On return some time later I wanted to recheck and met Bhavin Kothari of Interlabels to discuss the growth of filmic labels in India. Shrink sleeve labels were moving into the Indian consumer product market. Bhavin said, “It was time to reap the fruits of indulgence in the pressure sensitive label industry’s foray into filmic labels, shrink sleeves have spoilt the party”. He further added, “The rate of growth of filmic labels in India will take a definite beating for the time being”. He was so correct. A segment that appeared to be growing at that time at 25-30%, became stagnant. It is years later now that filmic labels have started to register a smart growth.
Drawing a parallel, I cite my recent interview at Munich, of Helmut Schreiner, Chairman of
Schreiner Group. In his words “The biggest threat to the label industry is going to come from printing direct on products”. On way back from Germany at the duty free shopping, I bought a pair of bottles of Chivaz Regal Scotch. I would have preferred to buy single malt but the free bag scheme with two bottles tempted me to opt for Chivas.
I opened the bottle at home and was surprised to see the bottle having a label in single white colour directly printed on the bottle, the contents provide the background colour! The vision of this man Helmut Schreiner is amazing.
Labels used to be printed directly on bottles in earlier days also. Dabur Chyawanprash was a classic example; they had plastic molders spread all over, making bottles and screen printing on these bottles and supplying to Dabur India Ltd. All that Dabur had to do was fill and pack. No label dispensers and label inventories were needed. With time Dabur shifted to shrink sleeves. The advantage of 360 degrees advertising because of shrink labels saw an upsurge in the product sales. Pressure sensitive labels, filmic or otherwise was not an option anymore. With evolution of digital printing, we see things changing rapidly. While printers are still imagining printing on paper and film and converting to labels, consider what Helmut Schreiner cautioned!
|Directly printed Vodka bottles|
|Innovative self adhesive labels|
True to the perception I mentioned earlier on, we believe it will certainly be a while and slow for things to change. Pressure sensitive labels, with the decorative options available to convert them will still be there and continue to grow consistently. Definitely it is not end of the road. I do not still see foiling being done directly on to the product for a long time now. Neither do I see any embossing showing on wine labels without the paper being there. I cannot imagine a booklet label or a label with a plastic attachment to dispose off a needle from a syringe or a label with a hanger being produced and dispensed without aid of PSA technology. This gives credibility to my point that innovation is the need of the hour.
The imperative direction PS label industry has to pursue is innovation, innovation and
|self adhesive booklet labels|
innovation! It is a natural wish that consumers will like to do away with unwanted or non performing parts of a product. Like in a label the liner always lands up as waste in a landfill at a time when environmental concerns are supreme and also it is a cost that if eliminated can make the label cheaper. At this time it provides the necessary impetus to the linerless label technology or even the liner going thinner for the time being. Similarly in barcode labels, even though thermal transfer label printed barcodes continue to be the preferred technology yet it is evident the ribbon is the excess baggage and that one day it will be dispensed with.
Linerless label technology appears to be the one gaining foothold faster than expected. in a few weeks, Labelexpo-Europe may bring in some surprises as environmental concerns have become compelling reason for change to eliminate liners wherever possible. This will bring in change in production and dispensing technologies. Label printers need to see this change coming in and have to eventually invest in such technologies to remain competitive and delver with environmental concerns. Sustainability is another issue that has to be considered by the organized label community, giving back to mother earth what you draw or recycle the waste to reduce the impact on the environment is a concern that will soon have mandatory implications. Going thinner with filmic liners that can be easily recycled is and will definitely find acceptance with label users who are committed to sustainability and have environmental concerns. Our narrow web label printers have come a long way from starting with screen printing in earlier time to flat bed label printing, rotary letterpress, flexographic printing, offset printing, rotary screen, gravure printing, Digital Printing and then on to combination printing. As I said earlier that in these times when winds of change continue to blow endlessly just adapting new printing and converting processes is not the way forward. Accepting the change to be the inevitable process they need to start innovating to create new products to stay in the reckoning. To meet the challenges emanating due to these winds blowing over the Indian label industry, innovation remains to be the imperative need of the hour.
So my advice: Continuous innovation is the way forward!
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Written by Harveer Singh Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, India June 2013