SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vivek Kapoor: Creative Labels…the bottom line will guide!

Vivek with his ECS Label Press
Vivek Kapoor, Managing Director of Navi Mumbai based Creative Labels, is the current and longest serving President of LMAI (label manufacturers association of India). With his office in South Mumbai and factory some 40 km away in Mahape, Navi Mumbai, one is left wondering how Vivek manages to control his one man show and still find time for the label association and also indulge in an extremely busy lifestyle.  “I operate by delegation” says Vivek, he further adds, “If I have to be in the factory all day long then I would not be able to do anything else”. It is interesting to note that Vivek‘s mentor and a close relative Surinder Kapur was the founder President of LMAI. The large extended family of Kapoors has given two out of the four Presidents to LMAI since inception. The Indian label industry is appreciative of their contribution. In April 2011 I wrote about Surinder Kapur whose grandfather Lala Jai Dayal Kapur, with support of his friend Lala Karam Chand Thapar founder of Ballarpur Industries, started their paper trading business at Amritsar where they had relocated from Lahore after partition of India. Around the same time Jai Dayal Kapur’s brother Ram Lal Kapoor also started his business in paper trading with distribution agency from the then British owned Titagarh Paper Mills. Today the large extended families of both the brothers are spread in various cities around India and well established in paper and printing business. Pyare Lal Kapoor, one of the four sons of Ram Lal Kapoor had six sons who were, in typical Punjabi tradition expected to join the joint family business but one of his son Shashi Mohan Kapoor who had pursued education in chartered accountancy, drifted away from family business. Initially it was out of curiosity to try his hand in practicing he moved to Mumbai as big business was there and eventually with a successful practice in place, he never actively returned to the family business, though he remains a part of it even today passively. Shashi Mohan wanted his son Vivek to also become a chartered accountant and take over his well established practice but it appears the influence of cousins in business and the traditional Punjabi business traits of a large extended business family prevailed. Punjabis are people who hail from the north Indian state of Punjab. Vivek completed one group of in Chartered accountancy and also prepared for the 2nd group but never appeared for the final exams, because he knew if he did, he would have to be a CA like his father. He did not wish to take up that career as he feels, “it is postmortem of accounts”.
Shashi Mohan like any caring parent was a worried man, now that his son Vivek wanted to be in business. He was worried because Vivek did not have any experience. It was only his interaction with his large extended family that this decision had been made. Initially they toyed with the idea of going into textiles but the number of processes involved to reach a finished product was a deterrent. With passage of time Shashi Mohan started discussing with family and friends the options available. It was when he discussed with his cousin Surinder Kapur who was already in production of labels that Surinder suggested Vivek also make labels. Shashi mohan had been very close to Surinder’s father and also took care of their tax matters. He thought since he was in know of their suppliers and customers this would be unethical. Surinder and his father assured Shashi Mohan it was not an issue with them and they even took upon themselves to train Vivek at their Taloja factory, R K Papers. With this decision made, Vivek trained for 4-5 weeks at R K Papers and thus started his journey into the world of labels. Vivek and Shashi Mohan to this date are indebted to Surinder Kapur and his father Raj Kumar for initiating Vivek in labels. Vivek took to the label industry as if it was made out business for him, the online converting in a single pass suited his temperament and appealed to him immensely.
In 1996-97 a young 28 year old Vivek Kapoor setup his startup venture Icon prints at Navi Mumbai with a cousin as partner.  They bought their first label press, a four colour semi rotary Iwasaki. Yet, he was a novice in printing. When he went to show a printed sample to one of his earliest customer, the customer asked him to bring LSD. Vivek was stunned, thinking the guy was asking for some drug! It was eventually explained to him that LSD in print meant “Light Standard Dark”. Another nightmare happened when he was on the verge of losing a pharma customer as each time he printed, the colour would smudge. The customer wondered if Vivek could ever get it right. The solution when it happened makes him smile at how simple it was. Instead of printing orange first and then black, he printed black first and the problem was over! He was a fast learner and thereafter progressed to buy their second label press and this time an Etipole in the year 2000. Initial years were tough for Icon Prints as they started to sell plain labels which were sold mostly in the unorganized market and had to be competing with small timers who sold without invoicing on cash. The very first year they ended up with a cash loss and considered closing the business. It was only when they started to print and add value to their product that the venture started to look up. Vivek is nostalgic about his first label that he printed was for a multinational consumer goods company. At that point of time FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies were importing labels and winning an order against quality coming from foreign lands was a very satisfying accomplishment. Vivek further draws pleasure in being first person in India to produce labels for seamless tubes for packaging “Brylcream” as the brand owners were finding it difficult to print the logo, this started the trend of tube labels in India.
Ten years after starting Icon Prints, restlessness and differences between the partners started to surface. Vivek wanted to expand against the wishes of his cousin who was his partner. Expansion calls for additional investment and borrowings. Most of the time partnerships come under stress due to such differences. One would want stability and the other, expansion and action. Family differences also started showing up. Finally in 2007 the partners separated and Vivek quit Icon Prints to start Creative Labels Pvt. Ltd. at a 4500 square feet rented premises in Navi Mumbai with a new LR3 7 colour Iwasaki. This indeed was a turning point in his career so far. It was struggle from scratch once again. Giving up all that was achieved at Icon prints and building a new customer base after a gap of almost six months was like establishing his startup venture all over again. Ethically, Vivek did not want to start a business in parallel, while the partnership was in separation mode at Icon so it became all the more indulgence and hard work to succeed when eventually he started his new venture. He soon realized that if he had to bring success to his new venture, he had to adopt and accept technological changes and developments in narrow web label printing. Initially he expanded his startup by installing a Gallus EM 280 but as Creative Labels got a foot hold in the marketplace, Vivek recognized the need for a short web path in narrow web label printing to reduce wastages and reduce operator intervention and thus he decided to buy a Gallus ECS label press. Vivek like most of the other label printers feels digital will one day change the scenario but yet it is time to keep a close watch on the technology and the plunge will be taken at an appropriate time. According to him, one has to change with time. When asked where he sees himself and his company in five years, he says, “We grow as we grow. We make our efforts and growth will come naturally”. However end of the day the Chartered Accountant in him, inherited from his father says it all, “The bottom-line will be the guide”.
In 2013 Creative prints acquired an industrial plot close to their first rented factory and built it to accommodate their expansion. They now operate out of a total production floor area of 12000 square Feet 7500 in the new factory and 4500 in the old factory. They employ a work force of 60 employees and possess three label presses. Vivek’s family also has partnership interest in Kapco Prints (Offset Printers) at Chandigarh and Baddi (H.P.) in North India. It is interesting to note that Vivek’s father Shashi Mohan and his brothers, all the six of them are still partners in the printing business.

Shveta & Vivek Kapoor with Lisa Milburn MD Labelexpoat Goa
Vivek Kapoor, the only son of Shashi Mohan Kapoor, is an alumnus of Campion School, Mumbai. He graduated in Commerce from H R College also in Mumbai.  His wife Shveta is a unique pleasant personality, always seen wearing the best jewellery… a smile! She is essentially a homemaker. After completing her education in commerce, she pursued an advanced course in Jewellery design. After teaching for some time at the Indian Institute of Jewellery, she now designs jewellery privately. Their only son Vidur is a fine young teenager. Though Vivek insists that he does not see him as a label printer in the future but it appears Vidur is already there. Vidur is a part of every label event and is recognisable by most of the established printers.  We will leave the prerogative for his future to be his very own for this young man!
Vivek has taken keen interest in industry association and as the President of LMAI has been
instrumental in creating a unique platform for the Indian Label Industry, “The annual LMAI label conference”. I remember when the first conference was being organized at Goa, the kind of effort put in was gigantic and sitting at Mumbai, Vivek was coordinating all the time. Since I was a member of the managing committee then, I used to get Vivek’s call every other day. He would talk endlessly on the planning and my family would ask, “Does Vivek have a free mobile phone?”LMAI has successfully organized two conferences at GOA with global attendance from most of the reputed suppliers. The LMAI Conference is now declared to be held regularly every two years. Under Vivek’s leadership the members of the label association LMAI have been able to get subsidies on investments, on travel and participation in premier trade shows abroad like Labelexpo, from the Ministry of MSME (Micro Small & Medium Enterprises) Government of India. Vivek has also taken initiatives with support from leading industry suppliers to support schooling of operators for label presses. This is an area that is a cause of worry due to shortage of trained operators to run the high-end sophisticated presses. If his efforts succeed this will help increase the operator availability in India.
Each time I interview a leading label printer, I ask a question that is important for us and our environment. Given the fact that 50% of all the label material that label printers use, goes to landfills impacting the environment adversely, I wish to know the initiatives that they have taken in this direction. The question becomes all the more important in case of Vivek as he heads the label association. He has tried various initiatives with industry suppliers on waste management but success has been evasive. He says,” We firmly believe that it is for the better of future generations that we leave behind a cleaner earth. I will continue to find ways to implement systems and environmentally friendly production processes.”
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 India, July 2014

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