Every two years when it gets closer to Labelexpo in Brussels, excitement builds up amongst members of the global narrow web label fraternity. Printers start looking forward to meet peers in the industry across the globe as also to witness suppliers and machine builders showcasing the developments that they have done in the preceding two years. It is a time to learn, update, network and party. The evenings in Grand Place, in the heart of Brussels is a place where many a relationships are renewed and friends who have moved on within the industry get reunited by chance, on the streets. One can see the pleasures of reconnecting with old friends and getting updated on work and contact details. Labelexpo Europe is recognized as the largest label event in the world attracting decision makers from the finest of label printing companies. The last edition of the show was the largest so far in its 35 year history and this one is expected to be bigger. 31795 visitors attended the 2013 edition which was over 11% more than the 2011 show. Visitors came from 158 countries and the show was spread over in seven halls covering a floor space admeasuring 31000 square meters. The number of exhibitors also grew to almost 600 up from 550 in the last event, demonstrating the confidence level of exhibitors and the importance of this show. To assess the take of Indian label printers on this event, I interacted with more than 20 printers in all zones of India. Surprisingly all except one confirmed that they will be visiting this show and the one who is not going wished he could go but was being held back due to personal reasons. So ethically almost hundred percent of printers who responded to my questionnaire emphasize the importance of this show and are expected to visit Labelexpo Europe this year.  Interestingly all the persons interviewed by me are business owners and purchasing decision makers. Indian label industry is dominated by family owned businesses and the owners travelling to Brussels, demonstrates the importance of this event amongst Indians. This is despite the fact that there is a Labelexpo India every alternate year!
The Labelexpo exhibition was founded by Clive Smith in the year 1979 as a show called Labelex. In 1980 the first Labelexpo (Then Labelex) exhibition was held in London’s Royal Horticultural Hall, in a net area of 1000 square meters. Three shows later in 1985 the show moved to Brussels. In 1989 Clive Smith founded Labelexpo Americas and a year later in 1990 he established Labelexpo Asia. In 1998 Labelexpo was sold to Tarsus. There after Tarsus established other versions of the show in China and India. However still the Brussels edition called Labelexpo Europe remains the flagship show and recognized as the best in the world.
Amar Chhajed: Webtech Labels
Jigesh Dani; Maharshi Labels
Ajay Agarwal: Syndicate Labels

“It is the Mecca of Label Printing Industry”
In the western world, exhibitions have for decades been the places where business people would visit to witness exhibits and make their purchase decisions, yet Indians were traditionally used to calling sales persons to their workplaces and then take decisions. It was in 1972 that India’s prime 153 acres exhibition facility “Pragati Maidan” was set up in New Delhi,but it took more than a decade before the culture of visiting exhibitions caught on, somewhere in the mid 1980s. However still travelling to foreign lands to visit shows was still a taboo. It was in the mid 1990s after the advent of liberalization of economy that people actually started to travel to visit exhibitions and make purchase decisions. When I asked the printers about how many times they have visited Labelexpo Europe, two of the label industry stalwarts Amar Chhajed of Webtech Mumbai and Gururaj Ballarwad of Wintek Bangalore stated, they had visited every edition of the show since 1999. The 2015 edition will betheir 9th time at the Brussels show. I too have visited every edition of the show since 1999 but then that as a material supplier. It is interesting to note here that both Amar and Gururaj have either sold majority stake in their company or have been fully acquired by multinational companies Huhtamaki and ITW respectively. Wintek acquired by ITW has subsequently become a Signode group company. Anurag Mohan of Interact at Kolkata in the East of India will be a first time visitor at Brussels who has been following Labelexpo for the last 6-8 years on the internet. All the others have visited multiple times. Ajay Agarwal, Managing Director of New Delhi based Syndicate labels will definitely visit because he says, “it is a must visit for every serious label printer”. Jigesh Dani of Maharshi Labels in Ahmedabad in the west of India feels, “It is the Mecca of Label Printing Industry”. 
The success of any business exhibition is measured by the amount of focused visitors it attracts and eventually the amount of business enquiries it generates.  In shows like Labelexpo Europe the press manufacturers form the mainstay of the show and all other suppliers of materials, toolings, inspection systems, allied equipments, etc, complement the exhibition to become a complete show. We are used to hearing announcements of the overwhelming number of label presses sold at the show! Labelexpo is an event that is of extreme importance, there is a lot work done between two editions of the show. No one walks into a stand at a show and impulsively buys a million plus Euro Label Press impulsively! After all it is not a fancy car; whereby hundreds and thousands of similar models are running on roads triggering off a me-too feel.These Label presses are equipment that are supposed to print labels, deliver quality as demanded by customers and generate revenue for a business enterprise. In actual a lot of work has gone in by press manufacturers in the preceding two years culminating in the exhibition becoming a perfect platform for printers to witness the latest developments, negotiate a price valid at the fair and announce the sale. Last but not the least enquiry generation at the show brings in work for the sales team, till they reach the next show. It is an important fact to understand if printers are going to exercise or initiate purchase decision at Brussels. In response to my questions, many printers said they had made purchase decisions at previous shows but when asked whether they will make purchase decision at this show, they are non committal. Only three out of the 20 said they will make purchase decision, I am sure evaluation has preceded the decision to buy at the show. Most of them say they will visit the event to learn and evaluate new technological developments taking place in the world. Young Hemanth Paruchuri of Pragati Pack Hyderabad wants to learn and evaluate upcoming technologies so as to plan future investments. He is curious to learn how LED UV is shaping up. Raveendran from Seljegat in Sivakasi in South India is as always looking for something new that he can bring to the Indian markets and is confident he will make purchases at the show. 
Sandeep Zaveri of Total Print Mumbai feels it is so convenient to evaluate a range of consumables, toolings and ancillary supplies at just one place. Sudhir Jain of Jain Transfer Products based in NOIDA, on the outskirts of Delhi says, “I will visit Labelexpo Europe to look at new developments in label printing and converting technologies by international exhibitors.”I asked printers, “It is said this show is a complete label event and the best in class, do you agree? Your comments” The response was unanimous, YES! Heman Vasa of Unick Fix-a-Form based in Ahmedabad said,” Yes, it is very informative and knowledge imparting”. Ramesh Deshpande of Renu Prints in Aurangabad says it is a great event. Manish Hansoti from S. Kumar Multi Products Pvt.Ltd.Ahmedabad feels it is a must visit event because manufacturers are putting their best and new futuristic machinery at the show. It time to know what new is happening in the industry. 
Each exhibition has a target visitor base,depending on which the exhibitors are selected and the show is built.  It is an interesting story that in the first “India Labelshow” which was later acquired by Tarsus and renamed Labelexpo India, I was requested by my friend Anil Arora, the founder of that show to help promote the show. Since my customer base was label printers I went about along with Anil requesting all of them to participate. Surprisingly many agreed and we had a lot of leading label printers exhibiting at the first edition of a highly successful India Label show at Nehru Centre in Mumbai in the year 2002. It was on reviewing after the show that we realized, label printers should be visitors at this show. Simple logic was that suppliers and buyers cannot be exhibitors at the same show!  Exhibitions like Labelexpo are meant to cater to requirements of label printers.So it is a good launchpad also for newer substrates for printing and converting as substrates form the major part of a label. From my survey it is evident that substrates are not really the reason for which printers invest in travelling to this show. However most of them feel that it is of interest; since they are there at the show, they would also like to learn about new substrates and coatings to enhance the decoration of labels that they produce. Otherwise the world’s finest substrate suppliers are just a call away. As I said earlier Label presses by far remain the prime interest of the visitors at this event. The evolving trend of combination presses employing various printing and converting processes in a single pass, has been observed as the most important interest of all the printers who responded to my questions. Investment in digital printing equipment still remains largely on hold, due to a cautious approach in an otherwise extremely competitive scenario. I wrote in a recent article that large scale indulgence in Digital has to wait a while. Only two out of all the companies who responded have already made some investments in Digital printing. As for 3D Printing and laser printing or converting; it remains only a matter of observing advances made and learning how it is done with a big NO as regards investing, as of now.
Indian Exhibitors:
In 2005 my company Weldon Celloplast Limited was the only Indian exhibitor at Labelexpo in Brussels and have continuously exhibited each year until the last edition in 2013. A decade down the line, for the 2015 edition at Brussels the number of Indian exhibitors have grown to 14. I interacted with three of the Indian exhibitors all of who are exhibiting a third time at this venue. India’s largest hologram producer Holostik Limited, even though they are label manufacturers as well, yet they continue to exhibit repeatedly. They are a satisfied exhibitor who will showcase their entire range. Says U K Gupta, Managing Director of Holostik, “We have generated many leads at previous Labelexpo exhibitions that have been converted to business.” When asked about their quality as compared to European standards, he adds, “We have always been confident about our products and their prices. We follow high manufacturing and quality standards.”  
Label press manufacturer Multitec has the credit for bringing India on the global market as regards label presses is concerned. Amit Ahuja is excited about his third showing in Brussels, “We are exhibiting our VSi press with some modifications. We would have loved to take our full servo press to the show but it did not match the timing. The VSi press is sold to a customer in Africa and will be dispatched to them from the show.”  When asked about experience, problems faced and appreciation, he responds, “Past experience has been good. The show in 2011 was our debut show and we just wanted to get our name and brand registered in the mind of the printers. In 2013, they recognised us and took us seriously. Like advertising, repeated "in-your-face" interactions cement the brand image in a buyer's mind and that is what we are trying to achieve. Having said that, the cost of exhibitions is going north and it looks to be a difficult road ahead” The largest amongst Indian labelstock manufacturers SMI Coated Papers also continues to return to this show expressing confidence in the exhibition Managing Director Ajay Mehta says, “We have had a fantastic experience at earlier shows and this is reflected in our decision to participate again. Besides being a great platform for meeting all existing friends from the industry, Labelexpo does invariably help us in getting new customers.”

Impact of self adhesive label waste continues to impact the environment. While positive steps are visible in Europe and US to reduce the adverse effect of this waste generation. Indian label industry is still not really attempting to address this issue in the right earnest. If some constituents of the industry are taking steps, they are too little and need more indulgence. All the respondents to my questions do agree that this problem needs attention and they are desirous of attending to it but I guess cost of equipment needed to manage waste is prohibitive. Moreover at this time the industry is looking at managing waste not recycling it, which should be the target to contribute to protecting the environment.
Rajesh Nema of Pragati Global based in Indore, will visit Labelexpo a 5th time for learning about new upcoming technologies but does feel that the show should be moved to some other venue as this has become too monotonous. This has been earlier expressed by others as well. However my personal opinion is that this is not so simple. Shows are generally linked to cities and venues. Also when the show has been successfully established so painstakingly it can be a big risk to shift it, more so when it is still growing. In fact we should enjoy the show as it is where it is! Senior label printers like Gururaj Ballarwad who has been visiting all editions of Labelexpo since 1998  looks forward to this event in Brussels with euphoria, he says,  “All these years I have made so many friends globally, I am looking forward to seeing them”.  India’s fast growing label printer Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon Technologies says “Expectation to visit Labelexpo in Brussels is pleasurable. It also empowers one to get new knowledge, how to create a difference and to be a more profitable company employing new technology. I am looking forward to a paradigm shift, a new way to printing and converting, not just mere up gradation of existing ways of doing things.”
Written by Harveer Singh Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, India July 2015 Exclusively for Narrow Web Tech, Germany The article as published in Narrow Web Tech is available at : https://shop.gk-techmedia.com/labelprintinginindia_download