The third LMAI Conference held at aesthetically built Fairmont Hotel in the historical city of Jaipur, India was a unique event in the history of Indian label industry. 450 delegates from all zones of India congregated at the venue. Many of them came with families to enjoy and experience the deliberations of this conference whose theme was, Changing Paradigms and Emerging Technologies. Jaipur is the capital of the northern Indian state, Rajasthan and is its largest city. It was founded on 18 November 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer, after whom the city is named. The city today has a population of 6.66 million, making it the tenth most populous city in the country. Jaipur is known as the Pink City of India. The state of Rajasthan has so much of history that it evokes tourist interest and wish, to visit at any time. Many printers believed that due the summer heat a lot of industry colleagues will give it a miss and the total number of delegates will not reach the figure of 390 who attended the last conference in Goa. Defying the odds, printers landed in large numbers to reach an all time high figure of 450 delegates, recording an over 15% increase in the number of delegates. Eventually it was a full house and urgent requests for more participation compelled the organisers to take additional rooms in the adjoining hotel Le Meridian. 23 sponsors along with LMAI pooling in money from their own resources, helped to subsidies the conference fees providing value for money to the delegates. The Fairmont hotel is an excellent property, with awe inspiring architecture and decor, inspired by theMughal dynasty and Royal Rajputs. It is nestled amongst the majestic Aravalli hills, all 199 rooms and suites are elegantly decorated, to reflect a perfect blend of traditional Rajasthani décor and modern amenities.

As you enter the gates it gives you the feeling of entering a Royal fort.
 The beating of traditional drums, playing of the Rajasthani musical instrument Sarangi and the traditional welcome by applying a tikka on your forehead adds to the pleasure of being welcomed in a typically local fashion.
The three day conference was started with the lighting of the lamp by conference chairman Gururaj Ballarwad and General Secretary of LMAI R L Deshpande. Vivek Kapoor President LMAI welcomed the guests which included Indias topmost label printers, Indian and international suppliers of materials, toolings and printing presses. He informed that the LMAI membership had grown from a modest 65 in 2004 to a sizable 295 in 2015. He reminisced that the first conference at Goa in 2011 had set the tone of this being a preferred label event for the Indian label industry and lead to the success of the second edition in 2013. The overwhelming response and attendance at Jaipur has confirmed that this biennial event will be looked forward to, on an ongoing basis. He also informed that the association had become financially strong so as to support industry benefitting initiatives. Vivek informed the gathering that It was also a time to celebrate LMAI having become a teenager as it was 13 years ago on this day the association was formed. This was followed by felicitating of LMAI committee members, founder members and senior members. A cake cutting ceremony was held onstage to celebrate LMAIs 13th birthday. Jitesh Mehta marketing Director of Avery Dennison delivering the keynote address and stressing the role consumerism is playing in bringing global attention to Indian markets said, Emerging technologies are bursting into the market, generating disruption and change. It is necessary to have a new paradigm, based on multi-disciplinary approach
Representing Tarsus, Labelexpo show Director Jade Grace took the stage next to inform details about the upcoming Labelexpo Europe in Brussels. Tarsus is a big supporter of LMAI and Vivek Kapoor acknowledged this in his inaugural speech. Jade welcomed the delegates to visit the show in Brussels which is likely to be the biggest ever in the 35 year history of Labelexpo. The evening ended with Rajasthani musicians playing Padharo Mare Desh” which means welcome to my land. Drinks and networking dinner followed
Next morning at breakfast it was opportunity for peers in the industry to spend time with each other and renew friendship. The organizers were frantically ringing the bell to request printers to move to the conference hall. Sailesh Kapoor of Avery Dennison delivered the opening presentation and speaking on the imperative need to dwell on sustainability he said, FINAT has made path breaking initiatives to promote sustainability and recycling, LMAI needs to emulate the same. A rare time when the two industry bigwigs support the same event was seen at Jaipur, the Indian label fraternity was appreciative and recognized this. While Avery Dennison was the main sponsor yet UPM also supported the conference emphatically. Lee Unsworth of UPM Raflatac, also spoke on sustainability, he said it must be a joint effort amongst various constituents of the label industry and end users, else it would be difficult to take it forward. Thillai Ganapathy, of Esko Graphics spoke next on Standardization of Quality & Productivity Optimization through Automation in Pre-Press followed by Mike Buystedt, Vice President, Narrow Web North America, Flint Group Packaging and Narrow Web. He said, LED curing system is the paradigm shift in printing technology. Escalating raw material cost and reducing selling price is a matter of grave concern for printers, so as to retain a reasonable profit margin one needs to cut down waste. In an effort to advise label printers on this issue Samir Patkar MD Gallus India said, Reduce the gap size in waste matrix and use short web path to lower cost
Ajay Mehta Managing Director of SMI Coated Papers emphasized that printers should modernise. He said,” label printers need to keep investing in upgraded equipment to remain successful & become solution providers. Manish Kapoor, National Sales Head of Nilpeter in India made a very interesting presentation. Printers were applauding when he mentioned that our printers were firemen involved in firefighting sitting in their factories. He further advised, Invest wisely in "what you need"& not "what is available" when adding capacity!” Later Mike Russell – International Sales Director, Mark Andy Inc. speaking on Modern Solutions for Label Printing stressed on the imperative need of having cleaner label factories, Good housekeeping leads to production of good quality labels in a label printing company".

Towards the end of the evenings conference agenda it was time for a panel discussion with leading Indian label printers on the panel. The discussion was moderated by me personally and the audience found it extremely interesting as the audience heard fellow printers on important issues that the industry is facing. Those who were a part of the panel included Chandan Khanna of Ajanta Packaging, Amar Chhajed of Webtech Labels (Huhtamaki Group), B K Manjunath of Global Bangalore, Denver Annunciation of Janus International Mumbai, Arvind Shekhar of Sai Packaging Bangalore, Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon, Hemanth Paruchuri of Pragati Pack Hyderabad and Rajesh Chadha of Update Prints. The panel deliberated over topics like profitability, need for innovation, impact of production waste, impact of online bidding, operator shortage, impact of Digital printing, government regulations and waste management. Online bidding and reverse auction has been troubling printers for quite some time now. They are unable to justify supplying at irrational prices that emanate out of online bidding. There is need for upgraded equipment so as to innovate and meet quality standards, but these equipments are expensive. Unreasonable low prices cannot support such high end expansion. Waste is another issue that needs to be addressed thoughtfully. Increased waste leads to decreased profitability and it also adds to the problem of disposal and its impact on the environment. Short runs have become a very important part of a label manufacturers profile. There is confusion in the flexo label converters mind whether they should complement existing printing capabilities with digital. Since the panel had printers who had invested in digital and those who have resisted in doing so. The discussion was quite an eye opener even though inconclusive. Sustainability is being talked about at length but our industry in India is not clear about the difference in sustainability and waste management. They do have overlapping issues but for the time being our printers are not attending to waste management and proper disposal, so sustainability is a little far cry. I guess that initiative will have to be driven by brand owners. It was a very thought provoking session and had to be cut short due to paucity of time. The views of the printers drew participation from the audience as well making the session even more interactive and interesting. As the deliberations came to an end the bar was thrown open for printers to network over drinks, a standup comedian enthralled the crowds followed by light entertainment. It was just a matter of point when the delegates in party mood were on to the dancing floor till late after midnight.
Next morning there were some who were missing from the breakfast nursing the after effects of a late night and there more new faces that had come in during the previous day. Printers were lazily moving around in groups chatting and catching up with friends while the organizers were urging them to proceed to the conference hall. The day started with a presentation by Gavin Rittmeyar Vice President – Sales and Marketing of Martin Automatic USA manufacturers of extensive line of automatic splicing unwinds, automatic transfer rewinds and tension control systems. Expressing the need of automation in reducing waste he said, "Any resource or service that does not add value to the product is waste!” Thereafter presentations were made by A Appadurai of HP, Jurgen Brau  Head of Inspection Technology, Erhardt+Leimer GmbH speaking on 100% inspection systems, Prashant Atre Managing Director, Toyo Ink Arets Graphics and Tej Prakash Jain Managing Director, Monotech Systems Limited before delegates dispersed for lunch.
All the time while the conference was in progress, a table top exhibition was in progress where sponsors were exhibiting with their catalogues. Delegates would walk over to the table top exhibition area during coffee/tea or lunch breaks. 
 I must praise the innovative alternative; Round Table interaction” between the printer delegates and the sponsors, arranged by the organizers. This initiative I understand was the brainchild of conference chairman Gururaj Ballarwad. All the sponsors were allotted round tables in two different rooms and groups of ten printers were made to sit on each table and witness private presentations by the sponsors. The groups were moved around so that in turn they visit each and every sponsors table where they could also exchange business cards with all printer members. This way the sponsors could meet all the printers who came. This was in sharp contrast to the organizers directive to sponsors speaking at the conference, where they were not allowed to make any sales pitch of their products in their speeches. This was emphatically enforced by the conference chairman. He wished that all speakers should deliver technical knowledge to the delegates and not become sales persons of their companys product range. To increase the indulgence of label printers at the round table interaction each person was given a passport that had to be stamped by the sponsor whose table they visit. All the completed passports were then taken in for a lucky dip to draw winners who got lucky prizes. The sponsors and delegates found this event extremely interesting and innovative.
All the delegates then retired to their rooms to rest and prepare for the gala evening in the Grand Ball Room, which had been the venue for the conference. When the delegates returned the hall had been transformed to match its theme, Merchant of Venice. A gondola was erected for people to get photographed as if they were in Venice. On the other side a balcony was popping out overlooking the waterway with two European girls standing there. Delegates were seen going on to the balcony to get photographed, one by one. 
The bar was thrown open and entertainment was in the air. Russian dancers made interesting presentations and a surprising presentation came from the talented Nikita, daughter of SMI, Managing Director Ajay Mehta. She sang extremely well. 
This was followed by a very energetic Bollywood singer Shyamlee taking the stage and singing popular songs and eventually she had the audience dancing to her songs and moves. 
The dance floor was house full, the bar was still delivering drinks and it was almost 2 AM in the
morning that I slipped away to my room. It had been a vibrant and exciting conference. Every delegate was involved in the deliberations and fun. They loved the arrangements and kept thanking the LMAI committee members for the wonderful time they had at Jaipur.
Next morning while some delegates had already left, others were still trying to shake off the after effects of drinking and yet others like me trickled into the restaurant for breakfast and one last meeting with friends before departing. With whoever I could meet and greet I said my byes and thank yous, with wonderful memories of a great event I started my drive back to Delhi.
More pictures:
Anil Sharma Managing Director, 
South Asia & Sub Saharan Africa
with Harveer Sahni
Kuldip Goel Anygraphics & Amit Sheth Label Planet
Ferdinand Ruesch of Gallus and his wife with Harveer Sahni
Jade Grace, Show Director Labelexpo

*This article is exclusively written for Narrow Web Tech Germany and may not be reproduced without permission.
Written by Harveer Singh Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, India July 2015