Rajesh Shah heading the Ahmedabad based Maharshi Group with a conspicuous presence in the label industry, manufacturing label applicators and labels, is a deeply religious man with strong family values. Son of an eminent lawyer, Rajesh finished his mechanical engineering in 1976 and left for Germany to work for a contractor company having office in Germany and sites in North Africa. In 1978 while still in Germany, he was summoned by his family to return to India due to his mother’s serious illness. Being the eldest of the four siblings, they are three brothers and one sister; he felt that it was his responsibility to be home by his mother’s side in this hour of need. In 1979, Rajesh returned to India and soon thereafter got married and decided to settle down in Ahmedabad. His wife came from a business family, who was involved into textile machinery. While Rajesh was contemplating the way forward, he was suggested by his in-laws to try and get into engineering industry. He accepted the suggestion and started a business of manufacturing Stainless Steel Vessels, Process equipment and other needs of the pharmaceuticals, Cosmetic and chemical industry fabricated in a small set up and supplying. The small size of the operation and slow progress soon made him restless and he started to look around for something that was bigger and more innovative with quicker turn around. Some friends suggested him to make conveyors, the idea appealed to him. At this point of time he set up his maiden industrial startup venture Gopinath Engineering Company for fabrication of stainless steel vessels and conveyor systems. This brought him in touch with more pharmaceutical companies and he being a sharp observer was looking around for synergies that would support his venture. In the early 1980s he saw the opportunity come his way that would shape the way for his future growth. Ahmedabad based Core Pharmaceuticals wanted to install automatic Self adhesive Label applicators on their packaging lines but found the imported equipment way too expensive. Rajesh knew from the word go that this was his chance and he grabbed the opportunity. He offered to develop the label dispensers and applicators for them. To understand the product intricately, Rajesh left for Germany and visited Guhl and Scheibler AG, a company manufacturing automatic labelers. He also visited other similar European manufacturers to understand their technology.
On visiting different manufacturers, he understood the technology in detail and concentrated on the best available. On return to India Rajesh developed his first label applicator and once it was successfully installed, there was no looking back!
The Labeling systems manufacturing facility is now a part of the Maharshi group and known as Maharshi Udyog. It is perhaps the largest labeling systems and applicators manufacturing company in India. This part of the group is operating in a factory with 100 employees on a plot area of 100,000 square feet and built up shop floor of 60,000 square feet. Another 90,000 square feet of land has been acquired adjacent to the factory for further expansion. Rajesh’s other brothers, Bhagwat Shah and Hiren Shah also joined in to manage the growing group. While Rajesh looks after overall activities as a Group Chairman. Bhagwat, a commercial person, looks after finance, administration and personnel and Hiren, a Mechanical engineer, looks after design and manufacturing at Maharshi. Hiren’s brother in law, Jigesh Dani takes care of sales and marketing under the guidance of Rajesh. The next generation is already in business. Rajesh’s son, Harshit, a mechatronics engineer, is already actively involved in the group activities taking care of automation systems, sales and marketing. Bhagwat’s son, Dhrumil has completed his MBA from Nirma and is under training in sales and marketing.
Maharshi Udyog’s sprawling shop floor is a sight to witness. It has a huge number of machines in various stages of completion. The variety of equipment is so diverse that one remains in awe at the possibilities they have created for themselves. The range of products they offer is from simple label applicators to print and apply systems for variable data labels, incorporating barcode inspection, missing label detection, bottle neck inspection and automatic segregation. It is an amazing array of equipment that they produce. They are also entering into production of packaging machines that include machines for automatic filling, capping, labeling, carton erection, product insertion and whole gambit of automatic packaging. The unit is complete with design, electronics and quality control departments. The spare part storage is all meticulously systemized with computer support and it is easy to trace the spares instantly when a customer is in need. The whole process of customer service support is planned at the manufacturing stage itself. Since they cater to the food and chemical industry, most of the fabrication is done with recommended grades of stainless steel. The shopfloor is clean and systemized with workers widely spread out and working on the equipments allotted to them. All equipment on completion undergoes strenuous tests before the customer is called in for the FAT (Factory Acceptance Test).
It is obvious that on entering a new industry one has to ensure that proper raw materials are available.
In the 1980s Indian labelstock manufacturing was still in its infancy. Availability of labelstock in roll form was still scarce and not of the quality as desired. For this reasons the label rolls produced from them were also not as desired. The web when running on these label applicators would break due to improper punching or the matrix would keep breaking due to uneven release values. Most of the conversion of stock to labels was done on slow flat bed Japanese label presses. The release base paper availability those days was difficult and what was available had caliper variations causing erroneous die punching. Where the release paper was thin the die would not punch and the label would lift with the matrix and where the release paper was thick there would be a through cut causing web break increasing downtime and wastages. If the release was too tight, it was another nightmare with matrix breaking and its removal was a cumbersome exercise. Silicone chemistry that time was still the old, which is now outdated, the tin catalyst curing system with post curing process. This always resulted in uneven release values causing problems in label dispensing on applicators. When Maharshi faced these problems in the late 1980s, they developed vendors who could understand their need for labels that would work on their applicators. It initially appeared to work but then due to reasons mentioned, while this problem was being attended yet another cropped up. The market for labelers grew and with it grew the demand for labels in roll form. Their preferred vendors could not deliver the desired quality in time. So that the applicator business does not suffer, a decision to integrate forward was taken at Maharshi to produce labels themselves. It was time to set up Maharshi Labels.
|Jigesh Dani and Rajubhai|
In 1995 the Shah family invested along with investments from Bhagwat Shah’s friend Rajendra Gandhi (fondly called Rajubhai) and Jigesh Dani to initiate the enterprise Maharshi Labels. Rajubhai was to look after production and Jigesh would take responsibility of marketing of not just the labels division but the entire Maharshi Group. From setting up shop in 1995 to 1997 they invested in 3-4 presses. These were the flat bed Onda and Changi presses. In those three years, as the population of their labelers grew, the Maharshi team realized that these slow flat bed machines will not support the growth in demand for labels. In 1997 they added a ten inch rotary flexo Acquaflex label press to augment their label production capacity. The decade of nineties and later, saw a sea change and growth in the label industry in India. Flexo printing, plate making, inks and pre-press was evolving. Usage of self adhesive labels in India was on the rise. Automation in the packaging industry became not just a process but an imperative need to meet deadlines. Growth bug hit Maharshi. Between 1997 and 2012 they bought a label press every alternate year. They were a Mark Andy customer and when the MA-LP-3000 was launched, they bought it within months. Then the change of heart! They sold all the Mark Andy presses and one by one replaced them with Gidue’s. Today they operate with 5 Gidue (Now Bobst) 370mm label presses. They still use the old flatbed machines for the real short runs and as the duo of Jigesh and Raju says, we enjoy using them.
It is traditional and almost all label printers, when they commission a new press, the first label they print is a religious label. Mostly it is picture of the God that they worship. This is to seek HIS blessings for the new equipment. At Maharshi they follow this even today, each time they buy a new press, they print the picture of a deity. When I asked Jigesh if they had any nightmares, the answer was quite simple, “we are deeply into machine building and know how to troubleshoot. So we had no real nightmares!” One of the earliest labels they printed was that of Vasmol, a popular brand. The most challenging and satisfying job till date remains the Signature whiskey label that needed to have micro embossing, foiling with three different foils and printing with special pantone shades. The job became extremely challenging because the customer, who was using their labelers, did not give any artwork. They just handed over a few labels to copy and produce identical. Accepting the challenge the Maharshi team developed a special multi-foiling machine in-house and imported the blocks from UK. The challenge was successfully met and brought immense satisfaction. Rajubhai and Jigesh continue to efficiently run the label enterprise with active support of the Shah family. Rajubhai’s son is a qualified chartered accountant and planning for some expansion in related products.
Jigesh’s only son, Yash has no interest in the father’s activity, he is deeply into music. He is a fine Tabla player (Indian drums), who has entered the Guiness book of records for the longest Tabla playing performance.
At the moment Maharshi’s expansion plans are under wraps. They have the space and resources to expand. Maharshi Labels has the scope to expand and they have access to the market but the intense competition and shrinking margins makes them cautious. However still, the growing market size does confuse them, tempting them to consider producing to economies of scale and cutting down on wastages and increasing volumes. Their label unit operates from a land are of 50,000 square feet and a shop floor of 30,000 square feet with 70 employees. The total group turnover of the Maharshi is around 15 Million US Dollars. They have their hands full at this moment and it is a matter of time before they will divulge their plans for next expansion. As for their intention to foray into packaging, Jigesh says, “The day we can convert it on a web press in-line cost effectively, we will also be into packaging.”
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi India August 2016 exclusively for Narrow Web Tech Germany.
The article maybe published with the permission of Narrow WebTech Germany giving credit to them and to the author
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