SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

History of Indian Label Industry Part-2A

 At the last, Indian label industry event, “LMAI  Conference” in 2017 at Jaipur I promised to write the 2nd part of my first article titled  “History of the Indian Label Industry” which I wrote in 2006. It is available in this blog at https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2010/08/history-of-indian-label-industry.html
I have now written the 2nd part. This is brief reporting so I plan to complete a book on the subject with a lot more expanded information in the near future. In a large country with industry spread over such a vast area and a huge population, it is difficult to chronicle all in few words. Being a long article, the part 2 of History of the Indian Label Industry will be posted on my blog in a series of four articles. The first part of series numbered  2A is as below;

Magnetic Cylinder and flexible Die
The first decade of new millennium was very eventful for the Indian label industry. After 2006 a global economic recession surfaced and kept growing, affecting businesses across the world. It even impacted many industries in India where we saw companies reducing manpower, which in turn affected spending in all segments of retail. Surprisingly while printers in India as well, were complaining of recessionary trends and difficulty in operations, yet the Indian label industry overall, continued to grow steadily. Capacity enhancement kept on being made, though it was a little reduced. The Indians became indulgent not only as label printers but also as diverse product and equipment suppliers to label printing companies. For the first time an Indian company Precise Graphics, later renamed PGI Technologies in 2005 produced a magnetic cylinder that worked on a label press. Dhiresh Ghosalia led Jesons, manufacturers of emulsion pressure sensitive adhesives for the label industry at their large factory in Daman, expanded and moved northwards in India and setup an additional manufacturing capacity at a 100,000 square feet facility in Roorkee. Kaygee Papers was promoted by Pranay Godha in 1997 to produce silicone coated release papers. In 2001 they made a Joint Venture, Kaygee Loparex Pvt. Ltd. with Loparex, a member of UPM group and world’s largest commercial Siliconiser. They continued to grow and became an important part of the Indian label industry in the first decade. In 2015 Loparex assumed 100% of the company and rechristened it as Loparex India Pvt. Ltd. In August 2007 Diehard Dies, based in Guntur Andhra Pradesh, started operations to become an indigenous manufacturer of flexible dies for the printing, packaging and label industry. By middle of 2019 Acme Rolltech a company led by 3 young entrepreneurs Parag Patel, Sandeep Sharma and Parag Koradiya started the first Indian facility manufacturing Ceramic Anilox Rolls. Sandeep, came to the partnership with 15 years of experience having worked with Avery Dennison, Kurz India and Domino Printech, Parag Patel and Parag Koradiya came from entrepreneurial background of manufacturing Gravure Cylinders. 

In 2007 the largest indigenous labelstock producer Ajay Mehta’s SMI Coated Products initiated an expansion program that would eventually place SMI as an undisputed leader in labelstock production by a wholly Indian owned company, not only in India but also in many international markets. They procured a 6540 square meter plot in MIDC, Ambernath near Mumbai, constructed 2200 square meter shed, shifted all plant and machinery from Daman to Ambernath, added two silicon coating machines and one Acrylic Coating machine. In 2014 they increased the production area by another 3000 square meters and installed a Hot Melt coating line, following it up by installing yet another hotmelt adhesive coater later.  

In 2017 they purchased the adjoining plot admeasuring 9820 Square meters, constructed 1000 square meters to install Schaeffer moving racks for better handling of an increasing volume of goods in their expanding stores. In 2019 they completed construction of another 3000 square meters shed and moved all coating machines to new premises along with a new emulsion adhesive coating tandem machine to do inline siliconizing and adhesive coating in a single pass, 1350 mm wide to run at a speed of 150 meters per minute, reaching an installed capacity of 19 million square meters per month. They celebrated their 25 years in grand style by hosting over 200 guests to visit their works besides take part in the celebrations. Other indigenous labelstock manufacturers also grew in their own respective regions. Stayon Papers and Sticon in Hyderabad, Million papers and NG papers in Chennai, Capri Coating Solutions in Mumbai, Shree Arihant, STP Paper, Gj Industries and many more in Delhi were some of the active and visible manufacturers. Some of the earlier leaders in the Labelstock manufacturing segment pulled back or shifted focus in view of depleting margins, intense competition and unviable credit terms.

Indian label press manufacturers transformed in this period to produce label presses that were comparable to international products and made their mark not only in India but internationally as well. Amit Ahuja led Multitec is the front runner who had exhibited their first modular rotary flexo label press in partnership with Abhay Datta of Datta Press Delhi at the first India Label show in 2002 at Nehru Centre Mumbai. The association of Multitec with Datta came to an end around 2008. Multitec redesigned their label press as a competitive product with all basic features. After renaming the press, “Ecoflex” they relaunched it. Two year hence they launched yet another version of their label press and continued to upgrade their offerings and grow phenomenally. By the end of 2018 they had achieved outstanding success producing label presses from a quality accredited design and a fully integrated manufacturing facility spread over 26,000 square meters. At the time of writing this article their website reports having sold over 300 Label presses to over 25 countries through a team of agents spread across the world. Other Indian press manufacturers who also made their mark are mostly from Faridabad, south of Delhi, the same city as Multitec. They are Alliance Printech, Webtech Engineering, NBG Printographic Machinery Co. Pvt. Ltd., M Tech Industries, etc. Other than these, Ahmedabad based RK label machines claimed to have sold 150 rotary plus 600 flatbed label presses and Noida based Jandu Engineers had sold about 135 rotary flexo presses. Jandu is also a leading manufacturer of coating and laminating machines and has a large presence amongst local labelstock manufacturers and according to Baldev Singh Jandu, they have till date sold over 150 coaters.
The Indian label market was growing at a steady double-digit growth rate and interest of international label fraternity in India also kept on growing with it. Avery Dennison who had found success in the country had in 2007 invested in land admeasuring 22 acres at Ranjangaon near Pune for expansion. In 2008 the facility was with a one-meter wide hotmelt coater having capability to run at 500 meters per minute with inline silicon coating, this compared to the first one-meter coater at Gurgaon that could run at 250 meters per minute. The then global CEO and President of Avery Dennison Corporation Dean Scarborough specially flew in to inaugurate the facility. In 2010 Raj Srinivasan who had established Avery’s foothold in India returned to USA handing over reigns of the Indian operations to Anil Sharma. New wave of professionalism descended in the working of Avery; more expansion followed with installation of a 1.5 meters hot melt coater in 2011 at Pune. In the same year a slitting facility was commissioned in Bangalore in 2011 to serve the southern customers effectively. To help the cause of a limited number of trained press operators in India in face of a growing label press population,  Avery Dennison Knowledge Centre was also set up in Bangalore to train people for becoming press operators, but later in 2018 the centre was moved to Pune, next to their research and development centre. In 2014 an emulsion coater of 1.5meter width was added at the Pune facility. In 2015 Anil Sharma was elevated for bigger responsibilities and handed over charge to his teammate Pankaj Bhardwaj. Amongst international Labelstocks companies UPM Raflatac had established a substantial foothold with their slitting facilities in India while Lintec, Ritrama, flexcon and a few others sold through agents or directly.

Increase in number of visitors to labelexpo Europe in Brussels was a positive indicator of a growing label market in India and the interests of printers to invest in globally acknowledged label presses. In 2005 Weldon Celloplast Ltd. was the lone Indian exhibitor and by 2011 edition of the show, the number of Indian exhibitors had swelled to fourteen, up from four in the previous show in 2009. At Labelexpo Europe 2009 there were 338 Indian visitors and this figure had swelled to 429 in 2011. The number just went on increasing, there were more Indians then before at successive labelexpos.


In 2007 at Labelexpo Europe in Brussels Tarsus announced their acquisition of India Label show, a show that was set up by Anil Arora and his wife Neetu Arora. The next edition of India Label show 2008 in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan was held in the aftermath of terrorist attack in Mumbai and in the middle of a huge recession, yet the show stood its ground proving the strength of growing Indian label market. In 2010 the show was rechristened as Labelexpo India. The show owners Tarsus UK made a strategic alliance with Indian Label association LMAI for the event and to have an awards night and a gala dinner organised by Tarsus at every Labelexpo India. LMAI was to conduct the LMAI label awards which became a regular feature thereafter. In 2009 under the leadership of Vivek Kapoor, the longest serving president of LMAI who completed 3 terms of 2 years each, it was also planned to hold biennial LMAI conference in alternate years, the trend has carried on till date. The first LMAI conference was held in Hotel park Hyatt Goa in 2011 and the event grew to be held again in 2013 at Grand Hyatt Goa and at Hotel Jaypee Palace in Agra in 2017. 


In 2010 leading global associations came together under the aegis of FINAT and formed the federation of global associations called L8. Later with one more association joining it was renamed L9, the confederation of nine leading international label associations. The alliance consisted of LMAI (India), JFLP (Japan), FINAT (Europe), TLMI (North America, LATMA (Australia), PEIAC (China), AMETIQ (Mexico), ABIEA (Brazil) and SALMA (New Zealand). Sandeep Zaveri of Total Prints took over the presidentship of LMAI in 2015 and handed over the charge to Kuldip Goel of Any Graphics in 2017.  At the 2017 conference in Agra 550 delegates attended making it the largest gathering of label printers at a single conference. A proud moment for me at the Agra conference in 2017 came when I was announced as the first and only recipient till then of a lifetime award for support to the Indian Label industry.  


In 2016 Labelexpo was moved to the Expo Mart in Greater Noida outside Delhi, a part of Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) due to non-availability of dates at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. In 2018 also it was held at the Expo Mart as the venue, Pragati Maidan in Delhi, was under redevelopment. In 2018 for the first time LMAI hosted a very successful L9 meet in India on the sidelines of Labelexpo India.

The evolution of label industry in India has been a continuous process, from the earliest days of screen-printed labels in sheeted format in the 1970s to roll form labels to be converted on very narrow width flatbed Japanese presses and then over to rotary flexographic printing label presses in the early 1990s. Until the end of 1990s the flexo printing process used water-based inks with hot air drying. The polymer plate making technology was also evolving. The process was evolving but it had shortcomings. It was faster than the flat bed machines but lacked consistency due to drying and viscosity changing issues. Better prepress and improvements in platemaking technologies brought flexo printing to almost at par in quality to offset printing. This led the rapid growth in flexographic label printing. As demand escalated, investments in equipment also witnessed increase with printers demanding wider presses for increased productivity and reduced wastages. By end of the last century UV curable inks became available and changed the way flexo printing grew. Originally, UV technology was introduced to the world in the 1960s. The drying effect for water-based inks is brought about by evaporation of volatile components. The required energy is supplied via IR-radiation and/or hot air. A loss in the dried coating thickness will appear depending on the amount of the evaporated components. The volatile components must be removed by an extraction. However, in case of the UV inks, the drying effect is due to polymerization, i.e. on cross-linking of long molecular chains. The energy required for cross-linking is supplied via UV radiation. For 100 % solid body systems the thickness of the dry coating corresponds to the thickness of the wet coating. There are no losses due to evaporation. By 2010 new UV inks came with enhanced ink transfer properties as well as faster reactivity to UV curing, meaning speeds over 200 meters/min. were achievable. Towards end of 2009 the conventional UV started to evolve to low power consuming LED UV with longer life lamps that had surfaced internationally, though the system had yet to be widely accepted in India due to non-availability of parts and inks, but it was being investigated and expected to grow substantially in demand or replaced on existing presses.  Some of the international equipment manufacturers had already introduced alternatives such as LED UV and even Electron Beam curing technology as an alternative. From the middle of first decade of 21st century onwards there grew a demand for high end hybrid presses with increased features like automatic registration, multiple printing processes for combination printing and decoration capabilities. As sustainability and environmental concerns became an imperative; waste reduction, and waste management became a necessity when an investment in equipment was being made.
End of Part 2A, To be continued…

The remaining parts will be posted in gaps of 7-10 days 

Note: No one is authorised to reproduce, copy or reprint this article until permitted by the author in writing. 

Written by Harveer Sahni Managing Director Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi July 2019

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