SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Friday, August 23, 2019

History of Indian Label Industry Part 2C

Late Karan Khanna

The younger generation grew up to take charge while the founder promoters were ageing and stepping back to take up advisory roles. At this time, it will be appropriate to mention the important legendary persons who contributed to the establishment and growth of label industry and passed away in this period. Surinder Singh Arora of Amritsar Printing press had worked his way into the centre stage of an evolving label industry in India. He excelled not only in producing labels but also representing international companies like the Cham Paper group, Focus label machinery, etc. He expired on 20th April 2006. Another legend Kartar Singh Dunglay the founder and owner of Good Work Company New Delhi breathed his last in the intervening night of 7th and 8th of April 2013. He was 78 years of age. His was the first label company to partner with a European company to form a joint venture titled “Reydun” with Belgium based Reynders led by Mark Reynders. It is ironic that a year later, on the on 5th of April 2014 at the age of 75 years, another legend in the label industry Jagdish Zaveri breathed his last in Mumbai leaving the reigns of his business to his son Sandeep Zaveri. Amongst others who passed away during this period include Ramesh Doshi of Shanti Lal Doshi Pvt. Ltd., a company that pioneered the production of release papers and self-adhesive labelstocks in India and Karan Khanna young son of Prem Khanna of Rachna Overseas, in the prime of his youth, at a time when he was showing his calibre in taking over and growing the company established by his father. Karan passed away after a brief illness.

Priyata Raghavan
Indian label industry did not have many active businesswomen as managers. That started to change as the new millennium progressed, Indian women started acquiring technical and management skills to lead high levels of investments in the label industry which was registering high growth rate. It is an imperative to recognize the contribution of these women. Honey Vazirani was one of the earliest female managers in the Indian label industry. From being a management trainee in 1989, she rose to be the head of the labelling division of Thane based Paper Products Limited then referred to as PPL. This company was eventually acquired by Global flexible packaging major Huhtamaki and was renamed Huhtamaki-PPL. After spending over 25 years in the company Honey took a break and later started her own maiden venture Leap Digiprints with an HP Indigo digital label press to make digitally printed labels. Kusum Dunglay, wife of Kartar Singh Dunglay, an MBA from London University worked actively at the Dunglays’ venture Good Work Co. and led their foray into label manufacturing. After the death of her husband she carried the mantle of leadership with support of her son Rouble Dunglay. Amila Singhvi is another lady who grew her company International Print-O-Pack (IPP) from being a pre-press house to being leading offset printers and packaging manufacturers. She entered label manufacturing but with her package printing business growing multifold, she quit the narrow web label business to further grow IPP into one of the largest print packaging producers. Bharat Mehta of Super Labels Mumbai was one of the first few self-adhesive label printers in India. Super Labels attained growth with a silent support from Bharat Mehta’s wife Meena Mehta, a B. Sc chemistry. For over 20 years she was driving the organization through motivation, enthusiasm and participating in all decision making, even after their sons Dhaval and Darshan joined them. The company eventually became a joint venture with the world’s largest Label company CCL. Unfortunately, the relationship between the partners soured and the JV collapsed. Sandhya Shetty a graduate in Chemistry and Masters, in management Studies (Marketing), worked for 8 years in the field of business research and analysis. She worked on projects involving Government contracts, Defence sector in the US and in the hospitality sector in India. In 2008 at Labelexpo India she bought a Nilpeter to initiate her foray into labels as Synergy Packaging Pvt. Ltd. Shweta Sheth, an alumnus of Amherst, Massachusetts USA, was actively involved in the working of Primark labels, a part of the General Metallisers Group, as a director. Renuka Raj, an MBA from IIFT Delhi setup the first flexographic narrow web label printing company in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Completing her post-graduation course from IIM Lucknow, Priyata Raghavan joined the FMCG division of ITC Limited, before moving over to Sai Security Printers, a company owned by her father, Vijay Raghavan. Priyata has led the company’s label printing operations to profitability and an emphatic presence in the high-quality label segment. Other women who helped their spouses or families in business include Meenakshi Mittal wife of Trilok Mittal of Wonderpac and Neha Jain wife of Shakti Jain of Great Eastern IDtech.

Usage and growth of labels is directly linked to retail selling. Retailing in India is big part of Indian economy and accounts for about 10 percent of its GDP. Organised retail enhances the rates of growth in retail due to marketing efforts of brand owners to motivate consumers who reach out impulsively to lift products off the store shelfs at the spur of the moment. Time had come for rapid growth in organised retail, Government of India saw the potential and foresaw the fillip it would get by attracting foreign Direct investment or FDI, which was a major monetary source for economic development in India. Indian retailing industry, up to 2003 was limited to the local owner driven colony shops referred to as kirana stores. As the decade of 2000 progressed, larger format organised self-service stores started to surface in many areas of urban India and continued being set up until 2010. This was time for FDI, as investors around the world were eyeing this massive middle-class market to make substantial investments and acquire a sizeable share of it, but government disallowed FDI in multi-brand retail, forbidding foreign ownership in supermarkets, convenience stores or any retail outlets. Even single-brand retail was limited to 51% ownership. In November 2011 announcing reforms, FDI was allowed in retail however due intense political pressure it was put on hold a month later. In a series of moves in 2012, FDI was allowed in retail and global retailers became active in India. This is the time that started to witness an increase in label press installations across India and in all segments and categories of labels. As mentioned earlier organised retail spells enhanced need of labels bringing rapid growth to the labels industry.

International interest in the Indian label market started becoming an indulgence. In 2005 Belgium based Reynders set up a joint venture Reydunn at Manesar Gurgaon with Dunglays of Good Work Co. New Delhi. The partnership did not work out and in 2007-2008 they parted ways, but Reynders stayed on and started their wholly owned subsidiary at Chopanki near Bhiwadi in Rajasthan. Brady Corporation founded in 1914 in Wisconsin, USA, established their manufacturing unit in Bangalore in March 2006. In December 2007 Printcare PLC Srilanka established their wholly owned subsidiary in Coimbatore Tamilnadu titled Printcare India Private Limited specializing in designing and printing Teabag Tags, Teabag Envelopes and labels. Printcare India began its operations in June 2008. Around the same time Mikael Dahl of JV Nordvalls Sweden entered into a joint venture with Venu Ayyar of Laxmi Compugraphics. This venture also did not take off and was called off later in 2012. These happenings did not deter the international interest in investing in the large Indian market. In early February 2012 the industry was surprised to hear that Gururaj Ballarwad led Wintek Flexoprints based in Bangalore India, had been acquired by Hyderabad based ITW Signode, ITW India Ltd., a subsidiary of the multi-billion Dollar fortune 200 global industrial products company ITW is head quartered in Illinois, USA.

Just about two weeks later yet another European multinational label and packaging company Skanem invested in India's biggest label printers Interlabels, Mumbai. Headed by the brothers Bhavin and Gautam Kothari, Interlabels had been in the forefront of label industry. Bhavin Kothari has been one of the founders of LMAI (Label Manufacturers Association of India) and later the President of this association. In September 2012 Mumbai based Positive Packaging Industries Ltd. the flagship company of Enpee Group, an international conglomerate with over 50 years of business experience, acquired Bangalore based SGRE Labels Private Limited. Positive Packaging has been a pioneer in flexible packaging with state-of-the-art facilities located strategically in India, Nigeria and the U.A.E. Just another few weeks down, the news came that Mumbai based Webtech labels lead by Amar Chhajed and cousin Jitesh Chhajed is another leading label company that has been acquired by an internationally renowned company, Huhtamaki Oyj's subsidiary in India Huhtamaki-PPL. This is in line with the trend, that international label and packaging producing companies continue to consider India as their most important destination for market expansion. Amar Chhajed continued with Huhtamaki-PPL looking after the Webtech business and later designated as President of Huhtamaki’s Labelling business. Another 2 years on in 2014 Huhtamaki bought over Positive packaging which was largely a flexible business takeover but with it came the SGRE label business. Moving on in 2018 Huhtamaki acquired Chandan Khanna led Ajanta packaging firmly establishing itself as the largest label company in the country.  400 Crores out of their 2300 Crore turnover came from labels. Out the 400 Crores labels turnover 200 crores came from self-adhesive or PSA segment making them the undisputed leaders in the segment.

In February 2017, the world’s largest label printing company CCL announced their entry into India. CCL lead by Geoffrey T Martin and headquartered in Toronto Canada had 2015 revenues reported at 3 Billion USD and a total workforce in excess of 19000 employees, operating out of 150 state of art manufacturing facilities spread over North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. CCL, through their Dubai based joint venture with Albwardy Group; Pacman-CCL, signed a binding agreement to acquire a majority stake in Mumbai based Super Labels. Unfortunately, this JV due to differences between partners and could not take off as envisaged.

Environmental concerns and sustainability have been matters of discussion at various industry forums, over the years they have become even more important. Almost forty years ago, when I was just a commercial siliconiser, people at large did not understand what release paper or silicon paper was. I would jokingly explain it was a product, a protective paper behind a sticker, that would eventually go into wastepaper basket. In real terms the release liner, would be disposed-off in landfills or burnt adding smoke and gasses to the environment impacting it adversely. Time has changed, concern for environment is a necessity and cannot be taken lightly as a joke. We are responsible for leaving behind a legacy of a cleaner and liveable environment for generations that follow us. We need to make our manufacturing programs, sustainable. Sustainability means giving back to mother earth what we take from it or reduce, drawing the resources that we cannot replenish forthwith and cut down generation of industrial waste. Unfortunately, 50% of all that self-adhesive label industry produces goes as waste in terms of waste matrix and release liners. While globally many endeavours are being adopted to reduce liner waste yet in India a lot needs to be done. Switching over to liner less labels where-ever possible, helps but not much work is done in this direction. Using thinner filmic liners does result in reduced tonnage of liners and their recyclability. During this period many a top-end printer had started using clear on clear filmic label materials aiding sustainability to some extent. Global leaders in Labelstocks Avery Dennison initiated a program to collect and recycle silicone release liners in India, a step in the right direction. But given the size of the country and geographical spread of label units, it is a gigantic task. Other than this some printers have adopted waste management by shredding waste and compacting it for use as fuel in boilers and other applications, this is only a miniscule portion of the Industry. Largely, the waste is still sent to landfills or is incinerated. In times to come legislation will come to make sustainability and environment safety an imperative.
...to be continued to Part 2D


For complete previous history follow links below:



  1. “History of the Indian Label Industry” part-1:  lnkd.in/eDpGUPM 
  2. “History of the Indian Label Industry part 2A:   https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2019/07/history-of-indian-label-industry-part-2a.html
  3. “History of the Indian Label Industry part 2C:   https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2019/08/history-of-indian-label-industry-part-2b.html

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairmanr Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi July 2019

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

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