One wonders if social media were not there how we could have spent these days of lockdown. WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. have kept the public bonded globally sharing news, jokes, experiences, hobbies and so on.
With nothing else to do, businesses shut all over and an eerie silence on roads coupled with the underlying fear of an escalating spread of the deadly corona virus, time has brought the strongest economies of the world to their knees. The fear of contracting the infection that has no known vaccine has put the global population on a defensive and protective mode fearing the impact on their near and dear ones. Spending the unending days within the confines of one’s home has weighed down quite heavily on the minds and life of people. The label industry globally trying to put a brave front, stays bonded with industry peers through telephony and social media platforms. The worrying impact of this lockdown stirring at the back of their minds, they do discuss the pressures building up and that they will have to face the reality of a huge setback when they eventually open, yet trying to relax and bide their time they have taken up hobbies like cooking, singing, meditating, praying etc. Social media is packed up with pictures and posts of their creativity in the kitchen from those who probably never even boiled an egg or made a cup of tea. Anyway, it is good that they are still in the innovating mode which will help them in their mindset when back to business.
Indian label industry is mostly family owned and largely MSMEs. Most of the entrepreneurs started their label businesses as first-generation entrepreneurs at very modest scales and have gradually scaled up. These printers have a hands-on approach in running their businesses. For them it is a day to day way of reviewing and deciding on ways of operating business effectively. Many of the entrepreneurs have experience of having worked in other label companies as employees before deciding to venture out on their own and set up label manufacturing entities. They have limited resources but as mentioned due to the hands-on approach they decided on the money rotation model to work and grow. All financial outflow is dependent on their inflows each month. They have hardly any parked resources. A lockdown like the one we are experiencing could not have ever been imagined when suppliers, printers and customers were all shut and not allowed to move out of homes but the operating expenses, salaries, interest, repayment, rent and statutory dues would keep ticking on and remain payable, also attracting interest. The issues when dwelled upon stir up a storm within and then the colleagues in the industry start calling each other and association leaders in hope that they will be able to communicate with powers that be, to get financial relief to the industry. The worries are a plenty but since Label printers are locked in at home, they have been able to put their worries at rest at some point of time and then find ways to relax and make the best of their time.
LMAI president Kuldip Goel revisited his passion for writing poetry and posted his work on WhatsApp groups and Facebook to receive immense appreciation from friends. Rakesh Mahajan Joint Managing Director and the man behind all the production at the fast-growing Prakash Labels Noida was learning how to bake a cake when I called him last.
India’s largest indigenous Labelstock producer Ajay Mehta Managing Director SMI Coated Products Mumbai has now an ardent fan his 4months old grandson Ivaan for whom he is required to sing to, otherwise too he has a busy schedule as follows:Morning Yoga 45 minutes.Then breakfast 20 minutesTime with Grandson. 2 hours.Attend to emails and WhatsApp for 3 hours.20 minutes meditation before lunch5.00 pm Gayatri mantra chanting with friends online for 25 minutes.6.00 workout under guidance of daughter Nikitaa7.00 to 8.30 Grandson time.Dinner and some Netflix.
Sanjeev Sondhi of Dehradun headquartered Zircon Technologies got stuck at Dehradun while his family got caught in Delhi Lockdown on the day, they were to travel to join him. A firm disciple of Lord Shiva and deeply religious, he spent the first 9 days in prayers due the auspicious period of Navratri. Now since most of his senior staff are on leave due to lockdown, he spends some time managing a few things for the limited functioning of his factories and then he says besides trying his skills at cooking, he prays and does introspection of what life should be beyond labels. Until now all his time was consumed by his growing the label business. Lockdown has made him sit back and think of life in another perspective.
Ajay Agarwal of Syndicate labels Delhi says, “Meditation, Online courses, Cooking, Netflix and long hours of sleeping. Most importantly staying positive has been the hallmark of the lockdown for me”.
Manish Desai past President of LMAI and heading Mudrika Labels Mumbai says, “It is a very difficult time for all of us and for the entire economy of the world but still we have to deal with it.” He further adds, “There are mainly the following ways that I am spending my time;
1) I am giving good time to my family by playing cards/watching movies, playing games as per wishes of my parents and children. 2) I am trying to learn typing on laptop keyboard more efficiently by using both hands as one used to type on traditional typewriters, normally I type with my single finger. 3) I am very week in making PPT presentations, my daughter is teaching me how to make presentations on the laptop. 4) I have given task to my marketing people to think of new products that we can develop for the industry. 5) lastly, I am also doing physical workout for 1 hour daily.
Anuj Bhargava heading Greater Noida based Kumar Labels is spending his time enjoy leafing through old albums refreshing memories, enjoying the pollution free air, playing with children, chatting with school friends on Zoom, Cooking and Singing. Surprisingly, he shared a link where he is singing in tune without musical instruments to aid!
Mahendra Shah of Renault Paper part of Manohar Packaging Group is also staying at home and in constant touch with his factory which is catering to labels for essential supplies. He says his wife is happy that he is helping in household chores besides working out and strategizing for future of his business. Sudhir Jain of Jain Transfer Products Noida has subscribed to online channels for meditation and has now time to spare so he has been reading extensively, presently he has been reading biographies of many successful people. Rajesh Nema of Pragati Global Indore says, “No business talks these days!” he interestingly elaborates his schedule further, “After morning rituals, go for walk, cycling and pranayama (Yoga). Then watch TV serials of epics Ramayana and Mahabharat. In between and during the day I help my wife in household work like “BJP: Bartan, Jhadu, Ponchha” (Doing dishes, sweeping and mopping)! In the evening again walk, cycling and pranayama. After dinner sit with family members for some games like Tambola, Antakshari, Quiz etc.
The Coverage would be a little wanting if despite being a part of the Indian Label industry for over 40 years I, the author of this article, do not mention my own time spent in these days of lockdown. Well I have stuck to my regime of walking 10,000 to 13000 steps each day(Now in the drive of my house), cooking also being a passion I imagine recipes and try them out to share with friends and family over Facebook and WhatsApp, the additional time that I have I am using to compile my book on “History of Indian Label Industry” and the best and most lovable part is to spend the maximum time playing with my two and half year old grandson!
Obviously Cooking seems to have been the universal stress buster and a hobby that provides opportunity to the colourful label manufacturing industry to experiment creativity of another kind. A type that delivers taste, colour and presentable plating drawing some parallel to the wonderful labels they create. They have been able to push away for the time being, the worries of how the lockdown will impact their business or future by bringing quality and constructive thoughts to their mind finding a new meaning to family bonding.
Industry in India has been facing a difficult situation in the past few years. First it was the demonetization then the switchover to GST and followed by a general slowdown, despite the issues India’s label industry maintained a double-digit growth rate which may have oscillated a few digits up and down. India is a young country having more than 45% of its population in the age group of 20-35 years of age with the median age at 27-29 years and literacy rate at over 74%. The youth is knowledgeable, well informed, resilient and has attributes with energy to put past behind and move on to recover from adversity. It is estimated that in coming years over 70% of the consumer spending will be coming from the bulging middle class that is almost 45% of the total population of 1.35 billion. Moreover, it is now gradually becoming clear that given the global need for a more democratic industrial and IT hub to produce cost effectively, India may well become the preferred destination. This is so because the availability of a huge technical and educated manpower available. The “Make in India” process will surely get a boost once we overcome the pandemic and need for materials and equipment starts picking up. The western world already appears to be looking at India for creating an alternative hub where resources, materials and technical manpower is available in abundance, additionally with an English-speaking population. It is a good sign that despite the national lockdown the mood is still not negative and God willing India will emerge strong and successful not only in fight against the Covid-19 pandemic but even turn the adverse situation to become diverse, offering opportunities to create new success stories.
Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi April 2020