The label industry in India is largely male dominated. However, in an evolving scenario there happens to be a lot of efforts on women empowerment which depends on social status, education and upbringing. As literacy rises, the middle class is becoming more tolerant towards women taking up employment. Even the government is encouraging women to get educated and become self-sufficient. In the case of business and the forward-thinking families, more girls are going to universities and following it up with business management studies. The stigma of females to be just home makers after finishing basic education is now receding, at least in most urban societies. It is no more a taboo to let women assume leadership position. In fact, women are proving to be efficient, effective and resilient. They are empathetic, communicative and able to build loyal committed teams. They are more focused learners, able to multitask and hence successful. Surprising as it may seem, they are able to overcome gender bias. Label industry is no different, the author has interacted with some of the wonderful women in labels industry in India who have brought in professionalism making their workplaces more disciplined and vibrant, adding a touch of glamour by their presence.

Kusum Dunglay is the managing director of the thriving label printing enterprise, The Goodwork Company. She is setting example for other women to follow, proving that age is just a number! At 75 years of age, she is heading the company established by her late husband Kartar Singh Dunglay, 68 years ago in 1956. She travels widely, visiting existing customers and new prospects. Kusum, an MBA from London University, was guided by her husband’s expertise to learn the printing business. This foundational knowledge has played a pivotal role in her transformation as an administrator leading adaptation to industry evolutions. Joining the business in 1972, with decades of dedicated leadership, she steered their label business to excellence, widespread recognition and remarkable growth, achieving substantial market share.

Being a female leader, as a trailblazer in the printing business world, joining at a time when few women were in prominent business roles, provided a unique advantage to bring diverse perspectives, foster inclusive workplaces, and contribute to a more balanced business environment. By creating strong business ethics and processes, she expanded her client base with numerous MNCs. She is now leading the company to an exciting phase of expansion, transitioning into empowering the next generation, to take the reins of business. She says, “this strategic shift ensures that our business stays at the forefront of innovation, meeting evolving market demands with excellence.”

Goodwork company with 60 employees works out of 25000 square feet  shop floor at IMT Manesar, Gurgaon. She sums up, “While not retiring, I am gracefully transitioning into a behind-the-scenes role.”

Manjula Mishra, after completing her MBA in 1996, joined a chemical company as branch manager. Six years later she quit job to set up own maiden venture Holosafe Security Labels Pvt. Ltd. co-founded by herself and her husband Pankaj Mishra. Being first generation entrepreneurs coming from middle class family, cautiously they researched on the nuances of  running an industry before indulging to manufacture Self-adhesive Labels, Smart Labels, BOPP Labels, Shrink Sleeves, Holograms and Holographic products. 51-year-old Manjula now heads Holosafe as Managing Director. Initiating her marketing through agents, procuring business at lower margins and higher volumes, she gradually built her own team to finally sell without agents. All their manufacturing along with R and D operations are from 50,000 square feet shop floor at one location in Greater Noida with over 100 employees. Equipped with four label presses and latest holographic printing technologies they remain constantly innovating, Manjula says, “we are on a steady path of growth and optimistic about our future.”

Manjula has been a member of the National Board of MSME (Ministry of Small & Medium Enterprises) of Government of India  from 2014-19. She is recipient of Outstanding Entrepreneurship Achievement Award from the CM of Uttar Pradesh in 2013 & CM of Bihar in 2015. She was selected in the first batch of  Walmart supported Women Entrepreneurship Development Program in 2016, awarded with “Most Enterprising Women of India” award on Women’s Day on 8th March 2017 in Mumbai and in 2023 she has been selected for the prestigious Woman Entrepreneur Leadership development program jointly conducted by HUL and Genpact.

Sandhya Shetty, after completing education as a B.Sc., followed by Master’s in Management Studies, started her career, spending 8 years in business research and analysis, working on projects involving Government contracts, Defense sector in the US and in the hospitality sector in India. Quitting the job in 2008, she co-founded Synergy Packaging Pvt. Ltd. with a Nilpeter label press, headquartered in Thane and factory at Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. As managing director of the company, she has nurtured it to become a market-changer creating innovative labels for products some of which went on to become market leader in their category. 46-year-old Sandhya is happy that she has created a team that is more like her family, every member has been with them for a decade, this she asserts, is a bigger award than the ones that are received from customers and Industry.

She says, “India’s label printing industry is full of vibrant people! Barring a few outlier experiences, I would say the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur are same as that a man in the industry would face. On the contrary, I have had customers, vendors and others more patient and helpful.” She further adds, “my ‘never say die’ attitude has always been my biggest strength.” At the organizational level we are adding products, aware of present and future trends, we are researching global best practices in our effort creating a phase-wise plan for implementation. Recently she has been inducted in the LMAI management committee as the only woman in the association’s leadership team.

A highly acclaimed Priyata Raghavan, recently announced as Printweek Business leader of the year 2023, was part of an eminent panel at PackPlus 2023 and BMPA 2024 events. She has been awarded by many associations such as FICCI, DLF Industries etc. She is one of the few women at the helm of a successful Indian company in the labels and packaging industry. 43-year-old Priyata is the daughter of industry stalwart Vijay Raghavan, who founded SAI PACKAGING CO. (division of Sai Security printers Pvt Ltd) in 1993, a company that she now heads as deputy CEO. Under her leadership SAI has registered a consistent CAGR of over 15%  for the last decade and through multiple private equity fund raises, apart from expanding their customer base to the who is who of the FMCG, ALCOBEV and Pharma Industry.

Completing B.Com from Delhi University, PGDM from IIM Lucknow, additionally training in Business management and Finance, she joined Sai Packaging in 2004. Starting her career in finance followed by sales and operations, she worked her way up, to lead the Profit Centre for North Plant as well as Business Development, Finance and Corporate Affairs of the Company. The initial resistance faced in management and on shopfloor was overcome by her, with hard work, resilience, passion and delivery to be feted and trusted by all as an inclusive leader. Priyata says, “Women bring in innate ability to multitask and establish an emotional connect. Their higher SQ(Social Quotient) and EQ(Emotional Quotient) helps build tangible and solid relationships amongst all levels of the team and stakeholders. This ability helps the teams to go above and beyond, and win trust with suppliers, customers and investors.”

Sai Packaging is already a leader in packaging, producing Labels, Cartons, Leaflets and Inserts at two locations; Faridabad in North and Bengaluru in South with 600 employees on shop floors spread over 270,000 square feet.

41-year-old Neha Jain is the director of Great Eastern IDTech Pvt. Ltd. founded by her father-in-law Prem Chand Jain popularly known as P C Jain in 1983, as Great Eastern Impex and later renamed. PC Jain pioneered the introduction and proliferation of variable data labels in India! Neha, an Alumnus of FIDT, NIFT (Fashion Designer with Information Technology) and BCA(bachelor’s in computer education) from IGNOU specialising as lead auditor in Quality Management systems, joined Great Eastern in 2005. After joining she spent time in all departments and built departmental procedures, defined objectives and outcome reports that enabled them to achieve ISO 9001:2000 certification in 2006. With the growth of online selling platforms, she expanded her role to manage store fronts in multiple Amazon platforms. She launched web to print platform; built in-house in 2021 to service short run buyer needs with digital label printing services, currently servicing B2C customers with plans to add B2B clients. Moving out of shadows of her mentors and shedding the image of a female from the owner’s family, she created her own space with knowledge and technical knowhow, to be taken seriously as a leader. “Creating a more inclusive work environment, female leaders bring discipline, fairness and attention to detail in the organisation” says Neha.

Great Eastern manufactures Barcode & RFID Systems supplies and services; Thermal transfer ribbons; Packaging tapes & pricing rolls with plan to diversify into Brand/product label market. They have 125 employees and are located at Gurgaon with a 7500 square foot shop floor with four label presses.

Keerthi Aruvela heads the operations as Director at Chennai based Sree Krishna Labels and Solutions Pvt. Ltd. ( SK Labels) established in 1978. She is the 40-year-old daughter of the founder A Ramesh. An alumnus of Stella Maris College in Chennai. After having completed MBA Finance from National University of Singapore, she gained experience working in Southeast Asia in the finance and investment banking field. In 2009 she chose to join the family start-up in packaging space involving herself in all aspects of seeking regulatory approvals, machinery purchase, RM procuring and marketing. Post exit from the packaging line, she joined the family’s label business looking after finance and operations along with her sister who handles sales and marketing. She led the company’s foray into digital label printing. Referring to challenges of being a female business leader she rues that; it is often assumed that women don’t understand the technicalities, or people are reluctant to talk to women. As for the advantages she faces as woman she says, “Women have the ability to multitask, and their empathetic leadership strikes a good chord with the team.”

S K labels operates with 50 people and four label presses from a 9200 square feet shopfloor. They plan to expand capacity beyond the present product range consisting of multicolor labels, specialty labels, security labels, tyre labels, battery, pharma and barcode labels.

Tania Hansoti started her career in the advertising industry at DDB Mudra Group, working as  strategic planner for 4 years where she gained exposure to brands such as Adani, Fortune oils, Arvind Fashions, Century Ply, SOTC, Zydus Wellness and Future group. Post marriage 31-year-old Tania joined S.Kumar Multiproducts Pvt. Ltd. Ahmedabad, founded by her father-in-law Manish Hansoti in 1978. Their label division came into existence in 1997. Tania is an MBA(Marketing) and joined the company in 2020 at a time when the company invested in futuristic Digital label printing by installing a UV digital press from Screen, Japan. Her responsibilities included Improving brand awareness, build a marketing team to increase sales, achieve quick turnarounds and implement marketing campaigns through social media. Though she found it challenging as a woman to communicate on technical topics, yet with sheer perseverance, she overcame this, ”Being a woman makes the team environment less authoritative, less competitive and more cooperative” she says, and goes on to add, “the presence of a woman around keeps them in check and at their best behavior.”

With her, in leadership role the company became recipient of several Printweek India’s prestigious awards; Printing company of the year award– Essential Service Provider Category in 2022, Sales champion of the year in “Women to Watch Awards” in 2023, Nominated in the Young business leader category in 2023 and Customer service excellence award in 2023. She endeavors to further improve working in the company to be environmentally safe and sustainable. S. Kumar produces Labels, Shrink Sleeves & Sachets, consuming over half a million square meters of labelstock per month with 6 label presses at one location spread over 50000 square feet and 120 employees, with plans to expand to a bigger place.

Isha Deshpande, a BA in Business Management and MA in Strategic Fashion Marketing, joined as director in Trigon Digipack Private Limited who are the trailblazers in providing impetus to, and leading the growth of digital label printing in India. Trigon was founded by Anil Namugade and Isha’s father Milind Deshpande in 2008, both of whom mentored her to take up a leadership role in the company. In 2019 she joined Trigon in the midst of pandemic, so she invested a lot of time in understanding the processes, machines and materials. After three years of spending time in the company in Mumbai, 28-year-old Isha now heads the Delhi branch of Trigon and represents the company on many platforms. She does not find it a challenge working in a male dominated industry as there are many successful print companies that are led by female entrepreneurs. She expressed, “I am sure there are advantages for a female but in my opinion, if you’re hardworking, goal oriented and respectful, gender is very secondary.”

She is now focused on expanding their business in the north to have a similar setup to the one in Mumbai, where they produce labels, pouches, laminate rolls, cartons, rigid boxes, canisters and point of sale material on two high-end HP Digital presses and 9 post press machines. Trigon has a workforce of 200 at various locations but the manufacturing is largely at the Mumbai facility which is spread over 20,000 square feet.

Nalani Jaichandra, a Graduate in Commerce who later did her higher studies in Cosmetics and Nail extension in the UK. She spent many years in the beauty industry before joining as director Veepee Graphic Solutions (P) Ltd. in 2026, a prepress company founded by her father-in-law Late V Peethambaram in 1996 and now headed by her husband Jaichandra. She had established her chain of state of art nail bars when the nail art was in its nascent stages in India. 49-year-old Nalani is a Sri Lankan by birth and settled in Bengaluru after her marriage. After understanding the process of plate making, she gradually took over the plate production department, setting SOPs, hiring, training and setting up quality standards. She indulged in maintenance when needed and during the COVID, she single-handedly installed a new machine because the engineers from Germany could not travel. Now most of the 200 strong workforce from all locations report to her and only the prepress department is handled by her husband. Nalani has been actively involved in setting up the new plants at Pune, Hyderabad and Sri Lanka, gaining experience. She is actively involved in business development in Lanka as she is well connected there. She is now spearheading the setting up of a new plant that will have a complete 42×60 line for plate making.

Nalani has overcome the initial challenges of being a female leader. She says, “It’s a proven fact that women are good at multi-tasking which has helped me to handle multiple roles in the business.” Recognizing her success in printing business, Sri Lankan Association of Printing had selected her as ambassador to promote their trade fair held in India in October 2023. She was invited to Judge 50th Miss Globe Sri Lanka finals beauty pageant. No wonder moving from the beauty industry to label industry she has joined the bandwagon of successful women who have brought professionalism and glamour to labels in India.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi February 2024