Covid-19 or Corona virus that has struck populations in countries across the globe creating a scare that has impacted adversely most affluent economies in the world. Governments are taking very strong measures to curb the proliferation as also find remedies for curing and containing this virus which is already declared a pandemic. Increasing numbers of affected people and deaths have created an alarming situation whereby vast geographical areas are being cordoned off, schools are shut, travel has become restricted, congregation of people is being restricted and businesses are suffering. The global printing industry at large is also facing the brunt of the impact. Important printing events where major buying decisions are taken and seminars that enhance knowledge besides providing networking opportunities have been postponed. Millions have been invested in planning the event by the event organisers, exhibitors and the visitors. Some of the important events that have taken responsible decisions to postpone in view of public safety concerns are as below.

Sri Lanka Print 2020 Colombo
FINAT Technical Seminar Barcelona
Labelexpo SEA Bangkok
LMAI Digital Label printing event Mumbai

PackPlus South 2020 Hyderabad India

Interpack Dusseldorf Germany
Drupa Dusseldorf Germany
FESPA Brazil 2020 Sao Paolo
Fespa Global Print Expo 2020 Madrid
FINAT European Label Forum 2020, Rome is under consideration

The label industry has been greatly impacted by the spreading virus. China and Italy are two major producers and suppliers of label manufacturing equipment, both countries have been hit badly. Covid-19 originated in China and Italy became one of the largest sufferers of this spreading pandemic with tremors of this being felt by label printers across the globe. Even though China has indicated containment of the virus at their end yet since the virus has spread to other countries, governments around the world continue to make travel advisories and entry restrictions to contain the spread in their respective countries.

These travel restrictions or self-control in avoiding travel has greatly impacted the events business. With news of Covid-19 spreading to Spain; FINAT, the European association for the self-adhesive label industry postponed their FINAT Technical Seminar Barcelona. According to Chris Ellison, President of FINAT “Apart from the public health risk, the virus is now also spilling over into the real economy, and members of the label industry are taking measures to contain the risk for their staff’s well-being and their business’ continuity. In some cases, more far-reaching measures are taken than those recommended or enforced by local governments and public health institutes.” He further adds, “We are also reviewing the scenarios for the European Label Forum in Rome next June”.

Tarsus which was looking forward to a successful second Labelexpo southeast Asia at Bangkok has also announced its postponement. According to Lisa Milburn, managing director of Labelexpo Global Series, “We have taken the difficult decision to postpone Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2020 in May due to coronavirus/COVID-19.

This is an unprecedented situation and given the vast amount of preparation that goes into our shows, not a decision we have taken lightly. However, the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff is our top priority, and working on the advice of our local partners and BITEC, we feel the best course of action is to postpone the show until September.” 

Drupa is the world’s leading trade fair for printing technologies. The last Drupa saw 1828 exhibitors from 54 countries, 260,165 visitors from 183 countries with the largest group from outside Germany coming from India totaling at 5% of the total visitors.  

Until a few days back the Drupa website stated that the event will be held on the stipulated dates and that the organisers were taking adequate steps to screen the visitors as also to sanitize the venue for safety of all. Then on 13th of March 2020 came the press release from Messe Dusseldorf stating that both Drupa and Interpack are postponed. 

A resilient Indian label industry has had its own share of voes over the past few years. Every time it is faced with a challenging situation it recovers to face yet another tough situation. First came the demonetization, hardly had the effect of that had worn off came the implication of GST.

The industry took its time to reconcile and adjust itself on to a growth path but as 2019 was coming to an end the country was facing an economic slowdown stemming the rate of growth. The resilience of this industry segment still makes it go on, sometimes rapidly and other down at a slower pace. Now the Corona virus has brought with it a new kind of situation whereby travel is curtailed, and expansions have gone on hold. With the Indian label industry starting its move in to digital label printing in line with trends in the western world, India’s label association LMAI had planned its 2nd event, “”DIGITAL PRINTING IN LABELS – THE WAY FORWARD” to be held in the evening of March 16th, 2020 at Hotel ITC Maratha Mumbai. The interest in the event got a huge response and was fully sold out two weeks in advance. As the situation of Corona Virus became alarming the LMAI management decided to postpone the event. Amit Sheth founder member of LMAI requesting postponement had said, “The way it is seen it is better to postpone the event. I think this is a National concern!” Commenting on the cancellation Kuldip Goel President LMAI said, “It is so unfortunate that immense effort had gone in preparation but for a humanitarian cause, it was needed to take precaution.!”

While the corona virus goes on unabated it is hoped that the containment happens soon bringing relief to the vast humanity that has got affected. While efforts go on by health authorities globally to find a vaccine, yet it is prudent for all to practice safety as suggested by bonafide governments and certified health authorities.

TLWritten by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. New Delhi India March 2020

Toronto is the most populous city of Canada with the almost 6 million people in greater Toronto Area and a large chunk are immigrants from across the world, a substantial number also from India. The weather in Toronto varies from as low as -30 degrees Celsius to a high of +30-35 degrees in summer.

For this reason, summer is something that the Toronto based Canadians love and dread the frosty winters. Towards end of summer 2018 in the first week of October, the author got to meet for breakfast with Ram whose full name is Ram Ramkumar, a partner in a successful growing and leading label manufacturing company, ASL Print FX originally called All Stick Labels. Toronto has a fair number of Indians in the label industry. The first question that came to mind was why his name had Ram twice in it. Well the answer was fairly simple, in his family the father’s name comes first followed by the person’s name. He had been named Ramkumar and his father’s name was Ramamritham so actually Ram’s full name is Ramamritham Ramkumar which in Canada was shortened to Ram Ramkumar.
Ram’s father Ramamritham born in 1917 passed his electrical engineering from The Indian Institute of Science Bangalore in 1938. Thereafter he joined HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) who in those days were building gliders that were employed in the second World war by the British. Later while working for the Tata’s Dumdum Airport in Kolkata he got a scholarship to pursue his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from New York University. He qualified as India’s 2nd Aeronautical engineer. He spent a year of training at Boeing in Seattle before returning home to join the civil aviation department in 1948. He was subsequently elevated to be Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). He retired in 1976. Ram’s elder brother who also graduated from the Indian Institute of Science migrated to UK to complete his doctorate in metallurgy from Imperial college of Science in London. He then took employment in various organisations viz. Atomic Energy Commission USA. He moved to Canada in 1971 to work for International Nickel Company INCO and returned home to run steel rolling mill owned by his in-laws. He came back to Canada around 1997

Ram Ramkumar born in 1951 did his initial schooling in MEA High School in Delhi also known as “Madrasi School” followed by metallurgical engineering from IIT(Indian Institute of Technology) Kanpur in 1972, then moved to Canada to pursue MBA from the university of Toronto and did not return back to India after that.

He started to work for an accounting firm Clarkson Gordon which later became a part of Ernst & Young for the next 7 years, initially for 4years in audit and later 3 years in business valuation. In the process of business auditing his first client was a person named Robert Zoeblein who saw huge potential in Ram and started to mentor him in running business. 7 years later Robert reached out to Ram and hired him as General Manager of his wooden furniture manufacturing company REFF, to set up systems to run the company efficiently with aim to go public. Post the public issue, flush with funds and wanting to expand, they bought controlling interest in a friend’s Metal furniture manufacturing company. Ram became a shareholder and President of the metal furniture manufacturing company. Their fruitful efforts brought results such that their share price escalated substantially, moving ahead Robert and his partners sold the company REFF to a US based company and they acquired the remaining shares of the Metal furniture company. Sales grew from 20 million in 1989 to 170 million CAD in 2001. In 2004 the accountant cum management skills in Ram resurfaced and there was yearning to change, so he retired from that business and became an investor. 

In 2008 he and his friend Bob invested along with another friend Charlie (CEO) and Stacy (VP Operations) to acquire balance of shares owned by the founder of a flexographic printer which had been founded in 1965.

Charlie and Stacy are running the business while the other two are investors. They renamed the entity as ASL Print FX as it exists now. This was Ram’s entry into the colourful world of labels!

The four partners have constantly put in hard and dedicated efforts to drive growth into this venture. Over the years they enhanced the label production and decorative capabilities to include use of special inks, special varnishes to give textures, embossing and debossing, hot/cold foiling, 100% inspection/defect detection, fully integrated colour management systems, captive plate making and an inhouse ink kitchen.

Sustainability and environmental concerns are taken care of by using FSC certified and recyclable materials. Flexo and digital printing capabilities makes it possible for them to cater to both long run and short run job demands. Additionally, they have a label manufacturing facility in North Carolina USA. In around 2012 they added envelope manufacturing in Toronto. Looking at the potential of creativity and growing demand of wine labels they have recently setup another label production facility in Napa Valley, the wine producing region on the US west coast for production of wine labels. Whenever the unit faced challenges the partners decided to upgrade equipment with increased automation in production equipment and in workflow to achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Each week the four partners meet to monitor the operations closely. They believe that if their team does not hit the target decided, it is imperative to bring about a change. All jobs in the company are evaluated for the time spent on it along with profitability achieved. They review the targeted cost and actual cost of production constantly. They are a highly awarded company as their labels have won at various global competitions. They have ten fully loaded flexo presses that include Gallus, hybrid MPS additionally they have digital printing capability through an affiliate having HP indigo digital label press, they operate out of almost 50,000 square feet of shop floor and a workforce of almost 100 persons from three locations i.e. Toronto, Winston Salem North Carolina and Napa California.
Ram’s wife is a home maker and they have two sons. The elder Nikhil 41 years old with background as a copy writer in advertising, now works as a Manager of Communications. Nikhil has four children aged 8 years, 6 years, 3 years and 3 months. The younger son Ajay 35 years old is a lawyer.
As regards the label business Ram believes that growth especially in a complex business, like printing, is happening due to a commitment to continuing investments in the best equipment, excellent employees and pursuit of excellence.
Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi January 2020.

The narrow web label industry is a smaller segment of the larger diverse printing and packaging industry. It remains in focus for being the face of all products and an imperative identity providing part of any package. It is estimated by many that the Printing industry in India is growing at over 12% per annum. Some segments get slower and there are others like packaging are growing at a faster pace of 17% to compensate the shortfall by registering better growth. The label industry has been growing in a very wide band between 10 and 25%, the growth has always been in double digits. While Offset is the largest segment of the printing technologies employed yet the past 2-3 decades have seen growth in adoption of other printing processes like flexography, Roto

In recent times the convenience of “just in time computer to print capabilities” has resulted in adoption of digital printing by many printers such that the segment is registering robust growth of 30%. The narrow web label industry that is largely employing flexographic printing has been conservative and hesitant in adopting digital printing for labels because of higher investment in capital equipment, expensive inks and costly printheads needing replacements resulting in costlier labels in comparison to those produced on their existing equipment. The return on investment appeared to be unattractive. It was just a matter of time that the growth of digital printing of labels in India would start to attract investment. Finat, the European label Association with global membership had reported a couple of years ago that European investments in digital presses for labels in a year had exceeded that in flexo presses. We now see an evident interest and indulgence in this digital label printing technology by Indian printers as well.

Recognising the need for knowledge and understanding  digital printing technologies since label printing and converting is in an evolutionary phase of adopting digital printing, while still growing with analogue, LMAI-The Label Manufacturers Association of India organized a program titled “DIGITAL PRINTING IN LABELS – THE WAY FORWARD” for the benefit of its members only. The program took place at ITC Welcome Hotel, Chennai on the 20th of December 2019. Unlike the other printing processes digital printing has largely four different tangents; Dry toner printing, Liquid toner printing, UV Inkjet printing and water-based Inkjet printing. To deliver the knowledge, leading companies came forward to sponsor the event as also to make very interesting presentations. The following speakers from their respective sponsoring companies made presentations;
  • Dry Toner Digital: Xeikon. Presenter; Vikram Saxena, Sales General Manager Xeikon India (Part of Flint Group)
  •   Liquid Toner Digital: HP. Presenter; Ashok Pahwa, Sales Manager-Indigo & Inkjet Solutions (HP India Sales Pvt Ltd).
  •   UV Inkjet Digital: Domino. Presenter- Ajay RaoRane, Asst. Vice President-Digital Printing Solutions. at Domino Printech India LLP
  •   Water Based Digital: Astronova Inc. Presenter-Goutham Reddy, Regional Sales Manager
  • Non-speaking support Sponsors: Avery Dennison and Durst Phototechnik AG
After welcoming more than eighty delegates present and after felicitating the sponsors, LMAI Secretary Rajesh Nema handed over the moderation to Harveer Sahni member LMAI Board of Directors.

Sahni updated the audience on the journey traversed by the label printing industry in India. Starting from the first self-adhesive label made by screen printing process in 1965, he covered many landmarks in the evolution that included the first flat-bed very narrow web Japanese label presses to produce labels in roll form in 1972, rotary label converting in 1982, flexographic label printing in 1993, adoption and development of UV flexo from 1997 onwards, setting up of LMAI in 2002 and the first installation of digital label presses toward end of the decade of 2000.

All the speakers gave important insights in the technologies offered by them and emphasized the need and importance of short runs, personalization and variable data on labels and for that how Digital Printing capabilities are fast becoming a necessity.

Goutham Reddy from Astronova explained the cost effectiveness of water-based process and also dwelled on their offering equipment to print on finished packages, 

Ajay Rao Rane of Domino highlighted the strength of UV inkjet and achieving a higher colour gamut besides printing opaque UV white that is needed for transparent films, 

Ashok Pahwa demonstrated the success they achieved in personalization of leading brand of beverages giving another dimension to retail marketing of fast moving consumer products and finally 

Vikram Saxena of Xeikon informed that digital printing was picking up pace with over 32 high-end installations reported in India. He further informed the benefits of dry toner digital printing technology and that it did not require any precoated media.

It was encouraging to note that despite the event being organized in South India many printers travelled from all over India to attend and to learn the nuance of this emerging technology. Some of the printers seen at the event included Gee Kay-Bangalore, Seljeget-Sivakasi, Fairfix-Tirupur, ITC-Chennai, Manipal Technologies-Chennai, Prakash Labels-Noida, Kwality Offset-New Delhi, Pragati Graphics-Indore, Speclabel-Kolkata, Total Print-Mumbai and Zodiac Graphics-Hyderabad.

LMAI founder members Raveendran of Seljegat, Sandeep Zaveri of Total Print, LMAI founder promoter Amit Sheth and Board member Ajay Mehta of SMI were present at this important industry event.

An interactive question answer session was followed by a vote of thanks by Rajeev Chhatwal Vice President of LMAI. The evening ended with networking cocktails and dinner.

Another day in life many years ago, we would love to light up a bonfire on a winter evening and sit around it warming ourselves and enjoying it. It was a common sight to see construction workers and other labourers huddled around a small fire they would light up by burning tree branches or dried leaves to warm themselves and ward off the cold. This incineration, which was a pleasurable exercise once, is looked at as non-acceptable now because it generates smoke and adds to the already high level of pollution in our cities.

In the 1960s all our groceries were shopped wrapped in paper or carried in paper bags. In India we saw a lot of paper bags made even from old newspapers and old magazines adding an element of recyclability to the already used paper. 

In 1965 Swedish company Celloplast patented the single use poly bag to start an era of convenience in shopping with plastic bags. By late 1970s or early 1980s the polybag evolution had reached India and started to grow at a robust pace. It also became the preferred packaging material for a very diverse range of end products. Rapid developments were made to create multipolymer laminates to achieve better shelf life and barrier properties.   So much so that it became difficult to imagine a life without these plastic bags.

Ironically by end of the last century the ill effects of plastic waste due to non-biodegradability became the most worrying factor for governments. The plastic bags littered around the globe remained plastic for years and would remain so for hundreds of years.

Bangladesh became the first country in the world to implement a ban on thin plastic bags, after it was found they played a key role in clogging drainage systems during disastrous flooding. Other countries began to follow suit. Soon the awareness came about that plastic was not only clogging drains but also adding to soil quality erosion, affecting life of cattle who devoured these while grazing and endangered the sea with tons of plastic dumped in. The heightened awareness of all kinds of waste going to landfills; in fact, they are no more landfills but have become garbage mountains occupying expensive and already shrinking land space in cities and emitting poisonous gasses impacting environment and health of population. Climate control, banning single use plastics, finding alternative to multi-polymer plastic laminates due to these not being recycled, conserving resources, recycling, reusing, waste management, etc. became imperatives for all governments. Environmental protection and sustainability became the necessity and buzzword for a safe future of generations that follow us. Sustainability is explained as the avoidance of depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance, in other words replenishing the mother earth with the natural resources that we use for our benefits.

The author while returning from Labelexpo Europe in Brussels in the end of September 2019, stopped over to visit Dubai based label printing company Kimoha.

While excelling in the world of labels Kimoha leadership had done a lot of work including investing for environmental protection, waste management and sustainability, setting example for others in the label industry to follow suit. Being fully aware that advancements and enhancement approaches are needed for the economic development of the present without compromising the capacity of future generations, Kimoha has taken steps to be sustainable and take care of the environment and its social well-being. They successfully completed the Green Building Initiative and are the first printing company within GCC to have the Gold LEED certification from the US GBC for its manufacturing facility. Under the new green clean energy initiative, they have commissioned own Solar Plant with Installed capacity of 1.0143 MWp, generating 30% of their power requirement. Kimoha Solar Plant is one of the largest Solar plant in the manufacturing segment within JAFZA. All the mechanical material handling systems are battery operated to cut off use of fuel and its associated pollution.

Kimoha sources material from FSC certified partners as a responsible management initiative in protecting forests, being in paper industry.  The entire facility light management system is based on Motion & Occupancy Sensors.

Occupancy sensors increase lighting energy savings by 23 %, auto turning off or turning down for amount of time with no movement. Skylights are used as natural lights here at Kimoha warehouse, thus further adding to Energy Management initiatives. As a part of its water conservation initiative, waterless urinals are installed in the facility washrooms. One waterless urinal saves approximately 3,250 gallons of water a year. The Solar cleaning system is also of dry wash robotic system which aids this program. On its Carbon footprint initiative, Kimoha has installed a state of art Integrated Waste Management System for auto extracting and compacting its label design and trim waste. Most of the paper waste is bailed, to reduce size and skip loads and sent to recycling vendors for a circular economy. Right from inception Kimoha has always believed in human capital and thus refrained from using Solvent Inks.  Kimoha also has a Sedex Member Mark which is a testimony to their responsible and sustainable business practices.

Back home in India the author tried to touch base with label printers in India to understand if they too were investing to make their industry and products environmentally safe and sustainable.

It was heartening to note that the process has begun but it is just the beginning. To have a large-scale impact down the line, it appears legislation will provide the necessary impetus required in this direction. Noida based Any Graphics lead by Kuldip Goel is building a new huge new certified green factory spread over 15500 square meters that will be ready to move into in 2020. Kuldip Goel says: ‘The green manufacturing unit will be our contribution towards being environment friendly and sustainable. The process began right from the time when we started building the plant. For instance, we cannot uproot any trees from the new land without having a plan to re-plant and nurture them and plant maximum number of local varieties.’ Complying to the Green factory requirements they are procuring maximum construction materials produced from within 500 kms of the construction site, using minimum 50 percent old material and furniture from previous factory, minimum usage of wood, covered car parking, usage of less water and big fume taps to save water, natural sunlight inside the factory, usage of light and insulating Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) panels in the building, amongst others. They also plan to install both sewage treatment plant (STP) as well as an effluent treatment plant (ETP) at the new facility. ‘With the STP, they will be able to re-use almost 50 percent of our water that would otherwise just go down the drains. With the consumption of almost 40,000 litres of water a day, this will be a huge saving. They are also installing state of the art 600-700 KW rooftop solar power units. This will reduce 5.5 to 7.5 MT of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to planting about 35,000 trees. Goel further added, “We have even studied air direction at the new site to maximize the impact of air flow and sun for most efficient use of solar light and energy. There is a list of above 40 requirements listed by The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) that we must adhere to for our factory to be qualified as a green building and we are passionately working on each one of them”.

Another Noida based Label Company Anuj Bhargava lead Kumar Labels who also produce labelstock for their captive consumption has put in place many processes in their production plan to make their contribution to environment and sustainability. They have shifted to 100% LED lighting in their factory. They plan to replace UV lams with LED UV lamps on all their presses by 2021, the process has begun. They have developed and commercialized SRTF (Single Release with Two Face stocks) which saves 50% release liner. Spreading the concept globally.

Other endeavors include elimination of corrugated boxes and using multi-use plastic trays for dispatches within 200km distance which saved over 15 Tons of kraft each year. Selling labels on bagasse, mineral paper and recycled kraft label stocks (though to begin with the quantity is small). Work has started to use thinner liners. 70% of factory is on evaporative cooling instead of air conditioning, saving energy. No plastic bottles or cups are used for water or food, even during group dinners. Segregation of waste is done so that most unsupported material gets recycled. Employees are encouraged to shift closer to factory to avoid commute and save fuel. To set an example, owners have also moved closer to factory. Used UV lamps are disposed off through a recycler who removes the mercury.

The self-adhesive labels industry as it continues to grow, has been facing a gigantic task for disposal of side trim, waste matrix and liner waste. Almost 50% of the label material after conversion is waste and earlier converters were either sending the same to landfill or incinerating it.

Both the actions are adversely impacting the environment and require urgent attention. Multinational labelstock manufacturers Avery Dennison has taken some pioneering initiatives towards this problem. The Company under their “Avery Dennison’s Recycling Services India program” has been concerned about the accumulation of waste and is on a mission to also reduce the amount of packaging materials used beside recycling and managing the waste generated. They in association with leading brand owners started collecting the label liner generated as part of the labelling operations centrally before passing these on to the appointed recycler for this Liner Recycling Program. The collected liner waste is then reprocessed, and this recycled pulp is used to create new materials such as cardboard, paper, and tissue. On another front they are interacting with converters to co-process or reprocess their leftover label matrix instead of landfilling it at no cost, given that the paper and film materials are sorted at the converter end. The matrix that is made from either paper or film material is usually discarded. As per Avery’s initiative through co-processing, paper matrix can be re-used as fuel in industrial processes. Through reprocessing, filmic matrix is converted to polymer pellets used to manufacture products like boards and benches.

Himanshu Kapoor of Mumbai based J K Fine Prints lists the processes that they have implemented in this direction: The have started liner recycling program with Avery Dennison, all plastic ink bottles are sent to MPCB(Maharashtra Pollution Control Board) waste handling unit, used UV lamps go to hazardous waste collection unit, they pack finished rolls in paper and not in plastic, all waste is shredded and sent to cement kilns to use as an energy source to replace natural gas, cores/boxes/packing materials etc.

are reused to reduce carbon footprint, waste water from water purification system is reused for cleaning purposes, all ACs/fans/lights are switched off when not in use, Auto stop taps installed resulted in reduced usage of water and collection of used liner from end users and sending to recycle in pipeline.

Sustainability is important for many reasons including environmental Quality in order to have healthy communities and a safer planet for generations that follow, we need clean air, natural resources, and a nontoxic environment.

Government has now realized the huge negative impact of this and due to their efforts to spread awareness, words like sustainability, environmental protection, circular economy, recyclability, reusable, etc. have become frequently debated topics in industrial conferences and CSR initiatives of leading industrial houses. Even the common people now are impacted and concerned about this problem. Label industry has been implementing many such initiatives to reduce the impact of waste. For a lot many years we have seen press manufacturers making the label presses with short web pass to reduce setup waste, usage of thinner filmic liners have been implemented at many places to reduce the tonnage of liner going into manufacture of self-adhesive labelstock and more so because the filmic liner can be recycled to produce other plastic products. In recent times we also witness the development of linerless labels to entirely do away with the liner by use of a filmic liner that is peeled off in the manufacturing process and laminated on top of the same label. One solution cannot cater to all labelling needs, every process has its advantages and disadvantages, but the heartening fact is that now the industry is taking steps both to reduce wastage and eliminate it from going to landfills and incineration. The social responsibility of the labels industry is evident!

Change is the only constant in life.” This is an age old saying and it is so true! As we look back in time that has gone by, the evolution in technologies that impact our life is amazing and for the new generations it is difficult to imagine the path traversed by elders.

For example, look at the development in telephony and communications; there was a time when, to get a telephone we had to make a lengthy application with documents plus a hefty deposit and then wait for 3 years to get a telephone. For dialing national or international numbers one had to book a call and experience endless wait to be connected for a 3 minute call. Those who did not have telephone connections had to visit a post office to call relatives in other cities, book a call and wait for their turn until the operator tried to connect them for a call that they had to pre-declare the duration as 3 minutes or 6 minutes. Mobiles have transformed life and we have instant voice and video communication capabilities 24X7 with multiple phones in our pockets. The mobile is perhaps the most impactful technology experienced by us in life so far. In a somewhat similar manner, printing technologies have evolved over hundreds of years to bring changes enabling perfection and colourful meaning to all printed products. A technology that began with carving stone blocks, apply colours and transferring images, evolved to using wooden blocks, metal type sets, letterpress printing, screen Printing to offset printing, a technology that was widely adopted and spread across the world as the most preferred print process. Also evolved flexographic and rotogravure printing. All these technologies had a costly pre-press and make-ready process as also the cost of artworks, plates, print cylinders, etc.

The 1970s saw the beginning of an era that would continue to impact the print industry in a totally different tangent, the digital printing! The technology enabled printing with a command from a computer with press of a button without much of processes that were needed in conventional printing.

It is so much like the changes in mobile phone technology coming about. By 1993 the digital printing technology developed such that the first commercial digital printing press named “Indigo” was produced by Benny Landa in his company with the same name. This transformed the printing world; one could now print personalized short run jobs straight from computer. In 2000-2001, the company Indigo was acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP) and at the time of acquisition Landa had said, “Our vision has always been to lead the printing industry into the digital era and to see Indigo technology pervade the commercial market. Now, a part of HP, that goal is in sight.” Rightly so, the market of digital printing has been registering robust growth. Digital printing technology has been developed by various press manufacturers and is being widely adopted with innovative indulgence.  Label manufacturing is an integral part of print and has also been witnessing growth both in terms of total market as well as in Digital printing of labels. The global market for label printing has been growing steadily in recent times, valuing at $36.98 billion in 2017. As per Smithers Pira the total market of labels is likely to cross 49.9 Billion USD by 2024. According to Finat; 2017 was the first year that, with nearly 300 digital press installations, the volume of newly added digital label presses surpassed that of new conventional label press installed volumes.

While label printers in the western world have been early investors in digital label printing presses yet the Indian printers have been skeptical about the need for this investment in the Indian label production scenario.

The different types of technologies available leave the printers in a confusion as to what is the most appropriate technology that they should invest in. Unlike other conventional printing processes evolution of digital printing has moved into different technical ways of achieving the same goal which is computer to print.
Largely available technologies offered by various manufacturers of digital equipment are as follows;
1.       Dry toner based

2.       Liquid toner based

3.       Inkjet

4.       UV Inkjet

While looking at the selection of digital print process one also needs to decide the finishing of the labels whether they wish to do this inline or offline. Every different short run job maybe of varying shape requiring frequent stops and change of cutting dies.

This substantially reduces press running time and impacts profitability adversely. In such a case it is advisable to finish the labels offline, one offline equipment can free up printing time of multiple presses. Laser die cutting is another option whereby it can handle multiple and frequent job changes without the need for additional dies and machine stoppages, but this calls for a much higher investment in the finishing equipment.  Additionally, one needs to decide with digital, what dpi resolution to go for; does the work need a white ink in one of the printing heads; does the press have an extended color gamut. Press running speeds of all the digital label press technologies vary quite considerably. The printing speed with many short-run job changes is also an important factor for consideration.
Dry Toner based process:

This process is an evolution of the earliest photocopying process known as Xerography invented by Chester Carlson founder of Xerox and converted as Laser printer by Gary Keith Starkweather in 1970s which transformed to digital printing with laser printers also called electrostatic digital printing as we have seen in our offices.

In a laser printer a laser beam runs over an electrically charged drum preparing an electrical image carrying charged areas.  The drum is a cylinder coated with a material that becomes conductive when exposed to light or laser beam. Areas that are not exposed have a high resistance which allows these areas to hold the electrostatic charge necessary for the process. The image then collects the toner and transfers the image to a paper or substrate that is then heated to fuse the image on to it. In traditional xerography the image is formed by reflecting light off an existing document onto the exposed drum which then picks up the toner and transfers the image. Dry toners consist of pigments embedded inside polymer beads. The fusing phase of the electrophotographic process melts the polymer beads to the surface of the paper. These can print on both coated and noncoated papers. Image quality is a complex issue, determined by a combination of hardware, software, consumables and processes. Dry toner is not absorbed by the substrate, it always achieves an optimal optical density as all the ink transferred is adhering on surface. The particle size of the toner has been reduced over the years to achieve fine print results and most equipment are offering prints of 1200 DPI for solids and blends with good color depth and subtle contrasts, ideal to reproduce vibrant images.
Major brands offering dry toner based digital label presses are Xeikon and Konica Minolta.
Liquid Toner based process

Liquid toners also use pigments in polymer beads, but they are dispersed in oil that evaporates during fusing process. Liquid toners are used in digital presses that are typically used for commercial printing on a wide range of coated papers.

Benny Landa an Israeli inventor mentioned above, having to his credit 800 patents produced the first Indigo digital printing press in the early 1990s using liquid toners in a process that was called liquid electrophotography or LEP in his company established in 1977. Landa came to be known as the father of digital printing. The liquid toner used by HP came to be known as ElectroInk, that combines the advantages of electronic printing with the qualities of liquid ink. ElectroInk contains charged pigmented particles in a liquid carrier. The image is created with electrophotographic process on the drum directly from digital data, avoiding the use of any analogue intermediate media. It starts with digitally created pages or print elements containing text, layouts or images. HP Indigo uses a blanket in between to transfer ink from the drum to media. The blanket is heated, melting and blending the ElectroInk particles into a smooth film. This produces an image that is completely defined on the blanket and transferred to the substrate by direct contact. For this reason, it is also referred to as offset digital printing.

Major brand using liquid toner based digital printing process: HP
Inkjet Printing

Inkjet printing is the oldest of technologies in non-contact printing evolving into digital colour printing commercially. Existing together there are two main inkjet technologies i.e. Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) and drop-on-demand (DOD).

The CIJ method has been in use for ages in which a high-pressure pump directs liquid ink from a reservoir through a gun body and a microscopic nozzle, creating a continuous stream of ink droplets. These droplets are subjected to a varying electrostatic field and then these charged droplets pass through another electrostatic field to deflect them and form characters. The process can be understood by the image reproduced from Wikipedia. The Drop-on-demand (DOD) is divided into thermal DOD and piezoelectric DOD. Most commercial printers use the DOD to print. The large format ones use solvent or water-based inks depending on the equipment and the product. The inks used in digital inkjet label printing presses are water based and formulated with either dyes or pigments. Aqueous inks provide the broadest color gamut and most vivid colors. The water-based inks are inexpensive and may ultimately spell out as the lowest cost print, but some substrates may require specialized coatings as there is an imperative need for the ink droplet to sink straight in and not to smudge or smear. With growing volumes, increased environmental and consumer friendly nature of inks the coated stock prices are likely to become largely affordable making this technology to watch as wider acceptance is envisaged. Such inkjet printers can achieve high resolution of 1600 DPI. Since the start of a new millennium another water-based inkjet technology called Memjet has been evolving. Memjet is used in high speed, full colour printers to give a high-quality print at a very low cost. It uses a fixed print head unlike conventional inkjet printers where the cartridges or head moves back and forth during printing. The Memjet print head is fixed and is of the width of the material it’s printing on enabling edge to edge printing. This way it’s only the material that moves underneath the head as it’s printed.
Major brands using water based digital inkjet printing: Trojan from Astronova, Afina, Colordyne
UV Inkjet Printing

UV inkjet Digital printing is an extension of the inkjet printing that uses ultra-violet light to dry or cure ink. The inks consist mainly of acrylic monomers together with a photo initiator and after printing when exposed to strong UV lamps or in case of specially formulated inks to LED-UV light, the ink is cured by crosslinking.

The ink due to this chemical reaction becomes instantly dried leading to increased printing speeds. The curing process with high power UV exposure for short periods of time (microseconds) allows printing on thermally sensitive substrates like BOPP and PE. Since the ink sits on top of the substrates and neither is dried by evaporation nor by absorption resulting a robust image on a wide range of uncoated substrates. It is the fastest growing sector of digital inkjet printing and more sustainable than conventional printing.
Major brand using digital UV inkjet printing: Canon, Domino, Durst, Epson, Screen, Xeikon

Selecting digital printing equipment for label printing is a complex task depending on the printer’s customer portfolio. It varies on many parameters, like the equipment price, ink price, media cost, media to be printed, consumables cost, speed of machine, resolution required, space and finishing required.

Time is not far when printers will invest in multiple technologies to attain the best of each process and to service a wide array of customers. However to start with the print on demand feature is so very attractive and for short runs it seems to be becoming an absolute necessary at least in case of established printers whose large investments in high end flexo or combination presses gets held up doing shorter runs and taking away valuable production time. Since short run demands from brand owners continue to swell along with need for variable data, it becomes necessary to opt for an offline finishing equipment which does not slow down their printing capabilities.

Most of the leading label press manufacturers have started offering Hybrid machines with combination of Digital and flexo printing capabilities along with decorating and finishing inline. It is not a simple decision to opt for the hybrids.

As mentioned earlier here, it all depends on the portfolio and requirements of individual label printers. It is interesting to note that all hybrid presses with digital capabilities displayed at Labelexpo Europe in September 2019 were fitted with UV inkjet digital presses. Leading press manufacturer who are offering Hybrids of flexo, digital and inline finishing include Gallus, Omet, Mark Andy, Nilpeter and MPS. With environmental concerns, migration of inks and other food or Pharma safety needs, non-waterbased inkjet systems may see more development in future. As of now due to the speed and versatility offered by UV Inkjet coupled with the ability to add additional white and other colours, UV inkjet is the predominantly used technology however investment is high. Therefore, selection of the best suited technology for digital in labels must be as per individual printer’s need and that of their diverse customer mix. It is a competitive time and cost of equipment, cost of consumables and the nature of output is very important to ponder over before finally selecting the first entry into digital.
Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi November 2019

My personal journey and connect as I walked through the show-Harveer Sahni (Author).

From the word go, Labelexpo Europe 2019 was a vibrant and happening show! As the show opened on 24th September 2019 the corridors started to fill up and a whole lot of cosmopolitan visitors were visible.The exhibitors were happy to get busy in the opening hours itself.

The event that used to be solely targeted towards labels, has gradually transformed to extend its reach into labels, flexible packaging and package printing. Exhibitors from across the globe presented their latest innovative technologies in all segments of converting in the targeted product manufacturing arenas. From prepress, printing, decoration to finishing it was all there with a huge number of live running machines. 

All exhibitors put their best foot forward making available their best technical people to answer the queries of printers and converters to help them consider or implement the adoption of  evolutionary changes coming about in the industry as showcased at the Brussels expo center or otherwise known as  Parc des Expositions center in Brussels (facing the famous Atomium) which is one of the largest and best-connected exhibition centers in Europe.

At this edition of the event the Tarsus group was also celebrating 40th year of Labelexpo, which owes its inheritance to the first show named Labelex held in May 1980 at Old Horticultural Halls in London with just 44 exhibitors consisting of label converters, label and marking machinery manufacturers and label materials suppliers.

The second show in 1981 was also held at the same venue in London but had grown with 60 exhibitors and visitors coming from 30 different countries. The following year in 1982 the show was renamed Lablex International and moved to Birmingham. By 1985, Labelex International transformed to become a biennial “Labelexpo Europe” and was being held at the downtown Rogier Center in Brussels. Exhibitors by then included Mark Andy, Nilpeter, Webtron, Ko-Pack, Edale and FSK. Working flexo and rotary letterpresses became a standard feature of Labelexpo. The number of visitors also started to grow. 1987 edition of the show at the same venue saw 80 exhibitors and 5000 visitors from 38 countries. It was in 1989 that Lablexpo finally moved to Parc des Expositions center in Brussels, its present venue, with visitors coming to attend from 48 countries, making it the premier global label show. The small show that started in London in 1980 now attracted 693 exhibitors. The success of Labelexpo Europe has led to biennial Labelexpo shows spreading also to America, China, India, Thailand and now yet another show announced to be held in Mexico in 2021.

Spread over nine halls and covering almost 40,000 sq. mtrs. of floor space, up from 37,600 sq. mtrs. in 2017, the show presented the largest offering of label and package printing technologies and live demonstrations seen to date.

This included the fast growing areas of hybrid printing, flexible packaging and automation.  37,903 visitors from 140 countries visited the four-day show – a substantial increase from 125 countries in 2017. India, China and Japan were especially well represented with large visitor delegations. Eastern Europe also showed a stronger representation compared to 2017, in particular Croatia, with a 51 percent increase, Lithuania (36 percent), Romania (25 percent), and Russia (14 percent). Brazil also saw a 14 percent increase on visitors compared to 2017.  Other attractions at the event included Label Academy Master Classes, the Flexible Packaging Arena; displaying demonstration and overview of two conventional and digital press lines producing indirect food contact flexible packaging to the latest GMP standards, Self-adhesive label materials workshop to understand the nature and construction of self-adhesive laminates; how they are made, the importance of materials and the need for different adhesives and sustainability and finally the insight café; showcasing the latest sustainable products and services designed to support a more environmentally conscious label and package printing industry. India’s SMI was the first Indian company to have conducted a masterclass at Labelexpo by their Managing Director Ajay Mehta. On the side lines of the show, judgement for the World Label Awards was held, Amit Sheth was amongst the judges on behalf of LMAI (Label Manufacturers Association of India).

L9 meeting under the aegis of Finat was held and many other networking events took place. All exhibitors appeared to be a happy lot at the outcome of the show. Many expressed that this show was the best ever!

Market research company AWA Associates had organised the Linerless conference.

The Label Industry Global Awards were created in 2004 tocelebrate innovation and excellence in labels. They are the label industry’s highest accolades. The awards night was held on the first day of the show on 24th of September 2019.

Pictures of Label Awards Night

Written and collated by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi October 2019

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.

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: 
  2. “History of the Indian Label Industry part 2A:
  3. “History of the Indian Label Industry part 2C:

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. 

In 2006, I wrote the “History of Indian Label Industry” I have now written the 2nd part. This a brief report, I plan to write 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 is being posted on this blog in a series of four articles. The below is part 2B of the series the earlier ones can be accessed in this blog by clicking the links below;

“History of the Indian Label Industry” part-1:

“History of the Indian Label Industry part 2A:

While the printed decorated and converted product label industry was evolving, in parallel, without making much noise another segment of the self-adhesive labels was growing steadily. These were the variable information labels, plain labels and intelligent labels.

This segment was initially the mainstay of smaller label printers with lower capital investments in printing equipment. As demand grew, this segment started galloping by leaps and bounds to eventually surpass the prime label or product label segment in the number of square meters of labelstock used, though turnover wise it remained much lower due to low value addition. In the self-adhesive label industry, it became “the bigger segment”.

Initiation of variable information labels in India happened in early 1980s due to indulgence by P C
Jain of Great Eastern Impex. He brought to India price marking labellers and labels from Pitney Bowes USA and later started producing labels himself.

Gun labels, as they subsequently came to be called because of the labellers which dispensed these labels look somewhat like guns, started to grow at a rapid pace. They were primarily used to dispense and affix price labels at point of purchase in retail stores and later also used for markings in garment manufacturing. Employees, associates and distributors of Great Eastern saw the market of these labels growing due to the nascent stage, the higher margins provided them enough temptation to breakaway and start their own label producing ventures. More so because the initial investment in equipment was not too high. Vinayak Sud of Liddles had also invested in this segment. With consumer protection laws becoming rigid, price marking labels were banned because prices were required to be printed on the packages or on the product labels affixed on them, this led to a slowdown in demand in this segment. By the onset of new millennium barcode usage had firmly commenced and in 2005 with establishment of GS1 standards, the market for plain labels transformed yet again to grow with introduction of barcodes. When inkjet and laser desktop printers started becoming affordable, important and necessary part of every home, office and factory, demand arose for self-adhesive labels in A4 format as well. These found usage in mailing, logistics and package identification. The variable label and plain label segment became identifiable and growing at a pace quicker than the overall industry rate.   With the advent of CDs becoming popular another segment of plain labels for CDs came around. People could create their own CDs, print labels created on home computers-printers and affix on the CDs. New Delhi based Rational Business Corporation and Mumbai headquartered Technova became major players in this segment. Without much change in their existing equipment their product offerings increased, and they could offer a range that included gun labels, barcode labels and plain labels. From just Great Eastern and Liddles at one time, others who initially involved themselves into this segment were Better labels in Chennai, Interlabels, Super Labels and Tayabi Tags in Mumbai. These were followed by Prakash labels Noida, Shipra Ghaziabad, Rachna Overseas Gurgaon, Dynamic Marking Delhi and a host of traders who not only setup label converting machines but also started to produce labelstocks themselves. After this the market grew phenomenally and hundreds of converters across the country jumped into this industry. This growth brought with it end user demands for innovative and technically advanced labels. Increased government regulations also brought in demand for statutory information with track and trace capabilities. The volumes these converters were converting became huge, with the likes of Prakash Labels alone converting close to a million square meters each month. Margins receded due to intense competition. To remain profitable most of these label producers also traded in accessories like Barcode printers, scanners, ribbons, ink rolls etc. needed for variable information label printing and dispensing at point of purchase. With modern day retail growing, demand for these labels escalated at close to 30% per annum.

Label industry segmentation changed, became more defined and closer to international estimates of market shares. The total market of self-adhesive labels (printed and plain in roll and sheet) in India between 2005 to 2019 seemed to reach close to or more than a billion square meter mark.

The share of different segments in the overall Indian Label industry in the author’s opinion and estimation is as below:Variable Information Labels

Inkjet/Laser label                                        20%

Barcode TTR labels                                    17%

Direct Thermal product Labels                   10%

Dot Matrix or contact printed labels             5%

Prime Labels                                                40%

Others                                                            8%

Most of the plain labels were being converted on Indian made narrow web label presses. Notable amongst these press manufacturers are Multitec, Jandu, Webtech, RK, etc. The variable label segment undoubtedly brought growth even to these press suppliers who improved their equipment to be able to produce printed product labels of acceptable quality. This label segment that at one time was the lower end became voluminous. In terms of volume of labelstock usage, it became the “bigger segment”.

Around 2008 the Annunciation family owned Janus International had made a pioneering move into the world of digitally printed labels in India by investing in an HP Indigo label press.

Though the initial days with this technology were extremely challenging due to high costs of equipment and consumables, yet it was agreed that the digital printing technology will persist and grow. Europe and USA were already witnessing the move from conventional to digital. Labelexpo 2009 was a perfect indicator towards a digital future for labels. 

Amar Chhajed of Webtech Labels set the example by investing in a Xeikon digital label press even though it appeared to be an investment made ahead of its time.

By 2015 I had interviewed a lot of printers and came to conclusion, that digital will still have to wait some more, yet Amar Chhajed predicted that in another 2 or 3 years, digital printing in labels will start growing. His prediction was correct as in 2018 I wrote “The journey in digital has begun”. 22 high-end digital label presses had been installed in India and number started growing. A year on, the interest in digital printing of labels is gradually becoming an indulgence that is attracting increased investment at all levels.

During this period Indian label printers grew in size and numbers, they started spreading into interiors of India. An industry that originated in Mumbai and spread in the Metro cities in the 1990s and it was in the first decade of a new millennium that a lot started

happening and industry started growing with installations of new presses in larger Tier 1 cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Kolkata a slow entrant also reported installations of Orthotecs. Later Debashish Sarkar of Classic Image Offset Kolkata lead the growth of labels in the eastern sector by installing Gallus label presses. Others who set up label manufacturing in the Eastern and north Eastern sector include Huhtamaki, Sai Com Codes, Holoflex, NAP printers, Insight Graphics, etc. Closer towards the second half of the 2000-2010 the label printers surfaced in the Tier 2 cities and the smaller Tier 3 cities, the trend carried on and labels were being produced in cities like Nagpur, Pune, Indore, Bhopal, Nasik, Rajkot, Surat, Baroda, Tirupur, Sivakasi, Madurai, Salem, Coimbatore, Manipal, Guwahati, Sikkim, Muzaffarnagar, Kanpur, Delhi NCR, Chandigarh, Baddi, Nalagarh, Paonta Sahib, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Jammu, Pathankot, etc. By end of the decade label printers were present across the length and breadth of India. At this time international press installations also started picking up in numbers. Indian agents of international press manufacturers saw the opportunity and shifted gears to sell aggressively and increase the international label press population. The most active seen were Sameer Patkar of Gallus, Gourav Roy of FIG for Mark Andy, Amit Sheth of Label Planet for Orthotec and Weigang, Pawandeep Sahni of Weldon for OMET, Manish Mehta of Reifenhauser for Bobst, Amitabh Luthra for Edale, Ranesh Bajaj of Vinsak for Lombardy, Vijay Pareek of Genius for MPS, Manish Kapoor led sales team of Nilpeter India and many others.

Though it is difficult to list all, yet some of the printers across the nation who invested in multiple high-end European and American Label presses mentioned above included Ajanta Packaging Baddi and Daman, J K Fine prints Mumbai, Zircon Dehradun, Update Prints Delhi,

Jain Transfer NOIDA, Holostik NOIDA, Pragati Pack Hyderabad, Mudrika Mumbai, Total Print Mumbai, Uflex NOIDA, Webtech Mumbai, Narain Offset Nagpur, Wintek Bangalore, Manipal Technologies Manipal, Syndicate Labels Delhi, Printmann Mumbai, Interlabels Mumbai, SelJegat Sivakasi, Sai Packaging Faridabad and Bangalore, Sai Comcodes Delhi, Renault Paper Products Palghar, Letra Graphix Ahmedabad, Kumar Labels Noida, Any Graphics Noida, Global Printing Packaging Bangalore, Uflex Noida, Barcom Mumbai and a lot of more printers who are single press owners. This period also saw established offset, package printing and flexible packaging printers also move into labels and some like Pragati Pack acquired wider presses like Omet Varyflex to also have capabilities for producing folding cartons on these flexo combination web presses. Others from the Offset printing segment who invested in narrow web label printing include Narain Offset in Nagpur, Printmann in Mumbai, Manohar Packaging Goa, Rajhans Bangalore Global Printing Packaging Bangalore, Arunodhaya in Hyderabad, Manipal Technologies Manipal, Noble printing Mumbai, Unipack New Delhi, Printrays in Jalandhar, Packtime Pune, Sonic Labels Mumbai and so many others.

“There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, the talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age” These words came from the famous Italian actress Sophia Loren.

So very true! As parents, when people witness their offsprings unfold the talents and creativity they have acquired as they grew up, there is a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Every parent strives hard in the given means to provide the best education and professional training to their children, so that they can stand up to the challenges of modern-day competitive living. In our Indian business society, the fathers or for that matter even mothers are natural mentors who guide the youth to eventually grow up to inherit the businesses that they painstakingly set up. It is a pleasure to see the children join you as trainees, gradually transform into managers, become business owners and eventually business leaders. Our label industry which originated in the seventies of the twentieth century, was witnessing a handing over of the baton to the next generation during the first two decades of new millennium. The way this generation moved out of the shadows of their mentors to evolve into professional managers who modernize, expand, systemize and lead the companies successfully to new arenas, is commendable.

Leading the group of generation next and taking over from his father Satish Pai was Gautham Pai, Managing Director of Manipal Press Limited later renamed Manipal Technologies Limited.

Manipal Press was started with a single letterpress machine in 1941 and by 2010 had spread to over 600000 square feet with over 2000 employees and state of art machines. While Manipal Press was a predominantly a security and offset printing company yet Gautham lead the company’s foray into self-adhesive labels. They took into their fold Chennai based UPSL, set up label production also in Manipal and in Nigeria. In Sivakasi, Raveendran and his brothers at Seljegat started handing over the decision making to their sons Prashant, Mukundan and Sivanesh.  Gururaj Ballarwad of Wintek at Bangalore toiled hard to achieve a position of leadership for his company. Before Wintek being acquired by ITW he had somewhat handed over decision making to his sons Gopi and Girish both of whom later set up their venture Itekpak also in Bangalore. Vijay Raghavan of Sai Security Printers entrusted his business to elder son in law Arvind in the South and to his younger daughter Priyata in the North. Pramodh at Global Printing and Mahaveer at Mahaveer labels were other youthful leaders at Bangalore, designated to lead the label businesses of their companies. At Hyderabad, Pragati Offset has been a highly successful and celebrated offset printer who has invested extensively into self-adhesive labels. The charismatic Narendra Paruchuri has transformed the label business to levels comparable to the best in the industry. The shots are now called by his sons Hemanth and Harsha.

In Mumbai The Kapoors of Jaikaushal Industries and R K Papers fame Surendra Kapur and Jatinder Kapur had mentored their generation next comprising of Himanshu, Karan and Rahul to promote and take their new venture J K Fine prints to success.  The Khannas of Ajanta Printarts had let their scion Chandan Khanna to lead their journey into labels as Ajanta Packaging. Jagdish Zaveri of Total Print left it all to his soft-spoken son Sandeep Zaveri. 

Joe Annunciation at Janus International after three Gallus presses and an HP Indigo press almost retired as his sons Denver and Janus started delivering success.  The young brother and sister team of Santosh and Sandhya Shetty surprised all in the industry when they bought the brand new Nilpeter to announce their entry into self-adhesive labels in 2008. 

Rohit Mehta son of Ajay Mehta of SMI Coated papers mentioned earlier herein, was leading the company to global standards. In Aurangabad the feisty Ramesh Deshpande found time for social and industry issues because his son Hrishikesh was holding fort. In Ahmedabad it was Meet Pandya son of Bakul Pandya of NP Label, Nirav Shah nephew of Kamlesh Shah at Letragrafix.  Heading North, the author would not like to miss out on the own handing over the charge to sons Pawandeep and Kanwardeep. Pawan has been instrumental in changing the company from being a mere labelstocks producer to a total solution provider for the label printers. Jain Transfer and Monarch Graphics at Noida experienced the change with Rishabh, Parshav and Bhrigav; sons of brothers Sudhir Jain and Pavail taking charge of their respective businesses after separating amicably. Anuj Bhargav of Kumar Printers has gone it alone and maintained the trust of his mentors from day one. Kuldip Goel of Any Graphics has always had a passion to attain the ultimate in quality in labels, they moved into a brand new 100,000 square foot factory in 2009. He proudly says that most of the decisions have originated from ideas given by his son Naveen, including the further expansion to start building an even larger factory over a 15000 square Metres plot in 2019. Others who passed the baton to their next generation include P C Jain of Great Eastern to Shakti Jain, Prem Khanna of Rachna Overseas to Karan Khanna (a young son and entrepreneur who unfortunately passed away untimely), Ashok Nerkar of Unique Photo Offset to sons Gautam and Humbeer and many more such cases. The list of these youngsters is exhaustive. These young managers were like an aromatic fresh breeze blowing over the Indian Label Industry!
To be continued…
Previous parts of the article can be accessed at;“History of the Indian Label Industry” part-1:“History of the Indian Label Industry part 2A:

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi July 2019Note: No one is authorised to reproduce, copy or reprint this article until permitted by the author in writing. 

LMAI Board of directors

The 3-day LMAI label conference from 25th-27th July 2019 was an event that was efficiently organized and delivered the promise of comradeship, entertainment and knowledge sharing. From the time of landing at Kochi to the time of departures on 28th, it was all done with clockwork precision. It was a gigantic task of hosting over 550-600 delegates from all over India and various parts of the world attending this biennial event. They were put up in 317 rooms spread across 3 hotels The Bolgatty Grand Hyatt, The Marriot and The Taj. The event was held at Grand Hyatt, perched on 26 acres of plush green land on the serene Bolgatty Island, Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty is a waterfront urban resort overlooking the backwaters of Vembanad Lake.

After a smooth check-in and registrations, the delegates reassembled for start of conference. 

It all started with traditional lighting of the lamp.

Welcome address by Kuldeep Goel President LMAI followed next.

Pankaj Bhardwaj Senior Director and General Manager Avery Dennison delivered the thought-provoking keynote address, setting the tone of the conference. Pankaj, while referring to the growing Indian market mentioned, “Diminishing divide between urban-rural population in India and an aspiring middle class means a growing demand of consumer products and also label”.

Due to a delayed flight, special guest Lisa Milburn Managing Director Labelexpo Group UK could not reach in time to deliver her address and in her absence, Pradeep Saroha country manager Labelexpo spoke to update the audience about the forthcoming Labelexpo Europe in Brussels, it being the 40th anniversary of Labelexpo additional features included will be on sustainability, flexible packaging, digital printing and a host of other technologies.

Manish Desai Conference chairman spoke on the flow of events at the conference.

Shahidi Ainain Director SIES School of packaging who was moderator for the event gave the guidelines to be followed while making presentations and advised speakers on the need for time management.

The audience dispersed to re-assemble again later for welcome dinner with Thallaavia theme.

L to R: Ajay Mehta, Amit Sheth, Dinesh Mahajan, Raveendran, Harveer Sahni
Pankaj Bhardway-Avery, Kuldip Goel, Rajesh Nema, Sandeep Zaveri,
Vivek Kapoor, Ramesh Deshpande and Amar Chhajed

The conference being held in Kerala, it was an imperative to give it a local theme on the very first evening. All the Board of Directors of LMAI and Committee members dressed up in the local Malayali traditional dress, giving the evening a local celebratory touch. After felicitation of sponsors by committee members and their walk on the ramp there was Carnatic band playing, networking and dinner.

A surprise announcement was made for bestowing upon Amit Sheth of Label Planet and Intergraphic a lifetime award for contribution to the Indian Label Industry! After an emotional thank you speech, Amit walked the ramp with wife Rupa and their two daughters.

Next day after breakfast the audience reassembled for a busy day full of presentations by eminent sponsors and of very high standards. Past President Vivek Kapoor’s welcome address was followed by presentation by Manoj KM and Parag Bagade of Avery Dennison. While Manoj spoke on futuristic labelstock offerings, Parag spoke on the sustainability endeavours by Avery including collection and recycling of liner and self-adhesive waste.

Presentations made were as follows;
Avery Dennison India, Manoj KM and Parag Bagade, “Emerging Technology & Sustainability”Pulisi Technology, Olive Liu, “Relationship between Technology and Life”SMI Coated Products: Ajay Mehta and Rohit Mehta, “Technical Aspects of Applications of Label Stock Solutions”Domino Printech India: David Ellen, “Advantages of HYBRID systems for labels and Packaging converters”Vinsak India: Ranesh Bajaj, “Future Based Solutions”Retail Solution and Technologies: T. R. Ravishankar, “Trends in Barcoding and Enterprise Mobility”WEIGANG: Spring Xu, “Features enhancing to choose a good flexo machine”Luster LightTech Group: Carrie Duan, “Mining your potential”Nilpeter India: Manish Kapoor, Indian Label Indusrty – “The question of Scale and Scalability”Insight Print Communications: Ajay Aggarwal, “Transition to Digital – Now and for Future”Loparex: Manish Jain, “Future Sustainability”Heidelberg and Gallus: Samir Patkar, “The Power of 2 – when conventional meets digital (hybrid technology)”DuPont Advanced Printing: Shyamal Desai, “End user benefits”Flint Group India: Shailesh Kumar Sharma, “New Gen Color Management”HP India Sales: Appadurai, “Future is Now”BOBST Firenze SRL: Ludovico Frati, “Connectivity”Dragon Foils – Inter Films India: Raymond Lu, “Innovation and frontier of cold foil technology”

Two interactive and knowledge imparting Panel Discussions moderated by LMAI Board member Harveer Sahni of Weldon Celloplast were held after lunch. The first one was with printers where the topic was, “Creating the future vs embracing the future”.

Panelists included Priyata Raghavan Sai Security Printers, Tejas Tanna of Printmann, Aaditya Kashyap of Marksfine, Mahendra Shah of Renault Paper, Shakti Jain of Great Eastern IDTech, Yudhviram Solanki of Sicon Packs and Anurag Mohan of Interact.

The second Panel discussion was with industry suppliers as panelists and titled, “Evolving trends in Labels manufacturing!” Eminent suppliers who were in the panel and gave thought provoking inputs included;

Bhupinder Singh of Avery Dennison, Samir Patkar of Heidelberg Gallus, Appa Durai of HP, Ranesh Bajaj of Vinsak, Pawandeep Sahni of Omet, Manish Kapoor of Nilpeter, Prasenjit Das of Dupont and Sreenivas Goud of Flint. Time being a constraint the audience wished there was more time for these engaging discussions but since the schedule for the conference was so packed that there was no room for extension

After the day’s presentations ended, there was an excellent talk sponsored by SMI and Pulisi on “Secrets of Impactful Success” by motivational Guru, Gaur Gopal Das which left a full packed hall of almost 600 people spellbound and in awe of what he delivered. 

The evening ended with yet another program sponsored by SMI and Pulisi, a musical performance by the visually impaired performers from the National Organisation of Disabled Artists. They sang old Bollywood songs so well that it left the audience full of awe and at that moment, compassion turned into joy, watching their special abilities to deliver so well to a large audience.

The label printing fraternity was up on its feet and on to the dance floor enjoying the renderings of this awesome group. Towards the end, the President LMAI on behalf of his team announced an additional sum of Rupees one lakh over and above what they had contracted for.

This was followed by many in the audience committing large sums to support the social cause of encouraging disabled artists.

On the final day after a welcome address more presentations as mentioned below followed;

Apex Asia Pacific: Carl Brock, “Nothing short of revolution in flexographic printing”Flexo Image Graphics: Ian Pollock, “Future of Printing Technology”ROGLER International Sàrl: Hannes Rogler, “Future based solution”Multitec Aids: Amit Ahuja, “Life beyond labels”RotoMetrics: Cain Harper, “It’s about more than the die”Brotech Digital Graphics: Ramon Lee, “The future of hybrid printing and finishing”GEW: Marcus Greenbrook, “Upcoming Technology”Numex Blocks: Supachai Theravithayangkura, “Innovative Flexo Plate Solutions for Narrow Web Printing”JN Arora presentation

A panel discussion jointly hosted and moderated by Ajay Mehta of SMI Coated papers and Amit Sheth of Pulisi Technology was conducted with young panelists that included Hemanth Paruchuri of Pragati Pack, Vidur Agarwal of Veekay Industries,

Krishh Chhatwal of Kwality Offset, Denver Annunvciation of Janus International and Naveen Goel of Any Graphics titled “Young printer’s perception on future of label industry”

After the presentations concluded that afternoon it was time for a “Sadhya” typical of that area. Sadhya in local language Malyalam is a feast of Hindu origin and of importance to Hindu Malayalis, consisting of a variety of traditional vegetarian dishes usually served on a banana leaf in KeralaIndia.

Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. It is a vegetarian feast prepared by both men and women, especially when needed in large quantities, for weddings and other special events. Sadhya is typically served as a traditional dish for Onam, the state festival of Kerala. It was a feast for the eyes to see, a diverse gathering Indians and foreigners relishing the local cuisine and eating with bare hands.

Past president Sandeep Zaveri updated the audience about the next program of Round tables, the interaction between sponsors and Printers.

“Round tables” program with all sponsors attending to a rotating groups of label printers was a much-appreciated part of this conference. 

It gave the sponsors opportunity to interact with existing and prospective customers. This program was highly appreciated by the sponsors.

The final evening sponsored by Avery Dennison was themed “The Great Gatsby!”. 

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. Fitzgerald—inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island’s North Shore—began planning the novel in 1923,

desiring to produce, in his words, “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” In the novel the character Gatsby throws very extravagant, excessive parties with hundreds of guests, all for the purpose to attract a lady’s attention. The evening had the settings of the 1920s.

The evening began with a vote of thanks by LMAI treasurer Dinesh Mahajan of Prakash Labels.

It was then time for SMI Managing Director Ajay Mehta’s talented daughter Nikita Mehta who trained in the USA and is all set to go professional in the Indian singing arena, to go on stage and give a melodious heartwarming singing performance.

Finally, while people enjoyed photo ops and networking over drinks.

Bollywood singer Nakash Aziz took the stage while the LMAI conference delegates hit the dance floor and enjoyed the fun until late in the night.

Credit goes to Hemal Bhagwat who heads the event management company Mercury Integrated along with her husband and a dedicated team. “Thank you Hemal for making this a memorable event, memories will linger on till it is time to plan yet another better and bigger LMAI CONFERENCE”

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

Magazines are free to reproduce by giving credit to author.

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
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;

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