Harish Gupta, Managing Director of Sai Com Codes Flexo Print Pvt. Ltd. Rai, Sonepat has registered amazing growth in self-adhesive labels industry in India. Born and brought up in the North Indian city Jammu, a city on the banks of river Tawi, the winter capital of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Three generations of his family have lived in Jammu, his father R D Gupta has been a banker most of his life. He retired as General Manager of the J&K Bank and later took responsibility as Chairman of State Cooperative Bank. Harish, his only son besides two daughters, finished his schooling in Jammu and followed it up with a B. Tech in electronics plus MBA in marketing from Pune University. He got his first job for selling metal containers as a part of campus placement, but Harish was envisioning bigger avenues, so in just two months he quit that job and came to Delhi. He wanted to set up his own venture.

A close friend who was a successful offset printer suggested narrow web label printing to him as it was a growing line, together they had discussed printing industry at length. Harish spent long hours with his friend understanding printing business and finally decided to take the plunge. His friend had impressed that flexo narrow web self -adhesive labels was the future growth area, which convinced him. In December 2005 Harish set up his maiden venture Com Codes in Badli Industrial area Delhi. He bought a Mark Andy Scout label press without any family support, no one in his family was in business so could not provide any inputs, however a lot of

encouragement and motivation came from his father. He had no knowledge about flexographic printing or the presses, but since he was decided on the project, he extensively searched the internet. Learnt about flexo printing by surfing the internet, he even purchased his first flexo press without even seeing the press but by only seeing it online and studying the catalogues.

The first one and half year after installing the label press was extremely challenging to run due to lack of knowledge of flexo printing process and experience in the field. Biggest challenge was, getting trained manpower as there were few people available in 2005-2006. Even good quality plates were not accessible locally. Most of the first year was spent studying the flexographic printing technology on his own. As he believes that to be successful, he needs to acquire the knowledge himself. He was hardly selling during the learning process as they did not know how to run the press properly. It looked like a big mess such that Harish got fed up and started contemplating how to get rid of the setup. One day in pensive thoughts at home, he reminded himself of the phrase, “Nothing is impossible” he again started training himself from internet programs. He undertook a seven-day course to learn flexo printing, he started first to learn printing and then being an electronic engineer, he then began to understand the machine operation and its nuances. Those days the machines only used hot air for drying the print, there was challenges in reproducibility and consistency  as viscosity of inks would change during printing resulting in variations in shades of print. UV inks offering instant crosslinking and drying came later. Due to the issues and hardships faced in initial years,  2007 to 2010 was a period of  very slow progress.

He still reminisces that in 2006 he ran into a big fiasco in printing. They had gotten an order for printing on PE film, the order quantity was six thousand square meters. They printed the entire quantity and when they started slitting, they realized that the ink was rubbing off, when touched by hand. It was then they realized that they needed to print with UV inks and not water-based inks. Plus, there was necessity for Corona treatment and top coatings for getting the printing right on filmic substrates. The entire quantity went waste as they could not supply the defective material and the order got cancelled. This was difficult learning. They understood at that time that with the present equipment they could only print paper labels, so started advising customers who wanted filmic labels to opt for laminated paper labels. By 2009 they did get support from an ink supplier to print PE labels with water-based inks, but they needed to cure the labels for longer periods, but then delays in supplies and lack of perfection in manufacturing process is not the right situation for rapid growth. This was at a time when the industry was evolving and moving towards “just in time” deliveries with reduced inventories. By 2010 Harish had become sufficiently adept in flexo printing and it was time to move ahead and invest in equipment the way he understood the technology. Presently they did not have equipment to support their foray into filmic and other specialized labels.

The first one and half year after installing the label press was extremely challenging to run due to lack of knowledge of flexo printing process and experience in the field. Biggest challenge was, getting trained manpower as there were few people available in 2005-2006. Even good quality plates were not accessible locally. Most of the first year was spent studying the flexographic printing technology on his own. As he believes that to be successful, he needs to acquire the knowledge himself. He was hardly selling during the learning process as they did not know how to run the press properly. It looked like a big mess such that Harish got fed up and started contemplating how to get rid of the setup. One day in pensive thoughts at home, he reminded himself of the phrase, “Nothing is impossible” he again started training himself from internet programs. He undertook a seven-day course to learn flexo printing, he started first to learn printing and then being an electronic engineer, he then began to understand the machine operation and its nuances. Those days the machines only used hot air for drying the print, there was challenges in reproducibility and consistency  as viscosity of inks would change during printing resulting in variations in shades of print. UV inks offering instant crosslinking and drying came later. Due to the issues and hardships faced in initial years,  2007 to 2010 was a period of  very slow progress.

He still reminisces that in 2006 he ran into a big fiasco in printing. They had gotten an order for printing on PE film, the order quantity was six thousand square meters. They printed the entire quantity and when they started slitting, they realized that the ink was rubbing off, when touched by hand. It was then they realized that they needed to print with UV inks and not water-based inks. Plus, there was necessity for Corona treatment and top coatings for getting the printing right on filmic substrates. The entire quantity went waste as they could not supply the defective material and the order got cancelled. This was difficult learning. They understood at that time that with the present equipment they could only print paper labels, so started advising customers who wanted filmic labels to opt for laminated paper labels. By 2009 they did get support from an ink supplier to print PE labels with water-based inks, but they needed to cure the labels for longer periods, but then delays in supplies and lack of perfection in manufacturing process is not the right situation for rapid growth. This was at a time when the industry was evolving and moving towards “just in time” deliveries with reduced inventories. By 2010 Harish had become sufficiently adept in flexo printing and it was time to move ahead and invest in equipment the way he understood the technology. Presently they did not have equipment to support their foray into filmic and other specialized labels.

In 2011 Harish bought his first Nilpeter eight colour, all UV label press. Thereafter the first big job order  came to them from Patanjali Ayurved Limited, whom they had started supplying in small quantities from 2006. Being an ardent follower of Sai Baba, at this time he changed the company’s name from Com Codes to Sai Com Codes Flexo Print Pvt Ltd. This was their take off point and there was no looking back, whereafter he started buying a new press each year.

Initially they started by focusing themselves to the agrochemicals industry and by the end of that year they became the most prominent label manufacturer in that segment with Harish having personally indulged and motivated these customers to switch over to self-adhesive labels from wet glue labels. As business grew and their customers were setting up units in various locations, they proposed for Sai Com Codes to also set up units at these locations near their new manufacturing facilities. This was a pressing need considering better coordination, better inventory control and being at the customers’ doorstep for faster response time giving better service, ensuring  business continuity and growth.

Sai Com Codes is now a multilocation group with two units in Rai, Sonepat, one in Guwahati and one in Vapi. They are already planning one flexo unit in South India so that they are present in all geographical zones of the country. They operate out of around 100,000 square feet of total shopfloor area with three hundred strong workforce, eight flexo presses out of which seven are Nilpeters, one P7 and two digital presses. Four flexo presses are installed at Rai in the North, three in Guwahati in the East and one in Vapi in the west, all units are employing flexographic printing technology.

The second unit Digistik in Rai, Sonepat is a separate Sai Com Code group company in another premises. Digistik is Harish’s move to bring in digital printing of labels in his range of offerings. When he observed the growth of e-commerce and the increasing trend of retail business going online, there was an evident need felt for short runs with variable and personalized printing. He also envisioned that the new literate generation is giving a fillip to demand by establishing startups, these startups need short runs of labels and packaging to manage their inventories and not have finance locked up in stagnant stocks. He decided to invest in top-of-the-line digital printing, primarily with startups in mind. The best and natural brand recall convinced him that he had to start with HP Indigo. There is no way he could have supported the need of these startups with only his analogue printing setup. He studied the digital label printing technology and was convinced that for future growth and to cater to the short run demand, digital printing capabilities was an imperative. An HP Indigo press was acquired in 2020 and installed at Digistik. They added another Konica Minolta digital press and plan to further enhance their digital printing capabilities by investing in another bigger HP Indigo next year.

Harish is of opinion that continuous expansion is necessary for any vibrant organization, stagnation is counter-productive and that flexo and digital will coexist to aid rapid growth in labels and packaging. Therefore, he has plans to make further investments in both analogue or flexo as well as in Digital capabilities. As for analogue he is looking at using hybrid or combination presses to achieve complex results for demanding brand owners rather than simple flexo jobs.

Change is the only constant and bringing in newer technology in each manufacturing process brings growth and aids innovation with creativity. All these new and diverse technologies will coexist and be complementary to each other in the way ahead. Future plans include continued expansion of capacity to make growth an eventuality. “We will treat  the analogue and digital as separate units and soon we will try and replicate the multi locations model separately for digital as well” says Harish. He further adds, “Very soon another digital unit will be announced. In 5years we will strive to at least double our sales”. As for moving to become a multinational manufacturer,  he feels India is a vast country with a big population having enormous potential. “Let us first achieve the maximum here, we consider that option, at another opportune time” he asserts. They wish to remain focused and specialize in labels, which itself is a big segment that has grown towards different tangents like shrink sleeves, wraparound, IML and a lot more. They are working on various projects, but personalization and innovation remain a preference indicating more indulgence in Digital label and package manufacturing.

Talking about the impact of the pandemic, Harish mentions that during Covid they also suffered like all, in terms of materials shortage, workforce migration, lockdowns, management challenges, movement of goods, etc. However, investment in Digital capabilities  came to their rescue as they could produce without the need for flexo inks, plates and many operators. It will take some time for the bulk of label industry to return to regular functioning like in pre-covid times. That is why it is now felt that a future without digital capabilities will be a shortcoming. On the onset of covid, inventories were already there but replenishments were lacking or missing. Those days many units kept on working so the impact was there but still manageable, once the impact had somewhat subsided and businesses started opening, by April or May 2021, label industry faced shortages, increased prices, imports became difficult due to container shortages, all this has put extreme pressures on the label manufacturers in the current fiscal year. As per Harish this situation will prevail until December 2021 or until all covid related restrictions are lifted and people are back to jobs, free to visit markets, schools and colleges are opened and travel, both domestic and international, becomes unrestricted. This is so because all industries are somehow interconnected.

Harish’s wife Pooja is a home maker they have a son and a daughter. His daughter Jayini is studying to be a doctor and presently pursuing MBBS 3rd year. Their 13 years old son Tejas is still in school and a sports enthusiast.

Speaking about sustainability Harish agrees that it is a major concern for which they must adopt a system to manage waste. They are considering diverse options that would aid recycling. Linerless should come as it is a necessity which will decrease the tonnage going to landfills, it must be convenient and user friendly. Once they are convinced on the production and usability of linerless labels, they would definitely consider investing in the technology, as they are concerned about environment being safe for generations that follow.

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi September2021

On any given day, 96-year-old S.N. Dutta, Satya Narayan Dutta, the patriarch of Dutta family of Dutta Press New Delhi, can be seen strolling on the shop floors of their printing or machine building units, interacting with workers, and imparting instructions. The man is active and an institution himself in printing. Dutta was born on 15th of August 1926, long years before the partition of India, in a family that hailed from Lahore, then a part of British ruled united India. His father was the head of accounts for Indian railways. Sometime in the 1940s as a young man, he developed an interest in printing so went to a family acquaintance, Kedar Nath Mehta, a master printer in Amritsar for a one-year training in the art of printing. They used to print on Chandler & Price platen presses and supply labels to Punjab based distilleries in Hamira and Khasa. Chandler & Price was founded in 1881 in Cleveland, Ohio and manufactured a series of hand-fed platen jobbing presses, as well as an automatic feeder for these presses.

 

Chandker and Price Machine
Love marriages were rare in those days before the partition of India, however S.N. Dutta during his training days at Kedar Nath Mehta’s facility, developed a liking for Mehta’s daughter and eventually married her. Post partition the Dutta’s moved to their Haveli, a traditional townhouse mansion in Darya Ganj Delhi. The Haveli was a heritage building that had earlier belonged to one Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, one of the Navratans of Mughal King Akbar. It was allotted to Duttas on migration from Lahore to Delhi after partition for a sum of Rupees 4000 only. In 1951 S.N. Dutta started his maiden startup venture “Dutta Press” with a Chandler and Price machine on the ground floor of their Haveli. He bought the printing press for Rupees 1200.00 and did not have the money to put an electric motor on it. So, initially the machine was foot operated with a peddle. As a memento and a reminder of their past, the machine still stands tall on a pedestal in the lobby of their Okhla factory. Thereafter from 1951-1965 Dutta was on the move continuously, he also set up his own typesetting and composing section, then added two more machines, following it up with buying a new Heidelberg GT Platen press for just four thousand Rupees, then in the mid 1970’s a Mercedes Super Cylinder Press from Printer’s House in Faridabad, Nibolo and some more letterpress cylinder machines. Customer base acquired during this period included those from segments like beer, whiskey and lubricants with main customer being Mohan Meakin. S N Dutta has two sons Rakesh and Abhay, as business had grown and the boys were now grown up, it was time to move to the next level of business. In 1980 they moved to a new factory in Okhla and imported their first Heidelberg KORD offset press and Heidelberg TP Foil stamping machine from Germany. Those were tough times of needing import license for all imports, yet firm resolve made them to move on.

 

 

Heidelberg Weisloch Factory
Abhay Datta the younger son of S.N. Dutta, born on 16th August 1961, is an Alumnus of St. Xaviers School Delhi. He was never a serious student but had other technical interests. Barely 16 years old and in school, he started experimenting with making music systems. On finishing school, he along with his friend Joseph George set up their maiden startup venture Systm India to make and sell music systems. Abhay proudly mentions that in a couple of years his company’s turnover was higher than that of Dutta Press. Young boys in business families are prompted to spend time in family production units and Abhay was no exception and whatever exposure he got was by way of his father mentoring him to have a penchant for perfection and zero tolerance in whatever he did. One fine day his father came to him and complained, “you make so much noise testing your music systems, speakers etc., neighbours are irritated . It is not a respectable business. He appealed to Abhay that they needed help in the printing business and that he should wind up this music equipment business and join him in the printing business. Obedient as he was with immense respect for his father, Abhay could not refuse his father’s request. Abhay’s elder brother Rakesh was better in finance and other marketing activities. In just a matter of minutes Abhay decided to hand over the music business to his friend Joseph and moved on to the printing business at Dutta Press. He was sent to Heidelberg training center in Germany for training in print technologies where he spent time in the Wiesloch factory understanding mechanics and engineering of offset presses. It was an eye-opening experience for him. In India we did not have CNC machines, no auto cad computers, all the planning was done manually on huge drafting boards. It was there in Germany that he gathered an eye for perfection, low tolerances, fine finishing, good appearance and machine safety norms. This was as his father had mentored him to be a zero-tolerance person.

 

 

UV Coating Machine
Once back in the Okhla factory Abhay had to begin at the lowest rung of the ladder. He was required to clean up the machines, sweep the floor, take care of staff, serve them tea and support them in small errands besides operating all the machines personally. He learnt to run all the machines like an operator, make negatives/positives and offset plates and foil stamping blocks himself. Those were days when there were no PS plates, so he learnt all the chemistries hands on. Graining offset plates, putting sand, marbles etc. in graining machines, he did all that himself. He was a total worker like any laborer in the factory doing all kinds of jobs that included printing varnishing cutting packing and dispatch. The experience has rubbed on so well on him that even today on the shop floor in hot and humid conditions with perspiration trickling down his torso he enjoys remaining amongst his workforces. He is a hardcore technical and shopfloor production-oriented person while brother Rakesh manages the white-collar part of management. With Abhay’s penchant for perfection, he proudly mentions that we made quality, such that print buyers would come looking for them. Since they were supplying to breweries and distilleries, they came across a challenge; solvent base varnishes on labels scuffed and needed to be replaced with Water based varnishes, but these would not work on existing hand fed varnishing machines produced locally due to slow drying. Abhay was given a task by his father to make a machine that could coat aqueous varnishes at high speeds. He developed an automatic machine with the help of Sanjay Gupta of Ronald Machinery and added an anilox roll with a motor and hot air dryer to do the varnish. It worked and that was when his tryst with machine building commenced. Later he started manufacturing fully automated high-speed machines to do aqueous and UV coating with anilox rollers and chamber doctor blade systems.

 

 

Abhay Datta on Shop Floor
 

 

After that there was no looking back in machine developments. Abhay was young, success encouraged him to research, experiment and develop more from a shed in the driveway of their Okhla factory, it has been a long journey with lot of hurdles. He then started converting hot stamping machine for own use and sales. Since in earlier days they had bought a Heidelberg hot stamping machine, from experience gained, Abhay could convert die cutting machines and the Chandler and Price machines into hot stamping machines. When stamping foil suppliers became aware of his capabilities to make hot stamping machines, he became an accredited suppliers to many companies who indulged in hot stamping. In 1992 he successfully started making UV coaters and till 2016 they have supplied over 250 offline UV coating machines in India and Abroad.

 

 

During his 1995 visit to Drupa, he was fascinated by an Aquaflex label press printing Smirnoff Vodka labels. Unlike the sheet fed converting, the press was unwinding, printing, embellishing, laminating, die-cutting and delivering finished labels at the end of line in a single pass. Abhay was convinced that this is the future. Those days there was no WhatsApp where he could take videos and upload to inform his family about the equipment. Wanting his father and brother to also look at the machine before deciding, he made a trunk call, described the machine and requested them to come and see. Three days later both his father and brother flew into Germany, they saw and fell in love with the machine. They became friends with the founder of Aquaflex, signed the deal to buy a press and also became the sole selling agents in India. They opted for an eight colour press with rotary hot foil stamping. It was a bold decision as rotary tooling for hot foiling was very expensive, cold foil was not there that time and most of their production for liquor labels needed foiling. In their factory they already had 20 Heidelberg hot foil machines running, they used to buy used Heidelberg platen machines and convert them into hot foil stamping machines by retrofitting, all done by Abhay himself. The Aquaflex ordered by them was displayed at Labelexpo Singapore in 1996 and then shipped to India for Dutta Press to start printing labels on a narrow web press. Till the end of the millennium 1999 they were only printing wet glue labels on this machine. Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) labels production commenced only in the new millennium in 2000, they kept adding Aquaflex presses in regularity.

 

 

Ultraflex Label Press
Between 1996 and 2003 as agents, they sold nine machines to customers like PPL, ITC, Modi Federal, Sai Packaging and others. They added four more press at Dutta Press. In 2001 Aqua flex got sold to Chromos USA . At this time when he was under pressure to offer a press to his customers, he met a software engineer who suggested the name of Shanti Pal Ahuja of Multitec and once the two met, they instantly decided to get together to build label presses. Abhay invited Ahuja to his facility and have a look at the Aquaflex label presses and to do reverse engineering of the press. A complete unit was removed from the Aquaflex and sent to Multitec facility in Faridabad. It was completely meticulously redrawn and the first Ultraflex machine was developed and sold to Nishi Labels in Ahmedabad and the second machine was exhibited at Nehru Centre in the first “India Labels show” which later became Labelexpo India. That machine got sold on the very first day of the show to Khosro Moradi, of Farah Banfash Manufacturing Company, Iran. Few years down, having sold over a dozen presses, their partnership fell apart and Multitec renamed their press as Ecoflex and Abhay Datta retained the name Ultraflex that he would build himself one day. Until such time for their own label manufacturing they invested in Bobst label presses

 

 

CNC Machines at UV Graphics
Passionate about making machinery himself, in 2017 after they bought their 3rd Bobst M5 press, Abhay visited Florence and was inspired to build his own flexo press. On return from Florence in September 2017, he dug deep into the Flexo Machines and studied other equipment that would enable him to build a narrow web label press. Keeping cost down and not compromising in automation he started planning a machine with zero waste and instant make ready. He launched his first Ultra flex made in his company UV Graphics. 

 

 

 

 

Ultraflex Plate Mounter
He insists that for a perfect and quick make ready, “a communication between the plate mounter and the machine is imperative.” Abhay also started making plate mounters. He asserts that with plates mounted on his plate mounters, the first meter of print which rolls out will be 99% in true register. This is his creativity. His machines and plate mounters are designed as perfectly complementary and compatible equipment  so as to make life easy for the machine operator. He claims that in 3-4 minutes you can perfectly mount an eight colour job on his plate mounter and have the machine running in full register within 3-5 meters. That says Abhay is our USP. Ultraflex machines offered by him are of international quality, fully servo driven with auto register control, it is value for money and affordable. Ever since, Abhay has already installed thirty-eight presses in India and abroad with the latest ten color machine being shipped to a prestigious customer in USA. This will be his first installation in North America and fifth machine being sold overseas.

 

 

 

Abhay has two sons Anuj and Akshay and a daughter Aallia. Both sons run the PSA labels division of Dutta Press while brother Rakesh manages the wet glue label business from Okhla. All family members are in business together as a joint family. UV Graphics and Dutta Press operate out of 66000 square feet factory in Noida and an 18000 square feet facility in Okhla with seven flexo presses in Okhla and six flexo presses in Noida. With a total of 280 employees, Abhay aspires that if God and Kismet helps UV Graphic will be a leading global supplier of diverse label equipment in 5 years. He proudly says, “we produce from nail to the hammer. In UV graphics we produce our own UV Systems, Plate mounters, Core cutting machines, Label presses, Slitter Rewinders, Semi Rotary Digital Finishing, Print Cylinders, Magnet Cylinder, Sheeting Cylinders, Hot Foiling Stamping Equipment, Screen Printing and almost everything that is needed for flexographic label printing and converting. We also make wide format Roll to Roll Hot Foil Stamping Machines for the tobacco industry.

 

The way Abhay Dutta is moving it will not be long before he achieves what he aspires.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. New Delhi August 2021

 
 

 SMI to Carry Durable Labeling Products from FLEXcon

 


 


Mumbai headquartered and with factories at Ambernath Maharashtra and UAE, SMI Coated Products Pvt. Ltd., a family managed company headed by Ajay Mehta as Managing Director, India’s largest amongst the indigenous labelstock manufacturers has announced its strategic partnership with another family managed Massachusetts USA  headquartered FLEXcon Company, Inc., an innovator in adhesive coating and laminating, to provide durable label stocks across India. Both companies are certified under ISO: 9001

 

 

By partnering with FLEXcon, SMI will offer polyester and vinyl label stocks with high-performance adhesives ideal for harsh environment labeling. The company will initially offer eight of FLEXcon’s UL-recognized base films along with one robust overlaminate. The products will complement SMI’s existing range of solutions across automotive, outdoor power equipment, power tool, appliance, and electronics markets. These will include Flexcon’s established UL certified products; THERMLfilm® NEXgen™ and COMPUcal® EXCEL™ as well as FLEXcon’s recently launched FLEXcon® NEXgen™ line. Most products also comply REACH and RoHS. Products will be stocked in either 27” or 30” masters with custom finishing available from SMI.

 

 

 

 
 
 
“FLEXcon has the capabilities to produce label materials that will enable SMI to effectively penetrate the durables market in their region,” says John Forster, VP International Sales & Corporate Development, FLEXcon. “This synergistic relationship will allow SMI and FLEXcon to jointly provide exceptional products into the Indian market without the challenges of time differential or cultural barrier.”
 

 

 

 

 

“The addition of durable labeling products from FLEXcon to our offering is in line with SMI’s resolve to provide Consistently Relevant Solutions to our customers in an ever-broadening durable labels market,” says Ajay Mehta, Founder & Managing Director, SMI. “As solutions partners working collaboratively, our two companies can ensure that printer/converters in our region have convenient access to the highest-performing materials on the market today.”

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the companies www.smicoatedproducts.com and www.FLEXcon.com

Rohit Mehta

Corporate Director, SMI Coated Products Pvt Ltd

rohit@smicoatedproducts.com, +91-9833755909

 

Amanda Monette 

Marketing Manager, FLEXcon 

amonette@flexcon.com  +1-508-885-8459 

Marks Emballage factory at Baddi

 

In May 2018, the Indian label fraternity was amazed to read the news of an upcoming relatively young label company Marks Emballage announcing the confirmation to buy two Gallus Labelmaster presses in one go. This one step would take this nondescript label manufacturing company into the big league. The author has been in the Indian label industry for over four decades. As far as memory recollects, there have been instances when two presses have been ordered by printers to be delivered one after the other with a gap of time, but the unique instance of two presses to be delivered and installed in just one go is a first one such occurrence so far, this is history for the Indian label industry! By rough estimates, a 4 billion Dollar labels industry (not label stock but finished labels) growing at an average of 10-15% per annum surely needs such investments regularly to meet the 400-500 million Dollar growth in demands of labels. Leading Mark Emballage, Aadtiya Kashyap, a former international banker, is the courageous one who made his foray into the Indian label industry and announced his first significant expansion investment with a bang.

 

 

Aaditya and Khushboo

Aaditya was born and brought up in Mumbai, an Alumnus of St. Xavier’s School Mumbai (He prefers to call the city Bombay as he has called it all his life). Later he finished his graduation from the prestigious Ruia College, Mumbai, in Mathematics. He had considered a career in computers and did a couple of courses in that, but he graduated in the subject since he was good in mathematics. While in Ruia college, he fell in love with Khushboo Singh, who was pursuing BA in the same college. After a courtship lasting almost five years, they decided to tie the knot and got married in 2008. After graduation, Aaditya got his first job in the international bank J P Morgan, where he worked for the next seven years. This job was a good learning experience in how systems in business work and how different departments work. He was the only one in the organization at that time who got four promotions in seven years. Those were many learning years that added to his experience. Looking back, he is happy that he worked there, as the experience has been helping him when in business. 

 

 

 

Aaditya’s wife Khushboo belongs to a successful business family involved in pharmaceuticals, so it was a matter of time that his In-Laws prompted him to consider entrepreneurial options. The suggestions ranged from indulging in pharmaceutical products to items connected to pharma. Khushboo’s grandfather Samprada Singh took it upon himself to mentor Aaditya. Samprada Singh, the founder of Alkem Laboratories, had a significant influence on Aaditya. He was a true visionary and an impactful leader whose life was full of beautiful lessons of courage, resolve, hard work and indomitable willpower. His journey from a tiny village in Bihar to establishing India’s largest pharma company is just an extraordinary one. His life story portrays the old English adage, “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.”

 

 

 

Initially, Aaditya spent time in Alkem Laboratories to learn various aspects of the pharma business. First, he spent time with the purchasing team before moving on to “Doctor’s gifting”, a concept that was a contact-building and promotional cum marketing exercise undertaken by pharma companies to stay connected with doctors. A year down the line, he moved to Galpha laboratories owned by his Father-in-law N K Singh taking care of the same portfolio of doctor gifting until a government notification limited the scope of “doctor giftings”. At this time, he faced another change of job profile or considered another line. In his time spent with the purchasing team at Alkem & Galpha, he had gained much knowledge about packaging and its nuances. Khushboo, being born into the pharma business family, was a natural fit to take up professional responsibilities. As business was in her blood, she joined her father’s company, GALPHA which she had joined immediately after college in 2004-2005, primarily taking care of production planning, purchase of packaging and raw materials. The circumstances, as they evolved, led Aaditya to consider making a foray into packaging.

 

 

Meanwhile, Aaditya and Khushboo decided to move to Baddi to set up a pharma unit extension of GALPHA, manufacturing formulations. Aaditya’s experience as a banker kept bringing to him the realization that if two people are doing the same thing, then the output is restricted. He started looking at some other venture. His brother-in-law Dr J P N SINGH (Khushboo’s sister’s husband), who also is looked upon as a mentor by Aaditya, was making pet bottles, suggested label manufacturing and that, eventually led him to decide on labels. JPN had prompted, “all the bottles I make will have labels made by you on them”. His father-in-law NK Singh and grandfather Samprada Singh all agreed that labels were good business. So, in 2011 the decision was taken to set up a label manufacturing unit. The initial two and half years were spent trading in labels, outsourcing them from different vendors and supplying to group companies. During this period, he spent much time with the printers at their factories, getting the right kind of labels and in the process learnt the basics of label manufacturing from prepress to plate making and finally converting. He is indebted to Datta Ram Fulsundar of Aarya Printpack – Mumbai, with whom he had confided about setting up his unit, yet the printer agreed to teach and train him all about manufacturing labels.

 

Since Aaditya had made up his mind to invest in a label press and print labels himself, JPN mentoring him on, suggested; that to test the heat, one should check with just a finger touch before putting your hand in, meaning start the operation at a tiny stage and go thereon. In November 2013, Aaditya, with his wife Khushboo as a partner, launched their maiden startup venture, Marks Fine Printers in Baddi Himachal Pradesh, in a 2000 square feet industrial shed with just one Chinese stack type flexo label press. While Khushboo continued to look after GALPHA Laboratories Baddi, Aaditya got full time into setting up the label unit. The first order, even though it came from a family-owned company GALPHA laboratories, the experience was, as Aaditya says, “Exhilarating! It was like scoring a maiden cricket century.” For the next two years, they catered to family-owned pharma companies. The biggest challenge was getting the suitable operators and people to run the press but then time elapsed, which has taught him to manage that. 2 years after initiation, Aaditya seemed to have tested the heat and confidence, invested in a Bobst label press. Once the operations were well set, it was time to get customers beyond the family companies. The natural step was to rope in companies that were contract manufacturers to the group. Subsequently, they ventured out to service customers outside the family reach, initially it was all pharma as they had much experience in the segment, but later, they got into all segments like Food, FMCG, Liquor and others. He remains indebted to the four mentors that including his father. It is their advice that made this possible. Aaditya always wanted to be like his father, who taught him; “The name that you earn, always has more value than the money earned”.  Walking on his father’s footsteps, Aaditya has ensured a good name for himself along with setting up a successful business. Once established, it was time to get experienced professionals in and systemize the whole operations. They looked around and slowly got their team together.

 

 

 

C K, Aaditya with Ferdi and Sameer of Gallus 

In packaging requirements for pharmaceuticals, the size of labels is relatively small, but when Aaditya started to look at other segments, the label size was much bigger, which meant that with the same inputs and infrastructure, the costing would be different, turnover would grow bigger. This was an exciting realization, and the vision to expand started getting more precise. Initially, Aaditya had planned to add a press every three years, but this new realization prompted him to grow exponentially. He established the new company Marks Emballage Pvt. Ltd. in 2018 to invest in two Gallus label presses in one go. Hoping to make a substantial impact in the Indian label industry with their big move, however, as luck would have it, they started printing on these two presses in April 2020 when the pandemic hit across. Covid has been a difficult time for Marks Emballage. The first few days were a mixture of too many different feelings inside, from the fear of the unknown, concern for employee’s safety, responsibilities to serve the customers. Despite the uncertainties, they gathered themselves and planned to navigate through the difficult time. This was possible only with the total dedication of their team, who put up great courage and kept the business going and growing. They realize that going into the future, leaner companies and more automation will be the way forward. Cloud technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality combined will reduce human physical contact and dependence. This will be the biggest shift for all businesses and Marks is no exception. This goes on to validate their investment in the right equipment, processes, certifications, and team.

 

 

 
Besides having residence in Mumbai, Aaditya and Khushboo now stay in Chandigarh with their 8-year-old daughter Kiara. While they complement each other in work yet look after different businesses. Marks Emballage Pvt. Ltd. is a fast-growing company headquartered at Chandigarh and operates out of factories at two locations in Baddi. The plant is spread over 30,000 square feet and equipped with some of the finest equipment like print kits from Gallus, Bobst, AVT, Prati , Pantec and Xrite. A team of 60 people is creating a work culture of excellence. Talking of new ideas and projects and the vision for the next five years, Aaditya says, “We have too many ideas to implement. I am working on many exciting new projects in technology, consumer products, packaging, and pharma. We aspire to roll out at least one new project every year for the next five years. This is the time for us to spread our wings before getting into a consolidation mode in 5 years. 
 
CK Gadhia of Marks giving student of year awards
 
 
 
The journey has just begun”. Marks Emballage has, as a part of its CSR initiative, invested in sponsoring the annual “Printweek Student of the year” award. They are very keen to backup educational initiatives for encouraging the new generation to take up print as a career. 

 

 


As he plans his way forward in the label and packaging field, Aaditya makes a fervent appeal to peers, “I would like to appeal to all the fellow label printers that we should all work with better collaboration and work with each other rather than work against each other. Together we can have great strength to backup print education to ease our recruitment needs, have complimentary print technologies to avoid idle capacities, and have a better say in purchase or sales negotiations. The advantages are just many. It is time to team up and grow the industry together. We need to increase the overall pie. While we are all doing the basics of waste management today, the need of the hour is to attack the problem from the very base. We are studying and closely following linerless labels and believe that they can be a game-changer for our industry. As per industry reports, only 5% of the laminates and self-adhesive label stock is reused or recycled. This area demands our closest attention. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marks Emballage is a company to watch, as an ambitious team aspires to grow 10-fold by the end next five years. With a young, dynamic leader like Aaditya Kashyap at the helm, hoping the pandemic’s after-effects soon end, this company will be moving fast to achieve targets and move tangentially, investing in technologies in synergy.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi July 2021

 

Never in our lifetime, the world has witnessed such a calamity as that caused by the pandemic, due to the lethal corona virus. Its reach has been unlimited and spread across almost all geographical regions of earth causing severe devastation, such that millions of people have got impacted, many have succumbed to the disease. Governments in most countries had no alternative but to declare lockdowns to stem the progress of this deadly virus and save precious lives of their citizens. Businesses came to a standstill globally, the economies saw a downturn, jobs were lost, and negative sentiments prevailed creating need for governments to announce financial relief packages to support their populations for survival, their livelihood or preventing closure of businesses. The increasing rate of infections and fatalities triggered a frantic search for vaccines. Such was the emergent need that governments had to forego set procedures of testing for years, before giving permission for any vaccine to be injected to people all over the world. Health infrastructure in most developing and even in developed countries came under extreme stress. Such was the relentless escalation of the rate of those infected that health workers were either falling short or were also getting affected, many losing their life in line of duty. At this time, many ordinary people stood up, despite the challenges, to serve the cause and call of humanity to rescue and help those suffering and in dire need. Not caring for their own lives, they put in their time, money and efforts to save those who were helpless and needed support. Whether it was arranging oxygen, medicines, hospital beds or providing transport and help for putting to rest with respect, those who unfortunately lost their battle and passed away fighting the infection. Even relatives at these times are hesitant or advised to stay away from those infected, living or dead. These brave-hearts, who ventured out from the safe confines of their home to come out and serve mankind at this traumatic time in whatever way they could, came to be called “Covid warriors”. Humanity will and should, remain indebted to these dedicated persons some of whom also lost their life in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

In a unique way FMCG major Reckitt Benckiser or hereinafter referred to as RB,  decided to honour these Covid Warriors, who not only contributed to the cause but also set examples for others to follow. RB’s marketing team came up with this idea to honour such people who endeavored to indulge in service despite the risks of getting infected themselves. They also thought of taking forward the government’s call that came through prime minister Modi, “Banega swachh India” means India will become clean and this later transformed to yet another call. “Banega Swasth India” means India will become healthy. The idea was adopted, and Dettol was the ideal product through which promotion could be carried out as it was synonymous with cleanliness, health consciousness and sanitisation. The packaging development team at RB took up the project and formulated a scheme to identify the covid warriors and put their pictures on the Dettol bottle labels with their story as to how they contributed to fighting the pandemic. The next challenge was to identify the persons to be covered, an exercise was done with help of team, inputs from social media and media agencies connected to RB to identify the people that would be covered. In April and May 2020 lot of such stories were appearing in news and social media so 100 persons were identified, and their stories were selected to appear on the Dettol bottle labels.

 

 

 

Additionally, they created another website, “Dettol Salutes”, whereby anyone who wants to create a label with his own picture, one can log on to the site and create a mockup digitally with a story to generate a virtual image of a label on a Dettol bottle and keep the digital copy as  a momento. Prebuilt appreciation stories are uploaded on the website to be used. This option is only for creating a digital image but for the 100 covid warrior stories it was decided to print the labels, affix them on the bottles and market through their distribution channels. It is heartening to note that Dettol Salutes has seen 200,000 people have already uploaded their pictures creating their images on a Dettol label affixed on a bottle and the number is growing.

 

 

 

 

Being RB’s way to celebrating the covid warriors, they wanted a maximum number of variants to be available on each shelf, it was decided to have 1-100 variants one after the other consecutively and then repeated so that at the packaging line each shipper carton would have different stories on every pack. A small retail outlet who buys one carton only will have all bottles different from each other. The need for such variables to be printed made it very clear that this was ideal case for creativity that could be achieved on digital printing presses. So, from within their approved suppliers they selected Skanem and Huhtamaki to do the job who were suitably equipped and could meet RB’s need to do this quickly. Since the vendors wished to print CMYK only it was a challenge to get as close to the pantone shade in which Dettol brand is printed. By mutual cooperation between RB and the vendors, this was achieved to almost similar existing shades done on flexo for regular Dettol labels. RB even removed their own logo on the bottles to make space for the pictures and stories of Covid warriors The total run for this campaign from the first week of June 2021 for just over a month until the second week of July was planned at 4 million (40 Lakh) packs to be put into the market.

 

 

 

 

 

Huhtamaki PPL Ltd. India (HPPL) part of Huhtamäki Oyj, Finland is one of  India’s leading manufacturer of primary consumer packaging and labelling materials. They were one of the two approved vendors of RB that were selected to produce labels for this special campaign to celebrate Covid warriors. According to Huhtamaki, “Reckitt and Huhtamaki India partnered to deliver some warranted consumer attention to our pandemic heroes. We printed over 100 uniquely inspiring stories on PS labels to pay tribute to the unsung ones! This is a special project for us since it also gave our internal teams a reason to celebrate record-breaking, speed-to-market performance, despite time-constraints and other complexities. It reinforced the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Our sense of customer-centricity and cross-team collaboration was the key!” They further added, “Our HP Indigo 20000 wide-web digital press has afforded unique possibilities of bringing brands further alive through packaging. With strong partner collaborations, we have helped in elevating consumption experiences with striking pack designs using Variable Data Printing for mass customizations.”

 

 

 

Skanem Interlabels, a part of Norway headquartered Skanem AS was the other approved vendor of RB who were roped in to execute this special campaign of Dettol customized labels. According to Nalin Gupta regional Sales Head-North for Skanem, “We did this project in record time! We are proud of having done this campaign”. The deliberations for this campaign started when Reckitt approached Skanem in second week of May 2021 and discussed the possibility of creating 100 variably printed unique labels. Having an HP Indigo press the capability was there, and thus the preparations started in the right earnest. They were given an order for 2 million labels; the other 2 million labels order was given to Huhtamaki.  It was a gigantic task as there were 100 artworks, mutual cooperation was an imperative to create the labels in speed. RB wanted the right pantone shade of Dettol and the job had to be done in speed so Skanem requested RB to give them the artworks also in CMYK because to match the green Dettol shade as close as possible to the required shade it is necessary to have the prepress right. The approvals were done online without wasting any time as the timeline for delivery was a mere 3-4 weeks. By end of May the first order was supplied to RB by Skanem to reach their factory on 2nd June and it went into production by 5th or 6th of June 2021. There were challenges but backups were created so that there were no bottlenecks. The flexible dies were sourced from Germany, but spare flat-bed dies were kept in readiness to be the backup for any delay.

With RB producing 100,000 to 150,000 packs per day, the whole project would be completed in 30 to 35 days. The experience of capabilities at hand with digital printing has given fillip to the new marketing ideas to the RB marketing and packaging development team. They are very excited to use more of the variable printing possibilities of digital label printing in future. The success of this campaign is attributed to excellent teamwork of RB, Skanem, and Huhtamaki. It is a matter of coincidence that both vendors converted the labels on HP Indigo digital label presses. Digital label printing has hesitantly but surely made their place in the Indian label industry and such campaigns that also have social message gives a reason for label printers to invest in digital printing which opens a plethora of opportunities. According to Umesh Kagade, Segment manager, Labels & Packaging at HP, “Brand Marketing is about telling powerful stories, Dettol told amazing stories of common men as protectors and warriors that relates to the brand.  We salute Dettol team for conceptualising such an amazing campaign considering the complexity and the variable designs, coupled with Speed of delivery. The campaign  is generating an amazing traction in social media”. 
 
Digital label printing is surely emerging as a very important and strong marketing tool that can present enormous possibilities of customization even for short runs.

 

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. New Delhi June 2021

Printing magazines and publication may reproduce the article giving credit to author.

The article is the author’s personal tribute to these “Covid warriors”

 

UAE or the United Arab Emirates consists of seven independent city-states or emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Fujairah, Ajman, and Ras-al-Khaimah. Total population of all the emirates of UAE put together is much less than that of New Delhi India at 11.42 million with only 20% Emiratis and rest are expats making it the highest percentage  of  expatriates in any country in the world. The Indian expatriate population at 28% is the largest group in UAE. It is surprising that there is a substantial number of label printing companies there with more printers joining in year after year. In the start of the new Millennium, one could count the total number of label printing companies to around 10 which has now grown to over 40. Even though leading printers speak of intense competition and depleting margins yet there is a steady news of expansions and new companies joining the bandwagon of label printers. Obviously, it is not the local demand but due the business environment, conditions and facilities, the printing companies reach out to customers not only in the Middle East but also to Africa, Europe, and USA. It is a global hub from where they produce and export. It is normal to hear label printers in the region expressing difficulties due to a small market and intense competition, in such a situation it is heartwarming to see someone who comes from a fragile financial status, jumping into label printing and starting to register smart growth. One such person is Jagannath Wagle who endeavored to take the risk of setting up from virtually nothing, his maiden label venture, Sigma Middle East Labels that has started rising from humble beginnings.

 

 

 

 

Jagannath Wagle

It is rare to find humble people these days. Humility is putting pride behind, staying grounded to reality, have faith in oneself and learning from one’s modest beginnings to continuously move ahead with firm resolve and keep evolving. That is how Jagannath Wagle talks with respect and nostalgia about his humble background and times when he was growing up. this: As if living with his parents in a one 300 square feet room flat in Mumbai’s western suburb Nala Sopara along with two brothers was not crowded enough, to help the son of a family friend in village, his mother brought the boy to Mumbai to stay with them.” Jagannath’s father, an auditor with the government of India’s audit department had to manage within the meagre means to support a family of 6 people living in one room. However still they managed to impart the right education to all the children. Jagannath’s mother was a homemaker in true spirit, managing the household and the children by taking home tuitions, he reminisces fondly about her being an excellent cook.

 

 

Jagannath Wagle studied up to class 10th in Little flower English school in Nala Sopara followed by joining father Agnel technical college in 1992. Unfortunately, due to Mumbai riots in 1992 he could not attend college, had to drop a year, and later joined an institute in Vasai to complete the secondary school education. Later he wished to join an engineering college but could not afford the capitation fee demanded by institutes those days so as an alternative he studied to graduate with B.Sc. degree in Physics from Mumbai University in 1998. Due to the financial stress, a relative in Delhi suggested for him to join the Coast Guard but his mother did not relent as she wanted him to study further. He finally went on to get a B.Sc. (tech) degree that was equivalent to an engineering degree. Thereafter he started making applications for job in various organisations and also to start with, he accepted a job with a relatively small company TechGyan at a meagre salary of Rs.4000.00 per month (Approximately 55 dollars). He had a lot of interest in computers so had acquired knowledge about them and as a business to augment his earnings he started assembling computers for customers on job work basis charging Rs. 2000.00 per computer. He had already catered to almost 50 customers. At this time, he started getting interview calls from companies like HDFC, Wipro and Reliance. He was excited that he got selected in Reliance at a salary of Rs.18000. per month to start with. It is strange and a matter of kismet as to how life leads you to your eventual Karma Bhoomi, the land where one eventually works or performs his life’s deeds, this is as expressed in Indian literature. Before Jagannath could join Reliance, his family got a call from his mother’s brother in Dubai who had been tricked by someone to invest in a label manufacturing unit, knowing nothing about labels and he needed help. He requested the family to send Jagannath to Dubai.

 

 

Ajman
Like any young man Jagannath also had aspired to work in distant lands like Europe and USA but for the Dubai offer by his uncle, he was hesitant as he knew nothing about labels, his knowledge was limited to computers and engineering. His mother impressed upon him to go to Dubai and support her brother who needed help and who else he could rely upon except family at this time.  The decision was made and on 28 January 2004 Jagannath Wagle landed in UAE which everyone impulsively refers to as Dubai due to its being recognized as the face of UAE. He started to work with his uncle in Ajman, as a salesman on a salary of 1500 Dirhams per month. Though he started as salesman, but his job profile eventually became all in one, heading the label business with a team of only 3 persons just like a startup entrepreneur. Jagannath knew that with UAE having one of the highest per capita income, it would be expensive and difficult to manage in the income promised and more difficult if he got married. To make success of his career he plunged head on into the business he had no knowledge about. Customers and suppliers became his teacher and taught him all about plates, cylinders, color management etc. he was a fast learner. A business that was 10000 Dirhams per month when he joined and his uncle was pumping in money each month to sustain expenses, became 100,000 per month  in just a year’s time, all this with just one two color small tacky boy press. Any label printer will understand the  effort that must have gone into achieving this.

 

 

 

Pooja Wagle
In 2005 Jagannath convinced his uncle that to remain in business they needed another machine. A used 1980 model 7” 3color Mark Andy 830 was acquired. In today’s time of advanced servo driven modular presses that equipment sounds irrelevant yet by 2007 he was able to reach a sale of 350,000 Dirhams per month by working 24 hours every day, the Tacky boy press became redundant. Jagannath’s salary was enhanced to 3500 and he got married to Pooja from Bohisar in Mumbai. Pooja also came from a very humble background, the father having passed away, her mother taught children of poverty-stricken people. She was working as a credit card salesperson with ICICI bank. They came in contact through a matrimonial website and the marriage was arranged by parents with the couple having never met each other. Once married the couple faced financial stress and there was need to move up in life.

 

 

 

 

Part of Sigma old factory shed
There was no scope for further expansion with the existing Mark Andy 830 press, discontent crept in, Jagannath contemplated on starting on his own or returning to India, but his wife Pooja put her foot down that there was no way she will go back to India and bring up her children there. Meanwhile Jagannath’s cousin had joined the label business and took over the management. Jagannath decided to initially start his own trading business of making non adhesive liners for cores. Having no money to start manufacturing himself he started out sourcing converting also from his uncle’s company for whom he was working. He was so respectful toward his uncle because of whom he was in Dubai and had indulged in learning the label business, that he made sure not to touch any customer who was buying from them. He even kept working simultaneously with uncle during the day and after office hours for his trading business because he wanted to let his cousin to complete his MBA before he left that business completely. Once free Jagannath decided to get full-fledged into labels but making sure he never touched his uncle’s customers. He started getting his jobs done from a company called German labels and as luck would have it sometime later the owner of that company decided to quit business and sell the machine.

 

 

 

Old factory shed
Jagannath wished to buy that press but did not have the funds, so he requested the owner to accept instalments, fortunately as he was destined, the owner agreed to handover the press with 50% down payment and 50% in 6 months. Now the 50% down payment was also not there but a determined Jagannath Wagle refused to give in. In due course of time his two brothers and the friend who lived with him in Nala Sopara had all moved to Dubai and were in good jobs. They all came to rescue and pooled in money to help him buy the Mark Andy. The trade license he took in 2009 was converted to a manufacturing license in 2010. So, in January 2010 Sigma Middle East Labels Industries LLC  started their maiden venture operating with a 250mm preowned Mark Andy 830 press in an 1100 square ft shed in Ajman with just one operator and a helper. Hard work and sheer perseverance produced good results and at this time a difficult situation cropped up. The only operator he had met with an accident and in emergency had to go to India. It was during the Eid period when business is at a peak in UAE, not being the one to be left behind, Jagannath himself operated the printing machine for the next three months. When a container of stocks arrived, he and his only helper would unload and moved goods into the shed and stack them. As at that moment he could not afford help and this incident will always keep him grounded to reality. Watching him make the gigantic offer many suppliers came forward to support him. He is extremely appreciative of Ajay Mehta of SMI Coated products for his support in supplying material on credit to his start-up venture.

 

 

 

Multitec
In 2012 when his sales from just one press reached 150,000 to 200,000 Dirhams per month, it was time for Sigma to move on to the next level and acquire another bigger press, he wished to install a European brand, but paucity of funds made him decide on an eight color all UV Multitec 330mm label press which was installed in 2013. It was his first modular press and was a big jump for Jagannath. Even though he lost some money initially as his costing was not right but soon, he took corrective steps towards growth, “This was my biggest learning curve” says Jagannath. 

 

 

Bobst at New Premises
Two years down the line in 2015 a jubilant Jagannath fulfilled his dream of acquiring a European label press, a Gidue MX370 , 8 color all UV, 1 die station, delam-relam, cold foil and lamination was installed along with and some more additional equipment, also adding more shopfloor space. The fast unplanned expansion led to problems in cash flow and in 2016 Sigma ran into financial stress and troubles. Payments to suppliers were delayed and supplies became restricted. A person having risen from grass roots and not the one to give up, Jagannath kept constant touch with his vendors assuring them safety of their investment and in the meanwhile putting in enhanced efforts to nurture his company to good health. By 2017, recovery had started. Sigma moving ahead acquired yet another Gidue like the one they had. 

 

 

Brotech Finishing
Here on, a more professional approach was put in place, targets planned and achieved, more ancillary equipment including a Chinese press 5 colors with UV and hot air in 2019 to print the liners for cores was added and the second Gidue like the one bought before was bought. Yet again mentions Jagannath that SMI was there to support him, he remains indebted to them. However, learning from past experiences, he sold the Multitec press so that he did not run into financial stress again. The one 1100 square feet shed had multiplied to become 4 sheds and continued growth had become a reality at Sigma. The first used Mark Andy 830 that he had, was given to a friend in Oman at low price to help him.

 

 

 

New office

 

 

 

 

 

In 2020 things became comfortable, Sigma moved from the four 1100 square feet sheds to a plush well planned 12000 square foot facility with well-furnished and equipped offices. 

 

 

 

Going Digital with Konica Minolta

 

 

 

 

 

 

They invested 5 million Dirhams adding a Konica Minolta, foiling equipment and Esko and Asahi plate making system. 

 

 

 

 

Reception of new premises

 

In early this year 2021 Jagannath decided that his company had to upgrade to latest equipment to be more efficient in production, he sold the first Gidue he had bought and replaced it with a brand new fully loaded Gidue M5. Jagannath has finally put Sigma on its road to success and bigger business, he attributes the his journey so far to the inspiration that he got from a Indian picture “Guru” based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani the founder of Reliance Industries Ltd. He still quotes the dialogue from that film, “If I am doing well why not for myself ?”. 

 

 

 

 

The credit for this amazing journey largely goes to the woman behind Jagannath, his wife Pooja who solidly supported him right through, besides bringing up their only daughter. Pooja is a partner in the company holding the purse strings as the financial controller. No business succeeds without a good team Jagannath and Pooja carefully built their team as a family and took only people from grassroot levels and trained them, two of their teammates had joined as labour/helpers and now work as business development executive bringing in half a million Dirham business each. During their struggling days, Jagannath’s brother in law Kishor Vedpathak quit his job in Mumbai to come and support him, he now looks after Sigma as admin manager. Looking back, he reminisces that his first big break was when he got a big order for 100,000 price marking rolls from Centre Point Chain retail stores. He plans to enhance capacity again later this year with yet another flexo press plus another digital press. Up from just two employees when he started on his own, he now works with 55 employees including four designers inhouse, Sigma has registered a sale of 25 million Dirhams last year growing 30% in a pandemic year!

 

 

 

Jagannath in his new office


Deep in thought and with a smile he mentions that he wishes to be if not the biggest, he will try to be one of the biggest label printers in UAE in 5years time. He is confident that he will continue to lead Sigma Middle East Labels to keep rising to higher levels.

 

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. New Delhi June 2021

Print magazines my reproduce the above article by giving credit to author.

The continuous wailing of ambulance sirens, send a chill down one’s spine, another loved one from somebody’s family, suffering from the impact of second edition of covid-19, is on the lookout for a hospital bed and the much-needed evasive supply of oxygen as life support. It is ironic that in today’s time of technological advancement many unsuspecting innocent human beings are losing a desperately fought battle for survival against a more vicious and fast spreading variants of corona virus. Medical infrastructures are crumbling under the huge volume of patients reporting infections. Vaccination program is struggling to meet targets that keep becoming difficult by the day, the government has opened registration of people for vaccination, but it is a gigantic task which presently at the very outset, means reaching out to over 50% of the total population of almost 1.4 billion people which would be about 70 million people spread across a large geographical terrain in 29 states and 7 Union territories. Recently a newspaper reported the registrations for vaccinations coming at the rate of 55000 per second! A bigger danger is that much of rural India which accounts for almost 65% of the total population (90million) was largely unaffected and now the virus seems to be creeping there as well. The problem is not only India, as in today’s time given the travel mobility of people from all walks of life and with their relatives spread around the globe with different natural and adopted nationalities, the present dangerous second phase of the pandemic is a global problem and unless checked, it may reach very scary levels impacting the world at large. The second wave is so vicious that it has impacted every other home. It is heart-warming to see that governments around the world understand the problem and are coming forward to cooperate with each other in combatting this menace. On the domestic front we see religious bodies, NGOs, industry and many others doing their bit to defuse the pain and anguish due to the impact of the pandemic. The Indian label industry is also taking steps to contribute towards the safety and wellbeing of their workforce and wherever possible contributing to the society as well.

 

 

Kuldip Goel
The author reached out to many leading label manufacturers to assess the level of infections in the two phases of covid and their reactions to combat the menace.  The author, his most family members including both sons K D Sahni and Pawandeep Sahni, MD of Omet India Pvt. Ltd. and 4 employees in his company Weldon Celloplast Ltd. tested positive. Kuldip Goel president LMAI (Label Manufacturers Association of India) and Chairman/MD of Any Graphics NOIDA  reported 25 of his team including 14 of top management along with his son Naveen went through the ordeal. He restricts himself from saying he helped his people during the hard time but prefers to use the word support instead. Besides ensuring the job security of his people, providing financial and medical support they even arranged counselling to almost 100+ people in bringing them out from depression. Kuldip along with his colleagues in board of directors of LMAI are already planning to import Oxygen concentrators for the needy. Abhay Datta Director UV Graphic Technologies where 4 people were infected including himself and his son, has prepared guidelines and implemented them for awareness and safe working within the business. He has developed UVC disinfection devices for articles to contain spread of corona. He is unhappy on how the government has dealt with the outbreak, he says, “It is a bad situation, really sad that the government has failed to control it.” Twelve persons including himself and his plant head in Anuj Bharagava lead Kumar Labels suffered infection, but Anuj went ahead and made a makeshift clinic with Oxygen & IV facility at his NOIDA factory. As also helping communities by enabling concentrators and oxygen cylinders. He too is concerned about the handling of the spread, “It is a terrible period for India, and humanity. We wish things were better anticipated and planned by the authorities. However still, we are all doing our best to help each other. Sad to see some people trying to profiteer by selling drugs and services in black” he says.

 

 

Nirav Shah
In central and west India there is a bigger concentration of label companies and there too most are impacted though some have succeeded in limiting the impact of the pandemic.  LMAI honorary secretary and Director of Indore headquartered Pragati Graphics and Packaging has been deeply involved in arranging hospital beds, medicines, oxygen, oxygen cylinders, etc. for a lot of people from and around Indore. He has also arranged two oxygen concentrators which are being given to needy people. Commenting on the 25 people infected in his company he said, “To me the picture looks gloomy. The industry was slowly picking up as the demand was growing. This wave of pandemic has again brought the industry to its knees and the situation will become very bad if the wave of Covid does not recede soon.” Nirav Shah heading Letragraphix in Ahmedabad had to re-engineer his production plans to meet timelines and service his customers efficiently since 20-25% of his workforce got infected. He has stood by his employees in full even during lockdown and providing whatever support was needed. On the social front Nirav finds satisfaction from the fact that they have donated sanitisers, ration kits and food packets besides supporting an NGO called Karma Foundation on regular basis. He states that these are unpredictable times which have taught many lessons to everyone to get adjusted to a new normal of work culture and pray for the world to heal soon.

 

 

 

Vinod Vazhapulli of Skanem
Mumbai based Skanem India Pvt. Ltd. (Formerly Skanem Interlabels) a subsidiary of Skanem AS headquartered in Norway with presence in 8 countries also reported 15% to 20% of workforce as infected in its 4 sites within India. Vinod Vazhapulli Managing Director informed that the company has taken care of their employees by paying before time in full without any deductions whatsoever ever since the start of pandemic and supporting wherever help was needed. The company had them covered under the Insurance scheme with a coverage of Sum insured of Rs. 2 Lakhs especially for Covid by Skanem India, thereby ensuring that all their Medical and treatment expenses are taken care of under Cash less transaction schemes. Online counselling sessions / Yoga classes etc. were organized ensuring that any kind of anxiety or mental dis-order that would have developed due to the pandemic or extended lock downs are handled by experts, taking care of the mental wellbeing of their employees. As a social endeavor They have provided Medical aid , Food & PPEs to the Maljipada village where the Mumbai plant is, during the peak of Lock downs last year. Vinod says, “ there has been an impact of this outbreak on our Industry, the recovery had commenced but with this 2nd wave it is again pushed back to uncertain times”.

 

 

Raveendran
South India based Rajeev Nair CMD of Stallion Group informed that 25 % of their team including 5% from management were impacted, he is worried that the business that went down in the first phase of covid had started to recover is now again adversely impacted in the second phase. Raveendran of Seljegat in Sivakasi is thankful that they have been cautious with their workforce, so the infections were minimal, just two employees and his younger brother were impacted mildly and recovered. They have in place a strict protocol of checking temperature, oxygen levels and providing sanitisers. They also provide herbal immunity boosting tea to all workforce who must maintain safe distance and are divided into two shifts. Except for a week of lock down, they have been working right through and in fact are in 100% production. They provide separate buses for women and other workers making several trips to maintain distance and transport them to and fro safely. They have even invited government officials to study their systems that have helped in curtailing the infection. We see similar situation in J K Fine Prints Mumbai, Director Himanshu Kapur who is son of Surender Kapur the founder president of LMAI says, “We had just one infection between the two phases, we have given full financial support to our workers as also provided them and their families with masks, sanitisers and other needs” he further adds, “After the initial jolt, I now feel that label industry will not be so drastically impacted. We  will see  growth coming from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities who will patronise organised retail for their needs”.

 

 

Sandeep Zaveri of Total Print
 
The best response came from LMAI past president Sandeep Zaveri heading Total Print Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai, he says, “Between the two phases none in our company got infected due to strict norms maintained by us and supporting our team with full salaries and food needs” he adds, “I think God has created this for us all human beings to go slow, spend quality time with our near and dear ones”.

 

 

 

 

Many NGOs(Non-Government Organisations), religious bodies, companies and individuals are contributing in whichever way they can reduce the sufferings of people. Donations and help from these groups keep pouring in and exhibits the caring that emanates from these groups. However, in contrast we have reached a situation when politicians continue to play the blame game accusing each other for the sufferings of population, with their eyes on the next election and access to country’s coffers they are insensitive to the pain people are going through. Allowing election rallies and religious gatherings of hundreds of thousand people not following covid norms has contributed to the massive spread. The central government says state government is wrong and vice-versa while the innocent citizens gasp for that breadth which will come loaded with some oxygen so that they may still survive to be with their loved ones another day. It is so unfortunate that we talk of financial outlay of billions in our budgets yet a commodity like oxygen that is an imperative for survival has become a political point for our leaders blaming it on logistics. The pain and suffering do not end for the relatives of those who have lost their fight against covid and passed away, there is neither the means to take the bodies to cremation grounds nor the space to cremate them. Will residents of another developed country understand this kind of situation?  All this while the needy yearn for that breadth which will decide if they exist the next day or not. Added to this the unscrupulous citizens who look at this as an opportunity to make more money, they make the Shylock in Shakespeare’s story “Merchent of Venice” appear as a reasonable person, he may have just asked for a pound of flesh from just one borrower, here these black marketeers are trading in oxygen, essential medicines and life support equipment to draw unreasonable profit from the lives of a suffering generation. 

 

 

History will not and should not pardon such unethical persons who have no feelings that a grandparent, a parent, a spouse, a sibling or an offspring are so  precious part that one yearns for them to be there always and losing them is not imaginable. Courts in India appear to be understanding the gravity of the situation but who will teach the politicians who are the executive running the country. It is not just watching on TV that people are suffering and dying, but it is now being felt and being experienced by all households largely. A friend, a relative, a business associate, a colleague or a loved one just vanishes losing out to the pandemic leaving a void and a hollow feeling whereby the tears have no place to go.

 

 

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi May 2021

Reproduction permitted by giving credit to author and link to blog http://harveersahni.blogspot.com 

 


Grand Hyatt Kochi
India’s label association LMAI’s 5th biennial conference is planned to be the biggest and most successful event of Indian label industry. The event is scheduled to be held at recently opened property, HOTEL GRAND HYATT, KOCHI, BOLGATTI from 25th – 28th July, 2019. 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.


Grand Hyatt Waterfront




Leading label printing companies and suppliers will meet to discuss, evaluate opportunities, learn and strike business partnerships that shape the future of their businesses in relaxing ambience and surroundings. LMAI conference has been growing in strength and numbers over the years.







2017 LMAI Conference at Agra





The last conference was held at Agra with 550 delegates. The LMAI leadership is expecting the attendance to jump up to 600 delegates. An elaborate knowledge sharing, entertainment and technical program is being put in place to deliver value to the LMAI members coming from all over India.






About the city Kochi: Kochi (formerly known as Cochin) is a city in southwest India's coastal Kerala state, fondly referred to as “God’s own country”. It has been a port since 1341, when a flood carved out its harbour and opened it to Arab, Chinese and European merchants. Sites reflecting those influences include Fort Kochi, a settlement with tiled colonial bungalows and diverse houses of worship. Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, typical of Kochi, have been in use for centuries.