The Indian self-adhesive label industry has risen from basic grassroot levels, most of the initial entrants who pioneered to create these labels were first generation small entrepreneurs. Starting with manual screen-printing process in the 1960s in sheet form, they ventured forward into flat-bed narrow web label printing and converting. By the 1990s label printing further evolved to use flexographic printing process and went on developing continuously to transform into integration of multiple printing technologies on the same  label press with embellishing and converting in-line in a single pass. Most of the earlier entrants, the pioneers who provided impetus for the growth and spread of narrow web self-adhesive label, were either single owner or family-owned small businesses. These initial front runners were partners to industry in transforming a major part of the then prominently used wet glue labels to self-adhesive labels popularly called those days as “stickers”! What were hand applied labels started to be applied from roll form by automatic label applicators on packaging lines, ensuring increased usage and demand of self-adhesive labels. The 1990s saw a lot of growth in label manufacturing and by end of decade, international interest in the Indian label industry started to surface. But at this time the Chinese label market started to register rapid growth attracting the multinational material suppliers and printers turning their attention to the Growing Chinese market. Many industry experts did caution that eventually correction will take place and the growth will slowdown. However still the large population always indicates a robust growth as organized retail grows. Global investments in label grew. As China, India too has a large population and  on the other hand it continued to grow in a stable and steady pace. A young English speaking literate population assured a positive continuous growth of label usage, indicating a stability in continued growth and evolution. This fact started to sink in and the ownerships in the industry started transforming. 

In the start of the new millennium the international interest in Indian label industry became evident. Paper products Limited, established in 1935 in Lahore (Then a part of India), a flexible packaging company had entered label manufacturing in 1994 and in mid-1999 multinational Huhtamaki had acquired 50% of the shareholding in Paper Products Ltd. and later acquiring it wholly. Even though label manufacturing was a small part of their business yet, this I believe was the point when we saw the start of entry of multinational companies investing in label manufacturing in India.

Other foreign companies who entered and invested into label manufacturing in India included the likes of 3M in 1987, Brady’s in 2006, Printcare in 2008 and some others mostly in garment accessories business. Then we did have those who tried, indulged but had to shelve  their plans. CCL acquired a stake in Mumbai based Super labels in 2011 but had to stop as the relationship did not work out, Mikael Dahl of Nordvalls Sweden too invested with a partner and later quit and then there is Reynders who partnered with Goodwork company but later they split and both partners went their own way to run their own label companies in India, Reynders have their wholly owned company Reynders in Chopanki, Rajasthan. As regards material side in labelstock manufacturing, the world’s largest, Avery Dennison started manufacturing in Gurgaon India in 1997.

Kaygee Papers Pvt. Ltd. was set up by Pranay Godha in 1997. It became Kaygee-Loparex, a joint venture in 2001 with investment from Loparex, the world’s leading developer and producer of specialty paper and film release liners. In 2015, Loparex Group assumed 100% ownership of the Indian joint venture company, Kaygee-Loparex India Private Ltd. later renamed Loparex India Private Limited. Meanwhile the founder Pranay Godha moved on to join IPCA laboratories headed by his father  Premchand Godha. Pranay is now the executive director of this global pharmaceuticals company.

The mergers and acquisition activity in the Indian label industry got a fillip when in February 2012 Gururaj Ballarwad led Wintek Flexoprints based in Bangalore India, had been acquired by Hyderabad based ITW Signode, a subsidiary of the multi-billion Dollar fortune 200 global industrial products company ITW, head quartered in Illinois, USA. Wintek is now a part of Signode India Limited. Gururaj the co-founder of Wintek after completing his post-handover stint is now enjoying his retirement. He spent many months with his daughter and grandchildren in the UK and then some time in USA visiting and attending a wedding in family of a friend. His sons run their package printing business on their own. He now relaxes at his home in Bangalore and uses his time reading and researching religious epics like Bhagwad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharta, etc. He is also indulging in authoring some of his findings. However still he is available to his label industry friends for any advice they need from him.

Two weeks after Wintek was acquired by ITW, another European multinational label and packaging company Skanem, acquired 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. Post-acquisition Bhavin is now heading a professionally managed company Qodenext. QodeNext is the merged entity of Mumbai based Intellicon Private Limited, Bangalore based Essae Technologies Private Limited and Mumbai based Intercode Solutions Private Limited. QodeNext is a supply chain traceability technology, consulting and service company providing solutions for Barcode, RFID, Vision, Cognitive Computing, IoT, Predictive Analysis and emerging technologies. Bhavin does oversee the business but it is not a 9am to 5pm job, he spends a lot of time pursuing his hobby of playing Golf. 

Gautam Kothari also has a startup in which he is actively involved. He invested in an enterprise started by his ex-employees, “Worldpack Automation Systems Pvt. Ltd.” manufacturing Automated Labelling Systems. Though it is a 10 AM  to 5PM business that he attends at least 4 to 5 days a week, but he is happy he does not have the stress that was prevalent when in label manufacturing. “I have more control over my time, taking time off for personal family vacation is now easy and without any stress” says Gautam . He also has a label factory with a partner in Bangladesh, he does visit some time, but in the last two years did not go there due to pandemic.

In September 2012, Mumbai based Positive Packaging Industries Ltd., a leading player in the flexible packaging space, a part of the international conglomerate, the Enpee Group with manufacturing facilities in India, Nigeria and UAE, acquired Bangalore based SGRE Labels Private Limited led by Sujeev G and Subba Reddy. Post-acquisition Sujeev and Subba Reddy set up SGRE Pack Pvt. Ltd. to manufacture rigid boxes.

By end of the year 2012 in November, controlling stake in Mumbai based Webtech Labels led by Amar Chhajed was acquired by Indian subsidiary of Huhtamäki Oyj. Later Webtech became an integral part of Huhtamaki and Amar was elevated to become the president of their labeling division. By March 31, 2022, Amar Chhajed left Huhtamaki to move on to other avenues. He has invested in real estate through his new venture Webtech Realty in which he is involved full time. In fact, he is now a builder and is building two important projects one of which is perhaps the largest real estate project in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai. He has also  invested in a few other projects to support the promoters known to him, one of them is Pactech Machinery making label applicators, but his role is limited to being an investor only. That remains his only small connect with the packaging industry.

In January 2015 Huhtamaki acquired Positive Packaging Industries India Ltd. Since label manufacturing company SGRE had earlier been acquired by Positive Packaging, the label business was addition to the growing capacity of labels manufacturing for multinational Huhtamaki in India.

With Amar Chhajed at helm as President of their labeling business Huhtamaki India completed the acquisition of Indian part of Chandan Khanna’s Ajanta Packaging Private Limited in June 2018. Chandan was still young to retire and moreover he still had his UAE and Thailand factories. He initially visualized a sabbatical and fun times ahead using the geographical location of his factories for vacationing to mix business with pleasure. His wife Kiran had given up her work to bring up the children and now when they were grown, the entrepreneur in her surfaced. She suggested to Chandan that they had done enough business in B2B space, now they should try their hand at the B2C segment. She decided to let the designer in her to emerge and with financial support from husband Chandan, she initiated her startup Stylejunkiie www.stylejunkiie.com offering Apparel and Clothing for fashion statement makers. They started with online selling and a store in Mumbai. Chandan does support her as an investor partner and as an experienced person in managing business, he guides her, otherwise the venture is totally Kiran’s to run and grow. Surprisingly after selling Indian part of the business, Chandan and his wife Kiran are buoyant and with renewed energy ready to grow their fashion apparel business to great heights.

On April 29, 2022, Mumbai headquartered SMI Coated products Pvt. Ltd. Led by Ajay Mehta was 100% acquired by Jindal Poly Films’ wholly owned subsidiary – Jindal PolyPack. SMI is the largest Indian company that manufactures self-adhesive labelstock having production facility at Ambernath with a slitting and distribution company in Jebel Ali, UAE. Post divesting his stake in SMI, Ajay and family are taking a sabbatical for four to six months before deciding their next venture. At this time, they are relaxed and talking to people exploring options for their next move, but they are not in a hurry. Meanwhile they have setup an investment company in UAE to make investments where they deem fit.

Pensively Ajay mentions, that with this he has done the right thing for his team who helped him reach this level, however it is disturbing that he has got distanced from a lot of friends from the labels industry for which he did a lot and was always there to support. He is happy and thankful for the love and respect he has got from his peers in the label industry. Still positive and not calling it a day, he is ready to indulge and rise to another level.

Many years ago, when the world was going through a recession, our European and American friends expressed surprise when they met their Indian friends, they would say that in the western world when economically there is meltdown, any would make a face and either say, “surviving!” or “Not too good.” On the contrary if you meet an Indian and you ask, “How is business?” pat comes the reply, “GOOD!” It is our heritage and we have been taught that when questioned “how are you?” The answer in Hindi, our national language, is “THEEK HAI” means, “Fine.” So, for, all the India entrepreneurs  who sold their stakes, did not entirely quit, it is “theek hai” and now another venture and another success. They, or their families have either started new ventures or on the verge of investing to keep moving on!

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi May 2022. Author https://harveersahni.blogspot.com and www.labelsandpackagingworld.com

Label manufacturing continues to evolve into different tangents involving diverse technologies. The retail selling scenario is undergoing a sea change as also the need to make consumers repetitive buyers of branded products. The times of shopkeepers promoting sales of their preferred brands is transforming rapidly into one where the consumers decide on their own what to lift off the shelf, given the modern retail growth. In view of growing need for printers having capabilities to produce decorative and innovative labels that catch the consumer’s eye providing brand security and enhancing the brand’s image as well; there is an imperative need for brand owners to connect with the label converters. In such a scenario, India’s label association, Label Manufacturers Association of India (LMAI) organised a program exclusively for label printers titled, “Brand owners’ perception of labels in changing scenario” at hotel, The Orchid, Mumbai. The program was attended by over 100 delegates comprising mostly of top end label printing companies, packaging professionals of renowned brands, sponsors and LMAI board members. It was an effort to promote the positive escalation of labels in a changing scenario bringing the stake holders at a single platform to strategise a win-win solution.

Following prominent speakers shared their thoughts:
 
Suresh Gupta Former Chairman Huhtamaki-PPL
Somnath Chatterjee GM Procurement – Pernod Ricard, Segment: Liquor
Anil Choubey Head Packaging Dev.-Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. Segment: FMCG
Ajay Bapat Associate Dir. Packaging Dev. Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Segment: Pharma
Vishwas Jangam Packaging Dev. Mgr. at Future Consumer Enterprises Ltd. Segment: Retail
Prabir Das Head – Packaging Tech. Services Mylan Laboratories Limited segment: Pharma
Ainain Shahidi, Director SIES School of Packaging was special invitee who moderated the event
Other Packaging industry professionals who attended the program include Fazal Farooqui DGM Packaging Development Zydus Wellness formerly Kraft Heinz Company, Sunil Patil-HPCL and Ms. Koel Bhadra-Packaging development Professional.
 

Delivering the keynote address Suresh Gupta, former Chairman Huhtamaki-PPL expressed his philosophy of success for the entrepreneurs present, “Sound fundamentals are enshrined in Good values; being Good compassionate people, knowing knowledge is power to be used with integrity, ever improving quality and service and continuous innovation makes for happy customers. Be the flag bearer of standard in your industry” He further cautioned printers to be ready; for the present equipment to become outdated in 5 years due to fast evolving label technologies and be ready to invest in new equipment after properly understanding the technology. Impressing upon the fact that Digital printing is the future.

Prabir Das, Head Packaging Technical Services (OSD) of Mylan laboratories spoke about Importance and effectiveness in Product-People Connectivity where packaging is the connector and labelling is the communicator. It is a necessity therefore to design the packaging that establishes the connection and the regulatory and statutory information is communicated through the label.

Somnath Chatterjee, General Manager Procurement of Pernod Ricard said that labels must appeal delivering a lifestyle message. He also stressed the need to reduce wastages. Referring to the increase in counterfeiting in liquor, Somnath invited printers to offer them unique solutions even though they themselves are already implementing security measures to safeguard the interests of there consumers. He felt that it is important to get all stakeholders in label production to ponder over the needs with the end user consumer in mind. 

Ajay Bapat, associate director packaging development, Emcure Pharmaceuticals informed about the necessity of right information, cleanliness and the need for smart labelling. 

Anil Choubey Head of Packaging Development Patanjali Ayurved Limited spoke the need for effective, sustainable and eco friendly labels and would be looking forwards to printer suppliers offering such products. 

Vishwas Jangam Packaging Development Manager of Future Consumer Enterprises Limited the company that owns Big Bazar chain of retail malls and stores spread across India, dwelled on specific needs of designs for labels on the shop shelves. Modern day retail that is growing at 21% CAGR needs the attention of the consumer who makes an impulsive buying decision in just about 12 seconds.

The event was moderated by Ainain Shahidi a packaging industry professional and now the director of SIES School of Packaging. He enthralled the audience with his amazing Urdu poetry and couplets while leading the flow of event. He also apprised the audience about the activities of SIES School of packaging. 

Before presenting vote of thanks Manish Desai past President LMAI, announced the next LMAI conference at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Kochi on July 2019, the Indian label Industry’s most important and biggest event.

The event was sponsored by Avery Dennison and SMI Coated Papers as gold sponsors and Creative Graphics as silver sponsors. Manish Desai while thanking the audience felicitated with mementos the speakers, the moderator Ainain Shahidi, the packaging professionals who attended and Harveer Sahni who curated this event with help of LMAI leadership team. Leading printers who attended included Amar Chhajed from Huhtamaki-PPL, Vivek Kapoor-Creative Labels, Chandan Khanna-Ajanta packaging, Manish Desai-Mudrika Labels, Tejas Tanna-Printmann, Arvind Shekhar-Sai Packaging, Aditya Patwardhan, Mahendra Shah-Renault Paper, Sandeep Zaveri- Total Prints, Naveen Goel-Any Graphics, Rahul Kapoor-JK Fine prints, Patricia-Letragraphix, Sandhya Shetty-Synergy Packaging, Anil Namugade-Trigon Digital, Sanjay Purandre -Shree Ganesh Graphics and so many more. The event was media covered by and attended by Naresh Khanna and his team from Packaging South Asia, Pradeep Saroha Country head for Tarsus, Aakriti Agarwal- Indian editor of Labels and labelling UK and Noel D’Cunha and his team form Printweek!

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi March 2019
Print Publications are free to reproduce this article giving credit to author Harveer Sahni

 

Thirty-one years after joining Huhtamaki-PPL (formerly Paper Products Limited or PPL), Suresh Gupta retired as its Executive Chairman. He joined the company in 1987 at a difficult time for the company, as business had slowed down since 1980 and they had to sell off their paper mill. When Suresh became a part of PPL the turnover of the company was just Rs.24 Crore and with a large workforce of 700 employees. He led the company until his retirement with sales reaching almost 100 times to Rupees 2300 Crores and the number of people working rose to 3500! Huhtamaki-PPL is now the largest producer of printed and finished flexible packaging materials in India. Under his leadership, the company, led not only PPL’s but also India’s foray into diverse label technologies as well. They were the very first entrant into shrink sleeve labels in association with Fuji Seal of Japan. Today Huhtamaki-PPL is the largest player in label manufacturing segment in India with their label sales touching 400 Crores which includes Pressure sensitive labels, Shrink Sleeves, Wrap arounds, In-moulds and other label forms. They are vendors to the virtual “who is who” in the Indian branded consumer goods and pharmaceutical industries. In pressure sensitive adhesive labels alone also, they are the largest at 200 Crores after taking over Webtech Labels, Ajanta Packaging and Positive Packaging.
Suresh Gupta
Being an army man’s son Suresh’s childhood was spent at various locations within India. His father who is now 92 years of age, was a paratrooper with artillery from the well-known 17 parafeild regiment of Indian army and retired as Director of Military intelligence. After retirement he was assigned as Director SSB (Special Security Bureau) by the cabinet secretariat. Retiring from SSB he was taken by the Himachal Government to be the chairman of Himachal State Electricity Board. Suresh has a brother who is 9 years younger than him and followed his father’s footsteps to join the army, has primarily headed combat formations, served in the UN Peace Corps and is currently a Major General. Typical of army families, Suresh’s schooling took place at various schools across the country, the last two being St. Georges School, Agra, and St Xavier’s School Delhi where he was in the boarding and finished in 1967 with excellent marks.  Being underage, he could not apply for admission into the IIT or Delhi University colleges, so at the age of 15 years he did a year of pre-engineering at Government college for Men Chandigarh, where the youth in him got the better of him in not attending any classes other than chemistry. He did poorly, much to the disappointment of his father who was posted in Ambala at that time. His mother gave him 200 Rupees and sent him to Delhi to his grandmother. Admissions had closed for most good courses but a good school marksheet helped him get admission for BA economics honours in the prestigious Hindu College Delhi University. He studied hard and in the very first year he got a first division and ranked in the University to win back his father’s confidence. After graduating from Delhi University Suresh went to the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management studies Bombay, which then was considered amongst the best two in the country.



Finishing his MBA, he was motivated and impressed upon by the head of HR department of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute who was also the vice president of Corning Borosil to join Corning Borosil, which he eventually did as a management trainee in 1974. 




 
Suresh and wife Kumi




The following year in 1975 he got promoted and got married to Kum Kum Talwar fondly called Kumi. Kumi graduated from the prestigious Lady Shriram College in Psychology honours and did her Masters in Social Work when she topped her class in Delhi University, and has been Suresh’s close confidante. At a young age of 23 he was posted in Madras as Regional Manager South for Corning Borosil who manufactured custom designed glass reactors for specialised industrial chemical processes, laboratory glassware and consumer ware under brand names Corning, Borosil and Pyrex. Surprisingly his immediate colleague working under him, the Head of Sales and Service was 52 years old. 






 
With daughters Ratna(L) and Shivani(R)
He enjoyed his stint in Madras as it was great learning time there and in 1979 his elder daughter Ratna was born. Post Emergency when the Janta government came to power the then minister George Fernandes came down heavily on US companies. While Coca Cola left the country, Corning was asked to dilute their equity to less than 40%. Suresh Gupta was at this time transferred to Delhi as Regional Manager North with additional responsibility of interacting with government and convincing them to excuse Corning from this equity reduction as a special case. Being a high technology company also supplying critical materials to defence, they were not allowed by USA government to setup ventures where they did not have full control. It was tremendous experience for Suresh, one side interacting with government and other side selling to large industries, government laboratories and finally setting up channel sales for their consumer products. Once it was clear that government of India would not relent regarding equity dilution, the company stopped further capital investment into the country. Now that it was evident that there would be no growth in the company, Suresh decided it was time to move on in life.
He shared his thoughts with a friend at Usha International, who instantly arranged for Suresh to meet Lala Charat Ram of Shriram group. He was taken on board and became Divisional Manager of the Lucknow Division of Usha International, stationed at Lucknow when he was 28 years old with almost 200 people working under him. Usha was selling sewing machines, electric fans and agricultural pumps. This was a challenging job as the market was extremely competitive and majority of the employees i.e. the mechanics, belonged to a militant union and were unionised. The area of operation for him was interesting as criminals and bad elements roamed free there. There are interesting and scary stories of his time spent in those areas. Due to his frequent tours his family at home had to be provided armed security guards due to threats.
Sardari Lal Talwar Founder Paper Products






During this period there was pressure from his wife Kumi’s family to join Paper Products Ltd. the company founded by her father Sardari Lal Talwar.











In the meantime, a close friend of Suresh Gupta from Middle East came visiting him in Lucknow out
of the blue with a first-class open ticket and a proposal to join the Doha headquartered Almana Group whose Chairman wanted an executive director who he could trust to join his Board as there seemed many issues with his existing team. Suresh took the trip to evaluate what was being offered, finding it very exciting he accepted the offer and joined them in late 1982. In due course, various businesses were put under him some of which he started, and seven companies including an IBM agency reported to him. He then was designated as Executive Director-International, he started businesses or had oversight of investments in Saudi, Dubai, Turkey, UK and US. After joining he recruited 16 Indian Managers in his team and parted company with four other Managers already in the company. He spent the next five years in Doha and reminisces of them as fascinating years, as a time of immense learning, travelling all over the world for 15-20 days each month. His younger daughter Shivani was born there. In the beginning of 1987 Suresh and Kumi were reviewing their career and lifestyle. Their eight-year-old elder daughter who was going to British school could not speak a word of Hindi, their mother tongue. They wondered if they should continue to live in the Middle East. The Almana Chairman understanding their dilemma offered to station Suresh in another country of his choice. At this time Suresh was also toying with the idea of taking up an assignment with United Nations but Kumi’s family was persistent and he decided to return to India and join Paper Products. 
Rare picture of Suresh Gupta and father in law Sardari Talwar
In October 1987 Suresh Gupta and family returned to India to join Paper Products as a promoter and he acquired a minority shareholding. As mentioned earlier even though being a legendary company it had problems, the paper mill they had in Roha was sold. Kumi was the youngest child of Sardari Lal Talwar her two brothers were ageing and not keeping well and have since passed away.
Paper Products Limited was founded by Sardari Lal Talwar in 1935 in Lahore, that time in undivided India. Sardari Lal was running one of the four largest departmental stores of India of that time called Moolchand of Lahore with a customer base of Indian royal families and Britishers. The store stocked goods like a modern-day multi product retail and was founded by his Grandfather Moolchand and Uncle Khairati Ram who were also very charitable persons. They were running Hospitals, Schools, Temples and Dharamshalas (subsidised dwelling for travellers). Moolchand Dharamshala in Lahore was just opposite the Lahore Railway Station. The founders passed away at an early age and leaving the business to a young 15-year-old Sardari Lal. Moolchand store was importing milk bottle caps made of paperboard and paper crimped cups for the army till one day a British army officer in charge of the Dairy came to him and suggested that he import the paper and make the caps and pastry crimp cups in India. It would save the army some amounts enabling them to extend their budget. Sardari on advice of his international friends got the hand presses developed in India, imported some dies and punches and started to make the caps and cups in Lahore in 1935. 
To start this maiden manufacturing venture, he emptied one of the Moolchand store warehouses and commenced production with the signboard outside reading, “PAPER PRODUCTS”. He later imported machinery from Windmoller and Holscher Germany in 1939 to start manufacturing paper bags. This was the inception of what is today Huhtamaki-PPL.
Moolchand Hospital Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi
Then came the partition of India, all was lost and left behind in Lahore when the family migrated to Delhi. For all the charitable work that the family did in what was left behind in Pakistan, Sardari Lal was given land in Lajpat Nagar as compensation. He had an emotional need to carry the philanthropic ideals of his parents, so before doing anything else he established the “Moolchand Kharaitiram Hospital” in Lajpat Nagar, South Delhi. He also started making packaging products that he was already doing before. Immediately after world war II in 1948 the Germans were holding the first Drupa, Sardari Lal, travelled by ship to attend where he met and struck friendship with some of the leading packaging people in Europe. Owing to his good reputation, Windmoller and Holscher gave him five Bag making machines with printing, on open credit. He returned to start a factory in Faridabad in 1949 followed by one in Ghatkopar Mumbai. Paper Products started to grow steadily and Sardari Talwar took his company public in 1951 retaining 51% with himself. Paper Products started to grow steadily and Sardari Talwar took his company public in 1951 retaining 51% with himself. 
Thana Factory
Billy Heller owner of Milprint (now a part of Bemis Company, Inc.), then the world’s leading flexible packaging company based in Milwaukee, USA became a dear friend of Sardari Lal. Billy was also a philanthropist wanting to share his knowledge with the world, had set up an organisation called Milprint International Club with global leaders including Paper Products as members. With Milprint’s technical help he built the Thana factory in 1960 to the then world class standards. At this time his elder son Dr. K K Talwar who had done his doctorate in USA at the institute of Paper Chemistry returned to India. A little later his younger son Suresh Talwar completing his master’s in economics from USA, also returned to India. Dr KK Talwar was amongst India’s foremost scientists in chemical technology and paper making, he drove the company’s technology leadership. Suresh Talwar was the dynamic operational business head of the company. Business grew after Thana factory was commissioned, and many small factories were constructed across the country at Madras, Calcutta, Nagpur, Hyderabad and a paper mill in Roha.
Around 1980 things slowed down due to various reasons, the paper mill in Roha got sold, it was a difficult period. In 1987 the family had convinced their son-in-law Suresh Gupta to return to India and join the company. Suresh joined in October 1987 and spent a whole year working hard, travelled extensively in India and around the world to learn the technology and business as also meeting all the major customers and suppliers of PPL to understand the intricacies of their business. By 1989 Suresh was ready with his business plan that included induction of new latest technologies, while very slowly shutting down all factories except Thane. Due to the humane angle they did not abruptly sack people but informed transparently that in 10 years’ time this would happen. This with intention to let ageing employees retire and not add any new ones. However, expansion in Thane factory was kept going on, old machines were phased out and replaced by new ones and the staff from shop floor workers to upwards were given in-house training in latest technologies. Meantime a new cadre of craftsmen trainees, diploma trainees, graduate engineer trainees and management trainees was started with inductions of freshers from ITIs, diploma schools, engineering colleges and management institutes. An elaborate program of in-house training was put in place. The program was designed by Suresh and his colleagues to suit their specific needs may they be technology, customer or people handling. They were transforming the company to project their acumen in offering the latest in packaging. They went digital way ahead of time in 1989 when they started digital scanning and digital engraving of cylinders. They also started to computerise the company ahead of time. A start up consultancy company was recruited to put-in a modern computer hardware and software system (one of the first ERP’s) to replace the old card punch system. While modernising operations in Thana factory he shut down the old printing and wax coating converting lines and installed modern gravure printing and lamination lines making Thana a state of art unit once again. The first metalliser capable of producing certified barrier coatings was commissioned in 1994. There were many things done for the first time in India.
With Amar Chhajed
Suresh continued to add new products and expand his footprints into the world of packaging and in one of his frequent travels in 1990 he saw shrink labels in Japan. He established contact with the Fuji Seal Chairman Masaki Fujio, the global inventor of shrink sleeve and became the only licensee of Fuji Seal for shrink sleeve manufacturing in 1991. At around the same time he was discussing Therimage label technology with Dennison, later merged with Avery to become Avery Dennison. This technology enabled labels to be printed on a coated film and transfer the images on to the bottles eliminating the need for release liners. PPL installed the Therimage label production facility in Thana. Therimage was a challenge for Avery’s core business of pressure Sensitive adhesive products, so they bought Dennison and killed the Therimage business. Suresh saw the future of Therimage with Avery was not bright, so he shifted focus to pressure sensitive labels where the growth looked inevitable. PPL invested in an Aquaflex Label press and they were into manufacturing PSA labels at the Thana factory in 1994. In later years wanting to grow in labels business, since he was not finding enough of the right people and expertise to expand, he decided to buy expertise. For this reason, he bought Amar Chhajed led Webtech Labels, the leader in pharma labels in India. Then, Suresh extended his reach in fmcg by buying Chandan Khanna led Ajanta Packaging as well. In between he had acquired Positive Packaging which though large in flexibles had also taken over the labels business of SGRE in Bangalore. Therefore, now they have pressure sensitive label production in Mahape, Baddi, Rudrapur, Thana, Daman, Hyderabad and Bangalore.  


 
Silvasa Factory
Being a first-time entrant into some of the evolving technologies he had to develop global suppliers and was instrumental in their eventually coming India. By 1994 Suresh was wanting to build another world class factory, despite resistance coming from the family which still held 51%, he went ahead with his plans for building it in Silvasa. PPL made a rights issue to raise the money to build the factory and enhance the working capital for growth. Construction began in the 12 acres property in 1995 and in one year the unit was in production for mainly flexible packaging including shrink sleeves. They made profit in the first year itself. Paper Products Ltd was growing at breakneck speed ranging between 20-30% per annum.
In 1998 Suresh bought the Hyderabad unit of Gautam Thapar, Ballarpur Industries which had been 
Hyderabad Factory
setup as a joint venture with A and R, a leading European flexibles company. The unit was completely refurbished and new capacity was added. Hyderabad became the centre for wrap around labels. Meanwhile the company had made another rights issue to fund growth and the family’s holdings reduced to 32% as some members did not exercise their options. To fund the continued growth and expansion Suresh wanted to do yet another rights issue and wanted the family to increase their holding. But the younger generation were pursuing other professions, so it was decided to bring in an outside investor in synergy with PPL’s business. Van Leer and Huhtamaki combination which eventually merged to be one entity became the major investor chosen from amongst many options. Rather than the family selling its shares, PPL’s share base was doubled and the foreign partner directly invested into the company through preferential allotment of shares equivalent to 51% of the enhanced equity on 16 July 1999.
The company now with Huhtamaki as the new majority shareholder continued to aggressively pursue growth. Huhtamaki worldwide as a Euro 3 billion consumer packaging major had almost 100 companies across the globe. In 2001 and again in 2005, the Huhtamaki Board awarded PPL with the most exclusive and prestigious award of “Best Company of the Year”. PPL also received the “Most Innovative Company of the Year” award. Meanwhile Suresh was awarded the globally best “Manager of the Year” award, a unique honour.
Consequent to new fiscal incentives being announced by Government for Uttarakhand, a huge factory was built yet again on a 12-acre plot and commissioned at Rudrapur which again made a profit in the first year of production, and PPL continued with growth.
Huhtamaki wanted Suresh Gupta to head Huhtamaki’s global flexible business which he was hesitant to accept as he had no interest in moving out of Mumbai. However, he accepted to take the responsibility for Asia Oceania, operating from his base in Mumbai for three years. Finally, Huhtamaki removed his objection to running the group’s global flexible packaging business by telling him he could run it from his Bombay office. He had to accept the responsibility and ran the global business as an EVP and member of the Executive Board for Huhtamaki for six years. Thereafter he reverted to be the Executive Chairman for PPL but stepped down from his role as a promoter and simultaneously as per Huhtamaki’s desire he sold his shareholding to Huhtamaki.




Meantime industry peers honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award and Print Week, based on a readership vote. ranked him number 1 in the top 100 ranking of individuals in the industry. In Feb 2018, Suresh handed over day to day running of HPPL to the new Managing Director while he focused on tying up Board issues.
 






On 31st December 2018, Suresh Gupta retired and left the company that he so fondly nurtured.
 

In recent years, as a hobby, Suresh has been a supporter of socially beneficial enterprises from start-up stage and of businesses with purpose. He is also deeply interested in Art. He plans to intensify his work here and run a packaging industry advisory from his new office in Bandra. He would be happy to be of help to industry colleagues. He also plans to continue his active role in the “Indian Flexibles and Folding Cartons Association of India (IFCA)”. He leaves behind for his successors in HPPL his philosophy for success: “Sound fundamentals are enshrined in Good values; being Good compassionate people, knowing knowledge is power to be used with integrity, ever improving quality and service and continuous innovation makes for happy customers. Be the flag bearer of standard in your industry”.

Suresh Gupta can be reached at his email: suresh.gupta20@gmail.com

Print Publications are free to reproduce this article by compulsorily giving credit to author and mentioning blog address http://harveersahni.blogspot.com 
 

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. January 2019

The Indian operations of privately owned and Chandan Khanna lead Ajanta Packaging has been acquired by Mumbai headquartered Huhtamaki-PPL. Ajanta packaging has been a leading provider of labels with units at multiple locations. They have factories at Daman and Baddi.

Huhtamaki-PPL Ltd. or HPPL (Previously known as Paper Products Limited) is a Rupees 2200 Crores flexible packaging company in India and is listed on the Indian stock Exchanges since more than 50 years.

They are providers of flexible packaging, labels, tube laminate webs, thermo formable laminates, promotional materials, and gravure cylinders. The parent company Huhtamaki OYJ is a NASDAQ listed packaging company with a turnover exceeding 3 Billion Euros. 

In November 2012, they acquired Amar Chhajed lead Webtech labels and with this move they became market leaders also in the label segment besides Shrink Sleeves, Wrap Around and Wet Strength Labels as well as IML making it the only true and complete Labeling solutions provider in the country. Amar Chhajed now heads all the labeling businesses of Huhtamaki-PPL as President.HPPL has entered into a business Transfer Agreement for acquisition of the business of Ajanta Packaging India as a slump sale at an enterprise valuation of Rupees 1003 million, on a cash free debt free basis.

The merger will enable customers to get benefits of new technologies and stronger innovation capability. This partnership will further consolidate HPPL’s position of being the leader in labeling market in India.

Chandan Khanna says, “this move will make the label market in India to grow in a healthy way. The expanded market reach and size of HPPL will help them serve the customers better with further enhancement on service quality. Moreover the enhanced capabilities will help them offer superior and innovative products.”

Reported by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi March 2018.