In my early years when I worked for my parental company Weldon Sales Corporation established in 1939, manufacturing stationary products like Weldon Fountain pen inks and office glues besides a range of stationary products, I remember that we used to affix paper labels on glass bottles using water-based adhesives. Initially these were solutions of gum Arabic and later we switched over to starch based adhesives produced by us captively. These worked well on glass bottles or paper-based packaging, the only challenge was that we had to wait for the adhesive to dry before putting these into secondary or tertiary packs as the labels would shift if packed wet compromising the appearance of the product. The same issue was encountered by the beer industry which continues to face it, at least for some brands that still rely on adhesives that do not address this problem. Since glass packaging was heavy and was susceptible to breakages in transit the introduction of plastic HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) bottles came as a big relief at that time. HDPE that was invented in 1953, started being initially imported and later produced in India by Polyolefin Industries Ltd. a Mafatlal Group Company under license from Hoechst Germany, in the late 1960s. HDPE plastic bottles came as a big innovative development for the liquid packaging industry. When we at Weldon started using outsourced Plastic bottles, later manufacturing them in-house, labeling them brought fresh problems.

The labels affixed with water-based adhesives, on drying would fall off in transit or get wrinkled. This was because of the reason that HDPE is a low-energy polymer and for normal water-based adhesives to form a permanent bond is a problem.  For some round bottles, we started using wrap-around labels as then the label would come around and get pasted paper to paper. It was during this period after 1965 that the earliest self-adhesive labels started being produced in India and in the 1970s their usage in the packaging of products started to increase. These labels would bond instantly, would not need drying and would not shift in packaging , also aiding the aesthetics so their usage spread quickly and widely. It was that time we at Weldon also shifted to self-adhesive labels or pressure-sensitive labels. The rest of the evolution of Self-Adhesive labels is history and is still an ongoing process.

Adhesives: Pressure-sensitive adhesive(PSA) labels is now one of the fastest growing segments in a world of diverse labeling technologies. It provides accuracy of clean labeling and options to use a variety of adhesives for  application on different surfaces in most environments, including temperature, humidity, exposure to UV, etc. Advancements in products and their packaging require labels to perform in extreme and demanding parameters.

Some food and pharma products require the labels to perform at very low temperatures, typical are for ice cream, pharma and vaccines that require extremely low temperature for storage. Synthetic adhesives that are in use nowadays harden at very low temperatures and tend to fall off so must be formulated to withstand the application and storage conditions. These adhesive soften at high temperatures therefore signages and labels that must be used for outdoor in diverse environments, withstand UV light and heat build up due continuous exposure to sun also need adhesives specially formulated to perform for the duration of their lifetime. Direct PSA labels application on food products like fresh fruits and vegetables is now in use and labels must be certified safe for direct food contact and that they should not have adhesive or inks from which plasticizer may migrate into the product. Coming to labeling on low energy surfaces like HDPE bottles mentioned above, though the label sticks well but in these days of increased incidence of anti-counterfeiting, pilferage and tampering, the label with standard general purpose adhesive can be pulled off cleanly by an experienced hacker or counterfeiter. So, the adhesives are an important and integral part of evolving trends in self-adhesive labels. A lot of development has been done on these lines and continue to be taken up to produce special formulations that conform to the specific requirements.

Substrates and embellishments: As customers grow in numbers, segments, literacy, urbanisation and geographical spread, the packaging development managers are attempting to create innovations in partnership with label printers to woo the consumers, increase the shelf appeal of products and increase brand recalls.

Moving from simple label substrates like uncoated maplitho or uncoated woodfree paper, now the selection of substrate is as per the imagination or creative ideas of the label developers. The label face materials can be selected from a wide range of options available like semigloss paper, metallised papers or films, textured paper, various clear or opaque films, fabric, cork, lenticular films, holographic paper or films and anything that emanates out of a creative designer’s mind. As for embellishments, there was a time when either using a cast coated paper or a good varnish were the only options, but now a whole world of new ways to embellish labels has erupted. Using multiple printing technologies to get the best of every printing process, adding value to win customers and beat competition is becoming a necessity for printers. Today we see labels being made in-line in a single pass employing a combination of flexographic printing for spot colours or pantones, offset to create vignettes or skin tones, screen for higher deposition of ink, rotogravure to get the best results of metallic inks, cold foil, hot foil, using a variety of varnishes to create effects like textures, high gloss, matt, silk finish or just spot varnish, embossing and debossing to bring amazing results in the finished labels. We see printers create labels with raised effects like dew drops, print that seems to give the look and feel of wood and fruits with pulp, giving a natural effect. Adding further to the capabilities, now printers are employing digital printing either in combination as mentioned or as repass to do variable printing and or personalization. The options are getting to be limitless.

Security Labelling: Increasing number of instances of duplication, counterfeiting and pilferage has created a need for security to be made an important part of labeling.

Counterfeiting products is a problem not only limited to pharmaceuticals industry, but it also affects 5 to 7 percent of global trade. It has impacted other industries as well, such as electronics, automotive parts, spirits, consumer products and high-end cosmetics. Earlier security labels were only with security cuts incorporated at the time of die cutting, then specialized stocks with overt and covert features like the Void labels started being used followed by destructible labels. Holograms also have been largely employed and is now hologram production is a large segment of label industry. With development in pre-press and printing technologies printers use micro printing which is not visible to naked human eyes and other such printing methods used in printing currency to inbuild security in labels. Barcodes are also being largely employed to play an important role in security in labels besides aiding variable statutory information, track n trace information, inventory and logistical data. A very important development in recent times has been Intelligent labels that include near field communication (NFC) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to perform a wide variety of tasks. Integrating these capabilities with traditional labels is one of the most dramatic development in labeling.

Printing Equipment: The narrow web self-adhesive label manufacturing commenced in India in the first half of 1970s on small, about 4-5inches label presses imported from far eastern countries mostly from Japan at that time. These small narrow web presses that did block printing were extremely slow about 5 meters per minute but still did the printing and die cutting inline in a single pass, that was its USP.

It may appear strange to the younger printers of today that there were no drying arrangements in these presses. Printers would print and then hang the printed rolls of labels on a clothesline for drying before rerolling them on a core and sending to customers. Shop floors of narrow web label printers would look like washing yards referred to in India as “Dhobhi ghat”. The printing technologies with time went through continuous changes. The flatbed block printing made way for semi-rotary intermittent letterpress using polymer plates. With improvement in Flexo ink and plate technology, rotary label presses with central impression drum (CI Label Presses) found their way into print shops. These provided faster speeds at increased widths of 7 inches(180mm)-10inches(250mm) and as the buyers became more demanding on colours, speeds and performance, together with further evolution of prepress, advancements in plate making and registration controls, the CI narrow web label presses moved out making way for modular presses using water-based inks with hot air dryers. However, CI presses continued to be used for other applications like lami-tubes and mid-web flexible packaging. Label presses have over the years evolved to print wider web widths of 330mm, 430mm, 530mm and at last Labelexpo presses over 650mm were displayed. Printing speeds have also escalated to over 200meters per minute. In an evolving scenario of rising demands for perfection in print and printers facing challenges in reproducibility, colour variations due to viscosity changes in ink trays and set up wastage, were releived when UV inks, UV lamps for drying and short web path became a standard part of presses. The UV printing also enabled printing and converting filmic labels after addition of corona treaters inline to enhance print adhesion. Some label companies have of now reverted to include a combination of hot air and UV as some food products have witnessed migration of photo initiators in UV inks migrating into the food causing contamination, so the option to print with water-based inks comes in handy to service such requirements. LED UV also is being seen as replacement as there is energy cost saving and better as regards migration issues. Ideal solution maybe Electron Beam curing which is costly but that has still to be accepted by Indian label industry. There is hardly any installation with EB curing for production of narrow web labels in India.

Other evolutions that happened include label presses designed for quick change overs to enable a large number of jobs per day, servo drives to eliminate gears coupled with advanced vision camera systems to achieve perfect registrations in both machine and cross direction without human intervention, better matrix removal, web cleaners to eliminate pinholes and print aberrations, web turn bars to print both sides of the web along with the delam-relam function for enabling printing on back or the adhesive coated side of the web. Movable lamination stations and embellishing stations like foiling add value to the printed labels. Multiple die-stations to enable functions like embossing, debossing, slitting besides simple die cutting or sheeting have become a standard function demanded by high-end printing companies. Change of heavy magnetic cylinders was a cumbersome and time-consuming job requiring manpower and lifting arrangements. Now in a couple of minutes one can slide-out and slide-in a magnetic cylinder.

The pandemic that surfaced in end of 2019 and drastically impacted the whole world and made businesses suffer for all of 2020 and when we are hoping for it to taper off in 2021 providing relief to mankind, it has started to resurface. It has prompted the industry to re-engineer their working. The aim now is to work with less. Workflow management, increased automation, clean room manufacturing, inventory controls, effective management systems, etc.  are the buzzwords that even smaller entrepreneurs understand and are making efforts to implement them.  Automatic butt slicers/reel changing systems to achieve continuous 24X7 production when needed, waste management equipment sucking waste matrix right from the die cutting stage and shredding and inline inspection/colour management systems to reduce rejections which were earlier a preference of only a selected few, but these are now a part of standard equipment configurations envisaged commonly by Label printing  companies planning expansion or planning new setup. The evolution and shifting of trends in self-adhesive labels have been an ongoing process and printers need to adapt the changes as they originate to stay fit, competitive and innovative.

Author’s footnote: Each parameter listed above and many other parameter’s like inks, special adhesives, coatings and machine design are subjects that are to lengthy to be accommodated into one article and need separate coverage. 

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-India April 2021

Almost forty years ago, when Iwas just a commercial siliconiser, people at large did not understand what release paper or silicon paper was. I would jokingly explain it was a product, a protective paper behind a sticker, that would eventually go into wastepaper basket. In real terms the release liner, would be disposed-off in landfills or burnt adding smoke and gasses to the environment impacting it adversely.

Time has changed, concern for environment is a necessity and cannot be taken lightly as a joke. We are responsible for leaving behind a legacy of a cleaner and liveable environment for generations that follow us.
We need to make our manufacturing programs, sustainable. Sustainability means giving back to mother earth what we take from it or reduce drawing the resources that we cannot replenish forthwith cut down generation of industrial waste. Unfortunately, 50% of all that self-adhesive label industry produces goes as waste in terms of waste matrix and release liners. While globally many endeavours are being adopted to reduce liner waste yet in India a lot needs to be done. Switching over to liner less labels where-ever possible, helps but not much work is done in this direction. Using thinner filmic liners does result in reduced tonnage of liners and their recyclability. During this period many a top-end printer has started using clear on clear filmic label materials aiding sustainability to some extent. Global leaders in Labelstocks Avery Dennison has initiated a program to collect and recycle silicone release liners in India, it is a step in the right direction. But given the size of the country and geographical spread of label units, it is a gigantic task. Other than this some printers have adopted waste management by shredding waste and compacting it for use as fuel in boilers and other applications, this is only a miniscule portion of the Industry. Largely, the waste is still sent to landfills or is incinerated. In times to come legislation will come to make sustainability and environment safety an imperative. It is time that the label and print fraternity at large must understand that not only the need but also the larger implications terms sustainability, recyclability, circular economy, environmental protection, etc.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.

They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go together with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The Sustainable Development Goal number 12 states; worldwide material consumption has expanded rapidly, as has material footprint per capita, seriously jeopardizing the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. Urgent action is needed to ensure that current material needs do not lead to the over extraction of resources or to the degradation of environmental resources, and should include policies that improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and mainstream sustainability practices across all sectors of the economy. In our labels and packaging industry this is an imperative that needs to be attended to because the percentage of waste generated is high, going to landfills. Some companies do incinerate or send the waste generated as matrix or side trim to kilns for use as fuel. This may look good management but in the longer run we are putting gasses into the air from the different materials going into the manufacture of labelstocks viz.; paper, film, primer coats, silicone, adhesive etc. Each component will produce different type of emissions that have in unison no single solution to treat them. Thus, there is a need for reducing the waste generated, use recyclable materials, reduce the energy consumption etc. to become more sustainable.

The label industry globally has been looking at the possibility of recyclability and reusability of the waste matrix or that of the different components of labelstocks. Since release paper is one item that has its usability only until the label is dispensed to be applied on to the product, after that it ends up as waste. Over the years there have been many solutions tried to reduce the impact of this liner waste on the environment. The used liner would either go to landfills or incinerated and in both cases it its impact was adverse. Due to the silicone coating on the paper biodegradability in landfills was an issue as silicone after crosslinking becomes inert.

For the same reason paper mills would not buy this waste for re-pulping and making fresh paper. Initial steps taken in reducing the liner waste were replacing the paper liners with thinner filmic liners thereby reducing the tonnage of paper and moreover the waste liner can be remoulded. This was a positive sign, but large-scale shift has not happened in a long time because of additional increased investment in equipment and tooling. There have been efforts to go linerless in producing labels but the inability to do custom shapes die-cutting and high-speed label dispensing on automatic packaging lines have not produced a lasting solution. Efforts and development in this direction are going on and we hope one day the industry can shift to self-adhesive labels without having release liners to dispose off, becomes a reality. At Labelexpo Europe 2019, four companies Ritrama, Omet, Spilker and ILTI came together to offer their “Core Linerless Solutions”, other companies like Catchpoint are also making strong efforts in this direction, only time will tell how many brand owners move in this direction and prompt their label vendors to offer the linerless label solutions. Some paper mills in Europe have now devised process of de-siliconising release paper and then re-pulping it to make fresh paper but the collection and delivery to the mills from the printing companies widely spread over large geographical locations is a logistic challenge. However still substantial volumes have started to be reprocessed. In India in recent times as mentioned above Avery Dennison has initiated support to a program in which collection of release liners is outsourced to a vendor and then sent to a mill who have devised a process to re-pulp and convert to paperboard. These are positive steps.

The menace of waste is gigantic and it has become an absolute emergency to counter it. Governments have woken up to act against generation of materials going to landfills. It is preferred that whatever waste is generated in industrial process should be gainfully recycled for usability to achieve the benefits as described in circular economy.

As per a report published in thehindubusinessline.com of 19th September 2019, leading consumer products companies such as Coca-Cola India, PepsiCo India and Bisleri among others have decided to come together to launch a first-of-its-kind packaging waste management venture in the country. The venture, which is called Karo Sambhav, will focus on creating a formal eco-system for collection of post-consumer packaging and optimising material recycling processes. Commenting on the endeavour, T Krishnakumar, President, Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia added, “Through our vision, World Without Waste, we want to ensure that all our packaging material goes for recycling and not to landfills.” Another report appearing in Live Mint 2nd October 2019 states; The government may soon roll out stringent norms and impose heavy fines on corporates, including hospitality industry, mobile manufacturers and packaging industry, for failing to stop use of plastic. Under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which the government plans to implement effectively, manufacturers, brand owners, and importers of products should realise and bear responsibility for environmental impact of their products through the product life-cycle. Many of the large FMCG companies have started adopting the requirements of EPR. These are other positive steps taken to eradicate waste to landfills to a great extent.

Besides the liner there is the waste matrix which has the adhesive and various kinds of face materials that include uncoated, coated, metallised, coloured, metallised papers, laminates or films with metallisation or topcoats. Side trims are also generated at some label converting units and most labelstock manufacturing units. With increasing prices of real estate besides an environmental issue, the side trims and matrix call for large amount of space to store until disposed off, putting additional pressure on resources. For this reason, larger label companies are shredding and compacting the waste to sell as fuel for boilers, furnaces and cement kilns.

There are some innovative entrepreneurs who convert this waste into pallets, floor tiles, wall panelling and some small furniture items. It is interesting to see such endeavours.

Circular economy packaging is another buzzword when we talk of sustainability and environmental protection. A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste, continual use and recycling of resources to re-engineer products that are preferably not downgraded. It is contrary to the earlier system “traditional linear economy” according to which the aim was ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production to achieve increased usage of all inputs.

Labels are the face of any product and in time of growing organised retail and in view of stringent consumer protection laws labels provide the much-needed statutory information, besides becoming the marketing tool for any product. In such a scenario we need to design labels in manner that they are able, to be a part of recycling process of the package. For instance, on a PE (polyethylene) container we should have a PE label only so that the whole package is mono-polymer and can be effectively reprocessed and recycled. Multi-polymer plastics are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. It is normal in India that we see ragpickers collect the mono polymer milk pouches but leave behind the fancy multi-layered pouches of instant foods and snacks littered around. This is because the monolayer plastics are resaleable for convenient recycling. Similarly, a paperboard carton should have a paper label.

Sustainability or circular economy must be in the conscience of all manufacturers, it does not advocate compromising safety or user experience of any product. It also does not mean increased cost of inputs. It is a mindset to create products that make life sustainable and do not deplete resources available to humans. There is need to replenish what we extract from our environment and establish a legacy for generations that follow for staying committed to the cause. It is a cause that is impacting humanity across the globe and all efforts to make public of all races and countries aware of the situation and need to contribute towards this issue in unison are necessary.
Written By Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi India February 2020

The following article was written in 2006, The second part written in July 2019 is published in a series of four parts. the first part 2A is available at http://bit.ly/2xOxY1P

Years ago in 1981, I came across a book on the house of Tata’s. The book written by Russi Lala was named, “Creation Of Wealth” and it chronicled the events that led to Tata’s becoming the biggest Industrial group in India at that time.

After reading the book I was overwhelmed and wished that some day I will write something like this. Maybe track the roots of my own large extended family. Somehow I never got down to seriously working on this. I guess the opportunity came around again when I was invited by Roger Pellow of Tarsus to make two presentations at the first India Label Summit in 2006. I decided that in the first presentation where we take an overview of the India Label Market, I will chronicle the events that led to the establishment of the narrow web label printing industry in India. I am sure that this topic is of prime interest to all the label printers in India. Though it is extremely difficult to put all those interesting historical happenings, bottlenecks or interesting landmarks into this presentation yet I have tried to put together in whatever best way I could. I feel less then writing a book, there cannot be proper justice done to the subject. Maybe one day if I can find time, I will attempt it. Meanwhile getting data on this has been a very interesting job and I thank my senior colleagues in the Industry, without whose inputs and help, I could not have put together this presentation.

The very beginning

The credit of bringing self adhesive labels, in their present form, to India goes to a US multi national, Johnson and Johnson. It was in the turbulent post independence time in 1947 that Johnson & Johnson came to India.

In 1957 they established Johnson & Johnson India Ltd. A couple of years later they started the permacell division to make self adhesive tapes. It was around 1965 that they entered into the manufacture of self adhesive labels. They installed a rotary label press. They sold only converted labels and did not offer any labelstock to others in the market. So there was no real scope at that time for others to setup label presses or any other sticker manufacturing facility.

The Decade of sixties.

The first self adhesive label produced by an Indian printer also started around the same time in 1965, almost thirty years after Stanton Avery produced the first self adhesive label in Los Angeles, California.

Manohar Lal Bhatia, a screen printer, producing water transfers in his company, Sharat Industries, did pioneering work and produced what was the first self adhesive sticker in India. Using a PVC face stock with pressure sensitive adhesive supplied by Calico and a Polyethylene sheet as a release liner they manufactured their stickers. The reason they did not use paper as face material is that silicon release liners were not available and Polyethylene provided for a very tight release due to which the paper would tear off. Manohar Das Bhatia was later joined by his two sons Shyam and Rattan. They worked hard to make self adhesive stickers under their brand “Sharastick” popular in those days. While Manohar Bhatia is no more, my efforts to trace his son Shyam who probably still produces labels have been futile. I tried to reconfirm if Manohar Bhatia really was the first and got the reply from Badal Hasija, a screen printer with over 45 years of experience. “101 %, he was the first” says Badal and added “I even remember the first label he made was for Gabriel shock absorbers and it left me wondering for days, what Manohar Bhatia had produced”.

Jagdish Zaveri of Preeti Arts has also been one of the earliest of screen printers who produced self adhesive stickers and started around the same time. Other prominent screen printers who did pioneering work in stickers include, Hamid Vasi of Triace, Dinesh Gogari of Diamond Stickers, Vasu Rawal of Prachi Graphics and the list goes on. Their contributions however were more in the early seventies.

As the decade of sixties was coming to an end, a young Suresh Doshi from a family of textile merchants, who had drifted into distribution of PVC and decorative laminates, decided to try his hands at manufacturing of self adhesive Wall Papers. In 1969 he traveled to Germany to visit various machinery producing companies and he finally settled to buy a Kroenert coater for his new venture.

This machine had the capabilities to siliconise and produce self adhesive labelstocks. Little did Suresh Doshi realize that this plant would be the mother equipment for the Indian narrow web label industry.

The Decade of Seventies.

In 1971 the Kroenert coater/ laminator landed in Mumbai. The company Shanti Lal Doshi & Co, the maiden manufacturing venture of the Doshi family was in place to take off. This was a landmark year and I see it as a step that would lead to the birth of the self adhesive label in roll form, made by Indians. In a couple of year’s time the Doshi’s were ready to try producing labelsocks. Metroark Ltd. , which is now Wacker Metroark, was already there to provide the silicone release coatings for making release papers. Solvent based adhesive was provided by BASF and it was time to produce the first labelstock made in India by Indians.

In 1972-73 the commercial production of Labelstock had started.Around the same time that Suresh Doshi left for Germany in 1969, another young man, Jeetubhai Shah, visited the offices of Standard type foundry in Himalaya house in South Mumbai. He was surprised to see a die cut paper label that did not need to be remoistened to make it tacky. It would stick to glass with slight pressure. It was sticky to touch and would remain so even after having touched and peeled off from the hand many times. He kept playing with it for a while. Sticking the label to his hand and removing it. He was so fascinated with the label  that he started to make further enquiries. He also got from Standard Type foundry, a catalogue of Iwasaki machine that would make these die cut labels. A few trips later he came to know that Suresh Doshi was about to produce material for this machine. Jeetubhai decided do buy this machine. He joined hands with his income tax consultant and friend P P Bhagat to form a Company called International Trading Company at Kalyandas Industrial Estate in Worli. They applied for grant of an import license, and in those days of difficult foreign exchange regime, getting an import license was a nightmare. With a lot of effort they did manage the license and imported the machine. 
Jeetubhai fondly remembers that Japan had floated their currency that year and due to this, his machine became cheaper by at least 15%.. The timing of installing the machine was perfect. By the time it was installed, Shantilal Doshi & Co. was ready with labelstocks. There were numerous hurdles that these pioneers faced when they endeavoured on these path breaking efforts, like a whole night he spent at a workshop in the middle of Mumbai’s red light area to get his first Flat bed Die made. With deep sense of nostalgia he remembers the full page advertisement they gave in news papers, “First time in India Self Adhesive Labels, die-cut in any shape.” This was their USP over Johnson and Johnson, who were using expensive rotary dies whereas International Trading Co. had perfected their indigenous flat bed die making process. This advertisement brought in the first big label customer for them, which was Siemens.  International Trading company and later along with their sister co. Global graphics were the first roll form customers for Shantilal Doshi and Co., while Sharat Industries was their first sheet form customers. International Trading Co. still exists and is run by Kishore Parekh. The original partners had left the company. Jeetubhai later started a label company called Finearts.

I had asked Suresh Doshi to cite any interesting incident of those days and spontaneously he cited one. Sharat  Industries had made full die-cut labels for J K Helene Curtis from their stock and supplied. The users came up with a strange complaint.

The stickers were sticking well during the day but would fall off during the production at night. Not being able to find an answer to this one Mr. Doshi suggested that they use the labels during the day only. The production people at J K Helen Curtis did not agree as they had to run the night shift also. So Suresh Doshi was compelled to visit them during the night. He was shocked to see that the workers were not removing the release paper and thinking these to be remoistenable labels were using only water to stick the labels to the bottles. No wonder the labels were falling off !

The label industry was extended to other parts of India by the shear sincere efforts of the Doshi’s. By 1976, they had already suggested, encouraged and convinced close relatives Bharat Mehta and his brother to setup a label press.

Bharat Mehta bought his first Siki Label press from Ahmedabad where it was being used to produce unsupported wet glue labels. Shifting over from a business in agricultural pumps at the age of 26, Bharat Mehta, settled down perfectly in to his label printing business. He and his company Super Labels is one of the most respected label printers. From a single siki he went on to add  a fully loaded Gallus, an EM 280 8 colours, EM 280 6 colours, and an Acquaflex. In the earlier part of  the decade of 2000-2010 he lost heavily in a major fire but firm resolve brought him right back in what he liked best,  “Producing self adhesive labels”. Other early entrants into the industry in the west  during the seventies were, Vidya Mehta of Pressure Tags, The Kapoors of R K Papers, etc.

By end of the decade, the Doshi’s went southwards and encourage yet another relative, Dilip Sutaria to become a label printer. He setup Better Labels to lead the march of self adhesive labels in the south. In North, the Doshi’s appointed an ex-partner of  Dilip Sutaria, Mr. P D Khanna and his son Vinod Khanna as their agents in New Delhi. Around the same time in late seventies, Vinayak Sood of Liddles had installed a Norprint from UK and went on to add the first Mark Andy in 1983. The year 1979 saw Narula of Rikki Sales start his label printing operations.

In East the Doshi’s found their first customer in the former national  tennis champion and a celebrated player, Premjit Lal. The Doshi’s had completed their reach all over the country and by end of the decade self adhesive label industry was an established fact. According to Suresh Doshi, the biggest boost to the self adhesive label industry was in the year 1975. Starting with the controversial Rae Bareily election of Indira Gandhi, when congress introduced their self adhesive bindis, to the imposition of the law to make minimum retail price marking on consumer packages, compulsory, these decision brought a surge in demand for self adhesive labels . By 1975 another young Gujarati entrepreneur Pravin Patel had setup a polytype coater in Ahmedabad to produce silicone papers and labelstocks. 1978 saw Hari Gupta start his H P Lablette in Delhi with his Japanese coater, and towards the end of the decade PCI in Kolkata, IPW, Veekay papers and Geva in Mumbai and Weldon in Delhi had either started or were about to begin commercial siliconizing operations.

The decade of Eighties

With the start of a new decade more developments came into the self adhesive label industry. Shantilal Doshi had started operations with solvent based adhesive but environment friendly Acrylic emulsion adhesive were now in use for labelstock production. In 1982 Kilaru Prasad of Prasad Accumeter had brought in hotmelt coater from Accumeter in the US where he worked as a Sales Director. Ananth Rao of Stayon paper followed suit with another accumeter coater and Interlabels now perhaps the largest Indian printer also installed their accumeter hot melt coater to support their entry into the label printing industry around that time.

The decade of 80’s saw label printing companies being set up at various places in India. The eastern sector growth was extremely slow due to the lack of industrial infrastructure there. According to Bharat Mehta, the biggest boost to the industry this decade came in 1987 when many pharma companies started their shift rom wet glue labels to automatically dispensed self adhesive labels. This step helped establish a constant growth mode for this industry.

The Decade of NinetiesThe decade of nineties was perhaps the most eventful one. For me personally it was a memorable  one as during this time we took the landmark decision to switch over from being a mere commercial siliconizer to a prominent labelstock manufacturer. However for the industry, the biggest event I rate as the entry of the multinational Co, whom I refer to as our big brothers in the industry. Avery Dennison had setup production facilities in India. I have always felt their entry has changed the way people look at this industry. From being a mere sticker maker, the narrow web label printer became a specialty label producer. In the same decade we saw printers grow in stature and capabilities. Seljagat, Wintek, S K Labels in south. Interlabels, Webtech, R K Papers, Mudrika, Icon, Tayabi, etc in the west. Update, Syndicate, Jain transfer, Great Eastern, Prakash Labels, etc in the North. The three brothers at Prakash Labels worked hard in the price marking labels  segment to drive in volumes that were unheard of in the industry. Syndicate Printers went Global with operations in The UAE.The new millennium, the first decade of a new centuryAs we crossed the middle of this decade and the world’s eyes were on us. The label summit in early 2006 was a proof. The big time presses started coming in all over the country. You name them they were here, Gallus, Nilpeter, Iwasaki, Gidue, Mark Andy, Rotatek, Focus, Orthotec, the list is endless. The local press manufacturers have also reasons to be proud of. Multiflex, Jandu, RK Machine, webtech and a host of others  are reporting installations constantly. The two dyanamic ladies in our industry also emerged as highly successful narrow web label printers in this decade. Amila Singhvi at IPP and Kusum Dunglay at Goodwork. Goodwork took a legendary step by signing up a joint venture with Reynders. Unfortunately they parted ways the following year in 2008. Reyenders continued their operations as an individual entity. Our Industry Leaders Interlabels setup a unit in Africa on one hand and adding more state of art presses at a new and bigger facility. Webtech also expanding with new machines moved to bigger premises. In the earlier part of this decade, over thirty years after making a historical start the Kroenert coater of Shanti Lal Doshi and Company was sold to Gloss Holdings.A proud event for us at Weldon was being the first Indian Labelstock manufacturer ever to have exhibited at Labelexpo Brussels. We are happy to report our exports to Iran, UAE, Ukraine, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Bahrain, UK, France, Italy, Germany, New Caledonia, New Zealand, etc. Another feather in our cap was that my presentation on the Indian market, became a part of the International Cham Symposium at St. Moritz, Switzerland in the year 2003.The India Label show in 2002 opened to a resounding success and repeating the success in 2004 in cooperation with Tarsus at New Delhi. It was also in 2002 that we saw another historic step, the formation of LMAI. This happened due to sincere efforts of Amit Sheth and Industry stalwarts like Surinder Kapoor of R K Papers, Bhavin Kothari of Interlabels,  Rajesh Chadha of Update Prints, Kuldeep Goel of Any Graphics, Vivek Kapoor of Creative Prints( At that time he was with Icon Prints), etc.Halfway through the decade we were expecting many more exciting things to happen. More International Companies were waiting to enter, looking for oppurtune time or the right partners. The Industry was on a definite growth path and it was just a matter of time when it became a major market in labels in this part of the world. The years afterThe preceding part of this article I wrote in early 2006 and  towards the end of the year I looked back and saw changes coming in  rapidly. I would start by adding here that immediately after having made the above presentation at the label summit organised by Tarsus, the owners of Labelexpo,  I had a pleasant surprise. Shyam Bhatia, the son of the first label printer was standing in front of me at our stand during the summit. I had tried to trace him without success. I was excited, I gave him a chair, since he had missed the presentation, I gave it to him and asked him to read it and tell me if there was any thing wrong in what I wrote. As he finished reading his eyes were moist and shining, he just kept saying, “it is so true…it is so true” and then he was gone…
Rapid developments and changes are happening in the Indian market. More international companies have become extremely active. The Indians are also investing across the country. At least dozens of Chinese hot melt coater laminators have been installed. Label stock manufacturing is going wider, there are a few 1.5 meters coater laminators that have been installed or are in the process of being installed. A whole new set of Offset printers are investing in high-end label presses, indicating a firm shift from wet glue to self adhesive labels. Narrow web label printers are coming up in smaller cities and towns rather then being restricted only to metros. Installations have been reported at Nagpur, Pune, Indore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Baddi, Uttranchal etc.
A host of international label Co.s like CCL, Brady’s, etc are already in the process of setting up shop in India. The successful Finat and LMAI sponsored, Euro-India label exchange, held on the sidelines of India Label Show 2006, indicated to setting up of a whole new set of joint ventures in the field of narrow web labels. It surely was interesting to see more and more of European companies registering on the show website. If registrations on the India Label Show website were any indication then surely India is the happening destination for the narrow web label industry. As per my information visitors from over 35 countries had registered. The 2006 India label show happened and it was a great success. So much so that by September 2007 it was taken over by Tarsus. The announcement of India Label show having become a part of the global labelexpo group came at the Labelexpo 2007 at Brussels. The two years following the 2006 show have seen unprecedented growth. The flock of marketing agents of most of the international press manufacturers, had shifted gears and were in an aggressive selling mode. The credit of expanding this market goes to the likes of Gaurav Roy selling all those Mark Andy’s, Ranesh Bajaj selling Rotateks, Lintec, Omega, etc. Amit Sheth selling Focus and Orthotec, Heidelberg selling Gallus machine, Vijay Pareekh offering MPS, Autoprint offering Omet, Riefenhauser selling Gidue and the list could go on. The biggest surprise came from the industry leader worldwide, Nilpeter. In 7 preceeding years they sold just one press and in the last two years they not only sold four new presses but also announced setting up of facility to produce Nilpeter presses in Chennai, India. The credit goes to the forward thinking of Dilip Shah and hard working of Manish Kapoor. The Indian press manufacturers also have made their mark, with R K Machines of Ahmedabad reporting 150 installations and Jandu reporting 26 installations in 2-3 years. There are a whole lot others but the list would become too exhaustive.Two very important happenings that took place in these two years after 2006 were first, the entry of Raflatac with setting up of their slitting facility near Mumbai and second, the expansion of Avery Dennison, with them setting up another coating laminating facilty near Pune. The competition in the labelstock segment became extremely intense. Many local stock producers suffered due to to erosion of margins and unviable credit terms. With raw material prices climbing and wafer thin profits, the time for shakeout and restructuring had arrived. Many have started looking out towards global markets or venturing into new and profitable products with synergy. During these two last years a multitude of presses have arrived in India. The likes of young Chandan Khanna, who diversified from being a sheetfed offset printer to a narrow web label printer has surprised many. In just a few years from his first one waterless offset Iwasaki press, it became three presses and then at the Labelexpo 2006 he surprised all by announcing that he had bought a Nilpeter and an MPS in one go. Prakash labels also reported unprecedented growth with their multi location manufacturing and stock facility in the UAE. Interlabels, the market leader continued to grow not only in India but also in their international operations. In south Gururaj of Wintek in Bangalore and Raveendran of Seljegat in Sivakasi were on a roll reporting fresh investments in the label business.  As the inflationary pressure came to hit USA and found its way also to India, label printers who have made huge capital investments in state of art Label presses started to feel the pinch of competition coming from not only international printers but also from their local counterparts, with their relatively cheaper investments in Chinese Label presses.
This period also becomes significant because of recognition of Indians in the label industry on a global scale. It was a matter of pride for me for having been chosen as the only Asian to be a member of the Finat committees. At the Finat congress 2008 in Paris, it was heartening to see many Indian faces and creditable that Bharat Mehta of Superlabels of Mumbai and Kamlesh Shah of Letragrafix were recipients of Finat awards for excellence in printing. With LMAI now becoming more active and interactive they are once again parternering Finat for yet another Indo European label exchange hopefully along with the next India Label Show 2008. LMAI is also in the advance stages of conducting a fare and competitive label awards competition, professionally. It is heartwarming that printers from surrounding countries have become or have expressed the desire to be a part of LMAI. As a young India continues to grow at a fast pace, more and more young Indians earn more and spend more, giving a big fillip to the retail industry. As the retail grows, so does the requirement of labels. There may be bad patch or a small pause but for a long time this industry has still to grow, set many landmarks and create history.

The second part written in July 2019 is published in a series of four parts. the first part 2A is available at http://bit.ly/2xOxY1P
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, leading manufacturers and exporters of self Adhesive Labelstocks. (first written in November-2006 and last updated in September 2008)  http://www.weldoncelloplast.com/