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

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

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

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

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

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

2.       Liquid toner based

3.       Inkjet

4.       UV Inkjet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the final part of History of Indian Label Industry” up to third quarter of 2019 written by the author. The history would look incomplete if mention was not made of those who started their label journey from scratch or very humble beginning and then rose to a pinnacle achieving success not only in the home market but also internationally and continue with their journey to greater heights.

From the start of new Millennium in 2000 until the time of writing this part of the history, enormous changes have come about in the Indian label industry. Label printing companies who started from virtually nothing, grew and spread to multiple locations. Some of the bigger ones on the way, decided to sell out to or partnered with foreign companies who were entering the Indian market for label manufacturing. Label, being a miniscule portion of the total packaging cost of a product, does not deliver very large turnover as compared to that of package printing or flexible packaging companies.

However, it does generate relatively higher profit margins than that of high turnover package printing industry. For this reason, we did not see any label companies in the earlier part of the new Millennium who could reach a coveted target of Rupees 100 Crore or a Billion Rupees as annual sales turnover. However, some packaging companies or multinationals who invested in labels as well, were above this figure. It was incredible that at least three Indian startup companies who started their business purely with stickers that later evolved as labels, grew to cross Rupees 100 Crores turnover or more in 2018-2019.

First among them is Manish Desai led Mudrika Labels. Sandeep Desai working at a greeting cards company started trading in stickers that he outsourced in 1975 and a year later he started screen printing them at home. His 10-year-old cousin, Manish was always excited to see stickers being made. In 1977 Sandeep moved his sticker manufacturing to a 500 square feet factory in Malad.

In 1985 they started outsourcing pregummed sheets and get them printed on offset to finally finish them to be stickers at their factory. They grew and expanded into packaging, making cartons and corrugated boxes. Sandeep eventually moved into packaging and the young Manish who had labels in his heart, in 1996 expanded into labels with Kopack label presses and later many Gallus presses. He further expanded integrating backwards to produce self-adhesive labelstocks and collaborated with a Korean company to produce heat transfer labels. By 2019 Mudrika labels were working out of 100,000 square foot shop floor, 550 workforce to achieve a Rupees 160 Crore (1.60 Billion Rupees) annual sales turnover.

The second person to achieve this Kuldip Goel of Any Graphics started from very humble beginnings. At a tender age of 14 years he started making stickers by screen printing manually himself to earn some money while still in school. He did this in his one room home. Despite extreme hardships in life he remained honest and focussed on providing the best in quality and indulging in innovation. In 1989 he started his maiden venture Stickline in Noida. By start of the millennium Kuldip’s company Any Graphics was recognised as one of the best label manufacturers in quality and one that never cut prices to get orders but prove their innovative capabilities to convince customers. From mere screen printing he went on to add dome labels and letterpress printed labels in his portfolio. In 2009 he moved to a 100,000 square feet clean sanitized dust free factory adding, Heidelberg Offset Presses, Orthotecs and a fully loaded Omet flexo and screen combination label press. He also became one of the largest makers of rigid boxes.

By 2019 he had crossed the Rupees 100Crore sale without compromising profit margins and becoming one of the most awarded companies in India. In 2019 he commenced construction of a certified green factory spread over 15000 square meter plot size and 250,000 square feet shop floor.

 The third printer who grew in similar pattern, a stout follower of Lord Shiva who greets people with, “Jai Bhole Ki” (Victory to Lord Shiva, lovingly referred to as Bhole) Sanjeev Sondhi, started his career as a medical Representative and carried on in the profession switching jobs until 2005 when he decided to trade in Barcode labels, printers and accessories.

He was looking for bigger things in life! Two years later in 2006 he launched his maiden start-up venture Zircon Technologies India Limited with a Mark Andy 2200 Label press in Dehradun. Being a salesperson himself he drove the company in fast mode expansion and in a few years added multiple Mark Andy and Omet label presses which include the high-end combination Omet Vary flex 430mm. In just 15 years of inception Zircon crossed the Rupees 100 Crore reaching 120 Crores annual turnover mark coming purely from label manufacturing, “a record in itself”! While other successful label companies at this stage would look for foreign suitors, Zircon in 2019 was the first totally indigenous label manufacturing company planning to go public to raise capital for future expansion. They got the approval from SEBI in November 2018 with plans to open a 90-100 Crores public issue. Waiting for an appropriate time to launch their public issue Zircon continued to grow and invest in expansion. Sanjeev hoped to invest 80 percent of the receipts in expanding labels business while the rest in other allied products. Sanjeev was even looking at inorganic growth by indulging in Mergers and Acquisitions. With 3 factories in Dehradun and one in Chennai Sanjeev Sondhi aims to grow multi-fold with blessing of Bhole (Lord Shiva).

Having achieved such success through sheer commitment and hard work it is natural for companies like the three mentioned above to look at other avenues in synergy with their business to achieve a faster growth. All the above, while they continued to be proud of their beginnings and aware of the evolution, started to study or invest in new technologies. 

 We had reached a time when multiple labelling technologies surfaced, and future had many surprises in store. From the primitive times when a label had to be either tied to a product or riveted on to it or affixed with a wheat flour paste, we believed to have reached a pinnacle when self-adhesive or pressure sensitive adhesive labels that were developed and grew to establish as a predominant labelling technology. Initially it was the manually applied wet glue adhesive paper labels that were in use. With development of starch and dextrin-based glues and availability of automatic wet glue labelling equipment, wet glue labels became the most widely used method of labelling. Most of the organised industry employed packaging lines incorporating wet glue labelling. It was used in all segments like pharmaceuticals, Liquor, cosmetics, oils and in fact most of the products that were packed in glass bottles or metal cans. When plastics, mostly HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), started to evolve as a preferred packaging material for glass bottles and cans due to ease of manufacturing, reduction of freight due to lighter weight per can, possibility to produce in different shapes and colours, labelling with starch or dextrin based adhesive became a challenge. This change was taking place during the 1970s and 1980s. Since HDPE is a low energy material, paper labels with water-based adhesives made from various gums, starches and dextrins would not anchor on to the containers or would fall off in transit. Labels with pressure sensitive adhesives or stickers had already started being made initially by screen printing methods and later by offset printing, these labels would stick well just by application of pressure. They did not have to wait for drying and could be packed instantly after labelling while the wet glue labels would have adhesives oozing out on the sides and attracting dust and shifting in packing process, adversely affecting the aesthetics. More and more companies were opting for these stickers.

Towards the end of last century self-adhesive labels evolved in roll form and the automatic labelling equipment for pressure sensitive adhesive labels became available. Many companies did resist shifting from wet glue to self-adhesive due to the high cost of label applicator replacements.

This is a big challenge that the likes of printers mentioned above faced and yet with their firm resolve they became a part of the change that brought them success. As the retail became dependent on customer choices and there was need for better decorated labels, self-adhesive labels became the preferred labelling technology and grew at fast pace. In between screen printing on containers also started but a slow process that did not have much decoration as compared to printed labels, it did not grow as a preferred process. Self-adhesive grew so much that it became almost 50% of all the labels produced in India. As we entered the new millennium and started looking also into future the thought process for future of labels is becoming extremely diverse and evolving in different tangents. Shrink sleeves came in to take away a big market share given the possibility of 360 degrees visibility. Wrap around labels also became extensively used in the beverage segment. Heat transfer label technology that had originated as Therimage Label technology developed by Dennison Manufacturing company in USA in the 1990s did not flourish then because Avery, who acquired Dennison, did not promote it as it was not in sync with their core business of self-adhesive labels. Once the patents expired, the Heat Transfer Labels or HTL reappeared in the second decade of new millennium and started growing. In mould labels is another labelling technology that had found usage in many segments and started registering growth in large volume usage. At this time, I try and link the changes to the three above who understood the need to expand the scope of labels in their business portfolio. While Mudrika as I mentioned invested in heat transfer labels, Any Graphics into innovative labels and rigid boxes and Zircon also started moving into brand security and innovative packaging including spiral wound containers.

Around this time environmental concerns also impacted the self-adhesive label industry as almost 50% of the converted product is waste going to landfills. Much work was being done on this to reduce the liner tonnage by opting for thinner filmic liners that can be recycled and by developing linerless labels.

Digital printing on to the products is another technology that may replace some of the usage of self-adhesive labels. All said and done, the sheer market size in India and the inertia, brings business to all label technologies and for this reason the self-adhesive labels market continued to grow at double digit rates. The industry will keep evolving both in terms of quality and innovation as also taking environmental concerns in its stride.

In over a year, as another decade ends, the author will update the history on the outcome of such endeavours. The total History as chronicled by the author until now is now available on this blog on links as below:
Part 1: https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2010/08/history-of-indian-label-industry.htmlPart 2A: https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2019/07/history-of-indian-label-industry-part-2a.htmlPart 2B: https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/search?q=History+part+2bPart 2C: https://harveersahni.blogspot.com/2019/08/history-of-indian-label-industry-part-2c.htmlPart 2 D: Above
Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi July/September 2019
Note: No one is authorised to reproduce, copy or reprint this article until permitted by the author in writing. 

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/