The history of Rajesh Chadha, Managing Director of Update Prints Pvt. Ltd., which owes its inception and inheritance to P C Chadha & Co. started by his grandfather, is an interesting one. The first thoughts on letterpress, managing waste problems and family support were all highlights along the way that came on a journey from Kobe in Japan to New Delhi in India, following is the Indian Label converter’s history and thoughts for the future.

Update Factory
Update Factory

The very beginning

In the late 1970s and early 1980s driving on the western part of New Delhi’s Ring Road, many factories could be seen from far away. One such tall building was the factory of P C Chadha & Co. in the Naraina Industrial Area with a signboard on top visible from far. Around the mid-1980s when I was a commercial siliconiser selling release papers, I came to know that P C Chadha & Co. manufactured stickers and was a prospective customer. It was then a matter of time before I supplied some reams of release paper to them. During one of my visits to them, I spent two hours discussing why the stickers they were supplying were curling. I was quite naïve then but with time and experience, I have written on my blog a very widely read article on controlling curl. The young man I met was Rajesh Chadha, who was running P C Chadha & Co. and is the present Managing Director of Update Prints Pvt. Ltd. which owes its inception and inheritance to P C Chadha & Co. started by his grandfather.

 Starting up

In 1924, young P C Chadha, living in Kobe, Japan, initiated an enterprise producing paper transfer labels with a vision that branding would be an important tool for sales of any consumer product, label being the face of any product. Sometime in the midst of turbulent times during World War II in 1942–43, P C Chadha decided to return to his homeland in Rawalpindi, then a part of undivided India and now in Pakistan. Little did he realize that in yet another five years he would have to move again! At the time of India’s partition in 1947 he came to Mumbai to set up his production for maintaining continuity in his passion for producing transfers, the labels of that time. Chadha soon came to recognise that the weather in Mumbai was not suitable for his product, and he moved operations to Pune. Before long he was still restless at the location and travelled up North in India to Patel Nagar in New Delhi where he set up his factory on a 150 square yards plot. He initially worked from home and later from his small factory.

As an entrepreneur’s son, the author had seen his father get advertisement boards hand painted by artists for advertising their stationery products. There was no alternative then. When one saw the transfer labels one used to wonder how they could achieve such exquisite printing direct on sewing machines, postal vans, crockery etc. Years later as the label industry was evolving into screen printing, I saw the same exquisite type of printing, which was different from screen printing, in my cousin’s factory making automotive filters. I realised they were using transfer labels like the ones P C Chadha & Co. produced. I was amazed to learn that the process employed by Chadha for printing was lithography. Based on the principle that oil and water do not mix, printing is done using stone blocks. In 1950 P C Chadha was joined in the business by his son Tilak Raj Chadha. They bought a used lithographic printing machine from England to expand their paper transfers business. Evolving further they later shifted to printing on cylinder type printing press using Zinc blocks mounted on wooden bases.

Major changes

Major changes started to happen when P C Chadha’s grandson Rajesh Chadha joined the business in 1976. The same year they moved factory from Patel Nagar to a 600 square yards plot in the nearby Naraina Industrial Area. With Rajesh at the helm, in 1978 he started to produce stickers by the manual screen-printing process. For the next ten years screen printing business became the mainstay for Chadhas. One of the first major decisions taken by Rajesh Chadha was to buy a European automatic Svecia Screen printing machine to print a full 20” x 30” sheet, quite big for that time. The 1990s was a very eventful decade for the Indian label industry. It was the time when many of today’s stalwarts in the Indian label industry became visible. For Rajesh Chadha also, it was time to shed the conventional image and adopt a modern look. It was during this period that the conventional sticker became an engineered label. Rajesh set up Update Prints in 1994 as his flagship venture thereon, gradually taking over all the business of P C Chadha & Co, which was eventually wound up later in 2009. Sensing the need to modernize with faster machines at Update Prints; he bought his first rotary flexo label press, a ”Focus“. There was no looking back after this.

Investments

In 2001 he bought an Orthotec intermittent letterpress at Labelexpo Asia held in Singapore. Two years later he impulsively bought a Rotatek label press displayed at a New Delhi print exhibition, on an immediate payment basis in full, taking his industry colleagues by surprise. Update Prints under his leadership has been acquiring new state-of-the-art equipment at regular intervals. From the single 600 square yards factory the company was soon operating from three different plots, one of 1000 square yards and two of 600 square yards. It was now time to consolidate for a few years. In another strategic move in 2013, Update Prints moved all their manufacturing operations under one roof to a facility admeasuring almost 25,000 square yards in land area and 50,000 square feet shop floor. This exercise required the involvement of a huge amount of money, time, effort and commitment. The land was designated agricultural land. Setting up an industrial project on it was illegal. Many people in the area have done it but Rajesh Chadha is committed to tread the straight path. He got the land use changed to industrial. Any Indian will know the kind of effort and time this takes. Infrastructure was another problem; the nearest power feeder was far away and to expedite the matter of bringing power to the unit, Update Prints had to install 50 electricity poles at their own expense. The approach road to the unit was in shambles, it had to be re-laid at their own expense. Update Prints now employs over 100 workforce and has a total of eight label presses.

Diverse technologies

Reminiscing about his work in the initial days in labels he says, ”The first label that I created was for Yardley Cosmetics“ he further adds that in those days he had bought two Newfoil three station hot-foiling presses. He used to love working with them creating innovative products. It was the most satisfying part for him because he could imagine and then create labels that would get appreciation from buyers. He has over the years equipped Update Prints with diverse technologies in label printing, decorating and finishing. Whether it is offset printed labels printed on his Rotatek Brava or labels created on flexo, letterpress, hot or cold foiling, screen printing, etc. his company is never left wanting for the ability to create. He is proud to say that  “I deliver quality, service and satisfaction to my customers and for this reason work comes to me automatically. I do not have to waste time running after work.” While discussing digital printing I was not surprised that his reaction was similar to that of a larger part of the Indian label fraternity, ”It does not make sense to me at this point of time. I can print good quality short runs cost effectively on offset and letterpress“. A very interesting change that I noted in Rajesh during my talks with him is that he has started to encourage Indian entrepreneurs who have excelled. While most of his equipment is imported yet in recent times he saw the potential in an Indian manufacturer of label presses, Multitec. He was not hesitant and bought the equipment. In fact, he has followed it up by acquiring two more.

Family life

Rajesh Chadha being the elder son in his family, like in most migrant Punjabi families of that time in New Delhi, joined the business while he was still studying. He is an alumnus of New Delhi’s Salwan Public School and later studied commerce in Dayal Singh College for B.Com and finished with a master’s in commerce. His wife Anju is a master’s degree holder in English and takes an active interest in the business. Rajesh and Anju have two children who are both now married. Their daughter Upasna studied at the prestigious London School of Economics and spent time at Oxford University. Son Aditya, like his father, studied commerce from Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce and later completed his MBA in marketing from ”Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA“. Then after a one-and-a-half-year work experience in AT&T in the US, he returned to India to join his father at Update Prints as director. Rajesh fondly mentored him to take charge of this company.

Update Prints’ business has transformed over the years. They do very little transfer labels business now and largely produce self-adhesive labels. Their customers are mostly leading FMCG companies. Ten percent of their produce goes into export. While in Patel Nagar, waste management was a big problem for them. With the company growing continuously, disposal was becoming a gigantic issue. It was one of the reasons besides expansion that they moved to this present location some 35 Kilometers from Delhi. Here they have developed collectors who take the waste and convert it for various usages and applications. He strongly feels someone needs to work in the direction of managing or recycling this waste effectively and believes a solution will evolve. He also feels going linerless is also a good direction but like digital printing it will be some time before this technology becomes adaptable extensively.

 Rajesh Chadha is satisfied about the time he has spent in the label industry, he says, ”It is an interesting industry. There is lot of work and room for creativity and innovation“. He is proud of his achievements. He has led the company to consistently achieve an almost 20% per annum growth rate, which is above the perceived industry rate. He is beaming when he says, ”Growth comes naturally to my company because of the quality of our work. It is not fueled by huge borrowings from banks“. No wonder he heads a fully family owned successful and growing zero debt company!

 Written in May 2014 and updated in April 2024.

While the Indian labels industry keeps evolving, adapting different printing and converting technologies, there is also a generational change happening in the leadership. Most of the founders, while still active as mentors, have passed on substantial decision making to their next generation who are now in the lower middle age group of 40 years, plus or minus 3 years. All those who I have covered belong to family managed companies. Though largely these young inheritors are the influencers or drivers of growth in their respective companies, yet, complying to the cultural heritage passed on in the Indian families, they give the credit to their parents or their mentors who founded the company. This is so heartwarming! These young men are professionally trained, well-educated and are always ready to adopt new managing systems. They do not hesitate to invest in new and innovative capital equipment to stay ahead of competition and drive expansion. They have come to establish themselves as the young czars of Indian label Industry.

Pragati Pack Pvt. Ltd., part of the Pragati Offset Printers group Hyderabad, founded by the legendary Paruchuri Hanumantha Rao in 1962, is led by his 37-year-old grandson Hemanth Paruchuri who is taking care of the packaging business in the group. The commercial printing business is taken care of by his brother Harsha Paruchuri. Hemanth is qualified Mechanical Engineer, an Alumnus of Purdue University Indiana USA, he has been mentored by his father Narendra Paruchuri who is an industry stalwart. Joining the company in 2007, he learnt the business hands-on practically, while working within Pragati. Presently, designated as director with responsibilities that include development, production, marketing and selecting areas of further expansion as well as identifying appropriate capex investment.

When Hemanth joined Pragati, packaging was just a small part of their business, which has now become 75% of the company’s overall business. Pragati is one of the highest awarded printing companies in India. Their annual calendar created by great teamwork at their commercial printing division is a piece of art that people preserve as prized collections.

Talking of future, Hemanth says, “Plan is to keep growing in packaging and in labels by doing more specialized labels predominantly self-adhesive.” 

For labels and packaging they operate at multiple locations in Hyderabad and in Noida. As for roll  labels they have three flexo presses and one HP Indigo label press, for sheetfed they have a small Konica Minolta digital press. For digital sheetfed packaging they may invest in larger sheetfed press in digital. Total manufacturing area for labels and packaging is spread over 440,000 square feet in Hyderabad, 120,000 square feet in Noida plus 80,000 square feet for commercial printing. The workforce for labels and packaging is  700, and 300 is for commercial printing.

Alumnus of Harvard Business School, UCLA Anderson and IIM-A 42-year-old Ankit Gupta, Joint Managing Director of Holostik India Limited, had pursued higher education after completing his BE in computer science. He along with his brother Shobhit Gupta took over the reigns of Holostik, a company founded in 1991 by their illustrious father Umendra Kumar Gupta who was leading personality in the Hologram and anti-counterfeiting label and packaging industry and passed away due to Covid in 2021. After a stint at A V Birla group as an IT engineer, he joined Holostik in 2005 as head of its real estate and chemical verticals. Thereafter, from 2007- 2020 headed the MarCom, HR, and Strategy followed by heading the Sales department. After taking over as Joint MD in 2021, he launched NaturTrust, the bio-degradable and compostable packaging business in the year 2022.

Ankit’s achievements include winning the prestigious Larry Wolfen Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit in 2006. Investing in multiple start-ups including Edukart – India’s leading education marketplace that was later acquired by Paytm and Bedrock Ventures and Mentoring and angel-investing in more than 15 successful startups across India.

For future he plans to keep working on innovation and integration of innovative technologies to fight the cause of counterfeiting, explore new markets and geographies both in India and globally and increase the use of sustainable technologies as their commitment to a green earth. Holostik India Ltd. is headquartered at Noida producing  Anti-counterfeit security OVDs (Holograms), Security Labels, 3D Labels, Holographic Packaging Films, Induction Liners, Digital Supply Chain Solutions among many others. They operate with 450 employees out of the 100,000 square feet shop floor with three European Flexo label presses and 2 Screen Printing Presses besides a host of other equipment.

Thirty-eight-year-old Naveen Goel is the Managing Director of Noida based Any Graphics, founded in 1987 by his father Kuldip Goel, past President of LMAI. After completing his MBA, Naveen joined Any Graphics in 2009, beginning his career in printing and packaging as Director marketing, responsible for business development, client acquisition, customer relations and direct sales for the company. 14 years on, now as Managing Director, he is committed and focused to providing solutions to customers across all sectors providing innovations, value engineering or cost engineering. Naveen says. ”Leading the company from 60 people to 800 people over the last decade has been a satisfying journey. Being second generation, it was very important for me to sustain the founder’s vision to consistently innovate and handcraft solutions to diverse needs of the customers.”

Any Graphics has achieved exceptional growth through sharp focus on award-winning products and solutions that include Rigid Boxes, Labels, Mono Cartons, Dome Stickers, Panel Overlays and Decals. They employ an 800 strong workforce operating with 6 label presses and many sheet fed, screen, digital presses and a lot of other allied equipment from 250,000 square feet shopfloor in 15500 square meters of land.

Prakash Printers and Coaters Pvt. Ltd., established in 1975 by Thakurdas J Shivlani in Ahmedabad, is now led by his 40-year-old son Prakash Shivlani as Director. Prakash joined the family business while still in school as a salesperson. Those days they used to print on sheet Offset and were amongst the first ones in the Gujarat region for printing sticker labels exclusively. Transforming the sticker business to labels in roll form, they initially installed some smaller Flatbed and Letterpress narrow web presses machines Onda and Iwasaki. Later at the start of a new millennium, as business grew, they installed a CI Flexo from Etirama, Brazil.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Prakash joined the family business in 1997 sharing responsibilities along with his father, specialising in sales, however he now also takes care of production. Their production profile now includes Labels, Shrink Sleeves, Flexible laminates. They also produce silicone liners, Hotmelt adhesive label stock with diverse face stocks like Holographic/Metalized paper, Aluminum Foil , 2/3-layer substrates for In-house consumption. Prakash endeavors to expand into packaging in the near future. Presently they operate with seven European flexo presses besides other equipment from a 355,000 square foot shop floor with 150 employees.

29-year-old Krish Chhatwal is the grandson of late Narendra Chhatwal who migrated to New Delhi after partition of India in 1947 and worked for the famous Kwality Restaurant. In 1962 he set up his maiden venture, a printing press and nostalgically named it Kwality Carton manufacturing company. Later, the name was changed to Kwality labels unit of Kwality Offset Printers. Krish Chhatwal, a BBA in Finance and Marketing has been the director of Kwality Labels since 2017. He initially worked as a trainee in all departments of the company learning the nuances of printing. As for sales, he made cold calls, met potential clients and gained new ones for the company. Accompanying his mentor, his father Rajeev Chhatwal, visiting expos around the world, he realised the growth potential of labels industry.

After his active involvement, Kwality invested in a Xeikon digital toner label press, implemented ERP systems, Inspection systems, hybrid Xrite colorcert software for Density control of colours and software for pre-press. They have won awards for excellence from Printweek, NAEP, LMAI, Finat, Asian print excellence and many more. Krish plans to make continuous investments in equipment to produce highly embellished and security labels. They operate with 110 employees and seven label presses complementing their offset presses and allied equipment in a shopfloor admeasuring 35000 square feet, producing Self-adhesive labels, Anti counterfeit security labels, Wet glue labels, Variable data labels, Customized and Personalised labels, consuming more than 800,000 square meters of label stock.

Founded in 1992 by Hemen Vasa and Bhupen Vasa, Unick fix-a-form & Printers Ltd. Ahmedabad is a specialized producer of functional Labels, multilayer leaflet/booklet labels, piggyback dual labels, tri layer labels, scratch off labels, hanger labels, special peel and seal labels for pharma applications, shrink sleeves, etc. Heman Vasa’s 31-year-old son Priyank Vasa, a BE in Printing Technology from Manipal Institute of Technology, is now the youthful leader at Unick fix-a-form. He is designated as development & strategy director. Priyank specialized in Financial Modelling and Analysis. Before joining the company in 2014, he had spent his summer break as a trainee in the company while still pursuing his engineering. After joining, Priyank supported the sales team with new developments and innovations to venture into segments outside their comfort zone of pharma. He later also became part of the QA team to standardise inputs, ensuring error-free products.

Priyank has been instrumental in implementing ERP systems for smooth operations. Since their specialized labels lacked in aesthetics, he led the implementation of value additions like screen printing, embellishments, using special inks varnishes foils, metallics, touch and feel effects etc. The company has further undertaken projects to curb expenses, reduce wastage and optimise production processes. Unick operates from a 30,000 square feet shopfloor with 5 label presses and 250 strong workforce consuming 400,000 square meters of label stocks per month for their specialty labels.

41-year-old Aditya Kashyap is himself the founder and Managing Director of Baddi based Marks Emballage Private Limited and Marks group, that he established in 2011. An alumnus of the famous Ruia College Mumbai, he worked briefly in an international bank and later got trained in family-owned large Pharma companies for packaging development and purchase, followed by interning as a trainee in a label manufacturing unit before initiating his maiden venture. With Two Gallus label presses that he bought in one go, one Bobst Label press, AVT inspection system, Prati finishing machine, Pantec embellishing equipment, Xrite and much more, the company shopfloor is spread across 30,000 square feet having 60 employees. On his journey so far Aaditya says, “The journey has just begun, after setting the unit from scratch to what it is now.” He further adds,” “though we are setting up professional management, yet I am still involved to implement my vision of creating a world class company.”

As a part of its CSR initiative, Marks group has invested in sponsoring the annual “Printweek Student of the year” award to backup educational initiatives for encouraging young people to take up print as a career. Aaditya aims to grow the company multifold in coming years with his latest ideas. He aspires to roll out at least one new project every year for the next five years. He is pensive in his thoughts, ”this is the time for us to spread our wings before getting into a consolidation mode. “

A relatively new entrant in the self-adhesive labels industry 35-year-old Vatsal Vora Director of Asean Pack Ahmedabad, has achieved amazing success in just 5 years including the 2 years passed in covid. Asean Pack was founded by Vatsal in 2018 after completing his MBA. In a short span of time the company is producing Pressure Sensitive Adhesive labels, Shrink Sleeves and In-Mold Labels (IML) in a 40,000 square feet shop floor with 2 Bobst label presses and one HP Indigo Digital label press working with 115 employees.

He plans to add one more press in 2024 followed by yet another in 2025. Thereafter  he aspires to make continuous growth to increase their product range to include flexible packaging focused in producing pouch packaging coming from the short run customized and personalized packaging by adding more flexo and digital printing equipment.

Tejas Tanna aged 42 years, had in 2005, joined Printmann Offset Pvt. Ltd. after getting a Diploma in printing technology and B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree from Rochester Institute of Technology New York USA. Printmann was founded in 1987 by his father Bipin Tanna the Chairman and Managing Director of the company. While working in the company Tejas parallelly pursued studies for getting an MBA from NMIMS (Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies) followed by a crash course in packaging from the Indian Institute of Packaging. Tejas and his 36-year-old brother Ankit Tanna are directors at Printmann with Tejas looking after sales and marketing, quality assurance and new product development and Ankit taking care of supply chain and operations. Ankit is an MS in finance from Manchester. Printmann started with commercial printing but by 1991 they felt the need of diversification for future growth and since they were into marketing collaterals for FMCG sector they opted to concentrate on packaging focused on the pharma and health care segment.

Now, 80-90% of their business comes from this sector. They supply whatever these companies require in the printed packaging space, which includes cartons, labels, leaflets and foil. Tejas says ,”We are perhaps the only company to offer all the four verticals from just one source.” With European Pharma companies making tamper evident labels mandatory, Printmann is now producing these as well. They are three times winner of Printweek packaging company of the year award, including one that they got this year. For  making capex decisions, the brothers become influencers and since their father is controlling finance the final decision is a joint call that is made by all three.

Printmann’s main factory is in Navi Mumbai, for expansion, they were looking for land outside Mumbai and fortunately the adjoining plot became available which they acquired, constructed during covid years and shifted their carton division there. They have another unit for blister foil manufacturing in Vasai. Between the three locations, they work out of 160,000 square feet shopfloor with over 300 employees clocking a turnover of Rupees 160 Crores last year which is expected to rise to 180 crores in this fiscal year. Summing up, Tejas emphasizes, “We understand our responsibility to remain sustainable and thus we have commenced our journey towards sustainability. We are implementing safety measures, EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) systems and are tracking carbon footprints. We have hired PWC to advise and hand hold us in our endeavours on EHS.”

Janus International  led by brothers Denver Annunciation 43 years and Janus Annunciation 36 years is a producer of a wide range of print and packaging products like PSA Labels, In-mold labels, Shrink sleeves, folding cartons, rigid boxes, eflute mono cartons, etc. The company was founded by their father Joe Annunciation in 1999. Both brothers are MBAs and alumnus of S P Jain Institute of Management and Research. Denver joined the company in 2001 and Janus joined five years later in 2006. “It has been an exhilarating experience running and growing the company so far, I am looking at much more” says Denver. He had joined the company when they had just 9 employees in a 500 square feet shopfloor. This has grown to 202 employees in three buildings at the same location in Thane spread over 55,000 square feet. Janus International has 7 flexo presses, one HP Indigo digital press and 3 offset presses.

Talking of the future, Denver mentions firmly that they endeavour to create a World class manufacturing company with ongoing stable growth. The company registered a sale of Rupees 83 Crores in the last financial year and they are confident to double it in 3 years.

Alpine containers Pvt. Ltd. Jammu is a company producing labels and packaging, at the northern most location in India for labels,  founded by Harish Gulati who mentored his 40-year-old son Vipul Gulati from starting as a trainee to taking up a leadership role in expanding the company. Though Harish had set up the printing business manufacturing mono cartons in 1978 in an 800 square foot premises, but Vipul joined in 2003. The present company Alpine was established in 2008 when they expanded into corrugated board cartons. In 2012 they installed an automatic corrugation plant, the first one to be setup in entire region of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. Vipul Gulati did his schooling from Prestigious Maharaja Hari Singh School Nagbani and BBA degree from Lovely University. Vipul led Alpine’s venturing into label manufacturing in 2015 with installation of a Gallus ECS 340 label press then a Mark Andy P 7 in 2019 and another Label press in 2022 along with 3 inspection machines and screen-printing machine. As Executive Director of the company, Vipul is responsible for purchases, new developments, expansion and day-to-day operations. He is  expanding label business beyond Jammu, setting up a manufacturing plant in Gujarat.

The company is now operating from two locations in a shop floor admeasuring 200,000 square feet employing more than 250 people. As for labels, they consume in excess of 400,000 square meters of self adhesive labelstock which is likely to increase exponentially once the expansions being undertaken are completed.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 December 2023

Absence makes the heart grow fonder! There was a general perception that the impact of a fierce pandemic, the Finnish Paper Mills strike, Ukraine war, shortages and rising raw material prices, difficult logistics and increased travel costs have left the market sentiments bruised. There was strong narrative doing the rounds in the labels industry that Labelexpo Europe 2023 at Brussels will lose its sheen and may not deliver the desired results. Contrary to all perceptions the show was a huge success. The numbers may have been slightly lower than the previous years, but the quality of turnout brought cheer to the faces of exhibitors. The proof of that is given by the reported rebook rate for the next edition of this important event by Tarsus, announced at a whopping 96%! Labelexpo Europe 2023 was spread over 9 halls covering 35889 square meters. 36588 visitors flocked to the show, coming from 138 countries. Most stands reported robust enquiries or sales from established and serious printers from around the world. Though the aisles were not as crowded as in previous shows, the stands were busy. That is exactly what exhibitors expect from a globally renowned show. I cite a personal experience, I had to conduct an important meeting with one of our company’s several principals. Despite visiting their stand on all days at various times, the concerned person was busy with clients, finally I had to ask him to come to another meeting point other than his stand, so that we could discuss our project in peace. Such was the deliverance of Labelexpo 2023.

The Indian presence; The Indian labels and packaging industry has been continuously growing at steady pace to reach a position of stability and strength. The Indian visitors to labelexpo have also transformed. Earlier we saw many of those who mixed their visit with tourism, so the interest was diluted, and the enquiries lacked seriousness. This trend is seen as changing, given the increased travel costs and technologies evolving in different packaging segments, the smaller printers prefer to visit the domestic editions of Labelexpo. 

In 2005, my company was the only one from India to exhibit at Labelexpo Europe in Brussels, over years the number of Indian exhibitors has been growing. Indian producers of materials, machines and tooling have improved in quality to match global levels and offer their products in the international marketplace. 

From just the one exhibitor from India displaying labelstock in 2005 they reached 14 exhibitors in 2017, and in 2023 the number of Indian exhibitors grew to 26. This number included several label press manufacturers, manufacturers of coaters and laminators, raw material suppliers, tooling manufacturers, etc. In fact, registering their presence in all segments of label manufacturing. As for the visitors, it is an even more interesting result. In 2019 2% of the total of 37903 visitors were from India.

This works out to over 750 visitors. This figure has swelled! In Labelexpo Europe 2023. Indian visitors were 3.9% of the total of 36588 visitors and this works out to over 1400 visitors, almost double the number. We can imagine the dynamism and steady growth of “make in India” concept. The Indians are now quick learners who visit these shows and become adapters of global technologies to produce and offer to the world.

Diverse technologies displayed: Labelexpo global series was in the initial stages aimed at growth of stickers that had evolved as self-adhesive labels. The earliest web label presses were largely coming from eastern part of the World as 4 or 5-inch-wide flatbed letterpress machines for printing labels in roll form to eventually transform with development of label applicators, it led to automation in packaging lines.

Development and introduction of rotary flexographic label presses brought a paradigm shift as it provided better speed of printing.

Since the web width in the earliest stages was small, the industry eventually started being referred to as narrow web label industry. The rest is history. With evolution and development of prepress printing speeds and quality also improved making the technology widely acceptable. Printing widths increased to 10 inches or 250 mm and had for quite some time settled at 330mm.

Speeds that were just 5 or 6 meters per minute in the beginning with the flatbed presses, have reached up to 200 meters per minute and more. The narrow web label industry flourished and kept growing. With time label technologies have undergone a sea change. What was wet glue labels, transformed into self-adhesive labels but later the label grew towards various tangents. The label users started adopting a wide variety that includes wraparound labels, shrink sleeves, Inmold labels, heat transfer labels and many more. In the initial stages of transformation large multinational FMCG companies became users of wrap-around labels and shrink sleeves, because of the large volume they required, these became the product of the wide web rotogravure printing industry. With market changes happening, the need of smaller manufacturers and demand for short runs by marketing professionals, these diverse segments also became evident in the offerings of narrow web industry. 

The narrow started growing wider still, printing and converting evolved exponentially and became suppliers of not only to wide spectrum of labels but also flexible packaging, Lami-tubes and folding cartons. The flexo presses also transformed to be hybrid ones  employing combination of flexo, offset, gravure, screen and digital, etc.

At Labelexpo Europe 2023, one could witness displayed, a merger and combination of different printing technologies to produce excellence in print of labels and packaging. This was substantially exhibited by industry stalwarts like Gallus, Omet, Nilpeter, Mark Andy, Bobst, Weigang, Lombardy, etc. who displayed their finest web printing and converting equipment. It is interesting that waste reduction and sustainable manufacturing practices to reduce carbon footprint are becoming imperative for all responsible machine builders.

Overview: Material suppliers like Avery Dennison, UPM Raflatac and Fedrigoni displayed their vast ranges of labelstocks with an evident effort towards sustainability. Many did talk of linerless and the initial developments they have made but the actual linerless self-adhesive label for mass usage is still a far cry. 

As mentioned before, from the just one Indian Labelstock producer in 2005, there were five Indian labelstock producers at the show, Jindal SMI, SticOn papers, MLJ, Shree Lamipack and Varshil. Looking at the number of visitors on stands it was clear that the focus of label fraternity is shifting from commodities to creativity, innovation and sustainability. While all labelstock companies had a steady flow of visitors, the Fedrigoni stand that offered specialty textured and decorative materials was extremely busy. 

A similar situation was observed at the Cartes stand whose displayed equipment offered amazing embellishments with various combinations of digital jet screen varnishing and printing, screen printing, laser die-cutting etc. The electronic integration in labels is another field that attracted the attention of forward-thinking printing companies. RFID insertion options for labels and packaging were displayed by many, some of whom include  Avery Dennison, Beontag, Muhlbauer, Delta Modtech, etc. Another aspect witnessed is the growing number of finishing equipment manufacturers, which clearly indicates the need for printing companies to produce more with less. The concept of printing at full machine speeds on their expensive presses and finishing offline makes available more time on their main printing presses. The futuristic digital printing equipment continues to evolve indicating it to become a dominant label printing technology in future, given the wider widths and faster speeds.

The hall number 8 with exhibitors led by HP, offered a vast variety of digital printing equipment. The increased display of finishing or digital finishing machines is also indicative of the increasing importance of digital printing, which in recent times has become a necessity for prosperous label printers. Running short runs needs offline finishing. else the digital presses with inline finishing will not only be expensive but will not be able to deliver production to their full capacity due to short runs and quick changeovers.

One thing that has become evident at Labelexpo Europe 2023 is that the narrow web label industry continues to go wider and evolve, increasing its footprints in other segments of packaging and it would not be out of place to mention that soon it  will be referred to as “Web label and package converting industry.”

The end of show was a nostalgic moment, people bidding farewell to Labelexpo in Brussel where so many wonderful memories, stories of success and friendships had been scripted. The label fraternity now looks forward to making another beginning with Labelexpo Europe 2025 in Barcelona, Spain.

Pictures of my walk through Labelexpo 2023 and some of the events on the sidelines;

World Label Awards Judging:

One day before Labelexpo opened, the judging for label awards was held.

Same afternoon, L9 meeting was held, followed by L9-Dinner

The global Label awards evening!

On Wednesday 13th September 2023, fairwell dinner for Label Guru Mike Fairley was held

My Walk through!

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi India September 2023

 Driving profitability in labels, with embellishments, digital printing & hybrid printing

Self-adhesive or pressure sensitive labels industry in India has grown steadily right from the time of its initial entry into India to be indigenously produced in the mid-1960s when a screen printer manually created the first label. Thereafter, label manufacturing has evolved and completely transformed  technically over the years. Initially, small and slow very narrow web letter presses, 4 or 5inch wide, from the eastern part of the world were used to print with blocks and die-cut labels with flatbed dies in roll form. These presses eventually started going wider in printing width with growth in demand. The need for increased production in 1980s brought in the adoption of rotary flexographic printing presses. However, since the flexo plate technology was just evolving, usage of letterpress block printing was still growing. It was in the new millennium that developments brought in prepress and plate making technologies, made it possible for printers to decrease their dependence on letterpress printing technology and invest in flexo presses that eventually became modular and print widths going wider with increased speeds.

Toward the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, the pop and Mom retail stores, known as Kirana stores catering to consumers, started being replaced by the entry of organized retail outlets and with it, came the increase in demand for labels and packaging. When it was realized the customer’s point of purchase decision to lift the product off the shelf is the driver for sales, brands felt the imperative need for attractive labels and packaging. Different print technologies started being employed and presses with advanced capabilities started being developed and offered. While all this transformation was happening, the label industry in India was all along registering a robust double-digit growth. It was largely accepted fact that even though labels are a very small part of the large packaging industry, it was more profitable. Due to this, the number of label printers kept growing, investments also came in from established offset printing companies. With cheaper label presses coming from China and availability of good affordable machines in India, the label printing capacities have grown exponentially. This increase in capacities, the pandemic, the strikes in Finnish paper mills, the Ukraine war, the re-emergence of Covid in China,  etc. brought the margins in the labels industry under intense  pressure. Raw material prices have since escalated, freight rates, salaries and overheads have increase while competition does not leave room for increase in selling prices. In such a difficult scenario, label converters are looking at options to drive in profitability.

Opinion and comments of label printers across India was sought on how to drive-in better margins in the label production in the given circumstances. Three questions were posed to all, their response is somewhat similar, yet some do have apprehensions about the steps that are suggested whether they will actually drive in margins? However still, a direction on the way forward appears to be an imperative. The  printers in the diverse geographical zones who contributed their views are as follows;

North:

Anuj Bhargava, Kumar Labels NOIDA hereinafter referred to as (AB)

Rajeev Chhatwal, Kwality Offset New Delhi (RC)

West:

Mahendra Shah, Renault Paper, Palghar (MS)

Himanshu Kapur, J K Fine Prints Mumbai (HK)

Priyank Vasa, Unick fix-a-form, Ahmedabad (PV)

East:

Manoj Kochhar, Holoflex Kolkata (MK)

South:Raveendran Selvarajan, Seljegat Sivakasi (RS)

Lakshminarayanan Parthasarthy, Signode India Ltd. (Wintek) Bangalore (LP)

Question: Do you agree that Embellishments, Digital printing & Hybrid printing or converting are important steps to get better prices for labels?

AB: Yes, value added labels do add to margins. However still, the main buyers are few. Startups or premium products cannot add volumes where multiple players offer value additions. 

RC: Embellishments certainly will get you a better price if you have a technical edge over your competition. Just a  different printing process does not get you more price from customers. One needs to decide which process to use to get better return based on machine capabilities .

Hybrid is still not suited for the Indian Market. However good converting and finishing is important for short runs on digital to reduce wastage.

MS: Yes, I agree. With increase of just-in-time orders, shorter runs and demand for innovations,  it is economical and faster to produce with Digital printing. Embellishments complemented with other capabilities, aid improvement in value addition.

HK: More technical the labels are, better is the margin. Unfortunately, large companies expect more for less. The basics of costing has been lost by most label converters. Embellishments also add to costs, but to recover those costs is difficult.

PV: We aim for the best process fit for a job, be it digital, flexo, hybrid or offset. That is the only way to master production cost. Digital embellishment always gives an edge and keeps business secure but does not always guarantee increased profitability, it comes with its own limitations. 

MK: I agree that Embellishments, Digital printing & Hybrid printing or converting are important steps to get better prices for labels. Value addition invariably leads to a better realization. Brand protection elements such as hologram, security inks, security designing also add value.

RS: Not only embellishments, but also innovations along with having capabilities for attending to needs of customers are important. If food and pharma customer needs labels with water-based inks, we need to have those capabilities. If they need booklet labels it becomes an imperative to be able to create them. Every printing process has its own specialty so when you are able to create labels with Hybrid and digital technologies, then of course selling prices are better.

LP: QR codes and AR (Augmented Reality) in labels, connecting consumer to the brand – is what we see as way forward for profitability . Embellishment leads to aesthetics, shelf appeal, increased sale and brand value for better profits to the buyers and converters.

Question: Have you taken any steps in this direction to increase your capabilities?

AB: We are always focused to value added labels. We have capabilities do embellishments like 3-D effects, embossing, textured foiling, screen printing and many other such processes that enhance the aesthetics of product.

RC: We have already invested in converting equipment with finishing and embellishing capabilities like foiling, Screen printing, Lamination etc. Our range of labels includes- Foil stamped/embossed labels, labels with tactile effects, Laminated, 3-D embossed, Variable data and Holographic labels etc.

MS: Since long, our customer profile is such that embellishments and employment of multiple print technologies is an imperative, for this reason we invested in hybrid presses many years back. Currently to achieve just in time capabilities we are investing in digital printing which will also give us additional production time on our main printing presses.

HK: We have always invested to be a capable company, right from inception so have the capacity to do all types of embellishments.

PV: Yes, we have added digital capabilities. Having multiple printing technologies at our disposal, enables us to pick and choose processes that are best suited for a particular job depending on the complexity of decoration required. 

MK: We are constantly trying to scale up our capabilities of adding diverse authentication features and other embellishments such as foiling, registered hologram stamping, variable data printing and finding new materials that are unique.

RS: At Seljegat we always endeavour to stay invested and capable with the latest developments. We have already installed machines with multiple capabilities, and we prefer all inline. We can do embellishments, special varnishes, multilayer labels, digital for variable or personalized labels, embossing, etc. We are always ready to cater to the changing needs of customers, nowadays pharma and food companies are demanding labels to be done with water-based inks or low migration inks, we have immediately empowered ourself suitably to serve them. In today’s time if we cannot deliver that extra, then we get lost in the crowd of intense competition.

LP: We are already having all capabilities and exploring AR in labels as next step towards Brand connect and Brand promotion. 

Question: What in your opinion are factors that can drive in better margins? Please mention steps at given prices of inputs.

AB: Label companies should invest in making labelstocks for captive use, negotiate hard while buying machines and for buying raw materials.

RC: As competition gets aggressive, systems need to be designed to reduce wastages, increase productivity and buy raw material at competitive prices. Making our internal systems strong is the only way out to drive-in better margins.

MS: We started the process of optimizing production costs, long time back. We collected data of all ongoing jobs for past 3 years and calibrated all processes as per the following;

a) We dwell on actual time needed for the job and check if the processes are complying with targeted numbers.

b) If not complying what’s the core reason and if for some reasons not meeting norms,  can solutions be found?

c) Evaluating, if no solution is possible, is the job generating profit for the company? 

d) If not , either get the price increase or discard such jobs to save time for more sustainable jobs.

HK: Rather than controlling the input prices on which we have no control, we should focus on getting better prices from clients. We need to factor-in the basics like label waste that is completely non-recyclable and cannot be salvaged. Label machines are capital intensive we must add the impact of cost of investment in the total price of end product.

PV: To improve profitability;

Freight cost management is an imperative, it can save lot of money.

Process improvements and wastage control is necessary. One should start with small steps like exact web sizes, proper sheet layout, special sizes for volume jobs, ink management and keeping a track of low moving stocks.

Refrain from unhealthy competition.

Learn from your mistakes as a team. Take all complaints seriously. Try implementing simple solutions. 

Update monthly  performance chart of individual operators,  give them incentives for faster turnaround and increased capacity utilization. Take corrective steps to reduce downtime due breakdowns. 

·      MK: Key to improve margins is to provide customised solutions by understanding what the customer needs. We try to incorporate various levels of authentication, embellishments and decoration to tailor solutions that best meet their needs. If a customer cannot afford to pay for the hologram, we focus on enhancing the printed authentication features keeping costs under control, and yet get a price that enhances our profitability while the customer appreciates the value we deliver.

RS:  For driving in better margins, the instant reaction is to buy cheaper but if we have to think of steps at given raw material prices then one has to research internally and implement changes. As a first step we have opted for equipment and steps for faster changeover time between jobs to increase productivity. We have invested in a system for make ready to be completed before one job ends. The changeover time for us has reduced from one and half hour to just thirty minutes. For job set up we were using fresh labelstock but now we use rejected, old and leftover unusable stocks. Next, we are now switching over to LED UV as its operational and lamp replacement cost is lower. New equipment has been ordered and will be installed soon. We plan to install an automatic butt slicer for non-stop production. Reducing wastages is also on our radar and we constantly work on it.

LP: The following steps are necessary to drive in profits;

Watertight operations, control on wastages and minimising set-up waste.

Reducing overhead costs, improving efficiency and OEE (Overall equipment effectiveness).

Propose embellishments to customer making the label more premium to claim better realisation.

Summation:

Price increase is an ongoing process, the impact of inflation is felt every year along with that of other unavoidable circumstances. So, manufacturers need to gradually increase selling prices to maintain a healthy bottom line. Unfortunately, that is an ideal scenario but in actual the selling prices are driven by market dynamics and competition. In the present situation, for the label industry, it is time to look internally and evaluate. Based on the views of the printing fraternity it is largely agreed that embellishments, security features and innovative concepts on labels that enhance the shelf appeal and lead to better sales volumes for brands, can help get better prices. The simpler the label is, more is the competition. As indigenously produced label presses have come within the reach of middle level printers, the competition in that segment has become intense. Moreover, with organized retail and ecommerce becoming the predominant selling systems, need for more decorative labels, IT enabled labels and personalized variably printed labels  with security features has escalated.

Not long-ago setup of label jobs took an hour or more with 2 or 3 persons on each press and at least 100 meters of material being used before final saleable production commenced. With increased automation, advanced automatic registration controls, higher speeds, etc. now a single operator can setup a job in just a few meters in about 15-30 minutes, with increased productivity, less wastages and quick changeovers between jobs by keeping the next jobs ready. Using exact size materials and not generating offcuts is also a necessity. These are changes that add to margins and reduced operational expenses.

Food and pharma safety and health concerns are matters of importance for discerning customers, this, along with statutory rules for toxic or unsafe materials used in converting labels, are to be avoided. There is an increased demand for non-migration and water-based inks because UV inks are considered somewhat hazardous for direct food contact and skin contact applications. Printers need to have such capabilities to supply as demanded by print buyers. Most companies feel that to reduce costs there is need for internal production systems and the workflow to be strengthened or monitored continuously to reduce downtimes at each stage, opt for more automation to reduce manpower and use energy efficient machines, equipment or systems.

Finally, time has come when EPR (Extended producer responsibility) compliance has become mandatory. Sustainability and circular economy are becoming a social responsibility for earth to be a safer planet. Large FMCG companies and brands have already started opting for or expressing preference to buy from certified green companies. It will not be out of place that producing in compliance, may as well add to cost but it may also qualify for better pricing for this good social cause.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi February 2023

Sustainability in its simplest terms means, giving back to Mother-Earth or environment, society, or economy, whatever you draw from it. It ultimately delivers a message for us to leave a safer planet with minimum or no depletion of resources, for generations that follow, after meeting your own imperative needs. Let us for example consider just paper. Long years ago, with development of paper, there was  a lot of promotions to increase its usage, but then it was realized that paper production was hugely dependent on wood and increased usage meant deforestation.

It is an accepted fact that forests are very important for a healthy environment and climate. It was on this realization that a lot of emphasis started to be put on avoiding unnecessary paper usage. Even now responsible company emails have a footnote advising not to print unless absolutely necessary. On the other hand, there are statutory directives to paper mills to aid afforestation so as to increase the forest cover and replenish the amount of wood extracted. However still, usage of paper is sustainable when produced with implementation of replenishing the inputs used. Moreover, the paper waste is re-pulpable to again produce paper or paper board aiding circular economy. Production of all manufactured goods and services should avoid or reduce using resources that cannot be replaced and whose depletion will adversely impact the environment. As mentioned above, paper is mostly produced from wood whose extended use in paper production leads to deforestation. For this reason, a lot of manufacturers do a life cycle analysis of products to achieve a level of sustainability.

Brand owners and large label user companies have now started insisting on FSC certified paper usage. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a globally recognized certification system that ensures that the forests are managed sustainably. Products that are manufactured from responsibly harvested forests are identified with the FSC logo, which is considered the “gold standard” of forest certification by major environmental groups.

Circular economy

Circular economy also referred to as circularity and CE, refers to a type of process for  production and consumption, which conforms to reusing, repairing, refurbishing or recycling materials and products. Since CE helps in reducing raw material requirement, carbon footprint and aids sustainability, it has gained popularity. It also helps in conservation of important resources. For an example of CE, milk pouches are made of mono polymers like LDPE for packaging which is easily recycled or reprocessed to again convert to plastic granules that can be remolded into usable plastic products. On the flip side, multi-polymer multi-layered film pouches are not recyclable and end up in landfills impacting environment adversely as they also do not biodegrade.

However, there is work being done to develop processes that will enable these also to be recycled. The government of India is actively formulating policies and promoting projects that will drive the country towards a circular economy system. It is estimated that a circular economy path adopted by India could bring in annual benefits of 40 lakh crores or approximately US$ 624 billion in 2050.

Labels

The material for labelstock consists of many elements and sustainability cannot be in the total laminate, each component must be sustainable and contribute. The self-adhesive label laminate primarily consists of face stock with or without a primer or lamination, pressure sensitive adhesive and siliconized release paper or film. To be sustainable each element must be dwelled upon separately. The life cycle of each of these is different and an analysis needs to be done in-depth to make decisions towards achieving sustainability goals.

Climate change and environmental concerns have now become issues that cannot be ignored and need to be attended to, at national and global levels. With increased statutory government directives to reduce carbon footprint and make sustainability an imperative, manufacturers are under pressure to re-engineer their products and their packaging. Leading brands have committed themselves to sustainability and circular economy to reduce their carbon footprint. Labels also being  a part of packaging must be designed to achieve maximum level of sustainability and circular economy. FMCG brand owners are now preferring packaging solutions that will enable them to achieve decrease in their carbon footprint ensuring recycling of packaging material which is environment friendly. It is thus necessary to dwell on the different components of self-adhesive labels and their diverse usage. In India Avery Dennison has launched a matrix and liner recycling program to aid these needs. The liner collected from converters is sent to a company who repulps the liner mixed with wastepaper to produce tissue for shoe industry or other paper board items. The matrix is converted to briquettes and used as fuel.

Face materials

The label face material is the actual performing part of the label that after application stays with the product during its entire lifecycle. Variety of substrates are used to be the label depending on its performance and aesthetics. These can be papers that are either coated or uncoated, plastic films or other materials. Even paper labels laminated with films are in use. Unlaminated paper is, as such, largely re-pulpable and converted to become recycled paper or paperboard to be reused but here we need to understand that in case of self-adhesive labels, paper alone does not get affixed to the product, it has an adhesive with it. The final label with the adhesive goes on to the product while the waste matrix after die-cutting in converting is waste that often goes to landfills impacting the environment adversely. It can also be shredded and molded as pellets or bricks to be used as fuel.

To that extent we can consider the waste matrix sustainable as it is put to constructive use.  However still, the label that is affixed on the product has to be disposed along with the adhesive and the package it is on. So, we need to use special adhesives for the label to be re-pulpable in case of use on paper based packaging, or removable or washed off for recycling, when applied on reusable glass containers. We dwell on adhesives later in this article. Going backwards label buyers also have started insisting for their vendors to use FSC certified papers. FSC® or Forest Stewardship Council® certified paper is paper that has been harvested in a responsible manner. FSC stands for sustainable sourcing that puts forests and people first.

In case of filmic labels besides adhesive, it is another issue with worldwide movement against use of plastics wherever avoidable. The reason for this is that plastics are largely not biodegradable or non-compostable, so they are not ecofriendly. With EPR becoming mandatory in India, companies are constantly trying to use materials that can be recycled or reused. According to EPR or Extended Producers Responsibility,  which is the responsibility of Producers, Importers and Brand-owners to ensure processing of their plastic packaging waste through recycling, re-use or end of life disposal (such as co-processing/Waste-to-energy/Plastic to-oil/roadmaking/industrial-composting).

The impact is evident from the fact that most companies are shifting towards paper based packaging or even paper based self-adhesive tapes. Many filmic labels are based on mono polymer PE, PP or PET so if they are used on bottles made with same polymer these can be recycled provided the adhesive is compatible. Some companies have been making changes in manufacturing to improve the recyclability of product packaging and look at ways of reducing carbon footprint.  New films, made with 30-50% post-consumer recycled material or made with biobased materials, are offered that aid the circular economy and reduce the use of fossil based packaging while reducing carbon footprint. Some of these films available are fully compostable. Specially designed thinner films that are converted to  be used for highspeed labeling are being preferred as using less material, is a good step toward sustainability.

Adhesives

Often when assessing the sustainability of a packaging, people tend to overlook the impact of adhesives that are an inherent part of the package. An adhesive that may hinder the recyclability or maybe non compostable will become a setback for the efforts to make labels and stickers sustainable. An adhesive must be chosen, such that it will comply with end-of-life process to recycle and reuse or be compostable.

With advancements in technology, adhesives are derived from either natural or synthetic raw materials. A general perception, that adhesives formulated with natural inputs may be sustainable and those made from synthetics are not sustainable, is not true as a rule. Both types of adhesives can be developed and formulated to perform and yet conform to sustainability. It is important to study and select adhesive for labels based on your need. Let us for example consider self-adhesive beer labels in returnable glass bottles. In this case the adhesive should be compostable and easily washable to separate from the glass bottle for the bottle to be washed and reused while the label in the water can also be separated, recycled or dispose without adversely impacting environment. In case of PE bottles with PE labels, the adhesive should be compatible, such that it can be shredded granulated along with the bottle for remolding.  For each application the selection of adhesive is important.

Release liners

Over fifty percent of self-adhesive labelstock used for manufacturing labels or stickers  is generated as waste in converting. This is a known and accepted fact. The waste, more often than not, goes to landfills impacting environment. The release liner that protects the adhesive until the label is dispensed and applied, forms a major part of the waste generated. Since many years companies have been looking at options to either do away with the liner or reducing the waste generated by the liner.

Paper based liners form more than 80% release liners used for self-adhesive labels. The paper-based liners include Glassine, SCK, CCK and Poly coated papers. Linerless labels have been considered and used for some years now but due to growing need for better aesthetics, die-cutting complex shapes and embellishments, they have limited use. To reduce the tonnage of liner waste going to landfills as a sustainability endeavor, there has been talk of reducing the caliper/grammage of liner used but not much headway has been made in this direction.

In India and Europe, glassine is largely used as the preferred release liner and accounts to over 70% of all paper liners used. For long, release papers were not considered recyclable due to the silicone coating which after crosslinking becomes inert. However with development in technology, some companies in Europe and USA  developed a de-siliconization process after which the paper can be processed to reproduce base papers for siliconizing. In the process, siliconized liner is repulped in water containing chemicals to release the silicone and remove the small silicone particles like in the process used for deinking of repulped printed papers. The de-siliconized pulp can then be used to produce new products, such as fine and specialty papers like release liner, label face, writing and printing papers. Thereby achieving circularity.

There has been substantial growth in use of filmic liners that are thinner and can take more labels per roll. The residual filmic liner can be recycled, enabling circularity. To achieve an elevated level of circular economy and sustainability, “CELAB” (Circular Economy for Labels),  was set up by 50 industry-leading companies representing the entire value chain that have come together to create a sustainable pressure sensitive labeling industry by offering solutions and providing education to enable matrix and liner recycling.

It is an ad-hoc coalition empowered to reach across the entire supply chain and leverage the expertise of industry participants to promote a circular economy for self-adhesive label materials. CELAB’s members comprise industry members both large and small, and with both global and regional market presence. It also includes companies up and down the value chain of the matrix and liner industry. According to CELAB, “Like many other grades of film, silicone coated filmic release liners are recycled by regrinding the film into chips/pellets which can then be mixed with ‘virgin’ polymer and re-introduced to a film extrusion line for production of new polymeric film.”

Self-adhesive or pressure sensitive labels industry was at one time considered to be generating waste that was polluting the environment but gradually all-around efforts are driving in sustainability and recyclability. It is a matter of time the processes will evolve and the industry will shed the waste generating tag and grow.

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi-India January 2023

Narinder Chhatwal hailed from a family of traders in Lyallpur, a city which is now in Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947. Lyallpur was named after the founder of the city the then Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, Sir James Lyall, for his role in establishing the canal colonisation project. In 1977 the Government of Pakistan changed the name of the city from Lyallpur to Faisalabad (‘City of Faisal’) in honour of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who made several financial contributions to Pakistan. Faisalabad is the third-most-populous city in Pakistan after Karachi and Lahore, respectively. It was in the turbulent times of 1947 during the division of India into India and Pakistan, that the Chhatwals migrated to New Delhi. After completing his schooling, Narinder Chhatwal took up a job in the iconic Kwality Restaurant in coveted location, New Delhi’s Connaught Place, a venture set up in 1940 by P L Lamba and his brother-in-law I K Ghei who grew it as a multilocation restaurant chain. Narinder worked there until 1961. There was a strong urge to have his own business, so he set up a unit to produce ice cream cups but as situation warranted then, he left this venture and rejoined Kwality Restaurant yet again in 1964. Despite the stable job, the entrepreneur in him was restless and the urge to set up his own production unit re-surfaced and he finally quit the job permanently to start a printing unit nostalgically named Kwality Carton Manufacturing Company, in a single room rented at Kirti Nagar, New Delhi in 1966-67 using the manually fed treadle letterpress printing machine. He manufactured Ice cream cups, lids, cartons for Ice cream bricks and in fact a host of printed packaging items. In 1971 he could get an allotment for an industrial plot from government at Naraina Industrial Area and he moved the unit to this location where from, they operate to this date.

 
A little over a year after moving into their Naraina factory they bought their first offset printing press, a 712 single colour Dominant, a year later they bought another similar press and followed it up with a 714 Dominant. Falling short of space, the adjoining building was available, so they bought it as they were growing. In 1982-83, expanding further they acquired a two colour Planeta. Once into offset printing, Kwality was in expansion mode, they were adding equipment every alternate year. At this time, they renamed the company as Kwality Offset Printers. In 1986 Narinder Chhatwal’s son Rajeev an 18-year-old had joined business. Rajeev did his initial Schooling at Springdales School Delhi followed with graduation from Delhi University. The post partition Punjabi families who left all that they had, back in what had become Pakistan were hard working and were quick to start from scratch to regain their stature by sheer hard work. The second generation were all following their father’s footsteps and would be helping their parents in the work, spending time after school or college on the shopfloors of their startup units. For them, the shop floors became the training ground, and they learnt the nuances of business hands on. Rajeev was no different, with a  father like Narinder mentoring him and passing on the experience to his son who was a quick learner, he settled down in the business quickly. He however did go for a short training program at Heidelberg Germany. With his joining in, the business accelerated and soon the space in their Naraina factory was again falling short. In 1988, they bought out yet another next-door unit to make room for more production space so now the factory is operating from three adjacent plots. The same year they bought their first four colour offset press a secondhand Roland. Expansion became a routine process. They believed and were convinced that as far as possible it is better to operate from a unified single location in one city. This way the management which was Narinder Chhatwal, and his son Rajeev Chhatwal were not split and would remain a support to each other.

 

 

Until 1995 Kwality offset was producing Cartons, some commercial printed items and wet glue labels. In 1995-96 they decided to become a hundred percent label manufacturing unit which was only wet glue labels. The story of their entry into wet glue labels is interesting. In the early 1990s when the number of breweries started to grow and bottling speeds were on the rise. To label bottles at 250 bottles per minute, the labels needed to be perfectly die punched and stacked to run on highspeed lines. The normal flatbed dies would not work well. Kwality, because of their experience in ice cream cups and lids production were well versed in ram die punching and their workers were well trained in the process. Their manufactured labels ran extremely well on the high-speed labelling machines at breweries and distilleries and soon the word spread of their capabilities. This helped them get the orders from many other breweries and liquor producing companies. It was just a matter of time that they became the largest suppliers of wet glue labels in north India, though they were supplying pan national. It is interesting to note that normally people print and then get into label finishing equipment, here because of their knowledge of finishing the ice cream cup lids by hydraulic ram punching got them into high end big volume label printing. Their first customer for beer labelling was a government owned Haryana breweries at Sonepat making a popular brand of beer those days “Rosy Pelican.” Their success in making the perfectly die-punched wet glue labels also got them their first break in corporate world with orders from the multinational brand owner Nestle.

 

 

It was in the year 2000 when self-adhesive labels were gaining in popularity, the Chhatwals invested in a Mark Andy 2200  narrow web label press and in the following year, they also increased their investment in sheetfed offset by installing a six colour Heidelberg press. In 2002 they installed another sheetfed offset a five colour Roland with UV and online coater. Hereon, expansion became an ongoing process, they added three Mark Andy presses, a Gallus and a Xeikon in 2018 to make their entry into digitally printed labels with an ABG Digicon series 3 finishing and embellishing machine, which also has hot foil stamping , embossing and screen-printing capabilities. These investments enabled them to add multiple security features on labels. Increasing their footprint in flexo they also set up inhouse platemaking with Kodak Flexcel. Rajeev’s father Narinder Chhatwal passed away in 2008 until when, he was still attending business, though the reins had been passed on to his son Rajeev.

 

 

Rajeev’s other siblings include a younger brother who is into real estate and a sister who is a homemaker. His wife Shalini is also a home maker. His son Krish completed his business management from Sydney and joined business at Kwality offset four years ago. Two of those initial years were passed in facing the pandemic and last year in 2021 he got married. Krish’s wife Sanya, an expert in baking, after completing a course from APCA Malaysia, is running her own business, a bakery named Delhi’ce in Gurgaon making specialty cakes. Rajeev’s daughter recently completed her study in architecture and is now pursuing her career as an architect.

 

 

Having put in place a full-fledged team to manage all production, Rajeev, and son Krish personally look after sales and marketing. While Krish looks after all new customers, Rajeev manages and caters to, and successfully retains all old customers. The present spread of business is with three flexo presses, one digital label press Xeikon, Abg digicon, one Roland and one Heidelberg sheet offset press in a shopfloor admeasuring approximately 60,000 square feet. Total workforce is 130 persons all in one location at Naraina Industrial Area New Delhi. With no more space left for expansion at present location, they have bought a 2200 square yard plot at Manesar south of New Delhi for another factory to fuel their further expansion. When asked about future plans, Rajeev expresses that they are not really concerned about just volumes, they are more oriented to implement better and innovative technology and be profitable to grow the bottom line instead of focusing on bigger turnovers. Kwality has been growing at about 10 percent per annum and they are committed to maintain the growth rate. Conscious about the environment they have tied up with approved and certified waste management agencies as also cooperating with Avery Dennison on their waste management endeavours. They even try and source most of their paper materials from FSC certified vendors. Despite the aftereffects of pandemic, the father-son team are committed and firm to keep the expansion and investment in new technologies an ongoing process. Their resolve years ago to give-up cartons and other commercial printing to stay with 100% manufacturing of labels is unique in today’s situation. These days offset printers do integrate forward to produce labels and vice-versa label printers, in an effort to grow turnovers, expand into print packaging. They wish to remain specialty label printers, investing into innovation.

 

Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi March 2022

PS: Printing Magazine may publish this article giving credit to author Harveer Sahni and Blog https://harveersahni.blogspot.com  

 

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

 

 

 

 

Jagannath Wagle

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

New office

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Going Digital with Konica Minolta

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Reception of new premises

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Jagannath in his new office


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the 22nd of November 2018 at the LMAI Avery Dennison Awards night, held on the side lines of Labelexpo India, the winner announced in digital printing category-Wine and Spirits was Trigon Digital Solutions, Mumbai. Just over a week later, on the 29th of November 2018, Trigon was declared the Printweek India “Digital Printer of the year”. This was Trigon’s fourth award; the first two were Printweek “Pre-press Company of the year” awards won in 2015 and 2017. It is an incredible performance by a company promoted by first generation entrepreneurs just 10 years ago, with no previous experience in running a manufacturing company. They moved into roll form digital printing of labels merely 3 years ago. They have invested in a digital printing press at a time when we are witnessing the evolutionary shift of label production in India from conventional processes to digital. Digital printing is a segment of label industry that leading label manufacturing companies have been extremely hesitant to invest in, due to high cost of equipment and consumables. Anil  Namugade the co-founder, along with partner Milind Deshpande, have promoted Trigon Digital and successfully led it on its digital label journey.

 

After graduating in Economics from Mumbai University Anil Namugade, also a Printing Technologist from the Government Institute of Printing Technology, took up jobs as a scanner operator from 1994 to 1997 in few of the leading pre-press houses in Mumbai. Here he acquired immense knowledge in repro-colour separation and prepress. In 1998 he joined Heidelberg as a software specialist and continued to work there until 2003. Anil joined Kodak as packaging and proofing specialist in 2003. It was a purely technical job where he developed his passion for proofing, learnt the nuances of colour management and the imperative need of good prepress for excellence in final print. During his stint with Kodak he was also handling technical and sales support which helped him gain experience in selling as well. Unfortunately, by 2007 Kodak was seeing a decline in business and as restructuring process was being put in place, he had to exit Kodak. Suddenly that one day he found himself jobless, away from a stable job in an MNC(Multi National Company). He firmly believed in and followed a simple mantra of success and excellence; “Look at problem as an opportunity and learn to grow and excel”. Drawing inspiration from this mantra, he along with partner Milind Deshpande who is also a printing technologist, set up their maiden start-up venture Trigon Digital Solutions. 

 

From past experience and knowledge he had acquired from working in the previous jobs, Anil knew that customers needing packaging, wanted to see how their product would look, before they opted for actual printing and production. He saw the opportunity in this need, so Trigon was set up as a proofing and mock-up producing company. His knowledge of prepress and colour management helped him to achieve his goal. Earlier it used to be the creative agencies that visualised and created a format for packaging, Trigon creating an actual marketable mock up for the companies was a new and welcome development for brand owner companies. The first equipment they invested in was Kodak Approval NX that printed in sheet format and started to take up proofing and mock-up creation for customers. Finding success in their endeavors he soon realised that being closer to the customer is an imperative.  In 2010 Trigon opened a facility in Bangalore and followed it up by setting up a unit in Delhi in 2012. In 2015 they went international by setting shop in Dubai and later an office in Singapore. All the units except the office in Singapore are equipped with Kodak Approval NX.

 

In 2015 they saw the opportunity in customers demanding label mock-ups in roll form, so in their Mumbai facility they invested in an Epson Surepress to produce samples including Flexibles, Laminates and Labels by digital printing in roll form. Moreover, the production on Kodak was turning out to be expensive and limited to sheet format. Soon their customers upgraded from demanding just mock-ups to ordering short runs for their specialised marketing needs.  They also started to see business emanating from the shrink sleeve segment as also a growing demand for other roll form variants. The slow speed of Surepress could not cater to the demand they were getting and also there was a limitation that it could not produce shrink sleeves. At this time in 2017 Trigon decided to take a major step of investing in an HP Indigo 6000 digital press and enhance their capability to produce a larger range of products. A year down the line in 2018 Trigon yet again upgraded their HP Indigo 6000 to HP Indigo 6900 which had enhanced features. On this HP 6900 they could do inline primer coating saving them the time and valuable space, print metallic inks and florescent inks. With a widened customer base and enhanced capabilities they now cater to applications in FMCG, Liquor, Personalised labels, Variable Data labels, QR codes and a lot more. They now produce and sell a range besides labels, offering flexible packaging, complex laminates, lamitubes and shrink sleeves. Anil Namugade firmly believes that digital is the future of printing and innovative packaging. Dwelling on the general apprehension of label printers regarding ROI (Return on Investment), he feels that it becomes better from an expanded vision of providing specialised services to the customer. These services that Trigon offers include brand management, database management including validation, preparing the mock-ups for test marketing before indulging extensively, offering creativity to customers for their evaluation and aiding decision making, personalisation or customisation and incorporating variable information on each label or package at short notice. Their experience in pre-press has helped them greatly and he believes that by adding full post press setup Trigon has become a one stop shop for the needs of brand owners. The additional cost of digitally converted products needs to spell value for customers to justify the cost. Anil asserts that the vision for success of flexo graphic printing and Digital printing should be looked at separately and not as a comparison. 

 

Trigon Digital Solutions plans to remain focused in digital Printing. With already a facility in Dubai and an office in Singapore they are a global entity and they will be expanding their global reach by establishing a setup in U.K. in 2019-2020 as they already have customers in 18 countries including UK and Europe. They have endeavored to remain logistically close to customers to be able to provide service at their doorstep. Surprisingly due to their business model of being linked to packaging development, marketing and brand management, their revenues do not come from purchase budgets of customers but come from their marketing budgets. Trigon making optimum use of space operates out of around 1800 square feet shop floor area of all facilities put together. Headquartered in Andheri East, Mumbai they have a workforce of 102 persons. At Trigon every new creation is a challenge but developing it is not. Anil proudly says innovation, technology, extensive knowledge of prepress, and having “People with Passion” in their team has always been a winning force for Trigon. They are committed to improve upon what the customer wants or brings to them for creation of a label or package that will spell success for their products and brand. 

 

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman WeldonCelloplast Limited New Delhi December 2018

 

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



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




 
Suresh and wife Kumi




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






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






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











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


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




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






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

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

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

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

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Ltd. January 2019