Label printing in India

On a recent visit to India, LL publisher Roger Pellow visited some of the country’s biggest printers for a QA session

Webtech – Amar Chhajed

RP: Describe your company.

AC: We are a family owned company with turnover of around Ä10m, focused on self-adhesive labels and growing at around 20 percent a year. Our first press, a Mark Andy, was installed in 1998. 60 percent of the company’s business is from the pharma and healthcare industry, and the balance consists of Industrial, cosmetic and other sectors. We have recently started focusing on the FMCG and Food sectors. We have 15 presses at our main location in Navi Mumbai and two at our factory North of Delhi.

RP: You recently installed two Xeikon presses. Why did you go digital?

AC: We have talked about it for a long time. We do so many types of jobs that it held the possibility for digital, so we are not building digital from scratch. Digital opens new opportunities, and we have trained a whole new sales team to sell digital. We are using people who are used to marketing products, not selling packaging. It is all about imagination and what can be made possible because of digital. We are offering marketing solutions to clients, not just printing labels. 

RP: What is needed for the Indian label industry to continue its growth?

AC: The biggest need for the Indian label industry is to focus on innovation and high quality. The other major area to work upon in India is training for the employees. It’s not about one printer taking the lead, it’s about the whole industry. Around half the students we employ from printing colleges don’t stay in the longer run. Indian printers need to push for a training academy focussed for the narrow web industry and equipment.. so that high quality trained personnel can be available for the industry.

RP: How do you see the prospects for the Indian economy?

AC: In India packaging will have a lot of new things coming up in next five years that don’t just depend on GDP growth rate. Even today lots of things are not packaged at all in India especially  in the food sector. Packaging overall has lots of scope for upgradation and thereby leaving lot of room for growth. With the imminent entry of organized retail chains in India it will be very positive for the consumer as well as the packaging industry. For the local industry too.. I feel this will be an opportunity in disguise.. since it will have to raise its standards of quality to international levels. And ofcourse, if you are not willing to change you won’t survive.

RP: How did you develop a successful work culture?

AC: We have a culture of ‘TeamWork’. From day one employees have helped to build the business – and everyone has a sense of belonging. All of them incuding us are working for the company and also for each other – the faster and better we work the more we get back. We also take a lot of efforts in identifying and finding solutions to the basic needs and problems of our employees. For example we provide free housing to a lot of employees who are unable to afford
housing in Mumbai. To feel secure a person needs a place to live and food to eat; their basic needs must be taken care of, otherwise it is unfair. Accommodation is the most difficult part of working in Mumbai. Afterall, we truly believe that ‘these are the people who drive the company.’

RP: How do you handle cost objections?

AC: Material costs are affecting us – up already by 15 percent, and all commodities are going up. It is most difficult to get a price rise from a customer specially since many new suppliers are willing to cut corners and offer lower prices.But if the price per label is not reasonable enough we would always willingly turn business away – you must be able to say no. Ultimately we have experienced that all customers understand the value proposition of working with us and are willing to pay for the same.

RP: How important is information management at Webtech?

AC: We were the first to install an MIS (management information system) from Shuttleworth in India. MIS means we can look at lean manufacturing, which is the main challenge as the business gets bigger and we are running three shifts, 24/6. 

We currently hold raw material stocks for up to 30 days, because we like to have the flexibility. If the customer places an order today we don’t want to have to think about raw material, and we don’t want to depend on the supplier. We used to hold 40-50 days, but have been cutting it down.

RP: How do you handle label finishing?

AC: We were the first narrow web company in India to install AVT (100% defect detection systems) and every label produced at Webtech will always
undergo 100% auto inspection. We also have some presses with online 100% Inspection systems. For final finishing we have a few Rotoflex and Prati machines. We dispatch more than 300 different items every single day and have very strict protocols to make sure jobs are not mixed up. Of course, we also make our own labels for use in packaging and dispatch.

RP: Do you make your own plates?

AC: We brought platemaking in house since nearly two years now and it’s certainly made a big difference. We don’t depend on outsourcing our pre-press needs.. and also don’t need to share customer details with anyone else.

RP: What are your future plans?

AC: For the immediate future, there is a lot to do just in labels. Core for us is to set up more factories across India. We will also set up a new factory in the same location as currently, and this will be much bigger than the size of the current building.

In terms of new hardware we intend to upgrade our printing equipment in a phased manner.. also might try out rotary offset for folding cartons as well as mid-web flexo for unsupported films. Things are not just about printing labels anymore – you need a complete packaging solution, a one-stop shop.

Ultimately, we would love to venture into the developed markets like Europe and USA. We are confident of repeating our success in those markets too with our focus on continuous innovation and high quality.

Update Prints – Rajesh Chadha

RP: Describe your business?

RC: We are a family business employing 70 people. Our main market is FMCG, and our highest margin is on cosmetics and personal care, although we also get a good margin on pharma. We work normally on two shifts. We are now expanding into a new 10,000sq yard manufacturing plant with five acres of land for further expansion. Our idea eventually is to have everything under one roof.

RP: What has been your most recent technology investment?

RC: We most recently acquired a Rotatek Brava 440 with an in-line combination of silk screen and hot foil stamping along with the ability to do offest and flexo printing, embossing, cold foil stamping and lamination. The Rotatak is a good solid offset press. Its semi- and full rotary modes both have advantages, and it runs at a good speed.

This is a 90ft machine, so we installed automated BST inspection in-line, which is particularly important for pharma, along with barcode scanning and color monitoring. When printing labels it is better to resolve any problems inline rather than looking at them once they are printed. It saves us money.

MIS is high on our agenda, and we are working towards having a system in the near future. We are already lean in that we only keep seven days stock, as overstocking ties up money. Our suppliers are good at planning, invetory and maintain adequate stocks at their end.

RP: What are the major issues facing Indian converters?

RC: The biggest issue is it’s hard to get good operators, and staff training as a whole is an issue. It is difficult to retain people and 20 percent wage inflation is demanded normally per year – and even up to 50 percent for good staff.

RP: How do you train and motivate your sales team?

RC:  Not many Indian printers run dual incentive schemes, but we do have one for repeat orders and a higher one for new business. Because we know most of our customers personally, sales people have a different role here – more as client service managers.

RP: Are you happy with current developments at the LMAI?

RC: The LMAI has certainly improved over the last four to five years, and is doing good work, especially at the recent congress. It is good to have our name on the global stage.

RP: Where do you see future opportunities?

RC: We are looking into package printing and in the near future may start a new offset press which can handle multi substrates. Runs are coming down in the carton and card markets – carton has the same issues as labels so the opportunity is there for the label converter.

Security also needs looking at, as there are lots of opportunities for anti-counterfeiting and brand protection, and this is all added value work.

In the beverage sector it is mainly whisky, rum and beer, although vodka has been picking up recently. Whisky is a big market but still the labels have a lot of scope for improvement ! On beer it is still mainly wet glue and PS has only a small penetration. For whisky PS is only 20 percent, so there is a huge potential.

RP: What is your view on digital printing?

RC: Digital is a complimentary technology and not stand alone. Inkjet is cheaper, but still a big decision considering the investment – and what are the opportunity prospects? We will look for complete combination printing, but digital is too slow at the moment. It will be the right thing when the investment is slightly less.

RP: What are the future prospects for the Indian label sector?

RC: We are currently growing every year by around 20 percent, but we expect 100 percent growth five years from now. This is because the big supermarkets are coming into India: Tesco and Walmart will come in. They will want local printers – Chinese printers did not adapt so international printers came in to service the multi-nationals.

Pictured: (L-R) Jitesh and Amar Chhajed with Webtech’s Xeikon 3000 digital press

This article was published in LL issue 6, 2011

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