Monday, October 26, 2015

Labelexpo Europe 2015, the way I saw it: A photo feature!

Sometimes words are not needed, the pictures say it all. I decided to share my personal pictorial journey through the show at Brussels. It just came to my mind to share the pictures with my global label friends. I wish I had taken more pictures. Unfortunately the idea did not come to my mind while I was at Labelexpo. My formal article on the show will follow later.

Atomium in the backdrop, aday before the show opened

Shrihari Rao, Sales Director Esko with Sanjeev Sondhi, Zircon
With Marco Calcagni, Director Omet.

With Isidore Leiser, Stratus, France at the FINAT Stand
Jakob Landberg of Nilpeter with Steve Katz editor LNW

Amar Chhajed Webtech Labels with Pawandeep Sahni, Weldon
The HP Stand

Pawandeep and Kim at Trojan Label stand

SMI Stand

With Raul Silvestre, Lartec Flexible Dies
Sharing a snack with Steve Katz editor LNW

With Ahmad Kavoosi, Parsian Labelling, Iran
Ritrama Stand

With Helmut Schreiner & Torsten Jung Lenz

Label Industry Global Awards: The awards evening!

Tony White and Thomas Hagmaier President FINAT

With Andy Thomas, Group Editor Labels and Labeling

With Geoffery Martin, President and Global CEO CCL

With Dean Scarbrough Chairman & CEO Avery Dennison Corp.

With Kurt Walker, Past President FINAT & winner of lifetime achievement award!

An evening with important friends in global label industry!

With my mentor and Label Guru Mike Fairley
With Lisa Milburn, Managing Director Labelexpo group

With Finat President Thomas Hagmaier and the mother-daughter team who are label printers at Mexico!

Relaxing evenings and the grandeur of Grand Place!

The vibrant restaurant lanes of Grand Place
SMI Team; It is party time!

Amazing grandeur!
With friends in a casual state!

Before leaving Brussels, the night before, I stood at my hotel room window watching this beautiful sight. Hoping to be back again in two years to be with global label friends.

Presented by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, October 2015.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Indians take; on Labelexpo Europe 2015


Every two years when it gets closer to Labelexpo in Brussels, excitement builds up amongst members of the global narrow web label fraternity. Printers start looking forward to meet peers in the industry across the globe as also to witness suppliers and machine builders showcasing the developments that they have done in the preceding two years. It is a time to learn, update, network and party. The evenings in Grand Place, in the heart of Brussels is a place where many a relationships are renewed and friends who have moved on within the industry get reunited by chance, on the streets. One can see the pleasures of reconnecting with old friends and getting updated on work and contact details. Labelexpo Europe is recognized as the largest label event in the world attracting decision makers from the finest of label printing companies. The last edition of the show was the largest so far in its 35 year history and this one is expected to be bigger. 31795 visitors attended the 2013 edition which was over 11% more than the 2011 show. Visitors came from 158 countries and the show was spread over in seven halls covering a floor space admeasuring 31000 square meters. The number of exhibitors also grew to almost 600 up from 550 in the last event, demonstrating the confidence level of exhibitors and the importance of this show. To assess the take of Indian label printers on this event, I interacted with more than 20 printers in all zones of India. Surprisingly all except one confirmed that they will be visiting this show and the one who is not going wished he could go but was being held back due to personal reasons. So ethically almost hundred percent of printers who responded to my questionnaire emphasize the importance of this show and are expected to visit Labelexpo Europe this year.  Interestingly all the persons interviewed by me are business owners and purchasing decision makers. Indian label industry is dominated by family owned businesses and the owners travelling to Brussels, demonstrates the importance of this event amongst Indians. This is despite the fact that there is a Labelexpo India every alternate year!
The Labelexpo exhibition was founded by Clive Smith in the year 1979 as a show called Labelex. In 1980 the first Labelexpo (Then Labelex) exhibition was held in London’s Royal Horticultural Hall, in a net area of 1000 square meters. Three shows later in 1985 the show moved to Brussels. In 1989 Clive Smith founded Labelexpo Americas and a year later in 1990 he established Labelexpo Asia. In 1998 Labelexpo was sold to Tarsus. There after Tarsus established other versions of the show in China and India. However still the Brussels edition called Labelexpo Europe remains the flagship show and recognized as the best in the world.
Amar Chhajed: Webtech Labels
Jigesh Dani; Maharshi Labels
Ajay Agarwal: Syndicate Labels

“It is the Mecca of Label Printing Industry”
In the western world, exhibitions have for decades been the places where business people would visit to witness exhibits and make their purchase decisions, yet Indians were traditionally used to calling sales persons to their workplaces and then take decisions. It was in 1972 that India’s prime 153 acres exhibition facility “Pragati Maidan” was set up in New Delhi,but it took more than a decade before the culture of visiting exhibitions caught on, somewhere in the mid 1980s. However still travelling to foreign lands to visit shows was still a taboo. It was in the mid 1990s after the advent of liberalization of economy that people actually started to travel to visit exhibitions and make purchase decisions. When I asked the printers about how many times they have visited Labelexpo Europe, two of the label industry stalwarts Amar Chhajed of Webtech Mumbai and Gururaj Ballarwad of Wintek Bangalore stated, they had visited every edition of the show since 1999. The 2015 edition will betheir 9th time at the Brussels show. I too have visited every edition of the show since 1999 but then that as a material supplier. It is interesting to note here that both Amar and Gururaj have either sold majority stake in their company or have been fully acquired by multinational companies Huhtamaki and ITW respectively. Wintek acquired by ITW has subsequently become a Signode group company. Anurag Mohan of Interact at Kolkata in the East of India will be a first time visitor at Brussels who has been following Labelexpo for the last 6-8 years on the internet. All the others have visited multiple times. Ajay Agarwal, Managing Director of New Delhi based Syndicate labels will definitely visit because he says, “it is a must visit for every serious label printer”. Jigesh Dani of Maharshi Labels in Ahmedabad in the west of India feels, “It is the Mecca of Label Printing Industry”. 
The success of any business exhibition is measured by the amount of focused visitors it attracts and eventually the amount of business enquiries it generates.  In shows like Labelexpo Europe the press manufacturers form the mainstay of the show and all other suppliers of materials, toolings, inspection systems, allied equipments, etc, complement the exhibition to become a complete show. We are used to hearing announcements of the overwhelming number of label presses sold at the show! Labelexpo is an event that is of extreme importance, there is a lot work done between two editions of the show. No one walks into a stand at a show and impulsively buys a million plus Euro Label Press impulsively! After all it is not a fancy car; whereby hundreds and thousands of similar models are running on roads triggering off a me-too feel.These Label presses are equipment that are supposed to print labels, deliver quality as demanded by customers and generate revenue for a business enterprise. In actual a lot of work has gone in by press manufacturers in the preceding two years culminating in the exhibition becoming a perfect platform for printers to witness the latest developments, negotiate a price valid at the fair and announce the sale. Last but not the least enquiry generation at the show brings in work for the sales team, till they reach the next show. It is an important fact to understand if printers are going to exercise or initiate purchase decision at Brussels. In response to my questions, many printers said they had made purchase decisions at previous shows but when asked whether they will make purchase decision at this show, they are non committal. Only three out of the 20 said they will make purchase decision, I am sure evaluation has preceded the decision to buy at the show. Most of them say they will visit the event to learn and evaluate new technological developments taking place in the world. Young Hemanth Paruchuri of Pragati Pack Hyderabad wants to learn and evaluate upcoming technologies so as to plan future investments. He is curious to learn how LED UV is shaping up. Raveendran from Seljegat in Sivakasi in South India is as always looking for something new that he can bring to the Indian markets and is confident he will make purchases at the show. 

Sandeep Zaveri of Total Print Mumbai feels it is so convenient to evaluate a range of consumables, toolings and ancillary supplies at just one place. Sudhir Jain of Jain Transfer Products based in NOIDA, on the outskirts of Delhi says, “I will visit Labelexpo Europe to look at new developments in label printing and converting technologies by international exhibitors.”I asked printers, “It is said this show is a complete label event and the best in class, do you agree? Your comments” The response was unanimous, YES! Heman Vasa of Unick Fix-a-Form based in Ahmedabad said,” Yes, it is very informative and knowledge imparting”. Ramesh Deshpande of Renu Prints in Aurangabad says it is a great event. Manish Hansoti from S. Kumar Multi Products Pvt.Ltd.Ahmedabad feels it is a must visit event because manufacturers are putting their best and new futuristic machinery at the show. It time to know what new is happening in the industry. 
Each exhibition has a target visitor base,depending on which the exhibitors are selected and the show is built.  It is an interesting story that in the first “India Labelshow” which was later acquired by Tarsus and renamed Labelexpo India, I was requested by my friend Anil Arora, the founder of that show to help promote the show. Since my customer base was label printers I went about along with Anil requesting all of them to participate. Surprisingly many agreed and we had a lot of leading label printers exhibiting at the first edition of a highly successful India Label show at Nehru Centre in Mumbai in the year 2002. It was on reviewing after the show that we realized, label printers should be visitors at this show. Simple logic was that suppliers and buyers cannot be exhibitors at the same show!  Exhibitions like Labelexpo are meant to cater to requirements of label printers.So it is a good launchpad also for newer substrates for printing and converting as substrates form the major part of a label. From my survey it is evident that substrates are not really the reason for which printers invest in travelling to this show. However most of them feel that it is of interest; since they are there at the show, they would also like to learn about new substrates and coatings to enhance the decoration of labels that they produce. Otherwise the world’s finest substrate suppliers are just a call away. As I said earlier Label presses by far remain the prime interest of the visitors at this event. The evolving trend of combination presses employing various printing and converting processes in a single pass, has been observed as the most important interest of all the printers who responded to my questions. Investment in digital printing equipment still remains largely on hold, due to a cautious approach in an otherwise extremely competitive scenario. I wrote in a recent article that large scale indulgence in Digital has to wait a while. Only two out of all the companies who responded have already made some investments in Digital printing. As for 3D Printing and laser printing or converting; it remains only a matter of observing advances made and learning how it is done with a big NO as regards investing, as of now.
Indian Exhibitors:
In 2005 my company Weldon Celloplast Limited was the only Indian exhibitor at Labelexpo in Brussels and have continuously exhibited each year until the last edition in 2013. A decade down the line, for the 2015 edition at Brussels the number of Indian exhibitors have grown to 14. I interacted with three of the Indian exhibitors all of who are exhibiting a third time at this venue. India’s largest hologram producer Holostik Limited, even though they are label manufacturers as well, yet they continue to exhibit repeatedly. They are a satisfied exhibitor who will showcase their entire range. Says U K Gupta, Managing Director of Holostik, “We have generated many leads at previous Labelexpo exhibitions that have been converted to business.” When asked about their quality as compared to European standards, he adds, “We have always been confident about our products and their prices. We follow high manufacturing and quality standards.”  

Label press manufacturer Multitec has the credit for bringing India on the global market as regards label presses is concerned. Amit Ahuja is excited about his third showing in Brussels, “We are exhibiting our VSi press with some modifications. We would have loved to take our full servo press to the show but it did not match the timing. The VSi press is sold to a customer in Africa and will be dispatched to them from the show.”  When asked about experience, problems faced and appreciation, he responds, “Past experience has been good. The show in 2011 was our debut show and we just wanted to get our name and brand registered in the mind of the printers. In 2013, they recognised us and took us seriously. Like advertising, repeated "in-your-face" interactions cement the brand image in a buyer's mind and that is what we are trying to achieve. Having said that, the cost of exhibitions is going north and it looks to be a difficult road ahead” The largest amongst Indian labelstock manufacturers SMI Coated Papers also continues to return to this show expressing confidence in the exhibition Managing Director Ajay Mehta says, “We have had a fantastic experience at earlier shows and this is reflected in our decision to participate again. Besides being a great platform for meeting all existing friends from the industry, Labelexpo does invariably help us in getting new customers.”

Impact of self adhesive label waste continues to impact the environment. While positive steps are visible in Europe and US to reduce the adverse effect of this waste generation. Indian label industry is still not really attempting to address this issue in the right earnest. If some constituents of the industry are taking steps, they are too little and need more indulgence. All the respondents to my questions do agree that this problem needs attention and they are desirous of attending to it but I guess cost of equipment needed to manage waste is prohibitive. Moreover at this time the industry is looking at managing waste not recycling it, which should be the target to contribute to protecting the environment.
Rajesh Nema of Pragati Global based in Indore, will visit Labelexpo a 5th time for learning about new upcoming technologies but does feel that the show should be moved to some other venue as this has become too monotonous. This has been earlier expressed by others as well. However my personal opinion is that this is not so simple. Shows are generally linked to cities and venues. Also when the show has been successfully established so painstakingly it can be a big risk to shift it, more so when it is still growing. In fact we should enjoy the show as it is where it is! Senior label printers like Gururaj Ballarwad who has been visiting all editions of Labelexpo since 1998  looks forward to this event in Brussels with euphoria, he says,  “All these years I have made so many friends globally, I am looking forward to seeing them”.  India’s fast growing label printer Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon Technologies says “Expectation to visit Labelexpo in Brussels is pleasurable. It also empowers one to get new knowledge, how to create a difference and to be a more profitable company employing new technology. I am looking forward to a paradigm shift, a new way to printing and converting, not just mere up gradation of existing ways of doing things.”

Written by Harveer Singh Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, India July 2015 Exclusively for Narrow Web Tech, Germany The article as published in Narrow Web Tech is available at :

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sandeep Lal, former President of Metro Labels, on sale of his company to Tapp Label Company USA

In the early 1970s Narinder Mohan Lal, his son Sandeep Lal and rest of the family left their home town Allahbad a city in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to migrate to Toronto in Canada. Narinder Lal initially started trading in Labels and in 1974 setup a small label production facility in the basement of his home. Sandeep joined his father in business and by start of the new millennium he was put in the driving seat to lead Metro Labels to blossom into one of North America’s top players. In addition to the main 132,000 square foot Progress Ave.-Hwy 401 facility at Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, the 180-employee firm also has locations in Vancouver and Napa Valley. I had written about Sandeep in 2009 and later wrote again last year when they celebrated their 40th Anniversary Having reached a pinnacle, Sandeep Lal decided to sell his profitable and well managed company to Tapp Label Company USA. Recently Sandeep wrote to me explaining the reasons to sell and also sent the transfer of ownership speech that he had made to the employees of Metro Labels.

Indian label industry has in recent times witnessed some sell-offs and acquisitions. I am sure it will be interesting reading for the label industry about the journey of this company that was started from scratch to reach the top and then sold while it was very profitable. I reproduce both the documents mentioned above, unedited.

Sandeep's email:

August 30, 2015


I promised to tell you more about the transaction and my reasons for the sale. I have attached a copy of the speech I made to the employees at the Toronto Plant one week before the sale was to transpire.
Starting in 1974 I spent two years working part time, in a sales role while I was studying at the University of Toronto, and then another 39 years at Metro Label, providing leadership for the last 14 years. After assuming the leadership I grew the business 14 fold and our profit increased over 40 fold. We chose not to share our numbers with TLMI and intentionally kept a low profile. Our business generated EBITDA of over 22% on sales for most of the last 15 years. Focus on Innovation, a determination to lead technically, appropriate environmental initiatives, a motivated and well trained team was the reason for our success.
The goal was always make a large range of products, to outperform our competitors on quality initiatives, on time delivery and overall performance matrixes while seeking markets outside the typical geographical areas that we were supposed to sell in.
I have listed below some of the things we did for over 20 years to differentiate and grow our business.
1     We led the marketplace by being one of the first, back in 1976, to have our own in-house rubber plate-making. This was followed by an art department and then typesetting equipment when most of this work was done at third parties. When the Mac’s first came out we were an early implementer and did our own films and photopolymer plates in house almost as soon as the technology was available. We were also an early implementer of in-house ink mixing technology in the late 1990’s.
2      Installed the first Customized Unix driven software solution in 1985. This fully integrated package enabled us to capture data off the shop floor and provide instantaneous updates on job status to clients. Order entry, inventory management,  Procurement, Job costing,  data collection, invoicing, Accounts receivables, accounts payable, GL were all fully integrated. This software was comparable to software that became available in the early to mid 1990’s. The efficiencies realized were unimaginable. We were able to outperform the competitors to service their business as a result. Just one of the efficiencies achieved was a large reduction in inventory. We turned our complete inventory 37 times per year. Average competitor gets 12-15 turns a year.
3      We were the third North American installation for Indigo’s very first digital platform back in 1995.
4      We achieved ISO 9001 certification in 1995.
5      We custom designed and installed equipment to integrate Radio Frequency and Electro Magnetic type EAS tags from Checkpoint & Sensormatic, on the adhesive side of our labels to assist retailers to receive products fro their suppliers with the tag buried under their Product identification labels. This was done at 175 feet at minute as many as 4 rows across on one of our presses in 1997
6      All water base and Solvent base presses were converted to UV by 1998, increasing quality, run speeds and reducing run waste and quality defects.
7      All presses had Video web inspection and UPC code verifications systems installed by 1998 to ensure that bar codes printed by us would exceed the UPC scan rate requirement of all major retailers. A statistical record was kept of the scans on press. At least one out of 6 printed labels was read/scanned.
8     We built the first LEED certified building in 2005 to house a Label company globally and won the Global environmental award for it from the Label industry along with awards from the FTA, TLMI, PAC and the city of Toronto.
9      We installed Solar Panels on the roof of Metro Label’s Toronto Plant in 2015.

There were many other innovations that would be tedious to list here.
We developed a reputation of being fearless and ruthless competitors who outperformed our competitors. Client loyalty was a by-product of our performance. Our margins were the result of our strong performance which enabled us to charge a small premium for our products and services.
I look forward to sharing the experience acquired through my successful business journey with my peers in the future.

Sandeep Lal
David Bowyer CEO Tapp Label Co.


Transfer of ownership speech by Sandeep Lal the former Owner/President of Metro Labels Toronto Canada.

It is my privilege to speak to you as a group one last time, as the principal shareholder of Metro Label.
When Narinder Mohan Lal my father started this business, our company was definitely an underdog in the label business. There were times when our competitors, suppliers, and sometimes even I, doubted our ability to get through some of the difficult times. Our business survived and prospered because Narinder Lal, my father, believed that our business would survive no matter what, and it did. Not only did it survive it grew and grew. Just like my parents my siblings Nandini & Raideep, my son Vikram, & I were motivated, to work hard and make Metro Label a success so that we may provide for our families.
My parents, Nandini, Raideep, Vikram & I were all fortunate that your personal journey included a career at Metro Label. Your personal motivation, support, work ethic and loyalty inspired us. It made us believe that anything was possible and it was. In the past at the pinnacle of our company’s success Metro Label was ranked the 14th largest company in North America and one of the most profitable. If the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute had an award for inspiration and effort you all would have won that award many times.
I know that my assertive style and relentless push for excellence created much adversity within our organization. However by working together we set the benchmark for successful label companies in North America. I always did my best to ensure that we looked out for each of your needs. I know that we didn’t succeed at everything we attempted to achieve but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  I always pushed for each of you to reach down deep inside yourself and excel at whatever you were doing.  And you did.
To succeed you need motivated and inspired management with a vision, management which leads by example, and has the Zen like focus to keep all aspects of the business on a sound footing. Over the last few years I came to the conclusion that I was no longer motivated and driven as I had been in the past.
Like most entrepreneurs I had hoped that the next generation of our family would have an interest in taking over the business and provide the leadership. Quite possibly I did not allow that to happen in a way that was acceptable to them.
You have given this company your loyalty and unwavering support. I knew that you all deserved the same. After my much reflection, many sleepless nights, and the support of all members of my family it was determined that Metro Label, which is highly profitable, has an excellent reputation, motivated and loyal team members and a great client list, deserved new owners that would provide renewed leadership and focus.
We expect to conclude a transaction on June 30. What is important for all of you to know is that when you arrive at work on July 1/2015, all of our employees, including my nephew Curran, will continue in their jobs as usual and maintain their employment with the new owners, at this location, a place they have come to know. All employees will earn the same pay, maintain their benefits and seniority and continue to work in this location. Nothing will change.
The new owner has signed a long term lease to stay in this building.
Once the transaction is completed, Nandini and I will work with the new owners to transition the business over to them during the month of July.
I want to thank my father Narinder Lal for founding this business and for giving me the opportunity to run it. I want to thank my parents for their unwavering support and beliefs in my skill and judgement. Vikram and Jayanti for loving me inspite of the adversity and stress I brought home because of my work ethic, and desire to succeed. My deceased brother Raideep, my sister Nandini, and my son Vikram deserve a medal for doing what needed to be done and doing it regardless of what I said and how I said it.  Of all team members they suffered my wrath the most often, and were as responsible for providing the leadership to grow our business. I also want to thank my brother Jaideep for always providing his silent and financial support when needed. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Meredith my spouse for all of her wonderful support and guidance.
Most of all I want to thank all of you. The company would never be what it is if you hadn’t treated it like it was your own. Last year at our 40th anniversary party I promised the Deferred Profit Sharing Plan(DPSP) payment would be made this year. We will fulfill my commitment to you by making discretionary contributions totalling $400,000 to your payroll accounts as our personal recognition of your support.  This will be our largest contribution in Bonus or DPSP ever. Many of the contributions have been supplemented by an additional discretionary contribution as my personal recognition of your support.
After the deal is completed, on July 1 I will personally introduce you to the new owners. 

Sandeep Lal

Reproduced and compiled by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi-India September 2015