The pressure sensitive adhesive labels industry is growing at a steady and rapid pace in India. It is now time that the contribution of those who have achieved success is chronicled so that those who wish to move ahead have a platform to look for information and news. This blog intends to provide inspiration and reference.
SMI Labels and Packaging Materials
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Aspiring for Global Attention!
Aspiring for Global Attention!
Shanti Pal Ahuja was an energetic young man of 24 years when he joined as a director in Sud & Warren, an Engineering company promoted by his close relatives. It was in the early sixties that the promoters of Sud & Warren, Baldev Sud, K L Arora and Ahuja (Shanti Pal Ahuja’s elder brother) foresaw the potential of computer related products and there consumables. Using imported equipment they started to produce computer stationery and business forms. Shanti Pal Ahuja was deputed to go to Germany for getting technical training on the machines that they were using. In those days of strict and controlled foreign exchange regime, getting import licenses and foreign exchange for imports was a difficult task. The hardship that they faced in importing machines or their spare parts led them to start their own venture, Sud & Warren. With Shanti Pal Ahuja as their technical Director the company started to build paper converting machines for their captive use as well for those in the similar trade. It was just a matter of time that the venture found success.
By 1983, a restless Shanti Pal Ahuja wanted to venture out on his own. He promoted Multitec Aids Pvt Ltd. to produce paper converting machines including equipment for making computer stationery. In fact he chose a product profile quite similar to that at Sud & Warren. He was fortunate that the bankers whom he approached knew his potential and experience from his days at Sud & Warren, so finance came relatively easy. After setting up the unit, the earliest success came from his efforts to associate with Indian Railways in indigenizing the machines for production of card tickets being used in those days. These tickets were being printed on old British machines. He fondly remembers that once his machines were in place, the Railways were printing, “2 tons of card tickets per day”. This order was followed up by providing machines for producing computer generated tickets for “Rajdhani Express” train. He also reminisces the time he got a lot of praise from Times of India management for having suggested and supplied to them a bailing press for waste management. Due to this their facility became much cleaner and manageable. Despite producing some ancillary equipment, Multitec was primarily a manufacturer of computer stationery converting machines. The printing technique used on these machines was initially letterpress and then later web offset with high speed rotary converting. Till date Multitec has made over 600 installations, which are servicing their owners well.
Thirteen years after Shanti Pal Ahuja ventured out on his own his only son Amit Ahuja, alumni of Manipal Engineering College, was ready to join him in business. Amit a qualified mechanical engineer with a penchant for computer aided designing had ideas of diversifying in to other arenas and developing new machines. He found support from his father. The father son duo dwelled on the future of their present business and foresaw the end of growth or decline in the dot matrix computer stationery market. This was due to the dramatic growth in the A4 inkjet and laser printer markets. As technology advances to make these desktop printers faster and affordable coupled with rising demand for paperless offices, the demand for computer stationery in fanfold format with sprocket holes witnesses a steady decline. At this point of time it was a necessity to consider Amit’s proposal to diversify. Since Ahujas had adequate experience in web converting, they became serious when a customer friend Abhay Datta of Datta Press convinced them to join hands with him to produce a narrow web label press. The self adhesive label industry in India was registering high growth rates and the equipment was in synergy with their production program. It did not take much time for the Ahujas to decide on indulgence in this diversification. Amit’s father remembered his own history of having been trained in Germany on the machines that he later started to build in Sud & Warren. He decided it would be appropriate for Amit also to do a stint on machines that he was going to build. Soon the son was on way to North Carolina USA to train as an operator on Mark Andy flexo label presses. With engineering qualifications and experience at Multitec, it was easy for Amit to grasp the nuances of working with flexographic label printing presses. The Industry is witness to the fact that people were surprised when at India Label Show 2002 at Nehru Centre, Mumbai, Abhay Datta was proudly displaying the Multiflex press built at Multitec Faridabad. The press was sold to a customer in Iran. Ahujas maintained a low profile at that show. They sold a few more presses but as luck would have it, discontent appeared in their relationship with Datta. Ahujas felt that they were not penetrating the market effectively and if a definite business plan was not put in place they would loose out. The association with Datta came to an end around 2008. Multitec redesigned their label press as a competitive product with all basic features. After renaming the press, “Ecoflex” they relaunched it.
Their efforts produced results! In last 20 months they have sold 18 presses. They are almost at the initial target they set themselves, “A label press every month”. Multitec operates out of a 45000 square feet factory located on the outskirts of Faridabad, a suburban town in NCR Delhi and built on a plot of over 6 acres. It assures them availability of adequate space for future expansion. While most operations are handled at Faridabad, they have a marketing office a Mumbai. With a workforce of 80 they export 20% of their production. The factory is equipped with designing capabilities, CNC machines, computerized testing facilities, etc. They also have a demo centre where an Ecoflex press is kept on display for prospective customers to conduct trials. The most satisfying moment of their careers till now remains the time when they exported their label press to a mature market like Germany. Although 50% of their turnover comes from making computer stationery converting machines, label presses remains a focus area for them. They feel the label industry in India is largely unorganized however with continuous growth the label printers seem to be putting their act together and adopting modern production and management techniques. Multitec’s customer list includes big names like The Express Group, Times of India, Hindustan times, Avery Dennison, Technova, Thomson Press, etc. The company is committed to provide value for money. Amit feels that that for growing and improving upon their offerings the volumes need to go up. Though Amit is quite focused at present on making flexo printing presses, however from their capabilities and experience of making printing web by letterpress and offset, makes building a high-end combination label press one day, a strong possibility. They plan to exhibit their new development an all UV model of Ecoflex at Labelexpo 2010. Also on display at this show will be a module of their “Easyflex” which they feel will be an eye opener for the Industry. Trials have also begun on an all servo press with auto register features. If all goes as planned, this model will be displayed at Labelexpo Brussels next year in 2011.
With his father steadily withdrawing from this business to spend more time in trading in real estate which has given him rich returns, Amit has his hands full with so much more to achieve. His only son Avii, is only 8 years old. His wife Ashima, who is a homemaker, would prefer to be in the real estate business helping the elder Ahuja. Occasionally she does travel with her father in law to check out properties and learn about the trade. Amit works hard and hopes to excel in his field of building good label presses. He is confident that there are very good times ahead for Multitec. He is committed to adopt the latest technologies in web converting. He is sure after Labelexpo 2010 Brussels, Multitec will get “Global Attention”. Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 30th November, 2010 for magazine "Packaging South Asia "