Friday, April 22, 2011
Trading in paper to producing labels.
“In the next five years we will expand to make our label business grow five times!” This statement comes from a man fully committed to making good labels and talking so at an age when others are talking of their retirement plans. Surinder Kapur is the grandson of Lala Jaidayal Kapur, the erstwhile distributor of the largest paper manufacturers in the country Ballarpur Industries Ltd. (BILT). As history goes Lala Jaidayal Kapur used to run his stationery business in Lahore. After partition of India, he moved to Amritsar in India and struck a close friendship with Lala Karam Chand Thapar, the founder of BILT, now renamed “ Avantha Group”. This friendship brought to him the coveted distributorship of Shree Gopal Paper Mills Ltd. also owned by the illustrious Thapar. Lala Jai Dayal Kapur had seven sons. His fifth son Raj Kumar, father of Surinder Kapur moved to Mumbai in 1950-51 and setup his paper distribution business under the name of Jai Dayal Kapoor (Bombay). A couple of years later Raj Kumar set up his maiden manufacturing venture R K Papers at Prabha Devi Mumbai to manufacture excersize notebooks. Surinder one of Raj Kumar Kapur’s six sons, was still in school when the family felt that this business needed a family member’s continuous involvement. As Surinder finished his school, at this relatively young age, he was called upon to divide his time to attend college and spend the rest in the Prabha Devi unit. He handled the situation well and by 1971 they moved to a unit in Ghatkopar expanding to start plastic blow moulding as well. With hard work, business prospered and soon it was time to move yet again to a bigger place. The 40000 square foot Taloja unit was setup in 1974. The exercise notebook manufacturing was initially moved here subsequently additional plastic blow moulding capacity was installed. It was only in 1981 that a label press supplier suggested to Surinder Kapur to start manufacture of self adhesive labels. He was interested and started to research the potential of this new product. He found that Johnson & Johnson was the only established manufacturer of labels at that time. Further indulgence revealed that they were selling ½” X 1” labels at Rs.140.00 per thousand. That translates into a per square meter price of over Rs.430.00! The decision of Surinder to enter into the manufacture of self adhesive labels is obvious. As a labelstock manufacturer today, even I am overwhelmed at this exorbitant price. When Surinder told me this fact I could only think of a popular song of an era gone by and sung by Mary Hopkins, “Those were the days my friend”. I really wonder where those days vanished.
R K Papers started to produce Self adhesive labels with an M250 Iwasaki label press. The success was sweet, Surinder went on to buy a total of nine Iwasaki label presses in the times that followed. Initially, selling stickers, three decades ago at prices similar to that of J&J was extremely difficult. No customer was ready to pay that price for a “sticker”. He reminisces that a small change in their marketing brought results. Instead of calling their product stickers, they called them pressure sensitive labels and the market was ready to pay the price. As the market grew, Surinder saw the need to respond to customer requirements promptly. Sitting in Taloja when no internet was available, it was a difficult task to send the designs to the plate makers in south Mumbai and then wait for days for the plates to come in. In 1983, he installed his nylo plate making equipment, to be able to print labels when the customer needed. Another problem that he faced at that time was the fact that in those days Shantilal Doshi was the only supplier of labelstock, so availability was difficult. He remembers that the suppliers used to ration the supply. You ask for 20,000 square meters and they would give only 10,000. As for printing, Surinder’s experience in printing notebooks helped and there were no hiccups in that area. Surinder has been actively and vigorously been supported in the labels venture by his younger brother Jatinder Kapur.
As they grow older the two brothers have mentored and helped their sons to setup their flagship label company, J K Fineprints Pvt. Ltd. also at Taloja. Surinder’s son Himanshu takes care of the production while Jatinder’s son Karan ensures that his marketing efforts produce a continuous stream of orders. J K Fineprints is a 10,000 square foot factory that has been designed meticulously and is exceptionally clean and organized. When Roger Pellow Managing Director Labelexpo group visited JK Fineprint, he commented that it was a rare sight around the world that he could walk around the press with no wires and pipes in the way. In the last 3 years they have installed a Gallus, three Orthotecs, two Omegas and the expansion plans are still on. Their total label business provides employment to about 70 people.
On a personal front Surinder is a much disciplined person. He is up every morning by 5-5.30am and by 8.30am he leaves his home in south Mumbai on his way to factory at Taloja. He is well planned and his desk is always spotlessly clean, by 5-5.30pm he is on his way back home. He finds active support from his wife Rita who is forever smiling. All three of his children, two daughters and one son are married. I would here like to narrate a very interesting episode. Surinder is a very dear friend to me, all his relatives know it. At his daughter’s wedding one guest came up to me and remarked, “It is strange that you are a sardar(sikh) and Surinder’s best friend today!” The story goes that when R K Papers Taloja factory was being built, a sikh contractor with whom there was a dispute, got an injunction from court and Surinder could not enter his own factory for weeks. Once the stay was vacated Surinder put up a notice outside his factory, “Sardars not allowed inside” Those were days when he was young and aggressive. He looks an angry man but he is one of the most loving persons I have ever known.
Surinder Kapur was the founder president of LMAI, Label manufacturers Association of India. He and some of the leading label printers across the nation got together to initiate this association that has now become the voice of the Indian Label Industry. Surinder has worked hard in his successful journey in the label industry, a journey that was initiated by his illustrious grandfather “from trading in paper to producing self adhesive labels”
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 April 2011