PrintWeek India (PWI): Your journey in the label business from a 14-year-old boy to the present one-lakh sq/ft factory is one from a fairy tale. How would you describe these 39 years?
Kuldip Goel (KG): To begin with, I needed the graphic art industry to fulfil my monetary requirements. It slowly turned into a passion, which has made Any Graphics what it is today.
PWI: That’s a short one. But everybody needs a job or is not skilled business to hang on to...
KG: I lived in Chotta Chambarwada, located in Delhi’s Tilak Baazar. The approach to the street to my home was so narrow that it would be difficult for a bicycle to pass by.
My home was a one room tenement on the third floor that was covered with wood and cement sheets. There was no wall. We were five people there – my parents, two sisters, and I. So you see, for me, a job was the need of the hour, not a dream. There were too many needs, so I never dreamed about anything. I did every kind of job to meet my meagre financial needs. I was good at designing, and that was my passion too.
PWI: How did things turn around for you?
KG: That one room was everything for me. We used to live, cook and bath in the same room. It also became my first production site with a screen printing machine which I developed. I call it – the wooden adda. It was a small wooden square on which was fitted a steel clamp to hold the screen.
In 1976, with the help of my mother, I invested Rs 500 in the business. It was our hard earned savings. Interestingly, it was not a printing job, but gluing a few printed sheets. I was only 14 then and studying in class 11.
PWI: Which was your first print job and what was the price of the label then?
KG: My first job was Rajkamal Agarbatti stickers. The cost of the label was two paisa per label. My first order was for 50,000 labels at Rs 1,000.
PWI: Was it easy going after your first job?
KG: In Old Delhi then, whoever wanted to enter the label market, Kashmiri Gate was the hub. It was a market for spare parts. It also became my second market after stickers.
The minimum order amount was Rs 200 at that time and I started taking orders from there. Since I was very good in sketching and designing, it was very easy for me to get jobs. Hand designing was very much in demand. I used to charge Rs 10,000 for a design even when the market price was Rs. 100 only. Besides, I could command a delivery period of two months.
Step by step I got deeper into the business, moved and added some more screen printing machines in Azadpur, Delhi with the help of a partner. I was doing just screen printed labels. Except outsourcing the negative and positive, I did everything by myself including designing of labels, bromide, colour separation, printing, and cutting. In those days, we used to cut labels manually using a steel blade. Sometimes it used to crack.
PWI: You did your graduation while doing label business?
KG: Yes, I used to find time to study, and in 1992 I completed my B.Com (H) from PG DAV College. I was awarded the best student of the year in class 12th by Kedarnath Sahni (Education Minister at that time) in the year 1989.
PWI: You moved to Noida in 1983...
KG: That was a partnership move. Here was a partner who was financially strong and needed a person like me to run the business. That partnership continued for five years, from 1983 to 1988. I bought a two wheeler in that duration. My average ride was around 150 kilometres per day. I used to travel more than 60,000 km annually in those years and used to replace scooter every year. I travelled to Ludhiana, Panipat, Sonipat and rest Punjab, and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh by scooter.
PWI: But your turning point came in 1988, isn’t it?
KG: Between the year 1983 to 1988, I gained the reputation of being an expert in screen printing and designing. In March 1988, I established Stick Line Enterprises.
And the turning point came when Escorts-Yamaha approached me and showed a sticker printed in Japan. The sticker was called ‘classic quality girl’. The two-wheeler giant asked me if I could print a similar label, and at what price. It was a set of three piece stickers in one pack. The quantity of that order was 100,000 labels.
PWI: It must have been a big deal?
KG: Yes, it was. I printed few samples and mixed them with the originals. The executives of Escorts-Yamaha could not identify the original stickers in the lot.
PWI: At what price did you print it? Was there a negotiation?
KG: The price of the Japanese label shown to me was Rs 20, but I quoted Rs 7.50 for a label. I was asked to rethink. I reduced it to Rs 5.50. The company immediately placed the order for 1-lakh labels.
PWI: How did you fulfil the assignment?
KG: I did not have the infrastructure to deliver such a big order, for which I Manpower four months time.
I asked for an advance, which was denied initially. But I knew I had a deal on hand, because of the quality of the samples I printed. I assured the company of consistency in quality and delivery, but I told them that I needed the advance. For the first time in the history of Escorts-Yamaha, the company released an advance of Rs 2.75-lakhs to a label printer.
PWI: Were there any hurdles?
KG: Yes, there were. I outsourced die-cutting, engaging three companies. I requested them to charge me on an hourly basis. I wanted the die-cut to be very slow, not at full speed. As a result, the labels got a perfect cut with perfect registration.
In the first 45 days, I hardly went home, maybe five times at the most. I was just moving around the three die-cutting companies, which was with a 2km radius. On that night (before delivery), I travelled 140 kms, running from one company to the other.
There was more stress in store. When we were packing the labels in polythene bags with the use of an electric heater, one phase of the power snapped and the place was plunged into darkness. There was no power generator hence we continued packing the labels, illuminating the room by lighting candles. To add to our woes, our small factory was hit by a storm, and we had to close the doors and work in rooms which were gradually filling up with smoke, which was both unbearable and harmful too.
PWI: Finally, you did manage to close the first lot of the order?
KG: Yes, on the day of the delivery, we loaded all the materials in the truck, I got into it, and headed to deliver the lot.
I told my mother, if we are successful then we will buy a car or else we may have to sell our house. I bought a car. It was the Maruti Suzuki AC Deluxe 800, the best car model at the time. I still remember the plate number – 0437.
It’s my journey but my mother (Bimla Devi Goel) and family sacrificed a lot during the entire journey. My mother always inspires me. She always tells me to do my best and leave the rest to the Almighty. She is the biggest inspiration of my life and her lessons include honesty, commitment and hard work.
PWI: You have been a member of the last LMAI conferences held in Goa and Jaipur, but the ensuing edition in Agra will be your first as a chairman. Please tell us how is the conference shaping up?
KG: ‘Innovation Simplified’ is the theme of the conference. The idea is to educate the label converters to simplify the process and make labels easier to produce. Every small converter should benefit from the conference.
PWI: What is your goal for this fourth edition of the conference?
KG: There must be a bonding between printers, printers and Indian and global suppliers. Before LMAI (Label Manufacturers Association of India) came into existence, this aspect was missing.
At the conference, we expect this bonding, people meeting each other, again and again in the same premises for few days. You can talk to anyone because everyone is there - label printers, suppliers, machine manufacturers, substrate manufacturers, ink and consumable manufacturers and others.
You are at the helm of Any Graphics, a man with a mission, who wants to turn the science of label printing into fine art, with innovative use of substrate, ink and processes. Will that passion reflect in the preparation and the substance of the conference?
The theme of the conference is different from the previous edition so the agenda will be different and implementation will be different. In the 2017 edition, a speaker can speak about his or her product/solution/services for 25% of his allocated time. Thus label printers will come to know that which company is offering what.
I think, at Any Graphics we produce labels which can be felt by vision or touch. Brands want to see something different and they want to feel it too. Advise the customers what is the best for him and deliver that.
Label printing is not just about extraordinary print work, but extraordinary finishing on top of normal printing
We will try to reflect this sense of purpose at the conference.
PWI: What are some specific areas that you believe would be especially helpful for label printers who are looking either to strengthen their foothold in the label business or those who are struggling to maintain profitability?
KG: I think it is the training of your workforce.
Avery Dennison runs a program for skill development at its knowledge centre in Pune, Maharashtra. LMAI is a partner in that initiative and the cost of the course is shared by both.
We provide regular training at Any Graphics to our employees. We always give opportunities to grow, like from helper to an operator. Top management involvement is must along with HR team. We push our employees to dream big so that they can walk the talk.
PWI: What about skill development of people?
KG: The biggest thing is not skill-development, it is to maintain and upgrade the skills learned.
Sandeep Zaveri, LMAI president has organised a skill development programme for 20 underprivileged children at Avery Dennison Knowledge Centre and those children will be present at the conference.
We are in communication with a school in Uttar Pradesh, where they give vocational training to students after intermediate. We will choose some girls students according to their skills and will send them to knowledge centre in Pune. Later we will check their skills and accordingly deploy them. We will also expand the scope of its implementation.
PWI: You had said both Labelexpo India and Labelexpo Europe, both are important events. Labelexpo Europe is poised to become even bigger. You were one of the two Indian print companies to pick up an Omet press. What do you expect to happen at Labelexpo 2017?
KG: Labelexpo Europe 2017 will be dominated by digital technology. Next generation is easy with the digital technology because it requires fewer skills, compared to conventional and flexo printing.
Our next generation is software and IT enabled and oriented.
Digital also gives flexibility in operation. Investment is okay but per running metRe cost should be reduced. Manpower in India is economical. If I want to print 10,000 running metre then it would make sense to print on digital instead of flexo. In India, we have runs of 10,000 running metre, but a digital manufacturer has to provide a technology at an affordable cost that will make printing 10,000 running meter on digital a viable solution.
When the cost of printing ink will come down, the production cost will go down. Domino Printech has started printing ink manufacturing in India.
PWI: Your take on GST?
KG: Implementation of GST will be good for the country but initially, it will be very difficult for the very small converter, manufacturer and supplier to adapt. The converter will have to spend his profits on a full-time accountant, a part-time IT person, computer, internet connection, USPs for backup and others.
PWI: Final comment...
KG: One generation has to sacrifice for the growth of coming generations. I told my mother, why can’t it be I? When we participate in any award, we always win it, whether it is PrintWeek India Awards, Global Awards, FESPA Awards, LMAI Awards and others.
There’s always that extra mile, I’d like to go, that last effort, in every job.