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Packaging is lucrative; has immense growth potential

18 March 2017

Sakal Media Group celebrated the 28th anniversary of its Nashik plant with an impressive launch into the packaging segment. The new packaging arm, Wikas Packaging, is spread in the 25,000 sq/ft Sakal Nashik campus which boasts of India’s first KBA Rapida 75 pro six-colour plus UV coater, a Bobst Novacut die-cutter and a folder-gluer. The target: 250 tonnes conversion per month.

65% of India’s 1.25-billion population is 35 or under, and half the country's population is under 25 years of age, says Padma Shri and the chairman of Sakal Media Group, Pratap Pawar. “This young generation is going to propel the buying trends. You can’t avoid packaging.”

Pratap Pawar discusses Sakal’s “mission packaging” of continuous evolution, evaluation and growth.

untitled Pratap Pawar of Sakal Media Group

PrintWeek India (PWI): Why Nashik?
Pratap Pawar (PP): Nashik as a centre has big cities like Pune, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Jalgaon and two cities in Gujarat, surrounding it in the radius of 300kms. I feel, cities which are commercial in their outlook have a potential of growth in the future. Accessibility to these cities makes providing services easier. Before the packaging foray, we also started our commercial printing business in Nashik. We have a good team here.

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PWI: So when you make packaging for the world, there are certain regulations that will need to be put in place. What are the measures at this factory?
PP: Legally and morally what is required will be put in place, be it an ink kitchen, using food-safe material, inspection of input and finished products, or waste disposal. Our ink kitchen will be operational by April/May. Though we already have a QC department for the newspapers, we have expanded the QC department for packaging.

PWI: One of the challenges of being a packaging converter is keeping the print and finishing equipment running.
PP: When we decided that quality and service will be the hallmark of our packaging business, we decided on the best equipment available. Machines from the two companies we opted for are considered the Mercedes’ in the world of printing, and our confidence stems from the fact that the best in the packaging businesses have these machines.

PWI: Why are you confident of KBA and Bobst?
PP: The KBA 75 Pro six-colour plus UV coater is a Drupa launch, and the first to come to India. Though in a smaller format, it has all the bells and whistles of the larger format Rapida 105/106. The two Bobst machines are best in the class machines.

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PWI: The KBA 75 Pro six-colour plus UV coater is an unusual machine...
PP: To be realistic, we have launched into the packaging segment with a small-format machine. And to begin with we will be targeting clients from the tier-II and tier-III cities, who are looking for packaging application like MetPet. There are industries in Nashik and around who require such applications, and we will serve their needs.

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PWI: You are entering a segment, where your customers are tough nuts to crack on two parameters – quality and cost. And going a step further they will want super quality at lower costs.
PP: I don’t agree with the statement. Your product must be worth the price you demand, and people will pay. All you need is happy customers.

PWI: A tight-rope to walk?
PP: Keeping our customer happy is not new for us. I was part of a chemical business and had customers like Tata and Kirloskar for over 30 years. With Sakal newspaper, we have two to three generations of our readers. I think we have met their expectation, maintained the quality, and the confidence to receive the patronage.

PWI: From newspapers to packaging, can you tell us how are you going to integrate the new vertical in your existing newspaper business?
PP: We understand paper, and we understanding printing. It’s been 28 years of newspaper and commercial printing here at Nashik itself. For us, this foray into packaging will be a parallel activity. We have contacts with all the suppliers and because of Sakal Media, we have access to anybody and everybody.

PWI: How will you market your packaging products?
PP: Marketing for us is easier, as long as we are competitive, good in quality and good in services. This, we are and intend to be even in the packaging segment. With these virtues, accessibility to customers will not be a difficult task. That’s our inherent strength and that’s what we will explore.

PWI: Packaging is growing…
PP: Packaging segment is lucrative, it has immense growth potential. If you see the Indian market, there’s a huge potential in the service sector with millions of dollars expected to come in – regardless of what one is hearing from the far side of the globe – a majority of this will come in the form of FMCG and food packaging goods. This, of course would need good packaging.

If you look at India’s population data, it is reported that 65% of its population is 35 or under, and half the country's population of 1.25 billion people is under 25 years of age. This young generation is going to propel the buying trends; it will be either online or in-store. Packaging, one way or the other, becomes an integral part of product delivery. You can’t avoid packaging.

PWI: We are seeing more diversification – from commercial print to carton packaging.
PP: This is bound to happen. Take the automobile sector. There are so many players, new cars are being introduced almost every other month.

PWI: Do you see this as a risk or opportunity?
PP: Every business is a risk, with benefits attached to it. One has to have the confidence to succeed. Take our newspaper business. We have had competition even there, but we are three times bigger than many. We are not scared of competition, in fact, we welcome it.

PWI: Where do you see opportunities in the carton sector?
PP: We will start with a basic packaging infra, and then move to value additions. Depending on what our customers want us to do, and resources we generate, we hope to include brand building, marketing, and brand and product protection like track-and-trace and security. This will be our mission for the next 15-20 years, to achieve it through continuous evolution, evaluation, and growth. And in anticipation of envisaged growth, we have invested in a 15-acre plot of land in Nashik, which will be equipped with man and machine during the course of next few years.

PWI: Sakal newspaper still remains your core business in print? Why is that going to be important?
PP: Of course, it will. I believe that media is going to play a big role in the process of change that we are experiencing today – the smart cities, an evolving social media interaction, and the many initiatives that have been put in place during the last decade.

PWI: We are aware of Sakal Group’s initiatives on ecology, environment conservation and relief, which fits well in the newspaper and commercial segments.
PP: The Sakal newspaper was presented the international award for best colour printing, and has been included among the newspaper group having the best printing in the world. The process required for quality checks to be maintained. Sakal has a culture of quality, and as I said, we will evolve, evaluate and grow.

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PWI: Daily we are bombarded with tough economic news and forecasts. What is your view on the topic?
PP: As I said, there are initiatives that have been put in place, and whatever it may be, the Modi government is trying hard to give the Indian economy the stimulus it needs. Take the Make in India initiative, which is this government’s dream, and we wish the government all success. If it succeeds, then naturally commercial and industrial growth will take place, for which support services like packaging, transport, and logistics will be required.

PWI: Good news for our industry?
PP: Every industry has to survive and grow. It has to make an effort to upgrade to compete against the world. That, I think has to be the motto of every industry, whether it is print, digital or logistic among others.

PWI: Compete in India or globally?
PP: When we say we are competing against the world than we must also look at the world as a market. It depends on how you look at it, that’s how I look at it.

PWI: The print arena is a crowded place, and the packaging segment is getting bigger. What is going to be your roadmap for penetrating the packaging market?
PP: We plan to shape our business on what our customers need, and I call it custom-oriented business. We will continuously evaluate the requirement of our customers – it could be quality, cost or service, or all three put together.

PWI: What is the profile of your customers?
PP: There’s no restriction on where our customers will come from. I see packaging from a prism of a world market. Our customers can emerge from any corner of the world.

PWI: The newspaper segment is stagnant. You agree?
PP: No I don’t agree. It’s doing absolutely well. I am more than confident that it will survive this generation.

PWI: What are some of the more interesting things that you have seen you’ve seen rolled out of late in the newspaper segment?
PP: There are some interesting things happening. Multimedia has engulfed everything we are looking at. At Sakal we are aware of that. We will certainly engage with multimedia, and also go beyond with a social agenda.

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PWI: A KBA, a Bobst line, how much will Sakal spend in the coming time on equipment and marketing? Five-year plan? In terms of expansion?
PP: Once this investment in this plant starts repaying, we will start our next investment move. We hope that the next Drupa will be our next investment time. We already have 12 locations in Maharashtra. Over a period of time, and the way we grow, we may also go multi-location in our packaging activities.

Sakal Nashik factfile

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Wikas Printing & Packaging
Equipment: KBA 75 pro six-colour plus UV coater; Bobst Ambition folder-gluer and Novacut with stripper; Heidelberg SM 102 four-colour coater and PM 74 four-colour presses; Manugraph Cityline web press; plus binding machines. In the pre-press it has two Fujifilm violet CPT for both newspaper and commercial use. These two CTPs will be pressed for producing plates for its packaging requirement

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Speciality:
Newspaper printing - a circulation of 75,000 copies in Nashik and 1.5 million in Maharashtra. Sakal also publishes daily Agrowon having circulation of 1.25-lakh. This is the only newspaper in the world which is dedicated for the agro industry.

Commercial printing – brochures, catalogues, posters and flyers, magazines, calendars etc.

In packaging – the company will target window cartons, folding cartons, clamshell and tray cartons, MetPET cartons, Burgopak, festival and gift packaging and retail ready packs.

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Turnover:
Sakal Group close to Rs 1,000-crore

Nashik Campus size: 25,000 sq/ft plus an additional 15-acres plot for further expansion.

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