Ernakulam-based Ethan Packers was set up in 2011, initially to support its parent brands’ packaging needs – Marriboy, a fresh ice-cream brand and a plastic moulding business. Meriiboy, which was established in 1990 is one of the largest producers of fresh ice cream, based in South India.
The packaging converter, managed by four partners –Lito Baby, managing director, and MD Stephen, ME Verghese and Lijo Baby, all three as directors – eventually had to set up a printing vertical. According to Stephen, the decision was driven by the pressures of production and competition.
“We faced production bottlenecks because we could not control deliveries of our print requirements, which was largely outsourced,” said Stephen, the youngest of the four partners. “It was a difficult decision because the printing industry was not in great shape, but we had to.”
Ethan Packers began with a humble converting line comprising one manual die-cutter, a lamination machine, and a folder-gluer in a rented space. Initially, it produced packaging cartons for its parent company’s ice-cream business, but later also took up jobs for customers in the food, spices, and apparel businesses. “We had to fill unutilised capacity. It was more of a converting unit,” said Stephen.
In 2013, Ethan moved into its own 6,000 sqft site factory in Kizhakkambalam, which was further expanded to 12,000 sqft in 2017. “All along, we kept on adding more equipment like a liner-carton machine for packaging spices, few more manual die-cutters, and lamination machines,” explained Stephen.
In 2019, when it decided to set up its printing unit, it established another plant a little away from the converting unit, in Kinfra Industrial Park. It was named Grafiqe Printers.
(2nd from right) Stephen: “Our next goal for Grafique is to set-up a plant outside Kerala by 2022”
Stephen described his customers as a mix of big FMCG as well as small local enterprises. “Of the entire printing business pie, our captive business is 10% each in ice-cream and moulding. The other 80% of the jobs are outside work, which also includes our competitors in the ice-cream and moulding segment.”
So when Grafiqe was to be established, Stephen along with the partners did market research on how to go about investing, such that it will not take too long to break-even. “We weighed all options – RMGT, Komori, Heidelberg; two- or four-colour or more; new machine and old. We did a thorough market check, spending around Rs 5-lakhs. We took one year to finalise on what we should go in for or do, whether the packaging industry can sustain the printing industry, etc.”
Grafiqe installed an all-Heidelberg kit – a remarketed Speedmaster CD 102 6+L, a brand new Suprasetter A 106 platesetter and a Polar 115 PF cutting machine. Lito Baby, the managing director, said, “We were looking for a press which can run boards for the packaging purpose we had in mind. A brand new press of the configuration we were looking for was a little out of our budget. We got feedback that even a used press can deliver quality print. Heidelberg was willing to give us a good warranty. We zeroed on this Heidelberg 2009 make, which is as good as a new press.”
The press was installed towards the end of June, and in a month, Grafiqe has converted 200 tonnes of paperboard. “Our customers are happy with the quality,” said Baby.
Besides advice on the press, Heidelberg provided Grafiqe with all support in terms of opinion on the foundation required for installation, CTP and the software required. “As Heidelberg was acting as a full-service provider, we decided to invest in Heidelberg’s CTP, a cutting machine, and the Pro Man software, all in one basket,” said Baby.
Stephen added, “As a start-up firm, we did not want to compromise on quality and the subsequent blame game between the manufacturers and suppliers of consumers. Now that we have all the print-related equipment from one company, there will be no blame game.”
Stephen aims to establish Grafiqe as a reputed print packaging company. “We have a good team, capable of pitching to good customers. Word of mouth publicity is always the best marketing technique. Since we are present in multiple industries, we hope to get customers through references.”
By 2022, Stephen plans to set up another plant out of Kerala. “That’s our next goal for Grafiqe Printers,” concluded Stephen.
Heidelberg India’s take on the investment
Speedmaster CD 102: A top-preference among packaging printers in India, the CD 102 is referred to as the all-rounder. The Speed master CD 102 can handle a range of substrates from 0.03-millimetre paper to 1 mm thick cardboard (0.0012 in - 0.039 in) with a production speed of 15,000 sheets per hour, and for Grafiqe it is a perfect choice for packaging printing.
Suprasetter A 106: The Suprasetter is a high-performance pre-press equipment which complements the CD 102 5+L press. Suprasetter A106 can produce up to 18 plates/hour in sizes ranging from 370x323mm to 930x1140mm. Equipped with unique thermal laser technology developed by Heidelberg, the plate-setters are almost totally insulated against production failures by the Intelligent Diode System (IDS).
Prinect Production Manager (Pro Man): With Pro Man, the press and pre-press are integrated seamlessly. The workflow has all the features which a printer needs for packaging and commercial printing right in pre-press, press and post-press areas. This can also be scaled up in the future, with related add-ons. All of this is available with a flexible payment system.