"To make Esko the preferred and reliable business partner for packaging solutions in all segments of the Indian marketplace"

Carsten Knudsen, Esko's president and CEO along with Ambar Patel, the managing director of Shilp Gravure and other Esko dignitaries marked the opening of the company’s new India office in Bengaluru on 25 March 2013. There were more than 70 Esko team members and representatives from the parent company Danaher. On the occasion, he responded to a few questions from PrintWeek India.

12 Apr 2013 | By Ramu Ramanathan

PWI: Kudos on the new office in Bengaluru. What are Esko's plans for 2013?

Carsten Knudsen: High growth regions like South America, Eastern Europe and also India are of strategic importance to Esko. With growing expenditure levels of the population in those regions, the need for packaged consumer goods as well as printed packaging for logistical purposes is growing rapidly. With our newly opened office in India, we are ready to service all Indian market segments in an effective and sustainable way. The new office is also the new home for our Indian software development activities. For many years now, Esko reaps the benefits of tapping into the local Indian software engineering resources for software customization projects and global software license management.

PWI: You're offering hands-on experience at the demo centre? Also, I was informed you're installing a kit in a college in Nerul, Mumbai? Will Esko host a regular open house for printers ...

Carsten Knudsen: Our digital cutting demo centre is equipped with the latest Kongsberg XN-24 with Multicut HP Spindle and i-Cut Suite software to address all possible materials/applications. The demo centre aspires to be the expert centre for digital conversion of all kinds of materials for packaging, sign and display applications. Prospective customers can come and learn about the different applications made possible with Esko hardware and software and about the benefits of digital short run production. Besides the demo centre, the new office is also housing a training centre where customers are immersed in the tools they have purchased. The training will fully prepare them to face production challenges back home.

PWI: Almost 12 months since Drupa. How has it been for Esko in India? Especially with new launches like Suite 12, which comprises the latest versions of ArtiosCAD, ArtPro, PackEdge, DeskPack ...

Carsten Knudsen: Drupa was good experience for the Indian team since the show attracted a lot of Indian customers and prospects. We showcased Suite 12, a broad family of Kongsberg digital cutting tables and HD Flexo technology.  In the months after Drupa, we have had many customer wins in India and South Asia  for our Suite 12 software as well as for our HD technology.

PWI: One of the highlights at Drupa and thereon has been the new HD Flexo imaging technology. It has become a standard for flexible packaging printers thanks to its ability to create a superior flexo plate. What is it that an Indian flexo printer should know other than how the technology goes beyond the binary discussion of flat-top dots ...

Carsten Knudsen: Technology develops rapidly. HD flexo is now a broadly implemented technology and the HD Flexo Certification program has certified hundreds of users and partners by now, also in India. At Drupa we did a technology preview of additional advances in digital flexo plate making that are now ready for global release. Full HD Flexo is the answer to many flexo print quality issues for wide web flexible packaging converters. With full HD Flexo our customers can match gravure print quality. With full HD Flexo, you no longer need to choose between flat or round top dots, but you control the imaging process to such an extent that you create the best digital plate for optimal detail in the highlights and deep saturated colors in the shadows. And by the way: every existing customer can upgrade to full HD.

PWI: What are some of the world-wide trends, an Indian PSP should be aware of in packaging, sign making and POP --- and 3D visualisation?

Carsten Knudsen: The two most important trends that we see in the packaging industry are supply chain integration and digital print, both driven by changed dynamics in packaged consumer goods. Consumers want to be approached with an individual message, not anymore as large groups of consumers with common needs. That’s why we see a lot of variants of packaging popping up on the shop shelves. In turn this reduces the average length of a print run. To deal with this trend in a cost effective way, the packaging supply chain must further integrate. Brands and suppliers communicate and collaborate with each other over the internet and exchange 3D hyper-realistic models early in the design phase to avoid costly errors further down the supply chain. Workflow automation becomes prevalent in order to improve time to market and reduce the risk that operators make errors. Digital print becomes an accepted technology with new capabilities and the opportunity for packaging converters to develop new value-added applications for their customers.

PWI: There are more than 100,000 users who have worked with WebCenter. What is the feedback in India?

Carsten Knudsen: Both convertors and brand owners worldwide enjoy the benefits from using WebCenter for their collaboration and communication needs: quick turnaround and increased productivity. These best practices are now being adapted in India and today we have installations at brand owners such as Britannia, United Sprits Ltd., ITC Foods but also at converters like Pragati and Utility who were first ones to embrace these new technologies.  We see a huge potential ahead of us for web-based packaging project management and workflow collaboration, not only for printers and converters, but also in the brand owner and retail community.

PWI: Recently, there was a seminar hosted by Parksons Packaging. The highlight was a presentation by Esko which spoke of packaging innovations and how 90% of the brands have deployed Esko to gear up. What is your strategy to target these brands?

Carsten Knudsen: From our many interactions with brands at trade shows and seminars like the one you refer to, we have learned that there is a huge need in managing the packaging process from the brand owner perspective. Our Esko Solutions for packaging creation (Esko Sudio) and packaging management (WebCenter) are the ideally answer to many of these brand requirments. We are currently actively engaged with some of the top brand owners and will continue to target them through special programs.

PWI: What is your view of competitor's like FFEI with their RealPro ToolKit? Do you think it’s a real challenge to Esko DeskPack? Likewise Zünd being re-launched in India?

Carsten Knudsen: There will always be  competition and the market space is large enough for multiple technology suppliers. Esko will continue to differentiate from its competitors in many different ways. We provide totally integrated solutions from packaging design over pre-press to packaging management, solutions that create value in every step of the packaging supply chain. Having been present in the Indian market since 1996, we have far more than 60 installations of the Kongsberg digital cutting tables, backed up by quality support services which competition will find very hard to match.

PWI: Esko has had a raft of alliances and partnerships. The key ones have enhanced software systems; especially production planning; multi-site and multi-scheduler support; Can you comment on the process of integration and how the graphic industry in India has benefitted from Esko's technology tie-ups. Are you seeking dealer-level support in India?

Carsten Knudsen: Partnerships with other suppliers to the graphic arts industry is always inspired by a customer need. Only when a customer expresses a need in a certain integration and our efforts will lead to a more performance and effective profitable workflow, we will invest in developing the relationship. This has resulted so far in strong synergies with our global alliance partners such as HP, DuPont and others. Customised system integration is also one of the services we are successfully deploying at customer level.

PWI: And finally, have you noticed a change in the profile of Esko's partners in India from marquee packaging clients to smaller business? What do you attribute this to? Would better price points help Esko to move faster in this market?

Carsten Knudsen: Yes we have had some wins but our efforts are geared towards becoming the reference in the packaging market and getting a larger share of the packaging community to use our software. Not only the large players in the field have a need to increase productivity, decrease rework and reduce wastage and contribute to a greener environment. These market needs are universal and also apply to the smaller businesses. Increasing awareness, global best practices and references within multinational companies will accelerate the process of adoption of Esko solutions by the mid-tier customers.

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