Ahuja: Next wave of the economy lies in virtual packaging launches

Anant Ahuja of Irregulars Alliance and Bakheda Studios talks about health badging and the role of digital packaging in eCommerce

28 Nov 2020 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Anant Ahuja of Irregulars Alliance and Bakheda Studios

Health badging – the assurance seal
Health badging is on the rise amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the same trend has trickled down to food packaging to quite an extent, says the co-founder and managing director of Irregulars Alliance and Bakheda Studios, Anant Ahuja. Take online delivery platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy for instance. They have integrated the Aarogya Setu application to their interface as it has become imperative for these companies to provide assurance of their kitchen staff and the delivery person’s wellbeing.

Especially, for the products arriving in delivery bags, a sticker assuring the product’s safety has become pivotal in these times. “Most FMCG products can surely get away without any badging, but the moment they are put in a bag, it’ll need health badging for sure,” says Ahuja.

Thus, from the copy being added on the bags that convey the package has gone through stringent hygiene checks to the health stickers, which simply put, acts as an assurance seal guaranteeing the product’s safety, health badging is prevailing as a trend.

eCommerce and virtual packaging
The eCommerce industry has boomed in the past quarter. However, the luxury and lifestyle segment will not be much affected by its growth, not discounting the fact that brick-and-mortar stores have taken a huge hit, says Ahuja. “With eCommerce, it’s more about digital packaging, which boils down to shooting products the right way. To top it all, 3D renders of products that make the products look irresistible are available now. I’ve had personal instances, where after the product arrived, it looked nothing like what it looked like on the screen.”

Furthermore, according to Ahuja, virtual packaging launches and social media is where the next wave of the economy lies. “We’re looking at the next billion people using the internet and brands want to ride that wave. As much as I love my textures and printing techniques, we’ll only have a handful of brands sticking to the traditional norms.”

At that, the growing digital trends and the rise of eCommerce have also reduced the need for tertiary packages. For instance, during the pre-eCommerce era, buying a shoe was an experience, where one would go to a store, see it available in an artistic display setting and on purchase it would be put in a pristine box and slid into a fancy screen-printed bag. “Now 75% of that process is out of the picture, as even if the box is broken upon delivery, and the shoes are okay, one doesn’t care.” Along with packaging reduction, these digital adaptations also align with the design development cycles and workflows.

“With Cinema 4D, Adobe Dimensions and Substance coming into the mainstream, it’s always easier to get approvals on the product design and packaging before a physical proof of it. In the process, you end up saving a decent amount of time and marginal costs of making physical proofs.”

“With eCommerce, it’s more about digital packaging, which boils down to shooting products the right way.”

Limitations of paper packages
In a view to achieving their corporate social responsibility goals, brands across the globe are researching and developing paperbased packaging alternatives for plastics. According to Ahuja, paper-based packages are great initiatives, but restrictive in terms of adaptability and ergonomics. “Logistics is the biggest concern in such projects. Though it takes away a lot of weight, it adds to the fragility of the product. Plastic is another ball game altogether, there’s no doubt about the fact that it’s the most economical and ergonomic option available in the market.”

“I hope that the top brands around the globe set some precedents with their R&D and make these eco-friendly packaging materials available for the world to use,” he adds. However, while leading industry players do have the financial strength to research and create eco-friendly packages at a start-up scale it’s just not feasible. “The moment you’re catering to a market such as India, the cost automatically goes up when it comes to the usage of eco-friendly packaging materials, and the consumer base shrinks right away.” 

The multidisciplinary designer 
Anant Ahuja is a creative entrepreneur with feet in New Delhi and presence around the world. He is a multidisciplinary designer with experience in art direction, cultural production, brand strategy, and identity design. Over the past nine years, he has worked with top brands such as Airbnb, Uber, Google Mountain View, Snapchat, Diageo, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Times Internet among others.