Baldev Singh Jandu: "Jandu coaters create 170 million sq/m additional annual capacity in self-adhesive labels"

Harveer Sahni, managing director, Weldon Celloplast, gives an account of his association with Baldev Singh Jandu of Jandu Engineers.

29 Jan 2013 | By

In the early 1950’s Boor Singh Jandu left his small village in Gudaspur District of Punjab to settle and find work in an Independent India’s national capital New Delhi. A simple and honest Boor Singh found employment as a carpenter in a furniture producing company based in South Delhi where he continued to work for almost 30 years. He was committed to his profession. 

In the initial couple of years he used to pedal his bicycle daily all the way to his workplace in Faridabad, some 40 kilometers away from where he lived in central Delhi. He was a hard working man and had to support his fairly large family living in their village in Punjab. He had five sons and two daughters. Those were difficult times but the family’s faith in God helped them move on in life. 

When I met Boor Singh Jandu sometime in the middle of 1980’s, I was overawed by his simplicity. When I asked him about his profession, he did not hesitate in saying that he was retired and worked as a carpenter. He was proud to say that he did all the woodwork in the executive offices of Faridabad-based Escorts Limited.

He had worked on some prestigious projects like Vigyan Bhawan as well. His second son, Baldev Singh Jandu, was an ambitious lad; he did not have interest in schooling but aspired to have his own business. One day, while he was still in class 10th (Matriculation, as it was called) he decided to quit school and move to Delhi in pursuit of his entrepreneurial ambitions. 

Intensely committed to his ambition and focused to succeed, he moved on with hard work and fervor. He found success over the years and today he is a much sought after man in the Indian label industry. His efforts over the years have given him the leading position of being an unique indigenous equipment supplier contributing amazing capacities in India for production of self adhesive labels and labelstocks.

Baldev Singh Jandu was barely 19-years old when he moved to Delhi in 1969. He took up employment as a helper in a company manufacturing lathe machines. This was his first step in the engineering industry. Enough for him to observe and assimilate the various processes involved in machine building.

A year later when he realised there was not much more here to take him forward, he left the job and moved on to work for another company that used to produce paper converting machines. This was his training ground and laid foundation for his eventual business that he aspired to setup one day. Two years later he was restless and realised he had learnt what he could from this company and it was time to take the first step to start his own small private workshop and work for himself. 

In 1972, Baldev found a 100sq/ft premises, which the owner was willing to rent out along with the lathe machine installed there. Without any seed capital, this was the best option at just Rs 300 per month. Soon he was running his small engineering business doing small jobs for industry. Hard work, honesty and commitment inherited from his parents, delivered results and brought success. 

Another two years later he moved to a bigger place and there was an imperative need to buy his own lathe machine. His maternal aunt, who had faith in his capabilities, mortgaged her necklace for Rs 1,200 to help Baldev acquire his first lathe machine. After another two year period elapsed, he was now ready to officially create his startup venture “Jandu Engineers”, where he started by offering repair and maintenance service to the paper converting companies. Soon came the turning point of his career when he bagged an order for a rotary printing press that involved both gravure and flexographic printing processes. He successfully delivered the machine and his first customer for a Jandu machine is still a regular customer even after three decades. 

Customer retention has been the forte of Baldev Singh and his simplicity helps people from all walks of life to communicate with ease. If it is a helper on the shop floor in his factory, he knows what the aspirations are as he himself has risen from that level. If it is the owner of a paper mill still the communication is free, frank and informal. He has risen from grassroots and is proud of it. Once the first machine was delivered and successfully installed, there was no looking back.

With the advent of BOPP films being made in India initially by MM Rubber Co. at their plant in Ranipet, sometime during the end of 1970’s and early 1980’s the sheet offset printing industry started shifting from varnishing their jobs to laminating with BOPP film. 

I still remember the flyer that the BOPP manufacturers made with a face of a popular model, half laminated with film and the other half without lamination. It made an impact fairly fast.  In 1982, Baldev Singh saw the potential in this process so he developed a sheet lamination machine which was perhaps the first in North India. The equipment was so successful that in the next couple years he sold 500-700 machines, he lost the count.

Ploughing back the fruits of this success and in an effort to create wealth for his start-up venture, he bought the very plot of land on main Vikas Marg in East Delhi, where they were on rent at that time. There is an interesting story about this property acquisition.

This property was in two parts; a 225 square yards area that was in possession of Jandu’s and another 25 square yards. Due to financial constraints Baldev bought the 225 square yards for Rs 8-lakhs leaving the 25 yards to be acquired at a later date when comfortable. 

Six years later they bought the remaining 25 yards at the rate of Rs 14-lakhs! This price for 25 square yards was 50% more than the price of 225 square yards earlier. Today the whole plot is worth over Rs 10-crore. In 1984, a year after I personally struck friendship with Baldev Singh, he expanded his product range to include gravure presses, Sheeters and Slitters upto 100 inches width. During the same year he came in contact with the late Hari Gupta of HP Labellette, one of the earliest entrants into self adhesive labelstock manufacturing with his 500mm Japanese coater. 

Hari Gupta took an instant liking for Baldev Singh due to his simplicity and eagerness to take up challenging assignments. He was instrumental for changing the course of Jandu Engineers. He placed an order for a coater/laminator to produce silicone release paper and self adhesive labelstocks. He also provided drawings and catalogues of his Japanese coater to help Baldev Singh build the equipment. This first coater made by Jandu was his formal entry into the mainstream self adhesive label industry. 

Jandu Engineers continued to make developments as time warranted. For this, in 1986 Baldev Singh went to Drupa in Germany to learn more about the coating processes being employed the world over. He was a fast learner and had the capabilities to improvise so as to produce and deliver cost effective and consistent quality indigenous equipment to Indian paper converters.

During 1985-1990, the Indian packaging industry was shifting from paper tapes to BOPP tapes. The entrepreneur in Baldev Singh, encashed the opportunity by supplying numerous BOPP tape manufacturing machines complete with coating and finishing equipments. In 1992, Baldev Singh’s friend, Charanjeet Lal Mahajan, who worked in Delhi electricity department, reposed faith in his development acumen and placed an order with him to produce a rotary flexographic label printing press, something like a Mark Andy press. Mahajan’s three sons were already trading in labels for hand held labelers; he wanted them to initiate their startup manufacturing venture Prakash Labels. He also paid an advance of Rs 1-lakh for him to travel and study the label press. 

Baldev Singh, went to the Rotometrics die manufacturing facility in USA through reference . He saw their die testing equipment, a Mark Andy press. He was not sure that he had learnt enough to build a workable equipment. On the way back, he stopped in London where a friend arranged for him to see a used press. He returned to India but was still unsure and felt he had to see a press running substantially to learn the process. Two months later, he was back in England, this time again to visit a die manufacturer in UK who agreed to show him a running press.

From his point of stay in London he had to take a train, then a bus and thereafter walk a few kilometers to locate the company. He was firm in his goal and the effort was worth it. He saw the press and was lucky to get photocopies of the catalogues of the machine. Confident from his sojourn he returned to Delhi and proudly stated, “Within six months, I built and delivered India’s first rotary flexo label printing machine to Prakash labels”.  It is a matter of interest that Prakash labels have also grown steadily over the years to be perhaps one of the largest converters of labelstock in the country producing price marking labels, garment labels and EDP labels. They have nine Jandu presses, as of date, besides some other international brands. 

In 1997, there were just a few labelstock producers in the country mostly coating 20 inches and 30 inches width, Jandu supplied his first one meter coater to Delhi-based Weldon Celloplast.

Thereafter, there have been many landmark achievements in indigenous equipments; a chromoart paper coating plant to run at 200 meters per minute supplied to Sudhir Papers, Bengaluru, the first three roll solvent less platinum catalyst  silicon coating unit to Weldon, first 60inch solvent less silicone coater to Sterimed, a 60 inch coater for labelstock to Stayon Papers, the first five-roll silicone coater to NG Papers, Jandu’s first modular label press supplied to Prakash Labels. He is building a high speed 500mm sheeter to run at 300 strokes per minute and recently supplied an emulsion adhesive/silicone coating plant to Iran besides having sold finishing equipments to Nigeria, Tanzania, Srilanka, etc.

Baldev Jandu has come a long way from his days in the village in Punjab. He laughs out mentioning difficult times like leaving his motorbike as security for raising just Rs 1,000. He is a deeply religious and social person, going to Gurudwara almost daily. He is a philanthropist; he has contributed his bit to family member’s in hours of joy and pain. His two younger brothers were initially working in his company but later he encouraged and helped them start their own companies to produce similar equipments.  

Jandu Engineers presently operates out of a 15,000 sq/ft factory in Noida, UP. Imperative need to deliver against a long list of pending orders have compelled him plan another 10,000 sq/ft factory in Greater Noida, where land has been acquired and construction will begin soon. The earlier 250 square yard plot at Vikas Marg has been developed as a commercial building and is nearing completion. 

He plans to move his corporate office on one floor and leasing out rest of the building. His son, Gurdev, has been actively involved in his business ever since he graduated from the Delhi University. His wife Mahinder Kaur and daughter-in-law Dimple, are a source of strength for him as homemakers. Interestingly, the third generation is  growing up fast and after finishing studies, wishes to professionalise the company. Gurdev’s daughter Parmeet, is pursuing MBA at Amity Business School in Noida and son Prabhjyot, is in school.

As of now, 120 Jandu Label presses are in operation in India, out of which 10 have been sold in the last 12 months. Jandu Engineers's glorious moment was when, in this financial year he will complete the sale of 16 coaters for production of self adhesive labelstocks. These are besides the many coaters supplied earlier and catering to the growing demand of labels in India. 

I sat down with Baldev Singh Jandu to calculate the capacity these new coaters will add to the existing capacity in the country. Though he says his coater are being now designed to run almost 100 meter per minute, I calculated at an average speed of just 50 meters per minute, two 8 hour shifts and a 25% down time.

I was stunned and Baldev Singh was amazed at the capacity he has created across the nation.  When these customers will eventually achieve this capacity in production and come back for more equipments, the total capacity addition as a result of installing these sixteen coaters will be, “170 million square meters” per year!