Jason Desai: Complexities and costs of circular economy are too big for a single player

Mark Andy CEO Jason Desai in conversation with PrintWeek

08 Feb 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

Jason Desai

PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months. Your learnings from 2021...
Jason Desai (JD):
2021 will be a record year for Mark Andy.  Like other USA-based companies focused primarily on labels and packaging, we experienced a strong bounce back in 2021 from the Covid-19 disruptions that impacted us, our customers, and suppliers. Orders for equipment, parts, services, and consumables are incredibly strong, and we expect this to continue well into 2022. Mark Andy is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and 2021 reminded us once again how thankful we are to be in such a resilient industry.

PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 era? 
From the beginning of the pandemic, we took actions to maintain a protective “bubble” around our manufacturing and distribution locations, which are primarily located in the USA and Europe. The nature of such work requires many of our employees to be on-site, and we needed to do everything we could to maintain the integrity of our “bubble.”  

So, we limited outside visitors, made mask usage a requirement inside our facilities, and encouraged vaccinations. In addition, we used available technology to conduct virtualpress acceptances, equipment demos, and sales presentations. We also continuously followed USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) best practices.

PW: Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
Service personnel performed virtual service visits via Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. And finally, much of our office staff worked remotely, and they did a great job adapting to changing circumstances.

PW: The pandemic has impacted India’s prospects to become a USD 5-trillion economy by FY25. However, has the last quarter numbers reposed faith in the Indian market?
From Mark Andy’s perspective, no doubt about it, 2021 was a challenging year in the Indian market. But we have started to see more activity in the country in the last few months – more requests for quotes, more sales, and more overall activity. We expect India to experience a bounce back in 2022, just like it happened in the USA and other parts of the world. Of course, this all depends on Covid-19 and whether we see any new variants.  As of now, prospects are strong for a solid 2022 in India.

PW: Brands (FMCG and non-FMCG) are seeking more and more from print and packaging. As a global manufacturing brand, how can our industry cater to the new normal of - gaining speed; more flexibility; profit-centric approach; and a lower carbon footprint?
Everything we do at Mark Andy is geared toward finding solutions that help customers increase productivity and earn higher profits for their businesses. And if we are successful in that goal, Mark Andy itself will also succeed financially. As we move into 2022 flexibility becomes critical.

Among other harmful effects, Covid-19 is creating global challenges concerning logistics and shortages of raw materials and critical components. We need to anticipate how these obstacles could impact customers and find alternative solutions to prevent them from experiencing long lead times, service interruptions, or other negative effects on their businesses.


PW: How should print adopt marketing strategies that promote the print brand beyond the function of product or service?
Marketing strategies for labels and packaging can be a competitive advantage for many of our customers, particularly those who manufacture products such as food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. We certainly don’t reveal their strategies, but in our business, it’s critical for us to listen to customers because they use our products and services to create labels and packaging.  

PW: One school of thought is, the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. What is your view?
What are the challenges that they face?  What types of L&P are they trying to create?  What are their customers asking for?  This feedback is essential as we have a large team of engineers and product specialists who think everyday about how our products – equipment, consumables and parts - can help customers create more desirable L&P and, ultimately, maximise profits.

PW: 77% of Indian consumers are actively engaging with sustainability. These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good. Three sustainable actions you have undertaken in the past year that you can share with us?
We moved the main distribution facility of Mark Andy Print Products, our supplies and consumables division which distributes inks, toners, printing plates and tapes from an older building to a newer, energy-efficient warehouse. Our new warehouse has LED lighting, a smaller footprint, and uses less electricity, natural gas, and other critical utilities.  

Additionally, we are investing in new equipment and training that will allow us to use less packing materials and produce significantly less waste. We are also the active participants in multiple recycling programmes in the community where our new warehouse is located, so rather than throw away materials used in inbound and outbound freight, we can recycle and reuse them. This move took us almost 12 months to plan and execute, but we’re happy to report it is complete.

PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms like “biodegradable” and “circular economy”. How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
Efforts to increase sustainability and protect our environment must be shared by all the key participants in our industry – product manufacturers, packaging designers and manufacturers, converters/printers, and equipment and other consumable suppliers. We cannot do it alone; the complexity and costs are too great for any single player in our industry to shoulder by themselves.

But as a leader in the labels and packaging industry, we’re ready to play our part. And if we work together, consumers and the rest of society will notice.

PW: Any lessons you can share from a customer that have been resilient or innovative (and flourished) during the past 18 months?
In the middle of the pandemic, a leading manufacturer of masking products for commercial applications in the UK purchased one of our presses to print personalised, protective face shields. With limited previous printing experience, the company was looking for a simple, quick, and practical solution for short-run work that allowed them to get product out the door fast.

This year, Design India in New Delhi bought the newest edition of our Mark Andy Evolution Series E5 13-inch eight-colour press. They didn’t have previous experience with flexo label printing, but with a strong background in sheetfed offset, they decided to move into full label production and create high-quality labels. Both are great examples of adapting quickly to a new condition and the opportunities that came with it.

PW: Your plans for 2022?
Mark Andy will be busy. We have a healthy backlog of flexo and digital equipment orders, and we spent significant amounts of time and money during Covid-19 developing new products and services. In 2022, we will launch new presses for digital and flexo printing, remote monitoring software, and increased press automation tools.

We are also adding more service personnel to support our expanding international business, and we are excited to return to industry events such as Labelexpo. In short, there is an exciting year ahead for us: our industry in labels and packaging is growing, Mark Andy is growing, and we are thrilled to help our customers continue the bounce back from Covid-19.

PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come...  
JD: That USA will win the Fifa World Cup. Actually, that’s more of a wishful thinking...