Pamex 2023: Alpna highlights offline coater

It will be wise to venture into packaging segments provided you develop your core competencies, says Vijay K Aggarwal of Alpna Visual Packaging Aids, in an interview with Rahul Kumar

30 Mar 2023 | By Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar (RK): Can you share an update on the latest that you showcased at Pamex 2023?
Vijay Aggarwal (VA):
We showcased our state-of-the-Art Product Rhino Dexa, a versatile high-speed offline coater that gives the printer a wide range of post-printing coating options, such as line drip-off, spot coating, flood coating, soft touch coating and so on. The machine can be used for both UV and water-based coatings. We also showcased our most popular product M Cure UV Interdeck system. These ID Cassettes can be retrofitted to all offset presses. 

RK: What are your sales numbers in the last 12 months (March 2022 to March 2023)?
We recovered our sales to pre-Covid levels in FY 2022-23. The year has been excellent in terms of the development of new products, such as L Cure UV and LED ID system for narrow web machines. 

RK: A little ahead, we have the big shows – Labelexpo Europe in Brussels and Drupa 2024. Would your company be part of these shows?
We will be participating in Drupa 2024. We will showcase our latest developments in UV and LED curable systems, and a wide range of print finish solutions for converters, including cold foil solutions.

RK: We have seen a few educational sessions for commercial and wide-format print service providers on how they can enter the packaging segment. But do we have the data and trends that can prove packaging business is an industry well worth exploring?
the Indian packaging industry is growing at 15 to 18% YoY and it is a stable market because of the huge consumer base in India, be it FMCG, health care, beverages or any other field, packaging demand has been growing steadily. So, in my view, it will be wise to venture into packaging segments provided you develop your core competency.

RK: Commercial printers often see themselves as marketing or advertising companies where as long as what they produce looks pretty, all is good. But in packaging, say folding cartons, it’s quite different. Good quality manufacturing is of the essence…  
The real work of packaging like folded cartons starts after the printing. So, commercial printers before venturing into packaging segments must understand which segment of packaging they wish to explore, whether it’s folded cartons, labels, pouches, etc. They must develop their core competencies and expertise. 

RK: Most of the CEO’s energy is focused on taxes. How does one try to find one focused on the business? Any learnings from CEOs in other parts of the world? Do they ALSO micro-manage their business as much as Indian print and packaging CEOs?
CEOs in other parts of the world focus more on developing systems and processes, with a strong dedicated team for a customer-centric approach. They focus on future trends and invest in technology development accordingly.

RK: Most print-packaging companies PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? meet, and talk about growth but also say it’s essential to keep the machines running with wafer-thin or no-margin jobs. Isn’t it a risky strategy – low profit margin leaves little room for error and may struggle to sustain itself if it encounters unexpected challenges or market downturns?
Companies that rely on a robust product that delivers to meet the customer's needs never fall short of business. If you focus on the good customer experience you are bound to grow. Companies should always focus on profitable growth.  

RK: Recently a few print companies informed us that there’s a spike in the cost of spares. An upward revision of service rates followed this. It’s become a cause for concern. How would you explain these hikes as a print/print converting equipment/ software supplier?
The rise in input cost has hit the bottom line badly. While you cannot change the selling prices as prices are always governed by markets, saving by way of process efficiency and reducing non-value-added waste will be the key to maintaining the bottom line.

RK: Sustainability initiatives are on the rise. As a result, for the packaging, sustainability intertwines. As a policy and programme, sustainability has become a new way to do business for customers and service providers in the packaging industry. One of them is finding packaging materials and printing technologies that enhance sustainability. What’s the importance of digital printing?
Frequent change and upgradation of technology have been the main roadblock for digital printing in the packaging industry. Digital printing solutions should become more cost-effective and user-friendly. Otherwise, they will remain as short-run job solution providers.

RK: What makes digital printing technologies come closer to meeting lofty sustainability goals like no waste, reuse and such, than their conventional predecessors? How is your company better placed than its competitors?
Our main contribution to sustainability is that our equipment is highly energy efficient. 

RK: And finally, the market is changing. Commercial print runs have declined, but it still offers better margins. The other good news on the packaging front is nothing is going to replace packaging as far as we know. But, with change, inevitably come challenges. How should the print and packaging industry prepare itself for 2023 and the foreseeable future?
Per capita packaging consumption in India is much lesser than in developed nations, so the demand for packaging will continue and the packaging industry will continue to see high growth rates in the next 20 years. Change in lifestyle, branding, and urbanisation has fuelled the growth in India. 

Rapid-Fire Qs

How do you prefer to start your day?
A good breakfast.

How do you cope when things get hard?
Focused approach.

Which is the book that you keep re-reading?
Who Moved My Cheese.

What really frustrates you?
The casual approach to work 

What would you do if you had a whole day to do anything you wanted?
Sleep as much as I can.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Urad dal and roti.