Sel Jegat: the label age entrepreneur

The three-decade old Sivakasi-based company, Sel Jegat has managed to transform itself from a self adhesive label manufacturer to a pressure sensitive label player in the country. In conversation with Ramu Ramanathan, V S Raveendran discusses the advancements in the industry and how it has complemented Sel Jegat

06 May 2014 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): It’s been almost a year since my visit to Sel Jegat, when I saw a new flexo press being installed. What’s the update on Sel Jegat?

V Raveendran (VR):
During the last year, we installed two flexo machines, a Gidue and an Omet. We now have a total of five lines of flexo machines, one intermittent letterpress and a four-colour offset press. In finishing, we have added two rewinder machines with an inspection system. With these additions, we are capable of printing variable data and inspecting the same with the camera system, Nikka Research. We have also started production of booklet labels since there has been a surge in the demand for booklet labels, not only for pharma but in other segments like food products, tea exports, and fertilisers.

RR: Why the scanner from Nikka? Is it a client request?

Last year, we purchased two Prati slitter/rewinder and two AVT inspection systems in order to integrate and offer good service. Besides this, we print a lot of foreign languages in both conventional labels as well as pharmaceutical labels. For checking text and barcode, we have installed a scanner by Nikka. We installed the system way back in 2010. The workflow of the inspection from pre-press, press and the inspection a better system. We have also proposed to invest on a camera system online in the printing machine.

RR: One of the things about Sel Jegat is that you have got multiple technologies, flexo, intermittent, offset. Can you share what the pros and cons of these technologies are?
For high volume jobs, we use flexo technology so that a consistency in printing is achieved. Also, we can maintain the colour for repeat jobs. This is mainly used for supply of labels to roll label applicator machine. We opted for intermittent basically to cater to short-run jobs. Intermittent is a slow speed machine, where make-ready wastage is lower. Initially, we had proposed a roll to roll offset, but the ink-water balance is very important when printing labels and there’s difficulty in achieving some pantone colours, in short-run jobs. We had an Esko CDI, which can also be used to produce flexo and letterpress CTP plates.

With that confidence we decided to invest in letterpress intermittent press. With sheetfed offset, we are printing both self-adhesive as well as wet-glue labels. We do wet-glue labels for food products which are exported.  We are trying to convert users of wet-glue labels to self-adhesive which is an advantage to the end users for a variety of reasons.

RR: Would it be right to say that intermittent is a good kit for a person who is making entry into label printing?
I feel that flatbed label system will slowly be phased out because there are a number of players who have started supplying intermittent printing machines. It is difficult, almost not possible to dry colour by wet on wet process, using flatbed machines, so intermittent is the best option available.  

RR: Will flatbed be phased out even in India?
There will be growth in the roll to roll digital printing for which the finishing machines are available with re-registration for spot varnish and intermittent die-cutting. The die cost for the intermittent press will be almost similar to the flatbed die. Moreover for the flatbed die-cutting, the operator skill is required, as compared to the intermittent rotary die-cutting.

RR: You have three brands in your narrow-web lines, Gidue, Mark Andy and Omet. In terms of machine usability, how would you grade these machines?
We bought our first Mark Andy flexo machine from Mahindra Spicer, when Mark Andy agency in India was dealt by them. Their service was very good. Since we had one, we bought another to avoid expenses on tooling and other accessories. We then saw the flower concept of Gidue, where the pressure adjustment from the top, reduced the skill quotient of the operator to achieve better quality. We were also looking for shaftless servo drive technology.  Unfortunately, at that time Mark Andy had not developed that technology for its machine. So we purchased a Gidue.

Initially, we had some issue, but the company’s CEO, Federico, was so confident that they’d solve the issue, which they did. Then, we decided to invest in the Gidue M3 machine immediately for the same platform. We also decided to continue with the IST UV system because of the lower power consumption as well as the life of the bulb is better than other systems. The after-sales service is good.

During the last Labelexpo India, we saw the new Omet press, which had the shortest web-path, looked sturdy and had online registration. A lot of companies offer their presses with across the web registration, but this is online, and the registration on the web direction was good.

RR: Today when you are looking at new presses, there are so many permutations and combinations like UV, rotary screen, inline foiling. How do you finally decide and define which press to buy? Is it the customer need that defines it? Or do you create a market and a need?
We were the first to introduce hot foil stamping in automated machine in our area in 1982. This decision was made based on customer needs. But whenever some new technology is available we invest in them and try to create a new market. We have been specialising in hot foil stamping for quite some time. We have 10 Heidelberg platen machines. We are trying to convert everything into roll form hot stamping for faster production.

RR: What about screen printing?
Also screen printing is a wonderful technology which has got a vibrant way of working on labels. Initially we invested in the two colour flatbed screen printing machine.  We started using them slowly since there are lot of applications in the screen printing especially personal care products, automobile industries, speciality printing for special applications. That is the reason why we have gone in for online rotary screen this time. Most of our rotary hot stamping we put it on our Mark Andy 2200 with inline hot stamping attachments.

RR: What has your experience been with vendors for dies, tooling devices or you make-ready elements? Being in Sivakasi you are not directly connected to the major metros. So some of the workshoping you have to do in-house. Describe your learning curve about Indian tooling?
We have been buying the flatbed dies from Chennai and Bengaluru. The delivery is done in 48 hours. Now we are importing flexible dies and everybody has started supplying it in a week’s time. We are reducing all the jobs of flatbed machines and shifted to intermittent press. The reason is, the die cost of a flatbed machine is same as the intermittent flexible die cost. The print cylinders and magnetic cylinders are imported from Europe. Now, Indian die manufacturers are supplying good quality flexible dies at speed.

RR: In terms of other elements and consumables whether it is the inks or the plates, are there any trends as a converter or a end user you have been seeing?
For quality, we need good plates which are made in-house and most of the plate-making houses are making HD Flexo plates through the CTP process. As for the UV or water-based inks almost all the international players are giving good quality inks. The Indian manufacturers are supplying good quality UV inks.

RR: For labels for pharmaceutical product manufacturing which inks are required? UV or water-based inks?
Lot of US and European customers insist on using labelstock with no migration adhesive and printed with non-migrational inks. So, this has stirred most of the suppliers to start introducing low migration inks. From our side, whenever we meet eye drops or nasal drop manufacturing companies in India, we request them to use water-based or low migration inks for domestic as well as export product labels. But I think that this concept has started picking up. The ink manufacturer who is giving a very good technical support will sustain in the market

RR: ERP is the new development in Sel-Jegat ...
We have introduced an ERP system in our factory and successfully adopting the same for the past two years. The ERP system is currently integrated with pre-press, storage of plates and dies, production parameters, raw materials, invoicing and accounts. So, we could observe very fast production and less wastage of time for changeover of jobs and less customer complaints. We are in process of finalising an effluent treatment plant shortly. We are negotiating on the solar power supply units. We are also working for ISO 14001 certification.    

RR: There was hype at the Labelexpo Brussels on the focus of linerless labels. What is your take on the trend of linerless labels in India?
I think it will take some time to pick up. The applicator technology has to be extended to most of the companies. The silicon coating on the surface of the linerless labels is the question on how the pharma companies will accept it.

RR: Speaking of the conversion rates of labels in India, are we going to see ascendancy in the growth of self-adhesive labels? Are we in a position to cater to this growing market?
Definitely there is going to be a growth because of various companies coming up with their own brands and the volumes of jobs that we can see on retail outlets. The big population in India is another advantage for the growth of label industry. But according to me, the Indian label convertors would certainly be in a position to cater to this growing market.

RR: In the last 24 months, we have seen a lot of alliances and partnerships happening? Are you seeing a scope of only consolidation happening among the top players or would there be any International players coming in?
Through FINAT and LMAI there was an Indo-European partnership meet. At that time, each member was given to study and understand each member’s company. Through this process we were lucky to meet few companies in Europe. After seeing their plant, definitely I knew we were no were closer to them and they would not come to us for partnership unless any of the Indian companies are at par to their scale. They spend more money on the R&D and innovative product developments.

RR: What is the key? Money v/s technology?
Money-wise I think there are people in India to invest; but technology wise Europeans are little ahead. But because of the sizeable volumes of market in India and the market scenario, there are possibilities of international players entering India with partnership and subsequent take over.

RR: You have been perceived as a label scientist than a label production person. You are meticulous when you make a machine purchase, technical based investigations on a machine. In a field which is developing on a daily basis, how do you keep abreast in terms of newer technologies and developments? How do you introduce these practices into your plant?
As a part of R&D, we try permutations and combinations with a lot of special jobs. We try to complete special requirements of special application labels with multiple passes on different presses. Now we have created the concept of having a separate R&D division that works independently.

Whenever we decide to buy a new machine the operators, the floor managers and the management is involved in the decision. During the visit of newly proposed machine suppliers, the above team as a whole will participate in the discussion and as a result when the new machine arrives they are well prepared what to do with new technology.

RR: Any fiscal targets set by you to achieve a particular target?
We are trying to create value-added labels and make a new market out of this instead of just expansion and adding production capacity to increase the turnover. These value additions cater to premium segments for special applications which are being imported into India. We can get reasonable prices on these segments.

RR: What would be the team strength of Sel-Jegat?
That would be 130 staff. This includes both the  Sel-Jegat production lines.

RR: What is happening with Sivakasi? At one side there are top printers like Lovely Offset, Sel-Jegat, Safire, Srinivas and on the other side there are these with wipe on plates, three colour printing. Then you have companies with young entrepreneurs like Bell Printers. Being an industry veteran for several years, what do you see as the key trends in the Sivakasi print sector?
In North India, there has been a growth in the print industry because of the government schemes in areas like Himachal Pradesh and special economic zones where a lot of product manufacturers have shifted. The Western region, the financial capital of India is full of industries and there is good scope for printing. In Sivakasi, the print industry is depending on book publishing, diaries, note-book manufacturing, packaging materials including for matches and fireworks industry. Also, we need to invest on the advanced technology machines including digital printing.

Earlier there were certain print houses which would deal only with job-works. Now this trend is changing. But worldwide when recycling is taking momentum, what is the problem in using wipe on plates wherever necessary? It is an economical solution for short run jobs. It is an act of balancing between quality and cost. Sivakasi is using all three technologies in plate making and I am sure people are innovative and serve the customers with economic costing also.

RR: What would be the total percentage of print business or print community as compared to the total population of Sivakasi? Some say, it is Rs 1500 crore. Others say the total print business is much more.
We are not able to segregate the data because most of the matches and fireworks industry start their printing presses for their own captive consumption. Almost 30-40 matches and fireworks players have their own presses established in Sivakasi. Excluding this, up to 30% of the industries in Sivakasi are involved in printing and packaging industries and print related businesses.

What are the details about the cluster initiative in Sivakasi?
The concept of cluster programme was developed by Sivakasi Master Printers Association (SMPA), six years back. The cluster programme was an initiative promoted by the Government of India, MSME department, New Delhi and implemented by TANSIDCO, a Tamilnadu Government owned corporation. The establishment of a common facility centre, under the cluster programme was to offer hands on training on the machine for machine operators and the students of printing technology in Sivakasi technical institutes. Also there are several printers in the Sivakasi area who do not own a five-colour machine plus online coating and had to outsource their jobs, scaling down their profits. So the common facility centre will offer these printing firms to get their jobs printed at the facility. The pre-press solution including the colour matching as per customers specification will be utilised by the Sivakasi printers to achieve international quality.


What is happening with the cluster programme currently?
We had purchased four acres of land a while back and recently the construction of a 12,000sq/ft factory building got over. A brand new Heidelberg CD-102 five-colour plus coater has been installed. Kodak will install a CTP system with workflow and an Itoh Rabocut cutting machine from Japan will be installed soon. We are committed to supporting the printers to print high quality jobs and provide training to the operators and to the students of printing technology in Arasan Ganesan Polytechnic and Sivakasi Institute of Printing Technology (SIPT) promoted by SMPA.