Suba: 75 Eternas in India, and racing to a ton

Sriraam Selvam met up with V Vaidyalingam, the director of Suba Solutions during PrintExpo 2015. In a free wheeling conversation he spoke about Suba's forays into folding carton product range and other non-corrugation products; and the future of "the box" in India

27 Jun 2015 | By Sriraam Selvam

Sriraam Selvam (SS): Given post-press sales are under pressure, what is the projection for next 12 months at Suba?

V Vaidyalingam (VV): We are targeting a 25% growth in terms of number of machines sold.

SS: What are you doing to increase market share?

To increase the market share, we are increasing our focus and taking steps to improve customer satisfaction.

SS: Suba has sold around 75 machines (37 die-cutters and 37 folder-gluers) since 2011.

VV: Eterna has launched new models in automatic foil stamper and folder-gluers.

SS: Obviously, you want to sell more. But are there any new models you will introduce?

VV: They have also launched the auto die-cutter with blanking.

SS: What would be your key focus when promoting new models?

VV: While promoting the models our focus would remain on what the customer’s needs are and which model would fit in best for their requirement. That is the key. Certain new models could take time to stabilise. Ultimately we take a decision keeping in mind the best interest of customers.

SS: How does Suba introduce variants and upgrades in line with changing customer needs in India?

VV: Customers teach us. So we listen to them carefully and we have an idea of variant or upgrade.

SS: How so?

VV: The Yii Lee met-pet laminator is a classic case to point. In line coating of primer to the met-pet laminated sheet was a market requirement and we have that option now. We mooted the idea to the manufacturer and they have cooperated by designing one for the market.

SS: What level of localisation has Suba achieved in India?

VV: We are still a largely agency company.

SS: What is your import dependence?

VV: We do make some attachments to the folder-gluers which has improved the specs of the machine while giving customers some cost benefits.

SS: How much do you hope to indigenise?

VV: We would continue to persist with this idea while taking the manufacturer into confidence. They too understand that eventually this approach helps them in getting more business from India.

SS: How does the weakening rupee affect you?

VV: Definitely it does impact us significantly. We started our agency business at the beginning of 2005. Around July 2005, when our first machines started coming in the USD was approximately Rs 43.5 for each dollar.  And 10 years later we are at Rs 63.5. This is a steep appreciation of about 46%.

SS: Lot of pressure. RIght?

VV: Many of our products have gone unviable! So our business model is, per se, dependent on the Rupee strength.

SS: You are at a higher price end and still continue to sell successfully?

VV: Our products could be at a higher price end vis-a-vis other Chinese manufacturers. But compared to the European and Japanese brands they are much lower and yet add significant capabilities to a packaging company’s infrastructure.

SS: What is the impact you face from the second hand imports and Maxima and Autoprint machines in India?

VV: Maxima and Autoprint, at this point of time, have a different set of target customers. Our cutter/creaser range would serve any full-fledged folding carton and three-ply corrugation production plant with all high value features. Used equipment does have a greater impact on our market share due to the price points and the kind of transaction that goes along with it.

SS: According to you what challenges does the folding carton industry in India face?

VV: The challenge the folding carton industry faces is probably like any other industry. It is multifold. Increasing competition, ever increasing price pressure, constant need to differentiate and innovate… the list is long.

SS: To rewind a bit, what are the lessons you have learnt from your Yoco days?

VV: Lessons from Yoco days… Among the several things we learnt, the biggest one was that we should not hesitate to take a tough decision if it is taken with a good intention and if it is fair to all the stake holders.

SS: How and when did you decide to shift from Yoco?

VV: After having sold around 40 Yoco die-cutters and 18 Paktek folder gluers, we took a call in March 2011 to take up the agency for Eterna range of die-cutters and folder-gluers as a replacement for Yoco die-cutters and Paktek folder-gluers. This was taken after much deliberation and we were convinced that it was good for the industry as well the Suba and manufacturer.

SS: How has the shift to Eterna worked for you?

VV: Looking back, it has proved to be a fruitful one; for the market, for Suba Solutions and for Shanghai Eterna, which is a Bobst group company. The market benefited because the customers were able to get a affordable solution from a company owned by the world leader, Bobst.

SS: How does the Eterna dn Suba and Bobst relationship work?

VV: Once market valued, this offering both Eterna and Suba stood to benefit. So we would call that a win-win-win situation. Because Eterna belongs to Bobst group, in terms of longer service life of products and availability of support, this was a big gain for customers as well as for Suba. All the while, Suba continues to provide after sales support to all the Yoco and Paktek customers whenever they call us for the same.

SS: A word about your demo and training centre in Chennai?

VV: The demo and training centre in Chennai is equipped with a versatile folder gluer. It has enabled us to understand the machine and its application in its entirety. This, in turn, has enabled us to serve our customers better. Customers, in turn, have found us to be genuine partners and have ordered machines with us.

SS: What has been the industry feedback and how has the industry gained from this?

VV: Since we also produce cartons in the demo centre, some customers built their businesses by getting jobs done in our demo centre and once viability point in terms of volume was reached, they ordered the machines with us. This production facility has facilitated operator training and also engineers’ training.

SS: Any practical outcomes?

VV: Yes. We also understand the practical usage points of folding carton production and the expectations of end users. We have also been able to develop some attachments for special types of boxes without having to go back to the manufacturer. So it has multiple gains.

SS: Your assessment about the kind of folding carton products that India produces?

VV: India produces is capable of producing top of the line cartons. Many companies are producing very effective cartons which sell the products in the shelf. However the capability to produce and type of cartons needed is balanced by the market to a large extent. In short, the industry while trying to innovate is catering to what the market is largely asking for. However the best is yet to come.

SS: Thank you sir for your time and patience.

Behind the scene with V Vaidyalingam

When you see a folding carton what do you do?
See the design and appeal of the carton.

For you a perfect box means?
Should secure the product inside and the customer outside.

If you have Rs 100 crore you would invest in?
An university dedicated to teach Spirituality and social service. Help people live a dharmic life in all the cacophony and confusion!

Your idea of a perfect vacation?
Being at home with family and with myself.

You have worked with two industry greats: Bala of Proteck and Pranav Parikh of TechNova. One thing you learnt from them?
Pranav Parikh - That making the visitor comfortable in our stall (in any trade fair) was the first and foremost role of a person attending to a trade show guest. Since 1993 when I heard him say this in the team meeting, I have imbibed it in my work ethic.

K Bala - He said: You may be building an equipment for the first time ever. But target to build the best machine of its kind in the world.

Any message for them?
My pranams to both the great visionaries. I am lucky to have worked in two fantastic organisations in the print industry.

(l-r) C Naresh and V Vaidyalingam of Suba Solutions