Ugar Labels - disrupting the industry with inventive concepts

In 2020, Vikram Printers forayed into the packaging industry in its new avatar Ugar Labels. It’s only been two years, but the brand awareness exercise boosts Ugar’s reputation and raises its profile. Janhavi Sisodia talks to Mandar Ugar

21 Jul 2022 | By Janhavi Sisodia

Mandar and Abhijit Ugar with their new investment

Mandar Ugar, director at Ugar Labels, says, “It’s all happening.” He is referring to the overwhelming response to a popular Pune savoury. Ugar says, “The reason is most simple. The new packaging has helped protect the freshness and crispness of the popular snack product. The new package branding created by Ugar Labels gives the product better shelf visibility and instantly grabs the customer’s attention.”

Ugar adds that it is all about sustainability. “This is very important for our customers. He explains how plastic packaging is often replaced with paper-based alternatives. A lot of innovation is happening to enable the new products and materials to offer the same function as plastic.”

It has been exhilarating and educative, Ugar says, adding, “Since some creativity and some element of design needs to go into every new product that we roll out.”

The Ugar journey
Ugar Labels cater to a mixed basket of short, medium and long runs. The company’s offset business comprises long-run primarily jobs. It possess an eight-colour UV flexo press from UV Graphics. Currently, the flexo pre-press component is outsourced. The file management and colour adjustments, however, are rendered internally by the Ugar team.

And so, Vikram Printers is driven by its offset firepower while Ugar is a flexo-based operation. We ask Ugar to share more. He says, “The two companies are not so different as they possess the same top management for the companies with two diverse technology segments, offset and flexo.”

The recently installed eight-colour UV flexo press

Vikram Printers and Ugar Labels produce an equal packaging ratio in its offset and flexo businesses. Ugar says, “Even today, books are 50% of our offset business, and the rest is the packaging. So, the ratio is: labels 50%, books 25%, and mono cartons 25%.”

What is the key to their recent success? Ugar says, “During the pandemic months, there were innumerable challenges but also massive opportunities. The main thing is, brands (big and small, A-lister as well as DRC) want to innovate and adapt to respond to these things”. This, he says, is where Ugar can contribute with a new “clean, fresh look”.

The Ugar method
Currently, the Ugar team is working on hundreds of projects for established and emerging brands around the country. They have kept a few things in mind before developing their packaging. During a conversation with PrintWeek, Ugar points out that he is always on the lookout for the latest and best trends in eCommerce, the introduction of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and inclusivity in packaging.

But in real terms, Ugar Labels believes in systems. Ugar says, “These are the small things on the production floor. We have systems in place to monitor and minimise wastages, whether paper, plastic, inks, chemicals or even the cloth used for cleaning goes a long way in protecting profitability and sustainability.”

He returns to his favourite topic: sustainability. He says, “Wastages and rejections are the biggest enemies of sustainability”.

Polka Pop’s sustainable packaging solution

Ugar explains how. “The efficiency which goes into the conversion process is equally crucial in reducing the carbon footprint. The lead time has doubled or even tripled for delivery of certain raw materials such as self-adhesive label stocks and different polymer films, which are regularly deployed. The pandemic and geo-political disturbances such as the Ukraine war have greatly impacted raw material prices. Even mid-size brands are aware of their responsibility for adopting sustainable packaging methods.”

The Ugar strategy
And so, Ugar’s investment strategy has been - all about sustainable growth as well as new verticals. The latest investment is that of a 100% visual inspection system for labels and shrink sleeves. Ugar says, “The investment should also make business sense. It should add to the business figures’ top line and bottom line and provide an ROI in the shortest period possible.

The past two years have been tough for Ugar Labels, like many businesses. And despite the challenges, it has continued to thrive. It is celebrating growing turnover and profits driven by several strategic technology investments designed to maximise its growth potential and keep its offering competitive despite a crowded market.

And so, at Ugar Labels, the customer and the Ugar Labels team take the raw material decisions collectively. Ugar says, “We explore the multiple options of polymers which are suitable for the shape of the container as well as serving the branding requirements of the products. It has to be done keeping in mind the government policies, FSSAI mandates, as well as the recyclability compliances.”

The future...
Ugar Labels operates in Pune, just like Vikram Printers. Ugar says that Pune “ticks all the boxes” in terms of infrastructure, skilled manpower, logistics and connectivity to the outside market locations. He adds, “The location is not so favourable for the packaging business despite all these advantages. Most of the FMCG or pharma brands do not have their offices or manufacturing facilities in Pune. These sectors do not offer many business prospects to the printing and packaging industry.”

Team Ugar Labels

And yet, he sees “foreseeable growth for the paper and board industry”. He says, “This growth will be exponential in terms of volumes. The challenges, though, would remain the same for all the packaging converters in India. The ever-rising price war, increasing space and capital investment demands and other input-cost pressures are going to be the biggest challenges that would be required to be addressed by every paper and board converter, both existing and aspiring.”

What will set Ugar Labels apart? He says, “You can’t talk about packaging these days without being aware that there is an impassioned and important debate about its impact – particularly plastic packaging – on the environment and measures to reuse, reduce and remove it from the supply chain. We hope Ugar Labels can provide sustainable solutions to the top brands.”

Ugar signs off by saying, “Sustainability is a common theme and is an issue felt by the entire packaging fraternity in India. However, at Ugar Labels, we understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why sustainable products must be created sensibly and have to be practical.”

That’s what Ugar Labels hopes to explore. Alongside the environmental issues, the focus at Ugar Labels is green substrates, brilliant branding and innovative design.

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