Venugopal Menon: On the optimistic front, packaging should bounce back

With the industry under lockdown, PrintWeek asks Venugopal Menon, business director, BU sheetfed, Indian sub-continent, Bobst, how the company is dealing with the situation.

17 Apr 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

Venugopal Menon

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your business thus far?

We had been doing well until March before the lockdown came into force. But since then, the business has been affected. Now everyone is looking forward for the lockdown to end with normalcy to return back at the earliest. But packaging segment should be quite busy post the lockdown to cater to needs of the end-users who are stocked out predominantly in food, pharma and personal care / hygiene segment.  

In the short term, how are you assessing the risks and planning for the possible impact?

There will be an impact in the short term, but on the optimistic front and talking to the industry players, we feel packaging, which mainly caters to the staples and daily needs, should hopefully bounce back in the mid-term.  Also the pharmaceutical exports, which had been curtailed by the government in some categories, will open up and also global shortage in generic pharma, where India is a major contributor, could witness a possible upsurge in the coming months.

Some businesses have acted, asking staff to work from home, doing daily temperature checks, distributing critical tasks across offices, and restricting travel. What steps have you undertaken?

Currently our factory operations are shut and people who can work from home are doing so. During this crisis period, it is important to keep the human aspect in mind. Thus, we keep in touch with our employees on regular basis, motivating them, taking care of psychological aspects, health and family needs if any during these trying times. It is very important that we take care of our people in these unprecedented and trying times and to assure them that this too will pass. We are also gearing up at the factory level with all safety protocols in place once the lockdown in eased, which is paramount to ensure the safety of our employees.

How is your company staying in touch with your partners / customers?

Yes, we are in constant touch with our customers and partners and are trying to understand their needs and support them for any urgent needs. We have already conducted two successful webinars for our customers on our mass communication programme for our customers on the maintenance protocol to be followed post the lockdown before the start-up of the machines. We have also been able to support customers telephonically and been able to remotely trouble shoot some machines with our Helpline Plus services. 

Do you invest in health care, and is there a robust system in place?

Yes, we do and all our employees are covered under medical insurance schemes for them and their families.

Confluence of creativity and technology will be the key to crafting a successful future in print. One creative print-packaging project which made a difference during the crisis?

 Bobst has always been on the forefront when it comes to innovation and to be prepared and face the ever changing landscape in print and converting technology. I feel that automation, digitalisation, mechanisation in handling, equipment’s with fast setups with higher throughputs requiring less manpower dependence would be the way to go forward in the mid to long term.

Just to highlight how during this crisis through a video call how we could help a customer’s operator set a special design pharmaceutical job on the folder-gluer which he had to deliver. This particular pharma job required a ‘speciality attachment’ to process it which customer had bought and due to lockdown we were unable to conduct the trial before that.

One suggestion for the government?

I sincerely feel that the government will listen and come all out to support the immediate needs as highlighted by the MSME sector to face this crisis since they are the engines of our economy and we need to protect them at all costs.

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