On a recent visit to Kumar Labels, we caught up with its promoter Anuj Bhargav and heard out some of his ambitious expansion plans. Bhargav is always up to something new, he always has a plan and he usually has done something new or bought another capital equipment every time we visit which can be every year or two years. He is keen to grow the business substantially and has several ideas for achieving this. Some of these plans have been partially implemented such as being in multiple locations with the plant started in Goa in the past year, and there are others that are in progress.
The company is now fully engaged in building a new purpose-built plant designed for its label production workflow adjacent to its current building in Greater Noida. It has recently invested in an Esko CDI digital imaging and processing system to bring prepress and flexo and letterpress platemaking in-house. There are other interesting equipment fairly recently installed such as high-speed precision hologram decorating machines and new inspection machines. These seem to be a part of the continuous upgradation of decoration enhancement capabilities – whereby a new feature takes on the dimension of quality and speed which together equal reliability and productivity.
Backward integration of raw materials
Kumar Labels, as we have written earlier, has been producing some of the labelstock it uses for several years. It also purchases considerable quantities of labelstock from well-known suppliers. In its current expansion plans, it will be installing another labelstock manufacturing machine for this purpose that is likely to be even better and faster. What is interesting is that while this in-house production was considered an unusual activity in earlier years, with the occasional delays in the supply chain in the past two years and also the continuous prices rise of certain label stocks, more label printers and converters think this makes sense and have similar plans of backward integration.
The human resource and skill challenge
The other interesting initiative that the company is taking to fulfil future expansion and growth, is to address the human resource issue. Bhargav has discussed this with us a couple of times during the pandemic as he sees the lack of skilled resources and the constant poaching of those that have attained competence as an obstacle to address, in order to grow. Although his plans to create a relative surplus of skilled resources sound ambitious, he plans to create a structured label training program at three levels of competence with a combination of course materials and hands-on training on modern equipment at his plant.
He did try to develop this as a program his company would support with some of the training institutions in the country, but it didn’t work out. There is essentially a mismatch between what the institutions and the individuals who teach and study there want and what the industry needs or is asking for.
Seen as a remedy for this chronic skill and work ethic shortage, the course materials for the initial program at Kumar Labels will be in Hindi. Designed for operators, senior operators, and for label production management, each of the three levels will be priced nominally, with plans to attract young resources from ITI’s needing employment at the most basic level. The focused initial investment and plan is for a year of this activity which of course is both experimental and ambitious.