Understanding Kohli Industries during the Covid-19 pandemic

Fifty years of listening, learning and building machines in India

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Kohli Solventless laminator
Kohli Industries new solvent-less laminator. Photo Kohli Industries

I remember the 1990 drupa and Kaku Kohli’s modest stand at the show – taking a photograph and using it in the Indian Printer and Publisher review of the show. Every Indian exhibitor was important and although there were several single width newspaper press manufacturers at the time, there may have been only a couple of flexible packaging equipment manufacturers from our country at the show. Needless to say, I pursued Kohli for advertising ever since we started Packaging South Asia in 2007, in which we could start covering flexible packaging since our technical editor was and is a respected flexible packaging expert.

A few years later, I visited a leading converter who had purchased the Kohli gravure press for printing on thin and extensible substrates – essentially doing something that it was suggested only CI flexo presses could do. This adapted model became a hit in some parts of the market. Of course I met Kaku at several shows and at the launch and demonstration of the extrusion laminator in Rajkot built in collaboration with Rajoo Engineers.

However, it is during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that I have become a student of Kohli. Although I have a couple of other gurus in flexible packaging also, his teaching has appealed to me as a sheetfed and webfed offset printer who is learning gravure.

Kaku himself approaches technology like a science student – he takes apart every step of the process or the machine. He seems to understand that modern machines are like an Airbus – they are an aerodynamic system with several subsystems. He tries to understand every component of the system and why it is there and how it can fail or add value to the end product, or to the ease of running the machine and getting quality.

He can explain every subsystem or module of the press – the drying system, the ink transfer and thicknesses and how the inks behave with various solvents. Actually he is a printer and to me this explains his frequent travel overseas, since I imagine he has gone to meet a customer who has installed his machine and to help him in case the press is not being used optimally. In these situations one also learns a lot, which comes in handy when you want to improve your press or conceptualize a new one.

Kaku Kohli the barista of the Cafegravure Photo Kohli Industries
Kaku Kohli the barista of the Cafegravure.
Photo Kohli Industries

Kaku Kohli is obviously a great teacher. You could see that in the brilliant Zoom demonstrations during the pandemic that he conducted of the new TheaOne presses at never-before-seen speeds of an Asian manufactured gravure press. He remotely directed his team in the factory that were the main actors, showing the press running at 600 meters a minute to water-based inks running at 500 meters a minute. You could see that he had built in the ease of operation or ease and instant feedback for the operator.

We saw many virtual shows during the pandemic from global leaders but none were really as alive or immediate with live questions and answers where the participants could be heard asking their questions and directing the camera and sound. The camera followed the operator to the wonderful control panels or the part of the press where the demonstrators and Kohli explained and answered the question or showed the detail and function on the running press.

You could also see that the man is fearless – he has never run away from automation – he has embraced it, knowing that software is the easiest thing once you decide what you want it for. He is a master of implementing user-friendly automation and press feedback and he tries to measure every process in every module of the machine.

The new Thea9one8 gravure press demonstrated virtually but live during the pandemic.
Photo Kohli Industries

One last thing – he is aware of the terrible losses to our industry because of fire hazards. In every demonstration during the pandemic of his gravure presses he showed and explained the fire extinguishing function on each unit. It was a problem that needs to be talked about more, and a solution that we have been looking for.

One more last thing – Kohli Industries may be just one of our industry’s companies that are now in their third or even fourth generation which is moving into responsibility and celebrating half a century. However, the organization stands out for me for its rapid understanding of the future and quick adaptation to new technology. You could see from the Zoom demonstrations that Kohli has customers around the world and that Kaku Kohli is always just a phone call away for a visit, and a cup of coffee.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.

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