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.

05 New Thea 9 one8 2Web600
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 impact, resilience, and growth of responsible packaging in a wide region are daily chronicled by Packaging South Asia.

A multi-channel B2B publication and digital platform such as Packaging South Asia is always aware of the prospect of new beginnings and renewal. Its 16-year-old print monthly, based in New Delhi, India has demonstrated its commitment to progress and growth. The Indian and Asian packaging industries have shown resilience in the face of ongoing challenges over the past three years.

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The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 33% over the past three years. With orders in place, we expect another 33% capacity addition from 2023 to 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels have grown similarly. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

Even given the disruptions of supply chains, raw material prices, and the challenge of responsible and sustainable packaging, packaging in all its creative forms and purposes has significant headroom to grow in India and Asia. Our context and coverage engulf the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and further – to waste collection and recycling. We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers.

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– 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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