Packaging design is already evolving with the millennial generation – Shyam Sunder BK

In conversation with the chief packaging designer of Tata Elxsi


Tata Elxsi is a design company and a part of the US$ 100 billion+ Tata Group. Tata Elxsi addresses the communications, consumer products, defense, healthcare, media and entertainment, semiconductor and transportation sectors. This is supported by a network of design studios, development centers and offices worldwide. Headquartered in Bengaluru, India, the company has various business units like broadcast, transport, communication, industrial design, medical, etc. Apart from Bengaluru, it also has offices in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Trivandrum, Kolkata and Chandigarh. Our correspondent, Mahan Hazarika, recently interviewed the chief packaging designer of Tata Elxsi, Shyam Sunder BK. Here are the excerpts:

Packaging South Asia: What are the latest innovations at Tata Elxsi in terms of packaging design and sustainability packaging?

Shyam Sunder BK: Well, our attempt has always been to push green materials into packaging. We have in fact initiated live projects to demonstrate the significant influence green materials can have in the system. When we say ‘green,’ it need not always connote bio-degradable materials but it could even be originating from a green source. As an initiative, we constantly strive to give importance to the sustainability aspect in projects we are involved in and the solutions are derived accordingly.

PSA: What are the major constraints in developing new packaging designs?

SSBK: It is the cost factor which I think is a key constraint while developing new and innovative packaging designs. Most of the time companies anticipate cost much before the innovation. Instead, it should rather be considered as the end value that the innovation would bring to the brand vis-à-vis the price the customers would pay. Of course, aspects like manifesting the idea into a final product, access to the required technology, total time taken to develop a product are considered as part of any new product development.

PSA: Since packaging is no longer just limited to performing the basic functions and is expanding to becoming more integrated and intelligent, what role does a packaging design company like Tata Elxsi play in creating integrated and intelligent packaging?

Gowardhan Milkrich Instant Dairy WhitenerSSBK: The emerging need for new and efficient ways to economize on business processes, solve safety and quality issues through the supply chain, reduce product losses, ensure product shelf life extension and authentication (anti-counterfeiting) are some key drivers for intelligent packaging. The speed at which the technological changes are accelerating is certainly contributing to this evolution of intelligent packaging and is set to revolutionize the consumer experience.

Also, consumers today want a holistic experience. Imagine driving engagement, loyalty and trust for brands by communicating with consumers on a product level, continuing the relationship after the initial purchase and ensuring products deliver the promise. On this front, Tata Elxsi is perfectly positioned to contribute and add tremendous value-addition to drive this new wave. Our ability to integrate both design capabilities along with technology know-how gives us an edge to provide customers and brands end-to-end solutions which they require to stay ahead of the innovation curve.

PSA: Do you consider sustainable packaging a threat or an opportunity? Faced with pressing issues of overcapacity, low prices and high raw material costs, should sustainable packaging be a top concern for packaging senior executives?

SSBK: It’s not about sustainable packaging but responsible packaging. For instance, Tata Elxsi has worked on designing the packaging for several leading edible oil brands. While designing the packs, we have optimized the pack weight thereby making it a responsible pack design. Additionally, we also consider the reusability aspect while designing the pack, which contributes to sustainability. In my opinion, both established brands as well as new brands can adopt these thoughts effectively and use this as an opportunity to be more responsible.

PSA: What shifts in packaging design and production might we see once the new generation grows up and wields more economic capital? What will be their idea of retail and how can packaging or packaging design evolve to meet those requirements?

Clinic PlusSSBK: Packaging design is already evolving with the millennial generation. Design is all about user experience; with the rapidly changing world—socially, culturally and technologically—the millennial group is changing too. In order to cater to this change, user experience will play a pivotal role.

Innovative digital means which would go through a rapid change and push packaging design firms to think about ‘what’s next in packaging’ before coming up with innovative solutions. Branding will not just be limited to conventional advertisements, billboards and noise; it will be more about grasping consumer’s attention and creating an engagement.

Retail could be more on a digital platform with convincing experience. Also consumerizing the digital reality experience would be a challenge we need to address. Processed products also need a suitable medium to deliver it to the end users. At Tata Elxsi we have initiated some early thinking in this direction to help retailers and businesses remain upbeat with innovation.

PSA: Is there a packaging design community available in India? What do you think should be the pressing issues that the community should take up?

SSBK: There are a lot of professionals from the design and technology space who have been supporting these developments. Considering the new-age con- sumers that the businesses would target, focus should be on design forecasting based on the changing consumer needs along with technology push.

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The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are grown similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

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