Soma focusses on Asia with DKSH partnership

Essential food commodities driving flexible packaging in India

Soma, Flint Group, and Marvaco presented - A sustainable way of high quality package printing through Soma’s online product launch seminar – July 9, 2020 Photo Soma
Soma, Flint Group, and Marvaco presented - A sustainable way of high quality package printing through Soma’s online product launch seminar – July 9, 2020 Photo Soma

We have been following Soma for a long time by mostly meeting them at exhibitions in Europe, including Labelexpo in Brussels and K in Dusseldorf. Our most recent encounter was at K2019 in Dusseldorf, where the company showed some impressive work on its second-generation short-run Optima CI flexo press and which we reported in our coverage of the show. More importantly, this was the first show where we met up with DKSH at the SOMA stand as its representatives in Asia and India.

DKSH is not just another distributor but a formidable trading and technical servicing company present in several industry verticals. And its mission in partnering Soma is to create a better bridge between the company and its potential customers – the Asian flexible packaging printers who, like us, have been observing SOMA for quite some time.

DKSH’s Business Unit Technology, a part of the DKSH Group, is a market expansion services provider for technology companies in Asia. Its partnership with Soma covers printing and converting solutions for flexible packaging in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and India. DKSH provides sales, marketing, application engineering, and after-sales services for the flexible packaging segment. The company has more than 100 staff just in India, mainly because of the other verticals it works in. But the business unit technology flexible packaging leadership in Asia also sits in Hyderabad in India in the person of well-known industry senior executive and hands-on flexo technologist Suhas Kulkarni.

Soma’s portfolio includes flexographic printing presses, slitter-rewinders, laminators, plate mounters, and die-cutters. Its technology finds application in flexible packaging for food, non-food, labels, shrink sleeves, paper and paper board, and aluminum closures.

Pavla Kusa, commercial director, Soma, says, “We are excited to expand our partnership with DKSH. The company has a clear understanding and responsibility of the customers in our segment. It is a demanding technology and subject, and with DKSH’s deep experiences in new market development and their strong commitment to joint projects, we are sure they will be a solid and trustworthy partner for us in other markets, too.”

The first time we saw the Optima design was at K2013 in Dusseldorf, which shook up the exhibition since it started to dictate standards for short-run segments. The second time we met with the press was at LabelExpo 2016 in Brussels, where it was unusual to see a CI flexo press at a label exhibition. But it was a mid web press that even then showed the company’s intent in the high-quality flexible label and flexible pouch market.

And this is where the Optima design continues to score as it did at drupa 2016 and the newest generation at K2019 in Dusseldorf, where it was demonstrated printing very high-quality tea bag packaging using extended gamut printing at a print resolution of 70 lpcm or 178 LPI. The extended gamut included CMYOGV inks, and there were special silver and white inks as well.

Again what was shown at K2019 was fast changeover and good automation with a quick closed-loop register. There were other pioneering green concepts in the demos as well. Still, the main point I want to make is that the Optima is a versatile, efficient press that can produce very high-quality packaging and opens window also for sub-segments such as shrink sleeves, wraparound labels and sachets, besides conventional mainstream flexible packaging. With its width starting at 880 mm and going up to 1450 mm and a relatively small central impression cylinder, it can be a very efficient press for labels as well. It can handle as many as twenty short runs in a day efficiently because of its automation.

The next-generation Optima is now available in a 41.3in width and 25.6in length and has been developed for short runs, handling up to 20 jobs a day. It focuses on features that offer easy and fast job changeovers, print consistency, and operating costs reduction.

Kusa says, “Soma’s policy includes a permanent re-innovation process, which always starts from market needs – that are derived from customer needs. The second-generation Optima is our answer to customers’ daily challenges. And, I am personally very proud that customers from Asia are appreciating and deciding to implement our approach as the sustainable solution for their challenges.”

Suhas Kulkarni reinforces our information that during the pandemic, flexible packaging has been performing well. He wants to bring sustainable, flexible packaging solutions to the Indian and Asian markets that he has to look after. He says, “Currently the basic consumer goods are driving the industry. Many of the leading printers are nearing capacity and are looking to add CI flexo, which works well for the basics that drive the Indian consumer product industry – rice, wheat, salt, edible oil, and milk.”

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.

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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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