Five Star Offset’s transition to monocartons

Overcapacity in Kochi’s monocarton market

Bobst Visionfold folder-glluer that Five Star installed in 2016. Photo PSA
Bobst Visionfold folder-glluer that Five Star installed in 2016. Photo PSA

Five Star Offset in Kochi recently expanded its plant by constructing another unit adjacent to its existing plant. “The land was ours. We were only waiting for the right time. Now that we’ve expanded our business to packaging and are supplying large volumes, we needed extra space. Thus, we decided to build a new unit in the premises,” says KP Sabu, managing partner of the company.

“Over the years, Kochi has become a very competitive market for monocarton packaging. We have made sure that we provide the best quality to our customers. Still, there is a tendency to lose customers because of margins. Since most of the offset commercial printers are moving to monocarton packaging, this is creating overcapacity in the market,” explains Sabu.

Sabu says that his company is now waiting for some changes in government policy that may work out in his favor. He believes that the government is not taking any significant steps to help SMEs. This lack of direction, in conjunction with the current economic recession, is affecting the company’s business. Five Star is currently a major supplier to the garments segment, with some share in FMCG and pharma as well. “We already have the equipment. Our aim right now is not to increase capacity but to hunt for increased market share. We think we can produce and supply about one crore (10 million) cartons more in a month in addition to the two crore cartons that we already produce. Once these machines are utilized to their optimum capacity, we will think about investing in new ones,” Sabu states.

In 2011, Five Star purchased a brand new Heidelberg CD 102 4-color offset press that runs at 15,000 sheets an hour. For additional brand and spot color work needed for monocartons, it uses its second-hand Komori Lithrone 6-color plus coater press imported from the UK. In 2016, when the company decided to enter packaging, it installed a new Bobst Novacut 106 autoplaten die-cutter and a Bobst Visionfold 80 A-2 folder-gluer. More recently, it introduced a stripping machine from Suba Solutions. It also installed a new window patching machine from Heiber and Schroeder.

Only brand new machines in the future

Five Star produces and supplies about two crore (20 million) monocartons each month to its pharma, FMCG, garment, and liquor customers, who include almost all of the Kerala-based brands. Sabu says that the company is now focussed on purchasing only brand new machines. “Brand new machines come with a warranty and ensure better productivity. When we thought about purchasing converting machines, Bobst was the only brand we had in our mind. They’re number one in the market. It has been three years since we installed the diecutter, and we are pretty happy with the service support of Bobst. We share a good bond with Bobst India’s Venugopal Menon, and since we can even communicate with him in Malayalam, it can be helpful,” says Sabu.

Before the Bobst purchase, Menon insisted Sabu visit the Bobst plant in Pune to see the latest technologies offered in India. “The visit to the Bobst plant in Pune was a wonderful and welcoming experience. Frankly, it pretty much cleared all my doubts and cemented my faith in Bobst,” Sabu adds.

Five Star Offset is a family-owned business that started in 1991 as a commercial printing business. However, the diversification to high-quality and high-volume carton packaging in 2016 never stopped the company’s commercial printing business, which continues in a limited way.

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