When box makers think out of the box

Lively EICMA debate

L to R: Chaitali Chakravorty Jain and B N Mukherjee of MC Packaging, Kolkata

Hats off to Milan Dey and the EICMA team in Kolkata for their ‘out-of-the-box’ humour and thinking at an engaging and lively debate in front of a houseful audience of corrugated box manufacturers. The very unusual topic of debate ‘Corrugated box manufacturing does not have a future for the next generation entrepreneur,’ evoked strong emotions within the fraternity that has been under pressure of low margins and delayed payments, which are pain points for Indian business across the board.

The debaters for the motion included Ram Kumar Sunkara of SS Consultants, a reputed industry consultant and manufacturer of corrugated boxes, Mohit Bajaj, Alok Agarwal, and Ritu Agarwal while those opposing the motion included heavyweights like Kirit Modi, president ICCMA , Subrata Das, Chaitali Chakravorty Jain and young entrepreneur Rishab Agarwal. The debate was ably moderated by Hemant Sarogi, a past president of EICMA.

The debate surprisingly comes at a time when, after many decades, large scale investment has started flowing into the industry to take it to scalable heights. A young and well informed IIM Kolkata-educated second generation box maker Rishab Agarwal, pointed outto the senior brethrenthatthe `9,500 crore industry is growing at a rate of 5% per annum and has huge scope for growth.” Surely there is a lot of scope of capacity building of corrugated boxes because packaging needs have been growing at 12% to 15% annually while the kraft paper and duplex board industry aregrowingat 8% to 10%.”Homemaker Ritu Agarwalputupa strongcase forthe motion saying that bad payment terms, high rejections, corrupt purchase managers, long hours and low margins gave entrepreneurs sleepless nights and hypertension, andtheprofessionisunworthy forboththe current andthenextgeneration.

Ram Kumar Sunkara of SS Consultants said that his chemical engineer son refuses to enter a careerthat extracts more out of an entrepreneur than it gives back. Nevertheless, the audience with an overwhelming voice vote decided that the motion was defeated and corrugated box making was indeed a worthy profession for the next generation entrepreneur. Humour and repartee was at its best during the evening with Mohit Bajaj entertaining the audience with great ‘sher’ and ‘shairi’ while the evening ended with cocktails and dinner.

Room for growth for non-automated plants

After the debate, Packaging South Asia met one of the speakers at the meet, Chaitali Chakravorty Jain, director of MC Packaging who has been in the box making business
for a decade. MC Packaging was started at Beleghata, Kolkata by her uncle BN Mukherjee, the founder director of East Calcutta Packaging and one of the oldest members of EICMA.
“The unit is stillrunning today and manufactures cartons only for exports, catering primarily to leather gloves and leather goods exporters,” says Mukherjee. These buyers purchase
adhesive pasted corrugated cartons that have no stapled joints.

“Ten years ago we started our second unit MC Packaging, an ISO certified unit that is supplying to domestic clients,” says Chaitali Chakravorty Jain. With consistent quality and
competitive pricing, it did not encounter problems in either finding clients or getting the right margins. It converts 250 metric tonnes ofliners and board a monthwith maximum box
sizes of 24 x 33-inches and the thickest being 7-ply cartons,for high profile clients including Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Dabur. “We also have several smaller buyers with good
and regular demand,” says Jain, “and thanks to BallavpurPaper Mills of Jharkhand, we no longer have a problem in procuring consistent quality of paper. The volumes are moderate but consistent, so the solution is notin more automated plants, atleastin Bengal,” continued Jain, “butto understand what the clients really need.”

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