Essel Propack sees oral care segment as its biggest growth driver

The company outlines strategy for the future

Essel Propack
Oral care is Essel’s core segment Photo: Essel Propack

India’s leading manufacturer of laminated and coextruded tubes, Essel Propack, expects oral care segment to remain its primary engine of growth in coming years, managing director and chief executive officer , Sudhanshu Vats, said in Essel’s 2019-2020 annual report,

“Oral care has always been our core, and will remain a key engine of growth, profits and reputation. There is still a lot of room to grow market share, particularly in the Americas, Europe and some other key markets; and we will pursue these aggressively to extend our global dominance.We will demonstrate thought leadership, urging our biggest clients to let us lead the development of new packaging solutions on their behalf.”

Personal care and pharmaceuticals are two categories that is exciting for the company. Vats believes that both segments offer immense value, as well as attractive margins. “We are confidently penetrating these markets with sharp innovations and disruptive business models, not to mention new relationships. We’re also actively earning new ways to succeed in these categories, and building new capabilities along the way,” he stated.

Last year, private equity firm Blackstone entered into a definitive agreement with Ashok Goel Trust to purchase a majority stake in Essel Propack. The company, founded in 1982, is a global leader in laminated tubes. Through its 20 state of the art facilities across 10 countries, employing over 3,158 people, EPL manufactures 7 billion tubes annually. Essel’s clientele includes marquee global brands in the oral care, beauty, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Fitness and agility

Essel is of the view that in order to grow, staying fit is crucial. In recent past, the company has queried costs at every level. Vats said that the company was positively surprised by the savings identified.

“These efforts will continue; to help us raise margins, but also to help us ward off threats from local insurgents across markets,” he said.

The company is also focusing on agility with accelerated automation playing a big role in significantly reducing lead times, a key pain point for the industry. “We will keep inventing newer ways to deliver high quality, zero defect products, on time and in full, creating new benchmarks for the industry to follow,” Vats argued.

Essel foresees a rapid disaggregation of demand, driven by several forces such as new insurgent brands, multiple channels and more fickle consumers to name a few. The company plans to invest in new capabilities.

While Essel’s focus is on laminated tubes, Vats said, it will also approach adjacent product opportunities strategically, especially where it can extend the company’s core competencies and deepen relationships with customers. “Inorganic growth can supplement organic efforts here,” Vats said.

Digital and eCommerce

Growing digitalization is changing the way companies are doing business. eCommerce is having an impact in the way goods and services are sold. According to Vats, Essel believes digitalization is transforming how Essel is doing business.

“eCommerce will increasingly be a key driver of growth. As the world adapts to ‘low-touch’ realities, we will create new ways to engage our clients and larger ecosystems. Also, as consumers interact more and more virtually with brands, we will find newer opportunities to manage digital assets on behalf of our customers,” Vats said.

Sustainability – challenge and opportunity

Sustainability is a buzz word in the packaging industry in both India and globally. Essel believes it is simultaneously the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the industry. The company says that in the future, sustainable packaging will dictate its very right to operate. It has been working on developing recyclable tubes.

In 2019-20, Essel got the breakthrough. Its Platina 250 and Green GML 300 laminated tubes were recognised by the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), USA, as meeting or exceeding the strict APR HDPE critical guidance criteria, as being 100% recyclable. The company expects to see a global take-off in demand for Platina.

The company has also expanded its ecofootprint through a series of initiatives at the printing stage; from digital artwork collaboration and digital printing, to the use of water wash plates and low-footprint inks and print processes. It also collaborated with top customers to create recyclable tubes, stiffer tubes with reduced polymer content, HDPE caps as well as new laminate materials. The company expects to see a very strong demand for these in the years to come.

“We are determined to pioneer sustainable packaging working actively with our customers, creating new possibilities with them. The future of our business is green, and we will be at the forefront of change in our industry,” Vats says.

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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