Kumar Labels in Greater Noida and coming soon to Bengaluru

Engineering a path to luxury label innovation

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When we first visited Kumar Labels in its rented premises in Greater Noida several years ago, it was reasonably new in the label converting industry. Even then, focussed on the alcobev segment, the company managed to be in the news partly because its owner, Anuj Bhargava, is an engineer who likes to tinker with machines to fine-tune them and to build them as well.

One of Bhargava’s first innovations was a short-run converting machine that he showed at one of the Printpack exhibitions in Greater Noida. This machine has been selling over the years without an extensive marketing program or push – merely because it serves as a simple solution to the need for a short-run, easy to set up label converting.

Kumar Label 1

Kumar Labels has now moved to its own site, which is further away but still in Greater Noida. Over the years, it kept evolving – first to a Multitec narrow web flexo press and then to a new Heidelberg Gallus EM280 label press with rotary screen to which an automatic infeed splicer was added. Subsequently, the company has added another EM280 that it imported second-hand but with a Martin automatic splicer on the infeed side.

Kumar Labels has added numerous silk-screen printing machines as well as slitting and inspection machines. However, the key to its extraordinary luxury decorating and embossing effects for liquor labels comes from its usage of foils and coatings. Embossing effects are created using UV coatings both on its flexo presses and using a variety of silk-screen machines. A graining machine is also used to add interesting textures to paper labels that give them a unique look and feel.

Labelstock manufacture in-house

Bhargav seems to have found his metier as both an innovator and a tinkerer in the luxury label industry. His company now manufactures all of its pressure-sensitive label stock using UPM face stocks. For this precision process in which he takes great pride and seems top have mastered, he has built his machine in which he first coats the liner paper with silicone and lets the roll settle or mature on a shelf. Thereafter, in a second pass on the same machine, the adhesive and face stocks are applied.

The manufacture of label stock has given Kumar Labels a great deal of control over its quality and time to market. Major alcobev brand owners have audited and approved the company’s label stocks, which play a major role in the company’s innovations and have significantly controlled costs. A new ERP and logistics system also contributes to the ongoing automation and overall search for efficiencies at the plant.

Expansion

Kumar Labels is expanding its activities to sleeve labels in the Greater Noida plant. At the same time, it is establishing a label converting plant in Bengaluru. Bhargav shows us some of his attempts at active and interactive labels – in one case, he has built an entire AI and VR label solution to engage customers. In another case, he has gone to great lengths to develop labels that light up with LEDs and which could earlier only be sourced from China.

Game to devise every new possibility that will make a luxury label stand out and which requires ingenuity and use of technology, Bhargava is looking serious at developments in printable electronics. His first intention in every case is to come up with a local and cost-effective solution even if it means building some equipment or contraption in-house. And the liquor industry, both in India and overseas, seems receptive to this path of innovation.

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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