Geekay print and packaging plant in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Photo Geekay

Geekay Print and Packaging started its journey in northern Karnataka’s Gulbarga in 1993,
mainly making aluminum offset plates for the printing industry. It supplied these offset plates all over India – from Punjab University to Kanyakumari and from Jaipur to Assam. In 1995, the company moved to Bengaluru and started its operations with an image setter and pre-press house, said to be the first of its kind in India. In the same year, it was recognized and awarded as the ‘Most Innovative MSME’ by former prime minister, and then Chief Minister of Karnataka H D Deve Gowda.

In the year 2000, the company went on to introduce digital printing shops at different locations to cater to all commercial printing requirements. It then entered the world of offset printing using the latest Japanese Press with an in-house pre-press and CTP in 2005. Geekay entered the label manufacturing industry in 2014 with a Japanese Iwasaki mini letterpress to cater to the short-run market.

With good results in short runs, it augmented its capacity with a Zonten RY320 6-color flexo press to cater to the high volume market in 2022. For finishing, Geekay has slitting, rotary die punch and high-speed flatbed die-cutting machines. The primary label stock supplier is UPM-Raflatac. Avery Dennison and SMI are secondary suppliers. Printing inks are sourced from Siegwerk and Toyo Ink. Geekay is also in the process of including a visual inspection system to identify missing labels and color registration for quality management.

Geekay Print and Packaging won an award in the Letter Press: Wine & Spirits category at the LMAI Awards held in Greater Noida on 11 November 2022. Aakash Deshpande, CEO, Geekay Print and Packaging said, “This was the first time we participated in this event. To be honest, we didn’t expect to win; the only reason we participated was to get acquainted with label stock manufacturers, label machine manufacturers, and industry colleagues. I and my father were casually sitting in the back, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear our company being called out. We always believed in delivering quality work, we are very happy that our principle was recognized in the event.”

Indian labels segment is a competitive space

India has a vast market with various industries emerging in the form of startups, apart from the legacy industries, Deshpande says. “From a label manufacturer’s perspective, to thrive in the market we need to move around and identify what’s lacking in the market and try to cater to that segment. If one label manufacturer imitates a model of the competitor within the same geography, then they are bound to dilute the market.”

“From my perspective, most of the new customers are content with the sheet form of labels, which could be from digital or offset print. I feel there is a lack of awareness among the Indian brand owners about labels in the roll form. The benefits of the label applications or quality of labels and adhesive is relatively unknown. The reason could be that there are more offset printers ready to cater to their demand, which is a smaller label requirement.

“Our typical customer generally graduates from the sheet form of label to the roll form, which directly shows they are improving their business from a startup phase to being a more seasoned player,” he says.

Deshpande said he lived in the US for more than eight years to complete his higher education. “Having stayed there, I can easily compare the packaging and labeling standards in the US and India. We have a lot to work on in educating our entrepreneurs on the power of branding.”

Capturing the startup space

The company’s USP is its focus on the short-run requirements in the label market as other label manufacturers are ignoring this segment, he says. “Each of our machines generally caters to about 8-10 jobs a day, which is unheard of in the entire industry. We focus on delivering quality jobs with quick delivery. You can consider us an equivalent to a jalebi maker. We make fresh jalebis every day and make sure all of them are sold against cash by the end of the day and then we start over fresh the next day,” he explains.

Geekay has a pre-defined strategy to cater to the emerging startup space. For any new artwork, Deshpande and his father G K Deshpande make sure the customer sits with their in-house designer and ensure the color, artwork and subject matter are as per their specific needs and requirements.

“Since we focus mainly on the product label market, we work with the customer to bring out the most vibrant colors that can help the customer build a better brand for their products. Once the artwork is finalized, we provide a digital printout as a sample to the customer as a reference, and once approved, we proceed with plate making. The same sample set is provided to our operator to make sure the color registration is as per the approved design. Once printing is over, we neatly pack it and hand it over to the customer either by mail or in person,” he says.

Geekay mainly caters to the beverage industry, specifically the customized water industry. Covid has taught us that nothing is predictable in the world, and there is no guarantee on what’s coming ahead, he says. “This resulted in brand owners being more cautious about where they are spending and how much inventory they want to keep. So, short-run label jobs are going to be the future of the label industry, he concludes.

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