Bangalore-based Mahavir Impex began business in 2009, manufacturing of thermal paper rolls. In 2017, it expanded into labels, starting its journey with plain labels printed on a 5-color letterpress machine.
Managing director Nilesh Jain explains: ‘I was new into label printing. I decided to invest in it because it is intermittent – you don’t have to change cylinders. You can print different sizes on it with just a change of plate. And we wanted to use less manpower. If a single person can do the job, that’s ideal.
‘We did not want to invest big at the beginning. We gradually built our customer base and learned the advantages and disadvantages of the technology. There were restrictions in terms of size so we decided to add a digital press. Now size is not a problem.’
A few months after venturing into labels, Mahavir Impex observed increasing demand for short runs. ‘There was a gap in the market,’ says Jain. ‘Especially post-pandemic, the demand for short runs has spiked. Brands are focusing on increasing the number of SKUs and they want a local service provider for their labels and packaging. They want their products within a day or two.’
Jain noticed high demand for digital short runs, particularly from start-up companies. He says that there are several players in the digital space but they face limitations such as the capability to print on clear or metallized substrates. They lack the capability to print white.
‘White could be printed on flexo and then on digital but it adds a process and wastage which I want to reduce in my factory. We try to be economical. Whatever I reduce I can pass it onto customers or add on to my margins.’
Jain explored several digital platforms while visiting Labelexpo Europe 2019 before opting for Durst’s UV inkjet press. ‘The team immediately responded to my query during the pandemic. They sent a few samples and I was satisfied. I then sent them my jobs for further confirmation.’
Jain found the quality and the fast turnaround of the press to be its best qualities. ‘We can print as per the customer sample and match it in terms of colors. We can immediately print and show samples and get it approved in a jiffy. And it is easy to operate.’
The machine was installed in late January 2022. The investment has allowed the company to acquire new customers as well as bag orders for short run variable data printing from existing clientele. Mahavir also provides labeling services from scratch. It has an in-house label design team, supporting brands through to the final printed product.
‘There’s a lot of potential in the market for this service. With our in-house design team, we can provide customers with everything at one point. They can get their labels designed and printed under one roof for quick turnaround. Customers today want one point of service; it becomes very easy for them to manage their jobs,’ Jain explains.
This is especially convenient for brands that launch new products frequently or target new markets and regions with multiple SKUs. With the increasing trend of hyper localization in India, brands focus on customizing their products for different regions and go as far as individual personalization for better customer engagement. This is resulting in high demand for variable data print. ‘That is how we are helping brands think beyond standard procedures and expand their product reach into the market,’ Jain adds.
The company currently operates the 5-color letterpress, two semi-rotary die-cutters, three slitter rewinders, one flatbed die-cutting machine and the Durst digital press. Jain is now looking to add fast converting equipment to complement the digital press and enhance its turnaround time.
Post-pandemic, the demand for short runs has spiked
He emphasizes that customers want their products as fast as possible, preferably by the end of the day. ‘They are ready to pay a good price for this service. As the new generation enters the market, they want to innovate and bring a change in terms of packaging design. E-commerce is also picking up. If you want to sell your product online or in modern retail, it needs to stand out.’
South India is becoming a hub for start-ups and Mahavir is seeing prospects for long-term customers. India has over 61,400 startups recognized by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), with at least 14,000 recognized during 2022, according to the Economic Survey 2021-22.
The country has become the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world after the US and China. A record 44 Indian startups achieved unicorn status in 2021, taking the overall tally to 83.
Short run niche
With the new set up, Jain is supporting large label manufacturers with their short run jobs. ‘Every label manufacturer sees demand for short run jobs once in a while. They have customers who prefer not to approach a separate label manufacturer for short runs; they want everything under one roof. But these converters have constraints in short run printing due to their conventional print set-up. At the same time, losing a customer for a small job is also not desirable. We are becoming that other option for those manufacturers,’ Jain explains.
Jain has never been interested in long runs. He had seen enough well-established players in the market and found that competing with them would be challenging. Instead, he carved a market for himself.