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  • 27 Sep 2021

Libako invests in new plant

(L-R) Balai Adhikary, director, with his son Ankan Adhikary, marketing manager of Libako Packaging

With a new Gallus ECS 340, Libako Packaging plans to expand in premium labels and flexible packaging and supply its products in northeastern and eastern India.

Kolkata-based Libako Packaging has installed a Gallus ECS 340 flexo press with UV curing, in-line foiling, lamination and die-cutting. The company has also invested in a 9,000 sq ft (836 sqm) label and flexible packaging plant during the pandemic.

Established in the 1980s, Libako began as a humble screen printer of footwear and garment labels. As business progressed, Balai Adhikary, director of Libako Packaging, realized the potential of the print industry.

‘But it meant investment,’ says Ankan Adhikary, son of Balai Adhikary and marketing and sales manager at Libako. ‘And we couldn’t invest in an offset press back then.’

Soon, Balai Adhikary introduced The Ad-O-Graph, a brand communication agency specializing in POP/POSM branding, and diversified into offset commercial printing. With stable growth in the late 1980s and 1990s, the company bought a second-hand 2-color offset press.

‘Initially, my father started the business for local industries in Kolkata. Back in the day, there were several big converters and competition was high, yet there was still a scope for start-ups like ours,’ Adhikary explains.

In 2011, the company purchased what it believes was the first HUV Komori sheet-fed offset press in eastern India.

Adhikary says that his father never intended to expand into labels and flexible packaging. But that changed when he visited drupa in 2012. ‘We were producing labels on offset and comparatively the quality was superior. When he saw the flexo press at drupa, my father felt the need to invest in it. In 2016, he revisited drupa and was impressed by the improvement in flexo print quality and the way the industry was evolving. ‘We knew commercial print volumes would drop because of the rise of digital media. A product has no identity without packaging, and we wanted to diversify.’

Libako was initially looking for a CI flexo press for wide web packaging. However, in the middle of the pandemic in 2020, Adhikary came home from Italy where he was pursuing product design and with his father decided to invest in a new flexo press and a dedicated label plant.

‘The narrow web flexo industry is not a cluttered market in the east. The packaging industry requires specialization, quality management, accountability, traceability, science and creativity.’

The converter started looking for the right press. ‘Being from the offset background, our mindset was that flexo cannot compete with offset prints. But we were mesmerized by the print quality of the Gallus press.’

He says that investing in an offset press with 8-10 color stations, chill drums for flexible packaging and die-cutting stations would have been a big investment along with limitations. However, flexo presses are modular and can be customized.

Local presence

‘The most important aspect of the investment was the presence of Gallus in India,’ says Adhikary. ‘Gallus has a huge stake in India. Their service, print quality, proven technology and brand value are the things that we prioritize.

‘The best thing about this press is that it has the shortest web path resulting in minimal wastage producing exceptional print quality. And, this machine has the best stability in the industry. It is mounted on a granite base making it a vibration-free machine offering on-point registration. It comes quite close to the offset prints which met our expectations.’

The company intends to add three more flexo presses and post-press machines.

The new factory is located 8 kilometers away from the city in an open and green space called Janpath. The factory was constructed in 2020 during the pandemic. The new site has more than 200 trees around it.

Libako plans to equip the plant with a rainwater harvesting system and solar power unit for at least 40-50 percent of the electricity consumption.

The pandemic posed several challenges for Libako. ‘Production volumes dropped due to issues related to drastic increase of raw material prices, supply chain delays and lack of manpower. We started working when the lockdown lifted. My father and I worked alongside our staff on the construction site.’ But he is confident that the market situation will improve.

With the investment, Libako intends to supply labels to leading and local brands primarily in northeastern and eastern Indian, as well as other states. ‘We want to consistently deliver premium prints at a competitive cost and at better turnaround time. We aim to be one of the top label converters and an environmentally responsible company in India,’ he emphasizes.

The new plant and machines are designed with automation in mind. The facility is equipped with slitters running at a speed of 350m/min and an inspection system. Conveyors are used to collect and transfer die-cut labels into cartons.

‘Some brands in east India are procuring labels from other states. Our objective is to supply prints and develop an overnight delivery system to these brands.’