Ashwani Kumar Sharma- Pres & CEO- New Business Initiatives
During the Make in India week, Uflex, one of the largest packaging companies, showcased an upcoming aseptic packaging plant at Sanand, Gujarat for packing liquid products. This plant is being set up with an initial CAPEX of Rs 580 crore and will employ around 250 people in the first phase. 90% of the output from this factory will cater to the domestic demand.
With this plant going commercially operational early next year, the flexible packaging giant will complete its entire product bouquet offering, which currently comprises solids, semi solids, viscous fluids, pastes, gels, powders, granular materials etc. The Sanand land parcel measures 72 acres and the company will subsequently look at expanding its existing manufacturing capabilities in the remaining portion.
The present focus of the plant is into liquid packaging, cement, Holographic, and engineering division for liquid packaging. “However we are keeping it open to put a converting line. The cement packaging of our company had got the best innovation award globally”, said Ashwini K Sharma, CEO, New Business Analysis, Uflex.
Another important feature at Uflex pavilion is the ‘Equilibrium Modified Atmospheric Packaging’ (E-MAP), which offers shelf life extension solution for fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers in a sustainable bio-degradable package introduced for the first time in the world. FlexFresh is a patented formulation of Uflex Limited and is being supplied globally from India.
In an interview with The Dollar Business (TDB), Ashwani K Sharma (AS) Pres & CEO- New Business Initiatives, Uflex gives his views on Make in India, the challenges in exports, their dynamic expansion plans and their plans to diversify into other businesses.
Interview by Aadhira Anandh| The Dollar Business
TDB: Uflex is India’s largest packaging company today. With plants across the globe, how different do you find the manufacturing environment in India as opposed to USA or Mexico?
AS: If you talk about the manufacturing processes, we have seen vast advancements in technology. In some industries processes can be more efficient in India or in China than in the United States. For example, in the paper industry in America, there has been no single big machinery installed in the last few years, but China has put up many. So on that line China is doing pretty well. The process at large is the same. We can be as efficient as anyone else playing in the same field.
TDB: You are participating today in the government’s key initiative “Make in India”. What are your expectations from this initiative? What changes have you seen in the manufacturing environment since the launch of the initiative?
AS: If I take into account, the last fifteen years we can say that Indian entrepreneurs are going for more and more modern technologies. The Indian market has become more mature and the consumer has become more and more
Upcoming aseptic packaging plant at Sanand, Gujarat for packing liquid products
demanding. Though there is still scope for better consumer demand, consumers now are also looking for better products. And it is the responsibility of the corporate entrepreneurs to deliver these products. I see a big change in the whole scenario. The ‘Make in India’ initiative has helped us in placing our products on a global platform, that has changed the face of our product.
TDB: Exports from India have been declining across sectors. How has it impacted your company?
AS: Uflex has been a very strong company. We have always come up with products that can survive the swing in the market. We are unaffected.
TDB: What challenges do you face while exporting from India?
AS: When we look at the international business in India, predominantly the Middle East, it is a mature market and they look for consistency in quality. They are also committed in their dealings and look for the same with those they deal. Personally I feel India is ready to take in the demand from mature markets.
TDB: What changes would you like from the government to boost exports?
AS: I think whatever the government has done, it has done enough. But we cannot depend solely on the government. We should be able to deliver better products at a competitive price. If we look for support, then we have to remember that support will not be there all the time. It might be good for the first few years, but by the end of the day, if you do not have a strong product you will not be able to sustain. My personal belief is that instead of looking for support, we should actually work on building a brand.
TDB: The global economy has been slowing down, while forecasts for India remain stable. Are you focusing more on the domestic market?
AS: When we look at liquid packaging the market has grown by 20% and it is expected to grow on a larger scale in the next five years. Today only Karnataka uses tetra packs for alcohol and if it actually gets to other states then the growth rate would be phenomenon. So when we take that into account, we know that there is a domestic base and it is very much established. So yes we are focusing on domestic products with an eye at the international market.
TDB: What are your expansion plans for the domestic market? How about international markets? Are you looking at more international manufacturing bases?
AS: When we talk about expansion, the Gujarat plant is huge. We have allocated Rs 580 crores for the same. But the investment that we plan to do in Sanand area is 2000 crores! And we have plans to move on to different lines on packaging and are looking at employing around 2000 people. On the international front we are targeting Europe and Middle East.
TDB: Are there plans to diversify into other businesses?
AS: Yes. But we are not focused on that right now. We have plans to expand to Latin America. Since we deal with aseptic packaging, Latin America offers a good opportunity. We have a plan to diversify but at this point we cannot reveal the details.
Ashwani Kumar Sharma- Pres & CEO, New Business Initiatives
Feburary 26, 2016 | 4:29pm IST.