Many New Players Join India's Flex-Pack Boom

With a growth rate of 25%-30%, an expanding consumer base, and more than 1 billion inhabitants, India has one of the most rapidly expanding flexible packaging industries in the world.

Modern technology is making inroads into the very fabric of the nation's society, and flexible package usage is increasing rapidly as consumerism rises and rural India slowly changes into more of an urban society.

Multi-Nationals Moving In

The nation's packaging industry is estimated to produce more than 500,000 tons and is dominated by the growing (US)$500 million flex-pack industry. And, huge multi-national converters now are discovering the emerging Indian flex-pack market — Huhtamaki Van Leer's recent acquisition of Paper Products Ltd. (India) and Tetra Pak's decision to enter the Indian market without any Indian joint venture are examples of increasing Western interest.

Apart from the normal products packed in flexible packaging, the use of flexible packaging in India includes some novel applications not usually seen in the developed world. Examples include toothpaste/toothpowder and skin and fairness creams in laminated pouches. Tobacco and betel nut-based intoxicants/mouth fresheners are the other unit-dose-packed unique products catering to the local taste. This industry is predominantly in the unorganized sector (the organized sector comprises larger companies with more formalized business practices), and unconfirmed reports put the total tonnage of this laminate requirement at close to 30% of the total flexible packaging usage in India.

As a result of the low purchasing power capacity of most consumers, most consumer goods come in small, affordable packages. The rapid expansion of the Indian flex-pack market has accelerated due to the conversion of the more traditional rigid packaging into flexible forms and a favorable government tax structure. The excise duty, which once was 24%, has been reduced to 16%. A liberalization of the Indian economy, coupled with globalization and the influx of the multi-nationals, has improved the quality of all packaging — particularly flexible packaging.

Who are the Major Players?

It is estimated there are more than 200 flex-pack converters in India. Most are small operations with processing capacities of less than 250 tons/annum.

At least ten flex-pack converters process more than 4,000 tons/annum and are on par with the leading foreign operations. These include such firms as Paper Products, Positive Packaging, Essel Packaging, Akar Group, Flex Industries, and India Foils. Essel Packaging is the leading company producing laminated tubes. The other major player in lamitubes is Betts.

Flex Industries Ltd. (FIL) is the flagship company of the Flex Group of Companies, Delhi. The Flex Group also manufactures polyester chips, PET film, biaxially oriented polypropylene film, printing and coating inks, etc. FIL is the leader in flexible packaging materials in India with (US)$83 million sales. Most of its machines for printing, lamination, and other processes are Indian/in-house manufactured.

Paper Products Ltd. (PPL), Thane, near Mumbai, is part of the Huhtamaki Van Leer Group with multi-location plants. PPL is known for its quality products and has a major presence in the organized sector. In turnover, it is said to be the number two player in the Indian flexible packaging scenario. Most of its machines are imported, and the firm has in-house metallizing and technical affiliations with Avery Dennison (Therimage) and Fuji Seal (shrink labels).

Akar Laminators Ltd. includes Sharp Industries Ltd. as part of its group, another major player in the Indian market before its takeover. Like Flex, Akar has a pervasive presence in both the unorganized and organized sector. It has manufacturing operations in the state of Maharashtra.

VFC Ltd. was earlier known as Rathika and has its manufacturing facility in Gujarat. Not very large, this company has always maintained a low profile but has a fair presence with select customers in the organized sector.

Orient Press Ltd. is based at Tarapur in Maharashtra and made its entry in the early to mid-1990s running imported machines. It services a varied client base.

Metafilms (India) Ltd., Chennai, operates in the south of India. On a five-acre plot, the firm produces more than 3,000 tons/annum. The plant utilizes an eight-color rotogravure press from Japan, as well as a solventless laminator and a high-speed slitter/rewinder, both from Schiavi. Export markets include Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Middle East Nations.

India Foils Ltd., Calcutta, is the largest aluminum foil manufacturer in Asia. Production is 19,000 tons/annum, and the firm has 40% net share of the Indian market; 10% of its turnover consists of laminated products. The company was founded in 1905 as Venesta Ltd. supplying plywood boxes to the tea trade; foil production started in the mid-1930s. Today it has three plants in the Calcutta area: Kamarhati, Taratola, and Howrah.

Annapurna Foils Ltd., Hyderabad, is a leading producer of aluminum foil for packaging and the largest foil producer in the south of India. It produces more than 4,000 tons/annum of foil and composites for food and pharmaceutical markets.

Positively State-of-the-Art

Positive Packaging, Khopoli, (e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; web:, which began operations in 1996, is an example of the modern Indian converter. The firm has two brand new Cerutti eight-color rotogravure presses and two laminators: a Schiavi Eco Junior solventless duplex laminator and a Nordmeccanica solvent-based triplex laminator. Expansion plans are underway, and new purchases include two more Cerutti presses; a Fong Kee extrusion laminator/coater; a Galileo metallizer; and a Waterline stand-up pouching machine.

Positive Packaging was the last major entrant in the Indian flexible scene. The firm operates with absolute professionalism and a well-defined focus on the quality-conscious segment, both in the domestic market as well as in exports.

Innovations from Positive Packaging include:

  • holographic cartons for Colgate Palmolive Sensation Whitening Toothpaste (a PET/holographic MET PET board lamination);

  • special soap wrapper (paper sandwiched between heat-sealable plastic layers for high-speed machines);

  • easy-tear, paper-like PET/polyethylene laminate for juices, drinks, etc.

The Prepress Scene

Most of the large companies in the converting industry have their own in-house prepress facilities and electronic engraving equipment. The smaller players also obtain quality inputs from other prepress houses that are similarly equipped with the latest state-of-the-art, imported equipment.

Two leading companies in the cylinder engraving/prepress field are Shilp Gravures and Acuprint Systems (an associate company of Positive Packaging but operating independently on a separate site and as a separate profit center).

Acuprint Systems was established to cater to the need for electromechanically engraved gravure printing cylinders. Located at Taloja, 55 km from India's commercial capital of Mumbai, Acuprint is equipped with the latest technology.

Materials Supply is Plentiful

Almost all the raw materials required in the manufacture of flexible packaging are made in India. These include BOPP, PET, PE granules, aluminum foil, adhesives, and printing inks. These materials are of international quality and are exported to Europe and the US.

Installed capacity to produce BOPP is about 45,000 tons/annum. BOPP manufacturers include Cosmo Films, Gujarat Propack, Biax, Max, and Supreme Oriented Films (Cosmo Films and Gujarat Propack have almost 50% of the market share). Exxon Mobil also is exporting OPP into India from Europe and is making inroads in the market.

Installed capacity in India to produce PET is more than 95,000 tons/annum. Garware, Ester, Polyplex, Jindal, MTZ, and SRF are some of the manufacturers of polyester film, with the first four having more than 60% of the market share. PET is widely used in India for many applications and also is exported to the US. India Foils and Indian Aluminum are two leading players in the private sector. India Foils is the largest producer of aluminum foil in the country, has an installed capacity of 19,000 tons/annum, and enjoys market share of about 40%.

Paper can be classified by size (a mill with a capacity of more than 30,000 tons/annum is considered large), raw materials used, and the end product. Large paper mills use conventional raw materials such as bamboo, imported wood pulp, and waste paper. More than 40% of domestic production is based on wood-based raw materials such as hardwood, bamboo, and pulp. Another 40% is based on waste paper-based plants. Many of the smaller mills use agro-based inputs like bagasse, rice husk, straw, jute, etc., while some of them are equipped only to use waste paper as an input.

Two of the leading adhesive manufacturers are Converter Adhesive & Chemicals and Herberts & Clariant. Leading ink manufacturers are Coates, Hindustan, and Sakata. Coates is a subsidiary of Sun Chemicals, which in turn is a part of Dainippon Group of Japan, the largest manufacturer of printing inks in the world. Hindustan Inks is the largest manufacturer in the country with a market share of 30%. The total size of the domestic printing ink industry is about (US)$130 million in value and about 50,000 tons in volume. India has more than 200 ink manufacturers, with most of them in the small-scale sector.

Machinery Runs the Gamut

India makes most of the equipment needed by the converting industry, including rotogravure printing presses, laminators, slitters, and pouching machines. Although these machines are not as sophisticated as European ones, they are in most cases “value for money.” The majority of the small-scale flexible sector runs these machines; there are only 10-12 converters running European equipment. Of these, a few companies have bought top-of-the-line, sophisticated machines in the last few years and are in a position to supply laminates meeting international standards.

A full range of semi-automatic to fully automatic filling, sealing, and wrapping machines is manufactured in India for packaging powders, granules, and viscous and free-flowing liquids. Leading names include Samarpan, Nichrome, Rollatainers, Wraptech, Mico-Bosch, and A.M.P. Rose. These machines are of high quality and are very competitive in price compared to European machines. Hence, Indian f/f/s machines are exported in a big way to developed countries as well.

Since BOPP, PET, and PE have been exported from India for many years, it is expected the next step would be the export of printed laminates. Quality-conscious Indian converters with top-of-the-line equipment and skilled manpower have started doing this quite successfully already. The present tonnage being exported is insignificant, but it is growing steadily. This growth will accelerate in the years to come as more Indian converters invest in technology and manpower and prove their commitment to quality and service.

Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. He is also the author of PFFC's “Package Converting” column. Contact him at 732/636-0885; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Under the Loupe

About India: A Fascinating Montage

India will sideswipe you with its size, glamour, and diversity. Nothing in the country is ever quite what you expect; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms.

India is a litmus test for many travelers, and some visitors are only too happy to get on an aircraft and fly away. But if you thrive on sensual overload and enjoy complicated societies, then India is one of the most intricate and rewarding dramas unfolding on earth.

Despite being a secular democracy, it is one of the few nations in the world in which the social and religious structures that define the society remain intact even after 4000 years of invasions, persecution, European colonialism, and political upheaval. Religion seeps into every facet of life. A rich melting pot of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists (born in India), Sikhs, Jains, Christians, and Jews, the nation is truly a blending of the human experience.

The Cerutti Group, Pittsburgh, PA; ph: 412/878-1000; fax: 412/928-0515
Fong Kee Iron Works Co. Ltd., Tainan, Taiwan; ph: +886-6-2532157; fax: +886-6-2533079
Galileo Vacuum Systems Inc., East Granby, CT; ph: 860/653-5911; fax: 860/653-6540
Nordmeccanica SpA , Piacenza, Italy; ph: +39 (0)523-596411; fax: +39 0523-612051
Press Tech Controls Ltd.,Herts, U.K.; ph: +44 (0)1442-236-655; fax: +44 (0)1442-232-302
Schiavi SpA, Piacenza, Italy; ph: +39 (0)523 493 1; fax: +39 (0)523 4805 41.
Waterline S.A.,Lugano, Switzerland; ph: +91 9463222/946927; fax: +91 9462064

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