Miraj balances new Heidelberg 7-color UV press with Bobst converting

Udaipur’s Miraj commissions Bobst Novacut and Ambition folder gluer

KG Sharma (left) with Mantra Raj Paliwal

After commissioning a brand-new Heidelberg Speedmaster CX 102 7-color plus coater UV combi offset press in July 2020, Miraj Multicolour has strengthened its converting department for both monocartons and corrugated cartons with a Bobst diecutter and a Bobst folder gluer. The company, which is a part of Udaipur based Miraj Group, has added a new Bobst Novacut 106 E 3.0 die cutter and a new Bobst Ambition 106 A2 folder gluer with a collection table and an attachment for making corrugated boxes.

For corrugated and litho laminated cartons, Miraj has also added and commissioned a Zhongke flute laminator, a Zhongke stripping machine, and a stripping machine from Suba Solutions. These installations took place in the past two months in the last quarter of the 2020 calendar year.

“With the addition of the new Bobst machinery, we have made sure that our converting section remains free of bottlenecks. With the significant addition in printing capacity, we needed to expand our finishing department as well,” says KG Sharma, director, Miraj Multicolour.

Partial view of the extensive Heidelberg Wiesloch/Walldorf site Photo Heidelberg

Miraj bought its first Bobst equipment in 2013 and has since bought several multiple die cutters and folder gluers from the company. “Our experience with Bobst has been great over the years, and we had little hesitation in opting for the new NovaCut and Ambition,” says Sharma.

Sharma credits Miraj Group chairman Madan Paliwal and vice-chairman Mantra Raj Paliwal with fast decision making to drive growth. “Mantra Raj Paliwal is the second generation in the family business, and with his vision, the company’s focus is always on state-of-the-art technology,” Sharma adds.

Madan Paliwal founded Miraj Multicolour as a book printing and stationery item manufacturing company in 2001. It migrated to the packaging printing and converting business in 2011 and has since expanded quickly and aggressively. The packaging business, which is growing rapidly, is now the Group’s primary focus area. The company’s state of the art carton production plant is the first such packaging plant in the region and one of the first in Rajasthan. It processes 2,000 tons of paper and paperboard every month and supplies various types of cartons to customers across the country.

Quick recovery and carton volumes positive for FY 20-21

Apart from the challenges faced during the first couple of weeks of the lockdown, the packaging industry, both paper-based and flexible packaging, has been functioning at near-normal levels ever since. Most packaging converters began operating quickly after the lockdown imposition on 23 March 2019, especially if they were suppliers to the essential food, pharma, and health industries, but the business was hit severely in April and May. Miraj, too suffered from two months of low volumes, but carton volumes have recovered sharply since.

According to Sharma, the company’s year-on-year volumes dropped by 82% in April and 42% in May. However, then volumes revived compared to the previous year – to par in June, up 23% in July, at par again in August and September, then up 20% in October and up 27% in November.

“If you take out the months of April and May, our volumes in the current fiscal year are up compared to last year. If you include April and May, our volumes are down 11% year on year during April and November periods. In the remaining months of the financial year, we expect the growth to continue. So, for 2020-2021 our volume growth will be in the positive,” Sharma asserts.

Acquiring new FMCG and personal customers in the lockdown

Miraj prints and converts large volumes of cartons for the ice cream industry, which suffered early in the lockdown. Miraj’s volume of ice cream cartons dropped dramatically. However, according to Sharma, the company acquired customers in many new segments, such as FMCG, personal care, and engineering. “Although we saw business in the ice cream segment drop, we witnessed robust growth in the FMCG segment. We diversified in other areas. Our presence in the FMCG and personal care segments was negligible before the lockdown, but now we are doing very well there,” says Sharma.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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