Interview – VK Seth of Sakata Inx

Sakata in Bangladesh, sustainability, innovations & drupa

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Sakata Inx
Sakata Inx’ new plant near Dhaka in Bangladesh. Photo Sakata Inx

Sakata Inx India has been a supplier of cold-set offset inks to the newspaper, commercial, and packaging industry market segments and also of liquid inks to the flexible packaging industry for many years. In the past four years, the company has been affected by the supply chain and market challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war, and the Gaza conflict. However, Sakata Inx India has shown resilience and even growth – in terms of capacity expansion. Priyanka Tanwar reports.

Sakata Inx started operations of its new plant near Dhaka in Bangladesh at the end of 2019. The 5-acre Sakata Dhaka plant in the Meghna economic zone, on the banks of the Meghna river, is about 30 kilometers from Dhaka and is home to several other industrial plants. The 100% subsidiary of Sakata India has already become a profitable investment despite very severe economic conditions in Bangladesh – including steep depreciation of its currency and shortage of foreign exchange, according to VK Seth, managing director of Sakata Inx India.

During our recent visit to Sakata’s Gurugram office in the Delhi-NCR, Seth explained, “As of now, we are not exporting liquid inks for flexible packaging from the Dhaka plant as the Bangladesh market itself is growing, especially its packaging industry. The plant is primarily focused on increasing its local market share in the flexible packaging industry at the moment.” While the plant is currently producing liquid inks for flexible packaging, as the market is developing, at some stage in the future Sakata may consider producing offset inks there as well, he added.

Sakata Inx
VK Seth, managing director of Sakata Inx India. Photo IPP

In India, Sakata Inx has two plants – one is in Bhiwadi, about 45 kilometers south of Gurugram, and another in Panoli, 10 kilometers from Ankleshwar in Gujarat. “In the state-of-the-art Panoli plant spread over a sprawling area of 20 acres, we have a monthly capacity of 2,000 metric tons for liquid inks for flexible packaging, 1,200 metric tons of cold-set inks, and 100 metric tons of energy curing inks – including UV, LED and Electron Beam (EB) inks,” Seth had said to Indian Printer & Publisher in one of our earlier reports on the company.

Seth says, there is a steeply growing interest to change into green chemistry, recycling, and reducing wastage in the packaging industry, adding that Sakata is also extremely focused on GHG, SDG and governance issues and has started monitoring its carbon footprint. “As the monocartons segment is also a part of the sustainable initiatives undertaken by the industry, Sakata is well ahead of the curve and has products (inks and coatings) currently being utilized by the monocartons segment. Sakata has also committed to SBT goals.

Sakata has been able to reduce its carbon footprint by 5 to 6% in 2023-24. Though our sales are increasing, there is a continuous effort to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Sakata’s coatings

The coatings supplied by Sakata help improve both the barrier properties and recyclability of packaging. “There is a continuous focus on compliance issues such as removing toluene, ketones and vinyl systems from inks. Sakata Inx has recently launched an LSG series of inks for flexible packaging, that are toluene, MEK and vinyl-free. Suitable for all kinds of lamination including extrusion lamination, these inks are receiving increased attention from multinational companies. Our coatings are helping customers to either downguage their laminates or make them recyclable, Seth added.

Water-based technology has both positives and negatives

Though Sakata doesn’t currently have water-based inks in its portfolio, Seth says it is working with third-party producers in this area and at some point in time, Sakata Inx India will surely enter this segment. There are both positives and negatives in water-based technologies such as reduced printing speeds, and appropriate configuration of printing equipment. Moreover in Japan, Sakata is marketing many water-based, adding that in India the uptake is still slow and water-based products are yet to catch the imagination of the brand owners.

Ink makers have to work in tandem with the machine makers. Water-based technologies are slowly capturing the attention of machine makers and manufacturers but they can’t match the speeds of solvent-based products which are close to 500 meters per minute. Unless water-based technology also runs with those speeds for long runs, a lot of productivity issues come into place,” he said.

India is a very large consumer market and our run lengths are much bigger than most of the advanced countries, which puts pressure on converters to run at higher speeds. “Sooner or later, we will be ready for the water-based products in India,” he adds, saying, “We are waiting for that kind of push coming from brand owners.”

Inks for locally made recycled newsprint

Sakata has made several ink developments for Indian-made or lower-grade recycled fiber newsprint considering the price and availability of imported newsprint in the country. Seth says that there is a lot of demand to print on locally available newsprint with very high recycled content, which comes with its own set of issues such as higher absorbency, show-through and strike-through along with lint and hickey issues. Sakata has introduced low penetration inks in the Indian market, which are running very successfully on some of the Indian-made newsprints, Seth revealed.

Indian news media suffered greatly in the pandemic lockdowns and some of the loss in readership is permanent with many younger readers switching to digital formats, Seth says, adding that newspapers are nevertheless coming up with new strategies to increase their circulation and revenue. “Sakata is there to provide them with new products to help the newspaper industry to achieve these targets.”

The company is also making progress on the sheetfed side with UV sheetfed, LED sheetfed and LED flexo inks for packaging requirements. Recent innovations include metallic effects such as silver and silver UV inks and inks that have a pleasant odor. Sakata India has been certified as a Great Place to Work for 2024 –25. “We are very proud to be certified as a Great Place to Work and this is a big motivation to our team,” Seth shares.

Along with six other employees from Sakata India, Seth will be visiting the drupa 2024 exhibition. He says the main purpose of the visit is to network with existing customers from Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and to look at new developments in consumables, technologies and machines.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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