Business Roundup # Week 49

When was the last time you made pohe, idlis, dosas, upma, dal makhani or even a cake from scratch? Can’t remember, can you? Because now it’s just a matter of stocking up on packaged goods, opening them as required and popping them into a microwave oven.

That’s what the packaging industry has done to us, convenience. And there are lots of these packaging companies right here in Pune developing products which meet consumer and regulator needs. Not all of them are high profile although some of the domestic companies have gone global.

The pressure on the companies selling the manufactured product is from regulators. The Maggi ban is still fresh in our minds. The pharma sector which is the other big user of packaging has tougher regulations to follow since many of the pharma companies are global suppliers and packaging too has to meet global standards.

Nichrome, a home grown packaging company, set about developing popcorn in pre-microwave oven days. Just a few short decades ago, popcorn in a retail pack was a non-existent category and then food multinational giant Con Agra decided to introduce it in India. The packaging company had to come up with an inexpensive packaging which came as a small sachet containing a few grams of corn mixed with the powder masala and a drop of oil. Heated in a pan at home, it gave a bowlful of popcorn and hey! a category was born.

54469239 - forklift in the large modern warehouse

The packaging industry is facing challenges from the aggressive multinational companies seeking a presence in the Indian market. They have their global packaging norms which a price sensitive market like ours challenges. But they also have the option of importing from another location if not from their home country.

Food packaging has seen more innovation primarily because it falls in the look and feel category where looks are important. Pharma has to focus more on meeting regulatory norms, looks aren’t that important. Packaging of products with a long shelf life has to be light, attractive, not adding hugely to the cost of the product itself. This is particularly so to attract the impulse shopper in malls.

Our price sensitivity is forcing packaging companies to look for Made For India options in their sphere. One such technology is the baling system used in markets at similar levels of development as ours, like South America, some African countries… The baling technology for secondary packing and distribution of commodity items like seeds, sugar, rice, atta, detergents etc, packs 10 to 20 kg bales on line, reducing time and ensuring accurate and tamperproof secondary packing. These bales are cheap and cost effective made from poly-ethelene plastic film which is widely available in India. That these may not be good for a sustainable environment doesn’t affect business.

There are over eight big packaging companies, Indian and foreign owned, in the Pune belt, a gathering not seen in any other industrial location. The big market that is beckoning is the ethnic food segment with packaged tender coconut, kokum juice or panha having taken off. Other drinks like sugarcane juice have to overcome problems of long term storage since it sours quickly. But the market is waiting with consumers ready to accept ethnic offerings; it’s up to industry to provide it.

Featured images are for representation only.

Gouri Agtey Athale

Gouri Agtey Athale

Gouri Agtey Athale has been tracking Pune and its events for over three decades as a premier business journalist. She was till recently the Asst. Editor ( Pune Market ) for The Economic Times.
Gouri Agtey Athale

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