R.Stanton Avery Global Achievement Award is the top international Label Industry recognition and Harveer is the first Indian stalwart to achieve the feat. He speaks in detail with PRESSIdeas about his eventful journey and the latest achievement.
Label Industry veteran, Mr. Harveer Sahni who built his Weldon Celloplast Ltd. with his own hands and has remained an inspiration for generations of label producers and printers who ever knew him. A jovial personality, as we all know him, has remained at the central stage of leading forums of our evolving industry. He has been the predictable face of Indian Label Industry across the globe at hundreds of international events that took place in the country as well as overseas. He has been bestowed with as much top awards as he has been showered accolades for his achievements which are numerous. The recent feather in his cap is the most prestigious recognition – the R. Stanton Avery Global Achievement Award. The decision was made by the Global Awards judging panel, consisting of Lori Campbell, chairman TLMI, Linnea Keen, president TLMI, Philippe Voet, FINAT president, Greg Hrinya, editor Label & Narrow Web, James Quirk, content director Labels & Labeling and Jean Poncet, editor-in-chief Etiq+Pack. The award is a top honour, awarded to either an individual or team, and is supported by Avery Dennison. In memory of Stan Avery’s pioneering spirit and values, this award recognizes an innovation or idea that has helped transform and progress the label industry across the world.
Starting off in 1971
It has been a long journey full of inspiring experiences in the label industry for Harveer Sahni.
“It has been a long journey! I entered business in 1971 and stepped into labels industry in 1978,” says Harveer Sahni. “Life has had its ups and downs, but I remained focused in always striving to do something different. This award is the biggest in the world for our labels industry. I feel elated. My endeavors have been rewarded. There is immense satisfaction,” he admits.
Andy Thomas-Emans, Labelexpo Global Series strategic director and chair of the judging panel, commented, “The judges felt Harveer Sahni met all the criteria for excellence demanded by the industry’s most prestigious award for an individual’s global contribution to the growth and development of the labels industry. His history in building a company to manufacture self-adhesive labels in India, through to his central role in building the Indian label association and then acting as an influential ambassador on the world stage, all helped the judging panel to come to their decision amongst a field of excellent candidates.”
The BSc Chemistry background came in handy
Working in his father’s stationery company, Weldon Sales Corporation, Harveer Sahni started his career in 1971. In 1978, as part of expanding the company’s stationery product range, Sahni set up a 20-inch coater to manufacture self-adhesive BOPP tapes – one of the first to do so in India. From inheriting his family stationery business to all the way to develop pioneering products for the upliftment and growth of the industry and leading from the front, he shares how his initial learnings came in handy during his labels journey, “Having been in the manufacturing of packaged consumer products from the very beginning in the family business, all learnings contributed to knowledge that eventually came in handy for the requirements of label laminates and eventually labels. Given my background of being a chemistry graduate and understanding the needs of labelling, it was normal for me to undertake new developments and diversifications. My ability to cater to a steadily maintained customer base helped me maintain a focus to the advancements in label industry.”
Making full use of his BSc Chemistry background, Sahni used the Weldon laboratory to research development of new products including inks, adhesives and coatings. At this time he also ventured into industrial adhesives, plastic blow molding and injection molding.
Carving the way to self-adhesive labelstock manufacturing
“It is really a very vast change from the earliest days of self-adhesive labels,” remembers Harveer. “It may be difficult for our younger generation to imagine how labels were produced in those early days and how they have evolved to present day manufacturing processes – the start was all manual when screen printers would print, dry, follow it by applying adhesive on the reverse again with screen, dry and apply silicon release paper. Then, finishing the label by half cutting with shaving blade and a steal ruler; every process from printing, labelstock manufacturing, siliconizing technology, converting, embellishing to label applications have all undergone a sea change,” he continues.
With demand for self-adhesive stickers starting to take off in India through the 1970s, in 1978 Harveer invested in a siliconizing line, developing and producing poly-coated release liners and later a barrier coating for uncoated woodfree or brown sack kraft papers that could accept silicone release coating. In 1984, he made his own way to London for a surprise visit to ‘Label Guru’ Mike Fairley, gaining inspiration and useful insights into label converting trends. In the late 1990s a one-meter coater was installed to carry out both silicone coating and to produce release liners, and in 1997 Weldon started manufacturing self-adhesive labelstock, soon adding another coater to focus on liner manufacture.
With the dawn of the 2000s, Harveer moved the business from coating tin catalyst-based silicone chemistry to a solvented platinum catalyst system and then on to solventless silicone coating – a line which is still in use. In 2003 he again was a pioneer setting up the first Nordson Hotmelt adhesive coating line in India.
There have been technological developments in the labels world all these years that have a significant impact on the future course of the industry. “Labels have diversified into many tangents,” says Harveer. “Their production, embellishing, converting and application technologies have transformed immensely. What was once just wet glue and later largely became self-adhesive of Pressure Sensitive labels, have now moved into multiple segments like wrap around labels, shrink sleeves, in-mold labels and direct on product labels. Label printing has also evolved from just letterpress to flexo, digital to hybrids or combination of flexo, screen, offset, rotogravures, etc. with foiling, varnishing, embossing, etc. The future is a time for ongoing continuous transformation; printers who are quick to adapt to changes as they happen, will excel. A very disruptive change that I expect is when technology for directly printing and embellishing directly on product will evolve as a largely usable one, that will be sustainable as there will not be any waste generation as regards paper, adhesive, silicone or liners,” lucidly explains Harveer.
The Award is Precious!
For anybody who knows about the award’s high pedestal, it means no less than an honour. For Harveer, the award is especially precious: “The award accords global recognition and connect! As for our domestic labels industry, I am sure it will generate inspirations and aspirations for other peers to reach out to have presence and recognition on global scenario.”
Harveer’s individual contribution to the global label fraternity is unmatched. He has always shared his knowledge whether it was chronicling the history of Indian Labels Industry, or sharing technical learnings, networking within the Indian and global labels industry or by being a bridge between the Indian and global label fraternity. With his indulgence in India’s label manufacturers association (LMAI), he supported organizing seminars for the benefit of label printers and also being the connect between brand owners and label manufacturers.
Harveer’s achievements are more of a dream for others in the industry. But the expert tips to the achievements are no more secret with Harveer revealing them himself, “Always endeavour to acquire knowledge by keeping abreast with news about labels, network with peers to exchange views, be willing to share knowledge. The biggest one is in times of pressures or challenges, be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and travel into newer fields.”
Stepping away from manufacturing & taking up bigger responsibilities
Speaking about the latest Labelexpo India 2022 and Weldon’s offerings, Harveer informs, “Since Manufacturing was always dependent on me and for a host of reasons, we have stepped back from manufacturing.” However, Weldon Celloplast brings the best technologies in the world through its many principals and retains its enviable customer base. “In times of intense competition, for example,” explains Harveer, “there is dire need for the leaders or those aspiring to reach leadership position to adapt innovative printing and converting technologies. For this reason, we presented, through our Italian principals and embellishment experts CARTES, their digital screen and laser converting technologies. This is one of the many new developments that we brought to our Labelexpo audience besides many others.”
It was a good show for Weldon. “Labelexpo India 2022 proved the yearning the industry had to meet, network again and learn about the new developments to ascertain the way forward. All those who mattered in the industry, marked their attendance. It was a well-attended show. Our stand was very busy, we displayed Brotech’s digital finishing machine which attracted a lot of printers. All principals present at Weldon stand were happy by the attendance and enquiries received. Visitors were satisfied and appreciative,” says Harveer.
“Digital label printing is a sought-after capability. There is a lot of interest amongst the fraternity looking at options to implement digital label printing,” he adds to say about what inspired him at this edition of Labelexpo.
Actually, Harveer has been instrumental in the establishment of Labelexpo in India – in 2001 he helped his friend Anil Arora establish the India Label Show, which later in 2007 got purchased by the Tarsus Group and got its new name, Labelexpo India.
Apart from producing world class products, Weldon has brought world’s best technologies to the Indian market. Most of the associations have been for long years, some more than 15 years. Weldon’s long represented Italian press manufacturer Omet now has its own subsidiary Omet India Pvt. Ltd. The company is headed by Harveer’s elder son Pawandeep Sahni as its Managing Director. All other agencies are also internationally reputed and Harveer’s younger son K D Sahni takes care of that part of the business. “Another example is Vetaphone Corona treaters, the promoter family are actually the inventors of Corona treatment. Spilker Germany manufacturers are OEM to leading press manufacturers. Lartec Spain another family managed company making flexible dies has grown manifold and was our very first agency and remains bonded with us,” proudly shares Harveer.
In the late 1990s when Harveer welcomed the entry of ‘big brother’ Avery Dennison to India, he recognized that it would help drive development of the entire Indian label converting industry. This also pushed him into developing export markets, and Weldon was soon selling to over 30 countries.
Harveer suggests that today innovation and creativity are the key to the growth of the label companies and Indian industry. “Besides having a quality control department as R&D endeavor, there is now an imperative need for all progressive label companies to have a dedicated innovation and creativity department that will devise new label products that will fetch higher returns and will enable the end-products an impulsive lift-off from the shelves, contributing a higher sales revenue for brand owners. Simple labels do not stand you out of the crowd and are intensely competitive, giving low margins,” he declares.
Harveer is at the helm of India’s premier Label association LMAI (Label manufacturers association of India). “LMAI strives and is successful in driving value for its members. In the domestic space it organizes seminars, technical sessions and presentations from experts with brand owner presence along with networking. On the sidelines of Labelexpo India LMAI has been organizing LMAI Avery Dennison Labels Awards night, a highly successful event attended by the who’s who of the industry. The award winners have the option to participate in world label awards. Similarly, every alternate year LMAI organizes the LMAI conference, a much sought-after event where label printers and suppliers attend with families. The conference is always held at interesting tourist destinations. As for the international connect, LMAI is a part of L9 which is the association of world’s leading nine associations that includes FINAT and TLMI. LMAI hosted the L9 meet in NOIDA India in 2018 where international delegates networked with Indian counterparts.
Sharing the priceless knowledge
Harveer Sahni’s informative Blog is highly popular among the label industry peers. “Giving and sharing valuable knowledge benefits the industry. It gives me immense satisfaction of giving back to the industry that gave me so much. The Blog is read in all the five continents around the world. Besides, serving the industry’s growth by being an informative platform, it provides inspiration and connect. It is about success stories and news, and most importantly, has become a reference point for technical articles,” he elaborates. The Blog, “Self Adhesive Labels Industry In India and The World” is nearing half a million page-views.
Among a long list of laurels, Harveer’s presentation on the Indian self-adhesive labels market received great admiration and he became a part of the international Cham Paper pressure sensitive symposium at St. Moritz Switzerland in 2003. Also, Weldon was the first Indian label industry constituent to exhibit at Labelexpo Europe in Brussels. He has been writing regularly for national and international magazines. In 2017 he became the first recipient of the LMAI award for lifetime support to the Indian Label Industry.
Harveer wishes and plans to continue sharing his learnings and stay connected to the world of labels that, he says, led him to this award. He is concentrating on his book on labels which he hopes to bring out soon. He wishes to start a training program and working on the idea to finalize a proper shape.
Harveer admits that the R. Stanton Avery Global Achievement Award is his greatest achievement. “There are numerous association and country specific awards, but the R Stanton Avery Global award is the biggest in the world for labels,” he states. He sums up by reiterating his favourite words we heard him say at Chicago while accepting the award, “I Live Labels, I Love Labels!”