During the night of Saturday, 16 March, I landed in Mumbai. My first steps are to the hotel, as our Editourmobil is currently still being completed and should be available shortly. I was able to sleep reasonably well in the plane and am now struggling with a small but persistent jet lag. After breakfast and a few hours’ sleep in the hotel, our new Indian camper drove on to the hotel forecourt for the first time. The layout is really good and it fits perfectly into the PETplanet Editourmobil fleet. The two employees who will be looking after us introduce themselves: Arun, known as Dada, is our driver, and Gaurav, his younger colleague, is responsible for everything that concerns cleaning and anything that increases our well-being on our travels. I load my bags into the vehicle, sort a few things and at length I give the signal that gets us underway. Already today, the first appointment of the tour is set: blower manufacturer Global PET. Despite the countless trips I have made in India, I never fail to be astounded by how heavy the traffic is here, and how long it takes to cover the 35 kms from the Andheri quarter of the city to our first appointment. Dada and Gaurav, too have one or two difficult moments despite knowing the way. We are 90 minutes late for our meeting. The appointment with the Panchal family, who manage the operation, specialising in small and medium-sized bottle producers, is extremely interesting and reflects the needs of the large number of small bottlers in India. When I got back to the hotel later, it had taken about nine hours, thanks to the Mumbai traffic and to be honest, I thought that was pretty crazy. In the rush hour the traffic hardly moves and we crawled back to town at snail’s pace. The only consolation was that I manage to grab a coconut and shrimp meal just before 10pm.
It’s Sunday and I’m in the “Big Bazaar” stocking up on essentials for life in the Editourmobil. Great though the vehicle is, it still requires some basic cleaning. The fridge is full of Bisleri water. There is a healthy supply of mosquito spray in the bathroom cabinet, a wise precaution. For the first night, with the help of the vehicle rental outfit, who has now set up a whatsapp group with the driver, his helper, myself, and organised a paid parking space not far from my appointment on Monday with Bahubali PET. While I’m getting set up, my two Editourmobil managers are trying to repair the air conditioning, which went on strike for some inexplicable reason. Despite the 35+ degrees in the cabin, I get a reasonable night’s sleep, since our parking spot is far enough away from the 24-hour street noise. My contact person at Bahubali unfortunately has to postpone the appointment because he had to go to Delhi at short notice. Also, my appointment with Parle Agro on the same day has to be put off because of unexpected changes to the travel schedule. Faced with some forced leisure time, I get down to some paperwork.
The week starts and my colleague Felix will be landing in the afternoon for this section of the tour in Mumbai. Felix is actually a doctor, but had spontaneously volunteered to take photos of the appointments and generally help with the tour arrangements. He arrives in good spirits at the arrivals terminal and I show him to the vehicle. As evening approaches, we decide to go to Goregaon, where we are due to meet TPAC / Sunpet tomorrow. After an obligatory dinner at the British Brewing Company at Oberoi Mall (I go there at least once every time I am in Mumbai), our driver Dada decides that we could park near “Film City” for the night. In addition to several other coach-type motorhomes, which are used in this country as sleeping and changing facilities for the Bollywood movie stars, we find a very agreeable pitch. The night however was far from agreeable. The noise from outside is unbearable, screaming, honking, engines revving, dogs barking and I get the feeling that all is not well with my face. Completely battered and bruised, I stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom at about four o’clock in the morning to discover that my face has been bitten by mosquitoes.
What was really annoying was that I had plastered my face with the anti-mosquito spray the previous evening plus a dollop of Odomos, which is the local cure for stings. I look like Quasimodo with swollen lips and cheeks. Felix got it less bad. Half asleep and with a disfigured face, I set off for our appointment with TPAC. TPAC or Sunpet produces preforms, PET bottles and cans for a wide variety of food, beverage and non-food sectors, including pharmaceutical packaging. After an interesting introduction to the history of the company, we have a question and answer session with CEO Mr Shrinath Kasi and his colleague; he talks about TPAC’s activities in and outside of India.
Then we were on our way again on the Western Express Highway to Andheri East and I call my co-operation partner Avisha Desai and we arrange an off-the-cuff meeting in her office. Avisha is my main contact person in India at the local representation of Messe München, the “Messe München International” in Mumbai. We’ve known each other for about ten years and with their support and that of their team, PETplanet has successfully rocked many a Drink Technology India show since 2007. The Drink Technology India or “DTI”, which also supports this tour, meanwhile takes place as a local offshoot of the world’s leading drinktec trade fair in the cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Since the Mumbai edition has already taken place in 2018, these hubs will be taking place this year from 10 to 12 April for the first time in Bangalore and from 5 to 7 December for the second time in Delhi. In a relaxed atmosphere, Felix and I sit in the meeting room of the trade fair company in the Inizio office building and discuss the tour and, of course, the PETplanet appearance at the upcoming Bangalore edition of the DTI. At the conclusion, she gives us a hot tip for a nice restaurant with attached microbrewery in the Bandra Kurla Complex business district (BKC), the hip “Gateway Brewery”.
We reached the middle of the week and we’re meeting today in the southern part of Mumbai with Creative Group and Chemco. Both companies are located on the water in Nariman Point and conveniently located in the same street opposite. Since both appointments were recommended by Husky, we first meet Husky Business Manager Hirten Khati at and CEO at Creative Group. Surendra Agarwal. Dr. Agarwal, who is board member of various Associations beside his current post, gives us a comprehensive insight into the Indian plastics recycling efforts and the activities of Creative, which, with five plants in India, produces around 10 million containers daily, of which 30 % are PET. Just a couple of steps down the road, we meet Mr Vaibhav Saraogi, head of the preform, bottle and cap manufacturer Chemco, with his colleague, and also Yves Rebert, Husky GM for the regions of Southeast Asia & Central Asia, with his local PET Account Manager Rohan Shahane. Mr Saraogi tells us about the close cooperation with Husky and the common developments of recent years, in particular the new expansion in shrink film. After the appointment, it is already early evening, we drive a little further south to Colaba, where we visit the Gateway of India and find a little restaurant amongst the bustling colonial era streets.
It is Thursday and a very special Indian holiday, namely Holi, the festival of colours, which has become world famous and has generated countless offshoots. Since we have an appointment with Bericap in Pune on Friday morning, we decide to start today, so we do not have to rush tomorrow morning. We couldn’t meet anyone today in any case, because people are more concerned about their colourbags than interviews. I drove this route for the first time in a taxi in 2008, and it never seemed to end. No trace of it this time. When we leave in the morning with the Editourmobil, we are moving at such a pace that you think you must be anywhere other than India. The battles of the colours take place mainly in the courtyards of the houses and small streets and since nobody needs to go anywhere, the streets are deserted. In addition, compared to previously, the going is easier. On the way to Pune, there are so many colourful locals admiring us from a distance, cheering and waving – and no wonder, because our tour logo is also a Holi image and emblazoned all over the vehicle! In Pune itself we arrive in the afternoon and have some time to eat and look for a place for the night, which we also manage to find near the headquarters of Bericap. Here it is really quiet and in the distance you can hear only the celebrating Holi crowd from the local settlement. Dada, our driver, also has a surprise for us: the air conditioning has been repaired and is now running! There are no problems.
Promptly at 10:30 we are on the forecourt of the Indian plant of the closure manufacturer Bericap. CEO Rajesh Pantsachiv welcomes us with his Head of Sales Kedar Chitale. The injection moulding specialist is in the process of expanding locally and has added a new hall, which will soon be equipped with machines. Bericap manufactures closures for the beverage, food and non-food sectors and has for some time been focusing even more strongly on new developments with customers. In the afternoon we leave the industrial area and drive towards the airport, because the tour now takes a little break before it continues in Bangalore with the DTI. Stay tuned, it remains “dilachasp” (Hindi for “interesting, fascinating”)!