Kolkata and Eastern India

Here we are at the next stage of our Indian Road Trip in Kolkata, covering Eastern India, the fastest growing PET region in India. First we visit leading edible oil producer Emami Agrotech and learn that PET has not taken over as the leading packaging material for edible oil yet. This is different from most other parts of India and other Asian markets. Here, most of the oil is still packed in tins, pouches and in rather old-fashioned and unappealing HDPE containers. However, the company also has a personal and healthcare division. It is here that the hair oils are filled into PET bottles, including the company’s flagship product Navratna Oil, a therapeutic cooling oil which is said to provide relief from daily mental and physical stress. As PETplanet Insider, we couldn’t resist trying it out, and we can confirm its enjoyable cooling effect.

Next day we cross the holy Ganges river and head to Howrah where most of the PET companies are located. Our first stop is Indo Plast Packaging, a producer of preforms and bottles for pretty much every sector. We are welcomed by the company owner Varun Dabriwal who introduces his company and the PET market to us. He estimates that the East Indian PET market grows by about 20% annually. His company has also shown strong growth rates over the last few years, making it necessary to expand capacity. Land is already available next to the existing plant and we are invited to come back again in the future to visit the new facility. Before we have to leave, we are served yummy Indian sweets as a gesture of friendship.

In the afternoon we visit Epitome Petropack, one of the leading preform manufacturers for Pepsi and Coca Cola. Company Director Sumit Poddar started out producing preforms on Husky machines back in the year 2011. While his company has steadily grown over the last eight years, he has seen many smaller preform manufacturers coming to the market only to disappear again shortly afterwards. “No compromising on quality is the key” he mentions during our discussion, referring to his machines and quality control processes.

Then we have the chance to visit Magpet, the largest preform and bottle manufacturer in Eastern India. We are welcomed by the Magpet team with a specially erected #Magpet selfie booth decorated with all kinds of preforms and caps (thank you Magpet team!). The company was founded by the dynamic and charismatic Devendra Surana 20 years ago. Starting with a modest and small set up in the 90’s, the company has come a long way to become the market leader in Eastern India with more than 500 customers and plants in Kolkata and Guwahati. The passion for PET can be seen in every detail and there is a constant drive to add value to the PET products. For example, the company was the first to introduce the Alaska neck to Eastern India. Several other designs have also shaped the PET market.

IMIL means Indian Made Indian Liqueurs, and stands for one of the liqueur categories in India. While in most countries liqueur and spirits are still bottled in glass, Indian IMIL products are now entirely bottled in PET. During the discussion with liqueur producer IFB Agro, we learn how strictly regulated the Indian liqueur market is. For example, government officials are a permanent fixture in the factory to make sure that everything is in order and that the correct quantity of taxable bottles is produced. At the end of the shift the key has to be handed over to the government official.

We round off our East Indian tour with a visit to IVL Dhunseri, the company behind the well-known “ASPET” brand. Here in Eastern India we have seen their PET resin used in nearly every factory. Naturally, we want to find out more about it. The company has its plant in Haldia, the petrochemical hub of Eastern India located about 3 hours from Kolkata. On the way to the plant we are stopped by the police: general traffic control. This is not uncommon due to the pending election and most probably one of the reasons why our beloved Editourmobil is temporarily not with us. After checking our bags, the rather serious looking police allowed us to continue. The PET resin plant is impressive. From here the company exports to customers in more than 40 countries, including to major CSD drink suppliers. But the plant offers more: it has a health facility for the employees, its own fire station, which is also able to provide emergency service for the local community, and a greenbelt with fruit garden and a temple shrine. A refreshingly nice plant environment in the rather grey city of Haldia. After a delicious lunch in the company canteen we return to Kolkata. Whilst we were at IVL Dhunseri, we were informed of an exceptionally heavy storm front approaching Eastern India and Kolkata. Fani, the strongest cyclone in decades, is expected to cause landslides tomorrow. Stay tuned.

By Michael Maruschke