Pankaj Poddar, Group Chief Executive Officer, Cosmo First,
in an interaction with Industry Outlook, shares his views on the current evolution of specialty films industry, recyclability and sustainability, quality control and more.
The specialty films sector is witnessing some interesting advancements such as the usage of biodegradable and water-soluble films. How do you perceive these developments for recyclability and sustainability?
Water soluble films have limited applications in our country owing to several reasons. It cannot be used in large-scale applications. Therefore, it will remain niche at least for the next few years until the departmental stores become a major segment in the country. The cost factor is also expected to be a challenge. However, the biggest push is on the recyclability
has a concern since in most cases you need industrial biodegradability where the cost is a concern and the carbon footprint may not be as good as expected. Plastics have one of the lowest carbon footprints within the packaging segment. However, what is most important is how you can recycle it. In the last few years, the government has been focusing on recyclability or end-of-life disposal and this has certainly increased. With continuous focus, it is expected to improve further.
The other significant part is the waste management segment. The government will have to play a much larger role in terms of waste management of plastic. Once the focus is on waste management, there will be much more recycling of plastic waste and it will happen automatically. Today, India has one of the largest recycling ecosystems in the world. This is because people understand the value of recycling waste materials and it is not just limited to plastic, but even newspapers.
Waste segregation and waste management
are critical, and it is important to educate the public at large, so, that they do not throw waste anywhere and it goes through a regulated way. Once this happens, the segregation would be much better, and the recycling industry will grow at a faster rate.
Owing to the specialized nature of specialty films, manufacturers may have difficulty in maintaining consistent quality between batches of produced films, which can lead to returns or customer
dissatisfaction. What solution or approach do you suggest for ensuring quality control?
There are several approaches to ensure quality. The first step is to invest in research and development. Because if you follow a copy-and-paste approach, without having the right R&D team in place to design a new technology, then there would arise problems where you would always try to replicate somebody else without properly understanding the problem. And this leads to more quality issues and also impacts the goodwill or brand name of a company. Therefore, it is highly crucial to invest in R&D.
The second is the compliance part as these are the two critical things to keep in mind. Of late, I see numerous companies investing in research, however, everybody has to go back to see if they are investing enough. The big companies in the world are spending between 0.5% to 8% of their sales on R&D. And, what we see is that companies that are spending more are growing faster, which very clearly tells you that right from the day of inception, a company should invest in the Research & Development since it is as critical as investing on plant and machinery.
The third factor is to have defined processes and there should not be any exception to the process part. But unfortunately, if a company starts making exceptions without conducting enough trials, and thinks it can change the raw material or the process without getting the customer’s approval, it will be a wrong approach. Moreover, in the specialty films industry, the customers are very specific about their requirements. Therefore, if you intend to make any change to your processes or products for any reason, you should always inform your customer about the change before implementing it.
The fourth factor is to have all the necessary quality instruments, research and development instruments that the customer is looking for,and the right infrastructure to measure that internally.
Winning customer loyalty is very important in the specialty films market. Companies must come up with new and attractive product offerings to maintain their customer base. What approach do you propose for this?
Coming up with new and attractive product offerings always starts with the ‘need’. As I said, some people only try to replicate the success of others, which may or may not be the right strategy. You have to simply look at who your customers are and what are they looking for. And once you know that, and understand their problem, you have to start thinking of a solution and begin to develop a solution with them. But if you simply copy, and paste the existing solutions then your knowledge will always be limited and you will always be left behind. If you have to become innovative, it all starts with meeting your customers' needs.
What would be your suggestion for a small or medium-sized enterprise in this field?
Firstly, I would strongly recommend that small or medium-sized enterprises have a research team. Without that, the growth will always be limited. Secondly, I would advise them to follow processes and not compromise on them. SMEs should run their organizations professionally and prevent it from being a one-man show. If they think so, the growth will also be constricted.
How do you see the specialty films market evolving in the near future?
This market will continue to evolve and specialty films will become a commodity. Hence, there will always be a need to understand the customer's problems, and try and find new solutions for them. One will have to build the necessary infrastructure, understand customer issues, and develop the required products.