Wrapping professionally

Wrapping professionally

Wrapping professionally

Going beyond the primary function of storage and combining elements of aesthetics and ergonomics, packaging is a science and art today, writes Vimal Kedia

A homemaker walks into a supermarket to buy her breakfast cereal needs. As she approaches the shelves displaying oats from probably a dozen brands, she is instantly drawn to a new brand, which has been packaged in an attractive packet with vibrant colours and design. The customer makes her choice - she picks the new brand on an impulse and proceeds to pay. Such is the power of packaging that it can influence a sale just through visual gratification.

Today’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market is a veritable battleground. Brands are competing with each other  not only  through innovation in their products, but also in the way they present the product.  Packaging is  both a science and an art today; it goes beyond the primary function of storage to combining elements of aesthetics and ergonomics, to offer visual gratification to the consumer.

Virtually, everything we need or consume today requires packaging, the list being never ending; fresh fruits, vegetables, atta, chappatis, milk and every edible item come in packaged forms. The Indian packaging industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. The estimated size of the industry is $18.8 billion, growing at   12% -15% annually. Over the next five years the sector is set to triple its growth to $60 billion.  The large middle class, liberalization of the economy and the organised retail sector are reasons for fueling this growth in packaging. With a per capita consumption of packaging at just 4.3 kg per person annually, India offers a huge opportunity to grow. In comparison, Germany’s per capita consumption is 42 kg per person annually and that of China is 20 kg.

What must the industry do to encash the enormous growth potential and opportunities? The need is to create a large talent pool of trained and specialized packaging professionals who will be able to help the industry in this growth. To achieve this, the government of India and the trade bodies have played a stellar role in setting up premier institutions like the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), catering to the needs of the packaging industry.

Unlike the past, today we have many opportunities to acquire specialized degrees and qualifications in niche areas of specialization like packaging. There is no need to  spend a lot of money to go abroad to acquire these specialist qualifications; courses are available in our country. Students and professionals with a background in science, technology, engineering and allied fields can enroll for various courses on offer at the IIP centres across the country and become qualified packaging professionals.  

Students, after passing out from such courses find employment in multi-national and Indian companies like Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, GSK, P&G, ITC, CavinKare, USL, Marico, Himalaya Healthcare, Emami, Dabur etc.

Another very encouraging aspect is that many students employed by MNCs get opportunities to go abroad and get exposure at their global offices. Most MNCs have a mandate to rotate their resources globally and packaging professionals form a part of this too.

Apart from MNCs and Indian companies, many packaging convertors like manufacturers of plastic, glass and paper packaging too employ students from packaging institutes to add expertise & value to their organizations.

The students are involved in product development, packaging development, vendor development and procurement. It is very interesting to note that packaging professionals are offered a variety of roles like packaging engineer, packaging supervisor, managers in freight forwarding, package specialists, material management and other niche specialist jobs.

It can be said that many of these roles which were earlier handled by non-specialists are now been earmarked for specialists, thus creating many opportunities for employment and career development.

Currently,  there is on offer a variety of courses for specialization in packaging like the 2-year full time PG diploma in packaging, 3-month full time certificate programme in packaging and 18-months graduate diploma in packaging technology through distance education. Every year nearly 200 students across the three specializations find immediate placement in leading FMCG and pharmaceutical companies on completion of their course.

On your next visit to the supermarket, think about the professionalism that has gone into the packaging of your favorite product or even better think of a career option that involves making products attractive for retail shelves and discerning eyes of consumers.

(The writer is regional chairman of Indian Institute of Packaging, Bangalore)