Jagannath M Wagle, managing director of Ajman-based Sigma Middle East Labels Industries LLC, shares with Packaging MEA the challenges and triumphs of his career to date.

How did you enter print?
 I started working in sales in January 2004. I was new to labels or printing because I had an IT background. The owner had invested in the business, which was new to him, and wanted my help. He probably might have seen something in me. I knew nothing about the labels, cylinders, the plates, or anything about printing.

Why did you set up on your own?
As it was totally new field for me I struggled a lot. I built my customer base in the UAE for labels with my hard work and my sales strategy. I understood the complete business from scratch as I had no one to teach me. By 2010, before leaving the company, I was giving my employer a revenue of AED4,00,000 per month with just a three-colour Mark Andy 830 flexo press machine. But I knew that if I could do this for some other company then surely I could do this for myself.

What kit did you start with?
This was about the time that I made friends with a person from Germany. The company that he was working for wasn’t doing well. He had two machines and therefore his boss had asked him to sell one. He offered me a used Mark Andy 830 for AED150,000. Being my friend, he offered to give me the machine for an advance of half the price of the machine and balance on instalment. This was an opportunity which God gave me and I didn’t want to lose it. I always heard God gives everyone a chance in life. It’s in our hands to grab the chance and change our destiny. My wife and my brothers were my backbone. They supported me with their life time savings. This is how I started my own printing business with a verysmall setup with only two employees. I decided to print liners for tape industry.

How were the early years?
The following years of 2013, 2014, and 2015 weren’t particularly great for my business. My operator met with an accident and I operated the machine personally for about two months. I was starting to rack up a lot of debts and I was delaying on some payments to my suppliers. I was not in a very good financial position till about 2015.

What held the company back?
The machine that I had invested in was not very efficient. There was a lot of wastage and the makeready time for this machine was high.

How did you resolve this issue?
I decided to invest in a newer machine. Gauging was an issue in the older machine and caused me a lot of wastage and loss of time. This was not an issue on the new machine. It was great investment for me. The old machine only let me do five or six jobs in a shift. The new machine lets me achieve 10 jobs in a shift. Both the machines are in use almost all the time. We work 24/7.

What purchases do you plan?
By the end of 2018 I am planning to go for a full servo machine and enter the unsupported films business for doing all types of printing. I am also planning to upgrade my factory space.

What challenges remain?
Some of the companies I do printing jobs for don’t have their own designers. My designers have to design everything for certain clients. The other challenge is meeting the deadline for certain deliveries. Some customers expect the work to be completed in an unrealistic period of time.

What are the firm’s strengths?
The printing industry in the UAE consists of either really big companies or small businesses. Medium-scale printing businesses such as myself are really scarce and I can count my actual competition with my fingers. The thing that sets me apart from my large-scale competition is that, being the owner of the company, I am personally involved in the day-to-day activities of the business and I make sure that my customers will get the best prices, support, and service. I also ensure that my customers get what they require as quickly as possible.

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