In an exclusive interview with Packaging 360, Mr. AVPS Chakravarthi, emphasizes why packaging has become the savior of all products we consume in these challenging times. He explains the various approaches to look at the packaging for the future as well.
P 360: What is Your Viewpoint on the current situation?
AVPS: At the beginning of the year I made a statement in opening remarks of a conclave that the year 2020 is a game-changer and industry as a whole will witness a wave of disruption. Well, we did not foresee the outbreak of COVID-19 A pandemic can be now called the mother of all disruptions. The world is literally upside down today and it has changed forever. At the World Packaging Organization, we state, “Better Quality of Life through better packaging for more people”. And that is proving to be true, time and again. In the aftermath of COVID-19, a packaging professional can feel proud of his field considering its enormous contribution to food and pharma sectors under the current Pandemic situation.
P 360: Can you elaborate the statement?
AVPS: Well, in simple terms Packaging sells what it protects; protects what it sells. From concept to shelf (or to delivery to your home), no one can deny the multifaceted role of packaging throughout the supply chain gamut. Imagine the absence of packaging during this ongoing pandemic when there is pressing demand for products like hand sanitizers & washes, surface cleaners, medicines, food/beverage, and scores of other daily use supplies. The norms of social distancing have resulted in more consumers shifting online for their needs, which include buying fresh produce online. Many of that would not have needed a minimum packaging if they are bought in a store.
P 360: Could you share some highlights of your packaging journey?
AVPS: I always feel proud to be a packaging professional, since I firmly believe packaging is the most contributing sector to society. Way back in 1984, I started my career in one of the country’s largest Papermills. For ten years I was in paper and paper board (BILT) industry. The real packaging saga started in 1994 when I was invited by BILT management to A& R packaging, the innovator of expresso and lined cartons. Ever since I have been associated with the packaging industry. Well, the technologies were old those days but enthusiasm and spirit were always futuristic.
Those were the days when we were making quality lined cartons for brands like AMUL, Tata Tea, Heinz, Rasna, MDH masala, etc. and exclusive expresso cartons to RB. Memories are still fresh, of working with likes of Nicky Hammer from Unilever on migration free packs for walls international ice cream. Well, we have come a long way since then. A
packaging convertor’s satisfaction cannot be measured in terms of the top-line or bottom line he achieves. It reflects every time he lived up to his customers’ expectations when he became part of product innovation or successful launch of a product with a great pack in terms of aesthetics, design, and performance. Fortunately, such instances are
bountiful in my career. Appreciations from likes of Mahashay Ji of MDH a quarter-century ago to CEOs of many pharma and FMCG companies today will remain fresh forever.
P 360: Packaging is equally important for every sector - why do you emphasize so much on pharmaceutical packaging?
AVPS: You may be aware of my statement - “Packaging Will Be Your Second Physician”. I assure you, there is every reason to believe it. And it’s all the more true under COVID-19, lockdown circumstances. Kudos to all the packaging scientists and innovators who work tirelessly on all those pharmaceutical packaging jobs which transform the industry, not just helping all those drugs retain the strength and efficacy all through the supply chain but becoming enabling devices in many self-administered medications. The pharmaceutical industry approach today is more user-centric and has personalized focus evolving from traditional methods. Sensitive and potent drugs are on the rise! The designing of packaging and its labeling is being decided right at the product development keeping in view convenience, safety, patient adherence, and so on. Packaging can actually play a key role in protecting the gamut of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Swift and effective communication among all the stakeholders viz., industry, users, and regulatory/controlling/ clearing authorities are possible by adopting the best Packaging practices. Translating a user-friendly design (which has become a primary requirement now) into adhering all technical specifications and addressing multiple user groups in the broadest sense, is always a challenge. Especially when you need to consider people of different cultures, habits, ages, languages their ability so on. Imagine a situation if a patient does not take his medication regularly as advised by the physician, no matter how the drug chemistry followed in drug development or the measures were taken to keep the shelf life. One should not forget the fact that the final contact between the patient and a drug is not the physician who prescribes drugs but it is a pharmaceutical package that takes this role!
P 360: Post pandemic, how do you foresee the future of packaging?
AVPS: My colleague and President of WPO, professor Pierre Pienaar said, “it seems that the COVID-19 crisis will be directly affecting us all across the world in some or other way for at least the next six months. Apart from the high demand for packaged dry foods like pasta and other foods with extended shelf life, what we will see is a focus on packaged fresh food in supermarkets” I personally feel, a lot depends on consumer psychology. Like in the case of pharmaceuticals, consumers look forward to having his food safely reach him. And there will be a greater reliance on the assumption that all packaged food is safe. And we currently witness an exceptional change in consumer behavior which also changes expectations from future products and so their packaging as well. The future Packaging is multidimensional, not that it was never the case before. As an integral part of the customer experience, packaging will require to live up to the expectations of product performance, visible tamper-evident features, vocal on sustainability attributes, and an enabler towards the distribution of fresh & preserved products. Well, the above expectations from the consumer may not be new, the statements are going to be firm henceforth. *if I want you to tell one trend post this pandemic... Well, as I stated above, the changed consumer psychology plays a greater role in all future purchases. A take away from lockdown experience maybe there will be more opportunities for innovative DIY food kits, which encourage the latent culinary skills of everyone.
Transparency in communication is of the highest importance. And the packaging is the best tool to achieve this objective. If the manufacturer succeeds in achieving customer confidence, his job is half done. So, let packaging enable customers to understand what all he wishes to know about the product. And the packaging professionals keep innovating to meet future demands.