In Chuna Mandi of Paharganj area in New Delhi, there is a well-known name Associated Plastics (AP), the supplier of plastic-based advertisement products since 1974. AP aims to becoming the leader in the market by providing effective sales and after sales service. It is located at Paharganj in New Delhi, which is well-connected with railway & road transport providing easy access to our valuable clients. AP tries its best to understand typical requirements of the markets ensuring the best services with the highest degree of integrity & honesty so as to remain reliable and reasonable amongst its customers.
AP deals in multiple products which can either be used for decorative purposes or for leaving better impact on environment. The portfolio of offerings comprises acrylic sheets, P.V.C. rigid sheets, laser engraving sheets, aluminium profile for slim & crystal light board, signage hanging system, spacers, etc. The portfolio also includes design, installation and after-sale services.
We, at Sign & POP World, got hold with Anil Gupta and Ankur Gupta – the Father and the Son; to know about AP’s journey of over four decades and how the son is taking the legacy forward. Notably, Anil Gupta is the president of Paharganj Traders’ Association. He also shared with us as how Chuna Mandi signage market emerged as the hub of signage solution providers. Here are the edited excerpts to follow:
When did your journey kick start?
In 1974, we set up a factory in Delhi for recycling acrylic sheets. We were only 3rd then, to offer such services. But this, we stopped in 1995 and started importing acrylic sheets from Sumipex of Thailand and UB Acrylic of Malaysia, as we found a huge opportunity in this segment. Till date, we are the sole distributor for both the companies. For now, we are one of the leading importers of acrylic sheets in India. Of our total imports, 60% goes in signage industry, and for rest, we cater to various other segments, especially interiors.
When did you enter Paharganj signage market?
In 1980, when we came in this market, there was one shop – Kapoor Plastics. We, Associated Plastics were only the second. At that time, no other material or substitute was available for signage, but acrylic. No printer was available to print on these sheets. Painters used to paint signage. Signboard makers used to carve out letters by cutting acrylic sheets with Hexa machine. Now, there are more than 150 shops offering signage solution. A lot of cutting and bending machines have been installed. This all shows that the business volume has increased manifolds.
When did the substitute for acrylic sheet get introduced to the market?
In 1993, Vinyl was introduced to the market. Two years later, in 1995, polycarbonate sheets were brought in as the first ever printable option for signage. As compared to acrylic sheets, it was easy to print on Vinyl, which was then pasted on polycarbonate sheets to change the face of the signage/signboard.
When did the revolution come in the signage market?
The year 2000 can be marked as the era that has brought remarkable change in the world of signage, once specialised trade exhibitions started happening in China. I remember, it brought a kind of revolution in the signage world.
When did Paharganj Signage Market emerge as the hub?
Paharganj got converted in to a hub of signage solution providers after 2005. Before that there were around 30-35 acrylic sheets sellers only. In 1995, we had 40 members in our Paharganj Signage Traders’ Association. The number scaled up over the years and today we have 125 members in the Association. However, 50% of the traders here are yet to get the membership.
How does the Association help its members?
As the designated chair holders in the Association, we have greater responsibilities to maintain an atmosphere to facilitate smooth functioning of the market. We take care of the proceedings in the market for if there is any update on the policy matters, we use to inform and update all our members on the same. We do offer a lot of other services and make sure that traders must not face any type of obstacle – be it official or unofficial. Twice we organise get together of all our members each year. In between, we occasionally meet local representative of the government to convey our problems so that there must be a solution within the stipulated time.
How has GST impacted the trade in Paharganj Market?
GST has made things easy as most of the transactions have become smooth, barring initial hiccups amid confusion which was aided by lack of knowledge and of various other instruments needed to complete the tax structure. The implementation of GST has ousted the small vendors who were making their living being, but also has shown them a way to come organised and make things definite for them. Owing to all this, there came a gestation in the trading activities for around 10 months as we got busy in updating our infrastructure to incorporate GST. We can say that the sale is yet to improve which we are eagerly waiting for. We are yet to reach our sales target which we used to achieve before GST. However, we are hopeful of a better and brighter future when things would be fully transferred on paper.
When did you start offering signage solution?
In 2013, we started offering signage solution when my son joined me. This led us to import both, raw materials as well as finished products to cater to the varied needs of the signage industry. Our clients are not the end-customers but vendors/mediators/signage makers, who have their own set of customers. Over the years, we have developed a very good repo with our clients amongst whom some prefer finished products, while some ask for raw materials using which they fabricate customised orders for their respective clients.
How has the advent of LEDs changed the signage industry?
With the entry of LEDs, signage industry knew no bounds as it recorded multi fold improvements in terms of tastes and preferences. Eventually, it added to the growth of the industry which led to enhanced business for us by not less than 10 times. All this happened just in five years.
By improvements, I mean the options for making signage have improved dramatically. For instance, display options have gone up by many notches. The most recent inclusion is fabric and magnetic light box which were not possible in the absence of LEDs.
When it comes to your portfolio of offerings, what new additions did you do in the last couple of years?
In terms of bringing new item to Indian market, we have recently introduced a profile made of FPVC, meant especially for Fabric Light Boxes, which we are importing from Korea. The material is tried and tested and has been proved a grand success in the world of indoor signage there in its home turf. It would surely bring down the cost of the final product by around 50% when compared with aluminium.
In the last few years, many new additions have been made to AP’s portfolio. For instance, we were not in to signage earlier, we added it to our list of offerings five years back. In the last couple of years, I have tried bringing in innovative items to enhance our portfolio like fabric light box, magnetic light box, and now this FPVC profile for the light box wherein we have been using aluminium profiles.
Do you import finished products or manufacture in-house?
We do import a few finished products but we also produce. We own fabrication units for signage making, which are fully-equipped with high-quality imported cutting & bending machines and CNC router. The LGP machine which we are using currently is of high precision. It not only produces quality finished products, but also complete the job within half the time spent on normal machines. We can produce any quantity depending on demand.
As far as raw materials are concerned, we are sourcing it from the best vendors from across the world. The products are well-tested and evaluated by our testing team before being introduced to the market. We make sure that these products are methodically examined on various quality parameters using latest testing devices and tools.
All the imported components are tested & tried in our facility for their respective designated functions. Once, we are satisfied with the quality then only we pass it to our valued customers – whether raw materials or finished products.
Do you also manufacture signage for outdoor applications?
We do manufacture signage for outdoor applications. As far as fabric is concerned, most of the time it is waterproofed and is UV-printed which itself is a quality certificate. For power supply and LEDs, we use imported waterproof components. We further these stuffs to our customers only once we are satisfied with the quality. It took us four decades to create & nurture a brand and we don’t want to play with the faith of our clients who helped us reach to this level.
How do you explore innovations?
Our market research team keeps a sharp eye on modern design and changes in products to match the pace with time and era. We believe in long term relationship with our clients and customers. Besides, we keep attending various international trade shows of repute and look for innovative products that we can introduce to our Indian customers.
What is your marketing strategy?
We have pan India presence with 42 dealers spread across the country. We would certainly expand this network in time to come. For all our customers, the credit period is elongated 45 days to keep them at ease for payment. As soon as we receive any order for raw materials or finished products, we import it to our vendors’ place thus saving a lot of their expenses on transportation. As far as foreign consignments are concerned, from Malaysia, it takes a week time, while from Thailand, three weeks are normal, depending on the rules of the country.