It’s more than a couple of years now that Universal Products has been manufacturing and supplying an eco-friendly solution named EcoSigns, a high-quality substrate which is fully recyclable as well as biodegradable, and can easily replace PVC bill boards, banners, standees, vehicle wraps, etc. The company claims to have the proof that EcoSigns doesn’t emit hazardous gases when it comes in contact with chemical like solvent ink, and hence, it is pretty safe for both people and environment.
So, it was time to update the industry stakeholders about the rapidly expanding market presence of EcoSigns. The propounder of this eco-friendly media took this responsibility on its shoulder to make the world PVC Flex-free, which has been proved to be hazardous not only to environment but also to the people attached therewith. In an exclusive conversation with Sign & POP World, Dipen Mehta, the Company’s Director, threw some light on the development thereafter, and the exciting future prospects. Here are the excerpts to follow:
How has been the response from the market for EcoSigns? At what growth rate is EcoSigns as a signage media is moving ahead?
It took some time in the beginning but as the market became aware of this product, many corporate companies, printers and advertising agencies have accepted, and are utilising this media. They have realised that the printing quality on this material PE EcoSigns, which is equally compatible on solvent and eco solvent machines, is far better than any other substrate. The genuineness of this certified recyclable/bio-degradable product has caused a steady increase in the growth rate as new customers are being added every day.
Now that the ban on flex has been almost lifted, how do you see the scope for EcoSigns media?
No state has lifted the ban. In fact, The Environment Ministry of India has passed policies for Solid Waste Management to ban all ‘one-time use plastic’ and non-recyclable materials by 2020. Many more states will be added to this list soon. Under the policy, all other substrates currently available in the market to replace PVC Flex have to provide certificates of recyclability as even for those substrates, the base material is plastic or coated one, although it might be PVC-free.
But at the same time, all plastics are not bad. Meanwhile, digital printing and advertising industries have invested a lot in the machinery and many people’s lives depend on this industry. And for it to survive, Government should provide proper guidelines or notifications and allow approved laboratory-certified recyclable and biodegradable materials. This will put a cap on the use of non-recyclable materials and restrict the amount of solid waste generated from this industry. All connected industries and corporate companies should understand the issue of this hazardous waste, and accordingly support the government for a better tomorrow. What we give to nature comes back to us. It is, therefore, up to us to decide what we want for our generations to come!
The scope of PE EcoSigns is high as this is 100% recyclable and biodegradable, as certified by government authorised laboratories.
You have so many variants of EcoSigns in the market. Which one is the most sought after and why?
The variants available with us are Front-lit, Backlit, Block out and Pre-gummed (widely known as vinyl) materials. The turnover of front-lit media is at its peak and pre-gummed media is also showing more improvement. As the government is strict in a few states to implement the law to stop hazardous materials, demand from the government and other users is tending to go on the higher side. Our product has intrigued not only the people of our country, but other countries as well.
In which all segments – Corporate, Retail, Residential, Industrial, etc. – is EcoSigns creating its space?
Our target is corporate sector and government organisations. Many corporate companies are trying to replace flex with PE EcoSigns. We offer a buy back policy and pay Rs 15/kg to return our material to us after the use, for recycling purposes. We believe the government has to issue guidelines to all manufacturers to be accountable. We are responsible for the recycling and this makes it easier for the advertising industry to achieve its ‘zero waste’ target.
Recently, a test report has proved that EcoSigns is bio-degradable. How and to what extent is this going to help EcoSigns in becoming a favoured media for signage fraternity?
The specific order of BBMP of Bengaluru has driven us to develop this biodegradable material. With continuous efforts of our technical and R&D team, we have improved our material from being 100% recyclable to even being biodegradable as per IS/ISO 15985. These materials had been sent to the laboratories for testing, and we have received positive reports for the same.
As per the IS/ISO 15985 reports, the material partially biodegrades within 68 days. It would take further 14 to 15 months to get completely bio-degraded. With genuine certificates insisting PE EcoSigns as 100% PVC-free, 100% recyclable, and biodegradable as per IS/ISO 15985; we are ready to replace PVC Flex and any other non-recyclable material. We are proud to offer one single material with all features for better tomorrow.
With so many positives happening around, do you have any plan of capacity expansion in near future?
Definitely, yes! Our current production capacity is 40,000 sqm/day, with maximum width of 60″ (5 feet). We have planned for a future expansion of 1,20,000 sqm/day, for 126″ (10.5′) width. Once we are into 126″ width, our range will be complete and we will be able to offer 100 % recyclable material to all across India and the world. Meanwhile, we are also expanding our trade network and hence, looking for channel partners in all the regions of India. Interested industry stakeholders/people can contact us for a fruitful association to take this innovation to its maximum level. Together, it is possible to achieve the targets.
How many dealers/channel partners do you have as of now? When are you going to expand this network?
Currently, we have our dealers in the states of Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. We welcome interested people from different states with like vision to support us in promoting and expanding the market of this media. They would be appointed as the channel partners of that particular state. Each interested investor will be given the distributionship of one particular zone of India. As soon as we get distribution associates with us, we will go for expansion as production infrastructure to enhance capacity is ready with us and will take 6 to 8 months to start the unit in full capacity.
Which region is showing you more potential for EcoSigns? And why?
EcoSigns has drawn a lot of attention from the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, following the ban on the usage of PVC Flex that was either imposed or in the process of being imposed by the respective state governments. More is to come from other parts of the country owing to the certified proof of EcoSigns being both recyclable as well as biodegradable, which I believe is the most important factor behind its gaining acceptance, and hence, popularity among the signage and printing fraternity.
What steps are you taking to promote it among the PSPs as well as the end-consumers to push the demand?
We have a strong marketing team promoting our product through different ways including social media, hosting events and talks. We don’t miss opportunity to take part in business exhibitions as it is one of the best ways to market. Active assistance is given to our channel partners in capturing as much of the market as possible.
Our objective is to do better for the environment and society. Once the material is on the role in the market, we are sure it will generate the demand itself. We need like-minded people, agencies and printers who can pitch for the corporates and make them aware of this media.
Where do you see this media in a couple of years from now?
At its zenith! As for now, this is the only certified recyclable/biodegradable media available as genuine material to replace hazardous substrates used in India or in part of the world. Further, we will have a very big opportunity once we are into 126″ width, and are sure of reaching this stage very soon. The Government of India has already announced that by 2020, the usage of all ‘One time use and non recyclable plastics’ will be completely stopped in the entire country. Therefore, we are expecting a huge growth following the resultant demand for this product.
No matter what the future holds for our business, our objective to do better for the society and the environment will remain the same. This innovation is one of our notable contributions to save this green environment. With this belief that Earth is the only one planet to live in, we hope that all the corporate companies, advertising and printing industries would understand the need to save this planet and would surely come forward to support us.
We must do whatever we can to save this planet. Our society has done a lot for us now it is our turn to wake up and as responsible businessmen take the initiative within our capabilities to give back to the society so as to give our future generation a sustainable environment to live in.