Demonstrate value to net the consumer: Avery Dennison's Pankaj Bhardwaj

Pankaj Bhardwaj
Intelligent labelling can provide effective and quick solutions for engaging customers, managing inventories and preventing counterfeiting, Bhardwaj tells Shubhomoy Sikdar

What are the possibilities digital technologies have opened up when it comes to product package labelling?

Consumers adopting technology thanks to smartphone penetration and the government’s push for a digitised economy are creating many opportunities. Intelligent labels is one such opportunity. There are multiple applications of those. Say you are a wine connoisseur and you want to know about the entire lifecycle of the grapes that went into it — from cultivation to fermentation and bottling — or the right type of food it goes with. You can access some of it through the label. But if we insert a chip in that label that you can decipher with the help of your smartphone, it opens the door to a plethora of add-on information that helps you and the brand to engage with each other. You simply scan that chip and it can run a promo or connect you to a link where a celebrity is endorsing the wine. So, for our client it provides an opportunity to run a campaign right there and brand owners too get a lot of information about consumer preferences. That kind of information was invaluable to a brand. 

The other big application of a technology here is enabling better track and trace. Consider you are a pharma manufacturer and you ended up supplying a batch which for some reasons is not complying with the standards and therefore, a recall needs to be enabled. A pharma recall is very complex because it goes to multiple channels: The medicines in large batches go to a warehouse, then to the distributor from where it goes to the reseller and then to the consumer or a hospital. But if you have left a digital impression, each time it has exchanged hands, you can pretty easily recall it. So the labels that we have now would be able to leave a digital footprint at every step through technology, that is, radio-frequency identification or RFID technology that we are investing in big time. 

The third thing the same technology can do is make it counterfeit-proof. Anti-counterfeiting is also a very big task.

It’s a problem for large brands. And it's a bigger problem for the pharma sector because it is related to lives. The same technology can also be used for anti-counterfeiting because now you are leaving a digital impression. You can possibly know at which stage, if at all, there was any counterfeiting done. 

How much of this is already happening in India?

We are living in a connected world where technology is moving reasonably fast. India is not a laggard in technology adoption. You just need to show the consumer the value. Smartphone penetration in India has been a huge success story because consumers value it. You need to make it more affordable and really make it easy to work.

There is a lot happening in some European countries and in the US. Now the same technology can be used for significantly improving the baggage loading efficiency for airlines and reduce lost baggage events. Lost baggage is an expensive event for an airline because it has to do some extra bit to deliver the baggage; for you it's expensive because you have to manage the situation after the loss. This problem can be solved by the same technology which we are talking about, that is, RFID because ultimately it's about track and trace .  

Can you tell us the other areas where mass adoption of these technologies can be a game changer? 

Myntra is experimenting with a pilot project where you put the cart to a place and the check-out happens automatically as the money goes out either through your wallet or through your credit card if you insert the credit card in the machine. This gives users a frictionless shopping experience as there is no queue. Then there are medical companies that face many challenges because they deal with a number of products that can expire very fast. And in that business, it is extremely important to manage and maintain the inventory. So, we are talking to few of them for managing their whole expiry and shelf life so that their supply chain is far more efficient.  

Your line-scan programme — where you scan your client's manufacturing lines to identify areas which need work — has been going on for a while. What are the key learnings here? 

We started two years back. One of our biggest problems is that we are not as efficient and productive as some manufacturers in some other countries. Are we able to turn in as much work in an eight-hour shift as possibly some other evolved manufacturing countries do? The answer is likely to be a no or maybe and definitely not a yes. Each of them wants to be more efficient and more productive and churn out more with the machines, time and manpower they have. And this programme is targeting them. 

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