17 May 2019 18:33 IST

The dominance of JK Paper in a digital world

The 60-year-old company leads in the copier paper market, and is second largest in the coated segment

Amid all the talk about paperless offices, one important fact seems to be forgotten: that the digital revolution has actually made paper more, not less, necessary to our existence.

People needed paper in the olden days mainly for education, communication, information and documentation; today, however, it is all around us. The printer needs a special GSM paper. Flyers have glossy finishes. And there are cheques, newspapers, records and laser-printed credit card receipts — to name a few. The paper industry is thriving like never before; and at the forefront of the Indian paper market is JK Paper.

JK Paper Ltd is part of the JK Organisation, which was founded in 1918 by Kamalapati Singhania. The initials are said to stand for Juggilal and Kamalapat (father and son).

Beginning, design and variety

The company is about 60 years old today and started with the manufacture of straw boards in Bhopal. The first fine paper machine was installed in 1962.

In 2002, it became the first paper company to outsource some of its paper grades, such as uncoated wood-free paper (maplitho), one-side coated paper (chromo), packaging boards and similar items. The stringent standards it had followed till then were implemented in this product selection as well.

The company, which is growing both organically (with new technology incorporated at its older factories) and inorganically (through acquisitions), is said to be one of India’s largest wood-based paper manufacturers. Its pulp and paper manufacturing operations are integrated.

It has two manufacturing facilities, at Rayagada in Odisha (copier, coated and maplitho paper) and Fort Songadh in Gujarat (packaging board and specialty paper along with copier and maplitho). A majority stake of more than 75 per cent was acquired at Sirpur Paper Mills recently and test runs have begun. (The factory is expected to start full production in June 2019.)

These units have been certified ISO 9001 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System), OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health & Safety Management System) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council – the mark of responsible forestry) compliant.

JK Paper offers a variety of paper products of different grades - from 58 GSM (grams per square metre) to 300 GSM - sold across multiple categories such as office paper, packaging boards, printing and writing paper It also makes specialty paper such as MICR cheque paper, parchment and cedar digital.

All products are made available to the customer through an extensive distribution network comprising four regional offices, more than 200 wholesalers and over 4,000 dealers across the country. Companies such as Accenture, Bennett & Coleman, Cipla, Hewlett Packard, Infosys, SBI, Wipro and S Chand are its customers.

Per capita consumption of paper in India is reportedly about one-fourth of the global average, at 13 kg. Today, JK Paper is the leader in India's copier paper segment, the second largest in the coated paper segment and a leading player in the packaging board segment (23 per cent, 12 per cent and 11 per cent market share, respectively).

The firsts

The company has many firsts to its credit. It was the first company to brand paper in the Indian paper market, thus virtually creating an industry; it was the first Indian and globally the third company to receive TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) certification from the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance; it was the first to invest in a world-class pulp mill, the first to be certified ISO:9001 and ISO:14001 compliant, and the first to produce and sell HP’s ColorLok copier paper in India. It was also the first to offer surface-size wood-free paper.

JK Paper's products are exported to more than 54 countries including the US, the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and several African & Middle Eastern nations. The exports are said to contribute around 7-8 per cent of the total turnover of the company, which was ₹3,070 crore (its highest ever sales) in 2017-18. It has won the CAPEXIL Special Export Award twice.

As paper is sourced from hardwood tree varieties like the eucalyptus, subabul and casuarina, JK Paper has developed its own farm forestry initiative. Farmers were encouraged to plant these varieties on about 150,000 hectares of plantations across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. This enhanced their livelihoods while providing the company with the resources needed close to its manufacturing facilities.

The company claims to be net carbon positive, planting more trees than are harvested for paper. It also signed an ERPA (Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement) with the Bio Carbon Fund of the World Bank, which covered 3,500 hectares and benefited marginal farmers.

A recharging and rainwater harvesting system ensures water conservation. The company has also reduced wastewater discharge, installed solar heaters for producing clean energy, and modified its use of freshwater, power and chemicals (per tonne of paper manufactured) to achieve best results.

Eco-friendly

All these steps have won it several awards on the environmental front, including the ‘Greenest Paper Mill’ rating from the Centre for Science and Environment. It won the Water Efficiency Award in 2017 at Brussels, Belgium; and the 17th Annual ‘Greentech Environment Award’ for outstanding achievement in the areas of environment management among others.

JK Paper has launched several initiatives to increase brand awareness. From the Trade Loyalty Programme (the first of its kind in the Indian paper industry) for its business partners — the JK Paper SuperSitare Trade Relationship Programme — to the Daakroom letter-writing carnival, ‘Letter to my Supermom’, ‘The Write-up’ and many more, for individual customers, it reaches out to partners in many ways.

The company pushes its products through the offer of free samples, point of sale displays, outdoor advertising (JK Shoppes), national consumer promotion schemes, radio and internet advertising (brand videos on Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube), ads in print media (magazines), road shows and participation in exhibitions such as the Stationery Fair, Paperex and Jaipur Book Fair. All these give it a hands-on interaction with regular and prospective customers.

In fact, JK Paper was quick to take advantage of the ban on single-use plastic and launch its ‘Switch to Paper’ campaign. It also launched social media campaigns on Mother’s Day and International Forest Day.

Social responsibility

Long before CSR became a mantra for corporates, JK Paper took interest in the lives of communities living near its manufacturing facilities, providing assistance through pucca road connections, organising health care camps (neo-natal care, child health and eye health), offering training and assistance in getting loans for women and youth of marginalised sections, setting up schools for children with special needs, and arranging for adult education centres.

It is no wonder that the company has won so many national and international awards on the CSR front, including the Best Performance award on CSR by the National Board of Workers Education & Development, the Ficci appreciation certificate for being a socially responsible corporate and the “Innovative in CSR Practices” award instituted by World CSR Day & World Sustainability Organisation (2016).

The company has won several safety awards, showing its dedication to its employees’ well-being. These include the Award of Honour for Outstanding Safety Performance (NSC, USA) and the 1992 Sword of Honour Award from the British Safety Council.

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