India's Uflex aims to double global manufacturing footprint by 2025

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Photo by Satnam Singh Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice chairman of the Uflex Ltd.'s Flex Films International subsidiary.

Uflex Ltd., one of India's largest multinational flexible packaging companies, is sketching out ambitious expansion plans to double the number of its factories globally by 2025.

"We are looking at doubling our overseas presence by expanding our global footprints to 10 to 12 locations from the current six greenfield facilities in the [United Arab Emirates], Mexico, Egypt, Poland and [United States] besides India, by 2025," said Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice chairman of the company's Flex Films International subsidiary. He spoke in a recent interview at its headquarters in Noida, outside New Delhi.

The global expansion plan for the company, which has about $1.07bn (€900m) in annual sales, has yet to reach the concrete stage. But Uflex is in discussions about the former Soviet bloc Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and the Far East as potential near-term targets, he said.

"Eastern Europe, specifically CIS states, and Latin America are an interesting market to expand in future," Chaturvedi said. "The Far East is a good M&A opportunity in the next two to three years. We may not opt for building a greenfield plant in the Far East but prefer to make an acquisition in the region."

The company is targeting annual sales in the range of $1.5bn (€1.2bn) by 2025, with a near-term goal of about $1.38bn (€1.16bn) in the next two to three years, he said.

Currently, the firm is growing 12 to 15% annually in the domestic market but marginally slower at 10 percent globally, with sales split roughly equally between domestic and overseas business.

Uflex, which has a US manufacturing plant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, plans on expanding its product range there.

"After building overseas presence, conscious efforts have been made to add value to the product range," he said, noting interest in building on its capacity in the United States to make in-line double-side coated polyester film, with a focus on high-barrier films.

"We believe high-barrier range is a game-changing product," he said. "The plan is to expand the categories to seven or eight with high-barrier specs. Holographic and nylon films are others to grow substantially. Metalized films are replacing aluminum foil, and this also happens to be one avenue where we need to expand our range."

He said there is no expansion going on in any of the overseas plants as the company had a very project-focused approach during its overseas expansion from 2000 to 2015.

"Now, strategy is changed with a greater focus on product-based growth," Chaturvedi said. "We would like to be in those countries not merely as local commodity manufacturer but someone who can add significant value in developing product particularly for that market or region."

He said the company may expand with specialized polymer film capacities in the United States and Poland, as those factories are both close to 100 percent capacity.

The US and Polish plants have one polyester line each. Mexico and the United Arab Emirates have two polyester film lines, while Egypt is the biggest plant with three lines of polyester, biaxially oriented polypropylene and cast polypropylene films.

Uflex started local manufacturing in Egypt in 2011, and maintained business amid political turmoil that began with street demonstrations that year.

"We kept our faith in the market with 40 million strong population and decided to go ahead with the investment despite political turmoil, as [it is] strategically located," he said.

The company has packaging facilities at multiple locations in India, with installed capacity of around 220.4 million pounds a year. Globally, it has cumulative installed capacity in excess of 742.9 million pounds a year.

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