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November 29, 2023

Digital Printers Can Solve the Packaging Predicament for Startups

# Labels & Packaging
# Sales and Marketing
# APJ

As more new businesses aim to create eye-catching designs that position their products well without breaking the bank, here's how print and packaging firms should approach them.

Nihal Choudyal is Senior Program Manager for business consultancy NSRCEL IIM in Bangalore, India. NSRCEL helps entrepreneurs in India get access to resources they need to grow, and supports academic research to promote a better understanding of best practices. Its five focus areas are teaching and training, research, incubation, mentoring, and event and ecosystem activities.

Nihal loves helping business owners solve their most relevant problems and aid them in their growth, and below he shares his perspective on the packaging needs of startups. Although NSRCEL is focused on helping businesses in India, his insight applies to printers around the world who aim to increase their packaging sales.

Founders of startups face a formidable challenge — deciphering the packaging puzzle. The quest for eco-friendly and innovative, yet economical, packaging is an arduous journey, with costs at times surpassing those of shipping.

The good news for packaging and printing manufacturers: It's also an opportunity to address some of these challenges and position themselves as valuable partners to scale their business with this customer segment.

One of the biggest problems for new businesses is providing packaging that aligns with quality, innovation and sustainability while staying within budgetary constraints. The dilemma intensifies when packaging costs overshadow shipping expenses, necessitating ingenious strategies to strike a balance.

Startups typically have to introduce products seasonally. Take, for example, special gift boxes during celebrations and holidays. These season-driven patterns add a layer of complexity for most startups. At such times, how does a founder decide the initial quantity, especially when uncertainty shrouds the product's market reception? Challenges such as this often extend to ensuring availability of packaging during high demands, customization within tight timelines and remaining cost-effective. This trifecta of problems tends to be perpetual and demands delicate handling.

Startups also grapple with the intricacies of designing packaging, ensuring aesthetics with effective costs. The goal is clear: create eye-catching designs that position the product well, without breaking the bank.

This problem is further exacerbated for startups that require custom-tailored sustainable packaging in small runs. The diversity in sizes and shapes poses a conundrum: how to design standardized packaging solutions that accommodate the verdant variety? Moreover, many startups themselves are unclear — the dichotomy of "more vs. less" takes center stage — a struggle to understand the consumer mindset: Does personalization make a difference, or will having a sustainable / eco-friendly solution be enough?

Balancing these considerations and arriving at a solution is a delicate dance. The quest for reliable vendors that run the long journey with their clients is a constant struggle for startups seeking solutions to this challenge. To keep costs low, vendors usually insist on single-use alternatives, which are environmentally detrimental.

Many startups also require packaging based on the unique product positioning of their venture. For a service-based venture, the lack of consumer interaction with physical products amplifies the challenge of crafting an enticing yet sustainable packaging solution for events.

A food-and-beverage brand might require specialized glass jars, spill-proof packaging or compostable pocket-sized pouches. They may also face challenges in terms of preserving freshness for preservative-free food products. Such startups are often not equipped with enough knowledge to solve these problems.

These challenges faced by startups present a unique avenue for packagers and printers to catalyze solutions and scale their businesses. Packagers and printers can pioneer the development of cutting-edge, cost-effective and eco-friendly packaging solutions. The challenge of small minimum-order quantities becomes an opportunity for specialization, offering tailored options that meet startups’ unique requirements. Collaboration between startups and packaging experts can yield creative designs that seamlessly merge aesthetics with affordability, addressing the dual challenge of customization and cost-cutting.

In the quest for good vendors, packaging professionals can establish themselves as reliable partners, guiding startups in navigating the complex vendor landscape. Education on sustainable printing options positions printers as essential consultants, aiding startups in making informed choices. For live plants, as an example, packaging experts can contribute by crafting adaptable and standardized solutions that accommodate diverse shapes and sizes.

Encouraging consumer engagement becomes a joint venture, as packagers introduce features that prompt packaging returns. Addressing financial constraints with premium products, packagers can strike a balance between luxury and affordability. This synergy between startups and packaging professionals not only addresses challenges but also propels the collective mission toward a more innovative, sustainable and economically viable packaging ecosystem.

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