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Flex Films is an American business story
Chicago — For both Anant Chaturvedi and Uflex Ltd., America has been a place to grow and make a mark on the world.
For the man, it has been a way to strike out on his own and move beyond his father's rather large shadow, Chaturvedi said.
For the company, it has been a way to move closer to customers, create value and go beyond commodity markets.
Chaturvedi is Indian by birth, but American by choice, having become a U.S. citizen.
He views the country as a land of opportunity for both himself and his film-making company, which operates as Flex Films (USA) Inc. at a plant in Elizabethtown, Ky.
For years, the company imported film into the United States, but eventually decided it needed to have a direct presence in this market to ultimately succeed here. Production began in Elizabethtown in 2013.
"When you are not present in a market, and you are not actively involved to see what the trends are, it becomes very hard for you to guess," Chaturvedi said during an interview at the recent Pack Expo in Chicago.
"When you have your ear to the ground, you can pivot quickly. You can change your resources around to respond to the market," he said.
Chaturvedi, himself, found himself pivoting in his career before settling into the family business.
His experience includes working as a buyer for TJ Maxx as well as time at Accenture and JP Morgan. He even had a stint at entertainment company DreamWorks before he joined Flex Films.
Uflex, a Noida, India-based company, dates to 1985 and was founded by his father, Ashok Chaturvedi.
"He has a fantastic story. For me, I have no use competing with that story," the son said.
"And I don't want to compete with that story. But how do I add value to that story? And I realized the best way to add value is to go out and make it in places where nobody knows you and make your mark."
And that place is Elizabethtown, where the company employs about 135 workers making film. The younger Chaturvedi also oversees a Flex Films plant in Mexico. The vision, in Kentucky, is to eventually grow to employ about 500 people by bringing in additional lines, he said.
Uflex also has manufacturing operations in India, Poland, Dubai and Egypt and has just announced plans for a new facility in Hungary.
Being an Indian-owned company operating in the United States has come with its own set of business challenges.
"When we started production in the U.S., we had to raise our standard of quality throughout the company. Producing in a competitive and highly demanding market in the U.S. challenges you from that perspective," Chaturvedi said.
"I would say that we had to overcome the element of a little bit of a social stigma that people have as an Indian company operating in the U.S.," he said. "There's a bit of pricing pressure that people want to buy from you, but they also want you to give them [lower] Asian prices. You have to get over that a bit."
Flex Film in Kentucky, with higher U.S. costs compared with lower costs in India, has rallied against being commodity driven, where price is a huge factor in customer purchasing decisions. "I'm not commodity focused," he said.
"We are an American company that's Indian owned," Chaturvedi said. "We operate and live and exist in the American ecosystem."
The company wants to do things differently, and so does Chaturvedi, who came to the United States after boarding school in Switzerland.
"One of the big challenges, one of the big things I focus my time on now is to effectively move this company from first generation to second generation," he said.