An interview with Mr. Isphanyar Bhandara, Murree Glass
What is the current position of the bottling business in Pakistan?
There are two types of glass industries. One is the beverage bottle glass and the other is the non beverage glass industry. The non beverage glass is the normal glass seen on tables or windows. Murree Glass is part of the beverage glass bottle industry. There are not more than 10 glass manufacturing companies operating in Pakistan. The demand of the glass industry is measured in tonnage. There is a huge demand of beverage bottles which is why all glass factories are fully operational and none of them closed down.
Why are companies now shifting towards plastic bottles (PET)?
Glass is more environmental friendly as compared to plastic. InEuropeand the western countries, glass bottles still have a major market share. In developing countries tetra packs and plastic bottles are more common than glass bottles. It is cheaper to transport, easier to carry and more user friendly for children. There are advantages of plastic bottles but according to research glass is the best container for any kind of liquid.
There are three types of containers: glass, plastic and tetra pack. All the prestigious beverages in the western countries use glass containers. Plastic and tetra pack are considered to be of slightly lower degree. One important reason of shifting from glass bottles to plastic is that plastic bottles can also be supplied in less quantity while the glass factories are hesitant to manufacture less number of bottles. This is because in the glass factory, the machine takes a long time to start and stop and also to change the shape of the bottle but in a plastic factory the machines can be turned ON and OFF easily by changing the bottle’s shape. In a glass bottle factory, there has to be a specific bottle shape for weeks or months.
What is the difference between the production cost of plastic bottles and glass bottles?
There was a time when plastic was more expensive than glass. Now the cost of the glass bottles has also increased.
How do you decide that which beverages should be in glass or plastic bottles?
The market has the deciding vote on this. It depends on the consumer’s preference which makes us change the bottles from glass to plastic.
To what extent is the bottle shape important in the price or marketing of the beverages?
Marketing tactics comprise of advertisements and pricing. Shape of the bottle should be attractive for the consumer but it is certainly not the only criteria for high or low sale. Companies keep on changing shape of the bottles.
What are the recycling procedures for the glass bottles and the plastic bottles?
There is no recycling practice of plastic bottles inPakistan. Instead of recycling, these bottles are being used as water bottles and are then disposed. After that they are used in small shops for local juices or for oil filling in workshops and other rural areas. It is difficult and unhygienic to wash the plastic bottles and reuse them. Usually, glass bottles are reused. Companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola use R-bottles (glass) or reusable bottles. These R-bottles are reused around 6 or 7 times.
We however buy used bottles from the market and crush them into tiny pieces and reuse that crushed glass in our manufacturing process to make a new bottle in our glass factory.
What is the consumption of the glass bottles in different beverage companies?
Pepsi is the largest consumer of bottles inPakistanfollowed by Coca Cola. In local companies, the biggest consumers are tops, Shezan International, Murree Brewery, Mitchells and Ahmed (demand in jars).
Another facet of the glass industry is the medicine glass. We do not manufacture for the pharmaceutical industry because of our capacity. Ghani Glass in Hathar is the main player in medicine bottles.
Why other companies are not manufacturing their own glass bottles?
Other beverage companies can also setup glass factories but they do not establish them because buying bottles is easier than manufacturing them. Glass manufacturing business is a 24 hours industry. The machines are switched ON for months and they are running on gas. Since this government took over there has been a severe shortage of gas. To meet the requirements of the glass factory, backup gas is an essential requirement. Once the machine is closed, it takes days to start it again.
The reason that Murree Glass is not supplying to Pepsi and Coca Cola is because we have to meet our own captive demand of Murree Brewery Company and Tops. About 80% to 90% of the bottles we produce are being used by our own beverages and by the grace of God, our demand has substantially increased. We have purchased a latest machine fromItalyfor the manufacturing of glass to meet our own demand of glass bottles. The left over 10% to 15% bottles are supplied to the third parties.
Where do you see the future of glass bottles?
I think that the demand of the glass and plastic bottles will not rise as they did in the past. While the tetra pack will be the market leader, glass and plastic bottles will follow behind.