What was the first thought you had when you were named vice-chancellor of Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology (DCRUST)?
I thought of my love for printing technology and the excitement and the challenges of this prestigious assignment.
After your stint in various positions at Manipal University, you went on to head Heidelberg’s Print Media Academy (PMA), and subsequently as director of the Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences (TITS), Bhiwani. Have the print institutions been able to turn their intellectual strengths into marketable professionals?
Not completely. There are only a few numbers of students at these technical institutes who embrace printing with passion and they are doing extremely well. For other students degree in printing technology means just another stepping stone to pursue something else in their careers. Although, my own experience at PMA was entirely different. It was a more evolutionary process and it certainly had its impact on my life when it turned me into a print professional with sufficient technical knowledge as well as equipping me with project management and business development skills. Heidelberg’s hasty decision to shut down the PMA in India will result in a loss for the Indian print industry.
From print institutions to textile and now science and technology, for someone with a solid print background, what made you foray into non-print education sectors?
I think it was more out of disillusionment after my boss Guenther Keppler shifted base to Germany. It was at this time that I got an opportunity to work with the Birla group. At the core, I was still the same. Breathing, smelling and dreaming about print. Which is why after having been named the vice-chancellor of the government-run DCRUST, I have a few plans in place already. Top of which is to establish a highly scientific master’s and doctoral degree programme in colour science for the first time in the country. This course will address the requirements of printing, electronic display, media, design, textile, paint, ink, paper, architecture, medical, dental and many more industries and fields. I expect a heterogeneous group of aspirants to study this programme. Currently, print is not a part of course offering at DCRUST. This will change in the future. I intend to motivate young print graduates and inspire them to achieve unheard-of-excellence in the academics, research and business realms.
At the print education institutes, what have been three richest veins of ideas? In other words, what strengths do these, and other training institutes should have to exploit?
The institutes that I was associated with had dedicated faculty members, industry oriented and international standard syllabi, excellent consulting opportunities, well-established alumni, good placement records, lucrative salaries and excellent exposure to latest technology. Apart from these, it is important to work on the principles of transparency, quality and maintain a better harmony with alumni for better training and placement facilities.
For the most part of your career, it’s been print for you. And even after you have remained relevant. So let’s talk about print. What has always been your idea of a perfect print job?
For me, a perfect print job can be best described as something that has been produced with a – thorough knowledge of grey balance in print production – and – predictable production consistency at all stages. This must be the goal of an ideal printer irrespective of the type of printing process or the substrate involved.
What has been the greatest achievement of the print in the past decade?
Automation in all traditional printing processes, development in design of the hybrid machines, development of substrates and nanoparticle inks or Nano inks, integration of Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing (CC) in day to day print processes, consistency and perfection with higher colour gamut in digital printing processes on a variety of substrates and 3D printing.
What is the trait you most deplore in the Indian print’s pre-press, press and press operation?
Deficiency in process standardisation, improper time management and unscientific costing. These points need to be taken seriously to become a world class printing company.
What is the trait you most deplore among Indian colour management experts?
Most of the colour management experts in our country simply follow organisations like FOGRA, UGRA or US for the standards. Some of them blindly use the popular software available in the market. This is not good as it should be an open approach purely based on science and something that is impartial and independent. The experts should study the actual requirement of the printer – in line with the customer base and facilities available – and develop an appropriate sustainable model. Kiran Prayagi, who is a print guru, is one of the few true colour management experts we have in our country.
What were your greatest extravagances at Manipal University?
My basic education in practical printing took place at Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT). I was also the plant head at Manipal Press (now Manipal Technologies) for more than three years, on deputation while at MIT. Satish Pai provided me with complete freedom and support to learn everything that is required to run and maintain a complex printing plant. Twenty years ago he invested in me and got me certified as a lead auditor from IQA-IRCA, London (UK). That was the beginning. I could then academically upgrade to MTech and PhD at Manipal University. I stabilised the printing department at MIT and redefined it as - Printing and Media Engineering.
And what about the ones at Heidelberg’s PMA?
In early 2007, I moved to Heidelberg and met my guru Guenther Keppler. Over the course of next seven years, continuous learning on various topics (both technical and management) at Heidelberg headquarters and other training centres around the globe made me a true print lover and an astute professional. Meeting with Dieter Kirchner, a print genius from Germany, at PMA completely changed my approach towards standardisation. We tested “PAN 4-C” special test forms on our machines at PMA, which I am convinced is the toughest test form to print and I actually learned about what is ink-water balance and how to achieve a consistent grey balance in printing. We also printed High-Density Skia Photography (HDSP) – with an unbelievable density of up to 3.0 – with specially formulated high-density inks. We also developed a lot of course programmes and trained hundreds of printers in and around the country. I was also instrumental in starting Sri Lanka Academy of Print. We extended our training activities to SAARC countries and the Middle East too.
If a student of print or a faculty member looking for some expert help in developing a new idea, how would DCRUST help?
We can offer every help to print fraternity in terms of physical infrastructure, science labs and quality faculty.
One of the major goals of any training activity is quality control (QC). What are the three musts for good QC?Customer orientation, strong leadership and the involvement of people. By which I mean customers’ involvement in decision making which is a must for ensuring the sound quality control objectives of any organisation.
A pre-press, press and post-press equipment is a given in print company, which is the one device that you think is an absolute must?
A good printing machine is an absolute must. Pre-press and post-press activities can be outsourced depending on the job. The ideal scenario would be to have all of it in-house.
And what was your favourite moment when working in the industry?
When I got a call from BMPA (Bombay Master Printer’s Association) informing me that I had been declared as the winner of PIA-GATF global academic excellence award in 2011. My joy was doubled when I got to know that the president of BMPA at that time, Faheem Agboatwala of Hi-Tech Printing Services was going to be with me while receiving the award in Chicago.
Which talent would you most like all print shop floor workers to have?
An ability to learn and become proficient in the use of existing and new technologies. They should also be flexible and adaptable, as machines can break down and production deadlines can be very tight.
During your formative years in print, you did different print courses and training, both in India and outside, particularly in Germany. What did you learn during your education stints, which you were able to implement at Manipal and Print Academy?
How to get into details with full scientific base is the most important lesson I learnt in Germany. Not over doing or over loading of work is the key to success. I learnt about time management and how to use the right equipment. I tried to implement all these learnings wherever I worked.
If there was one change you would like the industry to make, what would it be?
A paradigm shift from simply being a profit making centre to customer orientation is the need of the hour. Don’t compromise with the quality. Sooner or later, quality pays and a printer will be known by the kind of work and not just the price. Never compromise on price just for the sake of getting a job and running the machine. Implement proper costing methods and take sufficient training at all levels in the organisation every year.
One technology which is under-estimated by all printers BUT has a great future?
Internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing (CC). These two technologies are going to be the game changers in the future functioning of printing presses.
If you were to start again. One thing you would do differently.
I would opt for the subject of Physics till my masters and then focus on my research study in printing. It is important to have a basic knowledge and understanding of the fundamental science. Nowadays, print is not just a physical process. It involves a lot of data handling, manipulation and management. I would also take up some audit courses in IoT, data management and computing. The one thing that wouldn’t have changed though is that I would have continued to learn, teach and live my life in print.