L Ramanathan: Gain as much knowledge as possible

By 29 Jul 2021

L Ramanathan of Sree Vinayaga Screens says, "You're going to be affected by change and it doesn't matter if the change is good or bad".

L Ramanathan, managing partner at Sree Vinayaga Screens, Madurai

Tough 12 months. Was it all doom and gloom? Your views...
It was and is the toughest portion of everyone’s life. Every call I make, I get to listen to what this invisible tiny virus has done to their life. Now, in this second wave, the virus is making its mark even higher. But, when a person is pushed outside his comfort zone, he grows. We were pushed from full time commercial printer to a packaging converter and this hard time has actually made us better in it. 

A number of firms tried to reshape their businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has meant staggering print production or taking stock of warehouse and logistics. One change you have initiated in your methodology...
During this time of half-emptiness in work, I am living a guilt-free life only because we have done a lot of changes in processes and systems. This would have taken a longer time with regular job pressure. So with the right use of time – you can call this as – we have made most of the processes automated with every machine having a tab with the job instructions and with two-way communications.

We also have made SOP s for each and every process to reduce the dependency. The last and final, which we did – and all should do – is to increase the efficiency by reducing the material and resource wastage (the only way to increase profit during this time of high raw material cost).

Many firms have been “switching work back on”, but not at the same volumes. How different are the new-world requirements for your team as compared to the old?
As I said earlier, we were a 100% hardcore commercial printer with both offset and digital facilities, running 24 hours non-stop. But things are not like that after March 2020. The promotional items are printed with a hesitation from the client and the volume has dropped to less than 50% from the previous years.

The big business that we got from schools and colleges is almost zero. The big invitation business from the south part of TamilNadu has come to a standstill – most of them converted to digital WhatsApp invite. This vacuum created in the production capacity is filled with packaging and we are getting back on track. 

How did your team and task force (and indeed family) cope with the virus? Any lessons for the fraternity in India... 
Most of the older workforce who are above 45 are vaccinated, and most of us were Covid-19 warriors in the first wave of the pandemic. We are practicing a strict protocol of wearing masks and sanitising the place daily. 

If you could send a short message from April 2021 to yourself in April 2019, what would you say? What do you wish you’d known about things such as Covid-19, pandemic and lockdown back then?
One lesson you have to learn is that nothing is permanent (good and bad). So, please be ready to change or the change will force you to change, which will be harsh. Only thing that will always remain with you is your knowledge; gain it as much as possible.

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