Q: How did you end up in the printing industry?
Gayathiri Madheswaran (GM): My father was keen that I study civil engineering or electronics and communication engineering as few of my cousins did well in these branches. However, I was looking to take up some unique course. Serendipitously, I saw the brochure of Avinashilingam University and the printing technology course impressed me. It was love at first sight! After several discussions, my father finally agreed to let me join the course.
Q: What is the one thing about print that attracted you – and still attracts you?
GM: Printing never gets boring what with its everyday challenges and technical problems to solve. The troubleshooting aspect lures me as it involves new learnings.
Q: List your memories of education in Coimbatore. Did it enable you to examine the ideas that drive our industry? For example, deadlines. In that sense, which was the toughest deadline you had to execute?
GM: My college years in Coimbatore will always stay fresh in my memories. The university was my home for four years and I loved the fact that it was surrounded by greenery. I made good friends and was mentored by wonderful professors. The six-month deadline on a nanotechnology-based project in the final year was the toughest to meet.
Q: How many consumers truly understand print? How can we change their attitude?
GM: In my experience only 10-20 per cent clients truly understand print (most people are involved in ad agencies) and the challenges. The others say, “A product without any issue is all that I want from you.” It’s very difficult to change this attitude.
Q: Stringent turnaround times and fairly modest margins haven’t stopped printers in making a name for themselves. What is your company’s USP?
GM: We specialise in attempting jobs which are difficult to replicate and offer the best in class quality to the client. This makes us the region’s most reputed printing plant. The word of mouth advertising of our products by the customers is the most valued reward for us.
Q: Describe your role in the organisation. Also, how does an organisation such as yours operate differently in today’s market, than it did in the past?
GM: My role is to implement systems, make sure they are in place, and ensure continual improvement in the press. In the past, client expectation was lesser, but today as technology is evolving, customers expect 101% quality.
Q: Describe a typical day in your life.
GM: My day at work starts at 9.00 am looking at the schedules for printing, post-press, and allotting work to the QC inspectors followed by approving a product for delivery to a customer. In case of customer complaints, I overlook the investigation and risk assessment to prevent complaints in future. On the other side, I am also involved in monitoring 3Ms (men, machine, and material) for continual improvement. The day ends by 8.00 pm, depending on the task list.
Gayathiri’s wishlist: To see more women in print.
Q: How do you share valuable know-how with your customers? Especially when one looks at the current state of technology and the capabil-ities which are required for publishers / brands / agencies to survive and thrive?
GM: End customer’s willingness to learn matters when it comes to ‘sharing valuable know-how’. Sometimes, on a personal request from the end customer, we take them to a press room and explain things practically.
Q: The industry is very creative, and this is an area that women tend to be strong at. One creative project you handled?
GM: It was a product for the visually impaired where the height of Braille dots (embossing) was to be maintained at a certain height, till it reached the end customer, in any part of the world. It was challenging to work on a project with so many transport related complications.
Q: Is print now a better industry for women to work in?
GM: Yes of course; as long as you are not bothered about being ‘surrounded by men’.
Q: Have you ever felt that your gender placed you at a disadvantage?
GM: In this case I would say I am very lucky. My former boss Kumara Perumal, Ganesh Cartons and my present company’s chairman, Mohammed Rashid Alshaali and managing director Zoeb Boxwala’s trust me and have confidence in me. This is the main reason for my successful career. The restriction of working in night, when required, is the only thing I feel is a gender-related disadvantage.
Q: The Indian print industry is made up of 80% men and 20% women, of which women have their strongest representation in non-production roles. How can we ensure there are a significant number of women in policy making and power positions?
GM: Only the owners of an organisation can break the stereotype by giving more opportunities to women. More women should come up to work in power posts like production, QA, QC etc. These positions are like hot seats where challenges await every day. Also, women should have the confidence to walk in a press filled with men.
Q: While the pay in print is on the lower end compared to other median manufacturing industries, its average hourly pay gap between genders was found to be glaring, and there is a pay gap.
GM: Yes, there is a gender gap in our industry and I think it’s because there are a few things that men can do which women cannot. For example, the time - men can work overnight to complete deadline, in this case a woman can’t.
Q: Our industry is modern and high-tech. Today advances in technology have eliminated some of the heavy lifting and you do see more women in production now. But how can we make print business an attractive proposition than it was in the 20th century?
GM: Though technology has changed, I think the proportion can be increased in terms of giving equal opportunity to men and women.