Q: How did you end up in the printing industry?
Pavithra Kumari (PK): I was interested in the creative arts field – anything related to media and music piqued my interest. When it was time to choose a stream for my graduation, I was keen to explore visual communication studies. My dad said I should pursue engineering from Avinashilingam University as he believed they give importance to both education and core values. The curriculum for the printing course covered my areas of interests: design, print, colours, and machines. It was an easy choice for me.
Q: What is the one thing about print that attracted you – and still attracts you?
PK: For me, the word ‘print’ is attractive. It has the ability to create magic. The entire process – from creating the design, making ready-to-print files, standardisation, colour checks, printing it perfectly, post-press, and finally delivering it – needs teamwork and up-to-date technology. Every time, I see a new print product or advancements in the print techniques, it gives me hope. Even in the era of digitisation, the feel of touch is valued; print is alive.
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?
PK: In addition to the lectures, I liked to participate in seminars and events. It helped me in my work, be it preparing for a presentation or explaining our works to clients. The most challenging timeline I worked was with an FMCG client preparing a product for the Thailand market. They changed the design and also requested for a 3D model on the same day. It involved a lot of work from purchasing the image to checking with the 3D team. I had no option but to execute it. It wasn’t delivered on the same day, but we managed to send it first thing the next day.
Q: How many consumers truly understand print? How can we change their attitude?
PK: Understanding print is much more complex than what it seems. I deal with consumers who request change on the design part or in the final phase. Some consumers want things immediately without considering the work that goes in. In such cases there are two options, if it can be done as per their request then make it happen with internal arrangements (needs great teamwork), and if not, then it is better to put your foot down and explain the challenges involved. I educate them on how things work on the other side and seek time. It has worked for me in most of the cases.
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?
PK: I am a print sourcing specialist. I get an opportunity to talk to print vendors, clients, and get in-depth feedback about the process by keeping the entire workflow transparent.
Pavithra’s wishlist: I wish some day I could start a small print shop and be a boss.
Q: Describe a typical day in your life.
PK: My day starts with checking my inbox, acting on high priority emails, and updating clients on the status of the job. I keep the trackers up-to-date and regularly check the status of an ongoing job. I also regularly follow up with print vendors to complete the vendor management tool, maintain the process workflow, and address the client’s ad hoc requests, if any.
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?
PK: Our customers are on board by knowing the technological capabilities of the company and the workflows are standardised. Our responsibility is to keep up with that expectation by staying on top of things and meeting their requirements.
Q: The industry is very creative, and this is an area that women tend to be strong at. One creative project you handled?
PK: It was a project for Colgate. I was part of creating the new product called Colgate Naturals Panjaved. We had to work on the artwork of the carton, toothpaste, and the 3D models simultaneously for all the grammages – 40g, 100g, and 200g. It was an interesting and challenging project.
Q: Is print now a better industry for women to work in?
PK: From my perspective, it has always been good. I do not see any differences from then to now. However, in many areas the numbers are less. For example, in a team of ten, I was the only female. Though, it didn’t stop me from working odd hours. When the job demands, we sit back to work as a team and deliver the job. I have had no issues being a woman in print. It is how we see it.
Q: Have you ever felt that your gender placed you at a disadvantage?
PK: No. I have never had that feeling
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?
PK: I doubt if the 80/20 is prevalent. The percentages must have changed. The reason is, right from my first job (in 2012) till date all the managers I have worked for are women. Most of the leading roles were filled in by women.
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.
PK: I agree. Overall, the pay in the print industry is lower compared to other manufacturing industries. However, I have not experienced hourly pay difference between genders, so far. In terms of a hike, the percentage of hike that women get is lesser which causes instability. It depends on the manager and the work culture that the company follows. This should be improved. Everyone wants an unbiased system.