It’s important the way you carry yourself

Sarfaraz Pathan, director, Infinity Solutions, charts his journey from a very humble beginning to working in multinationals like Tetra Pak and Bobst and starting Infinity Solutions with Tufan Kumar Saha

03 Dec 2021 | By PrintWeek Team & Rahul Kumar

Sarfaraz Pathan, director, Infinity Solutions

I was born and brought up in Pune, Maharashtra, in a middle-class family. We are three brothers. My father was a central government employee. I used to study in a small, state-run school.

I wanted to do my engineering, but due to circumstances, I could not pursue it. Those days, you did not have access to the internet and the modern mediums of communications. So, instead, I did a diploma in mechanical engineering instead of a degree.
My dream was to get a job in a mechanical engineering company and settle down in life. Immediately after my examination, I joined a small company even before my final year results. Then in 1999, after completing my diploma in mechanical engineering, I printed 100 resumes and took a cycle and visited the companies in the city’s industrial area and dropped my resume. I got interview calls from two small companies.

My first job was with a cleaning tools manufacturing company. I did not find it challenging, so I left the organisation after 45-50 days. My next employer was in commercial boiler systems. I joined the company as a sales engineer at the age of 20. I worked there for 18 months, and during my stint, I doubled the company’s sales.

At Tetra Pak
The turning point of my life came when I joined Tetra Pak in 2001 as a printing machine operator. It was a five-colour flexo printing press. It was a wonderful experience to work on a flexo printing machine and learn about the process every day. I call it a turning point in my life because this is how I got exposed to the printing and packaging industry. This was the best learning experience of my life, which made me disciplined and technically sound in flexo printing. Here, I could learn the basics of flexo printing. I remember my first day: The machine was running at 450-m/min, and I was looking at it without understanding the process and function.

During my initial days, I worked as an unwinder and rewinder operator before being promoted as the lead operator of the printing machine. As a part of a world class manufacturing company, I worked on several projects and led them from the front. In 2007, I exited Tetra Pak, after spending close to eight years in the company, with hands-on experience. My trainers were the top trainers of the company.

At Tetra Pak, we were supposed to do maintenance of the machines, and we called it autonomous maintenance. So, I had a little bit of exposure to maintenance activities.

At Bobst
Then I came to know that there was a vacancy for a service engineer in Bobst. Since I had maintenance experience at Tetra Pak, I decided to give it a try. I went to the Bobst factory in Pune. Subhasis Roy interviewed me and offered me a job in sales.
It took me time to understand the job as it was a completely new portfolio for me, from production to capital equipment sales. I took the risk. I was confident because, as I said, my career was not a straight line. So, why not take a chance. It turned out to be a good experience for me.

I must credit these two companies – Bobst and Tetra Pak – for my growth. At Tetra Pak, I learned about printing and packaging. Bobst gave me exposure to the industry so that I could meet customers. I could travel anywhere. I started visiting customers in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

My job was basically to develop new customers from the folding carton industry. I could generate a good amount of customers. My stint of maybe four years in folding cartons was very productive.

In 2010, there was a movement in the corrugation industry with a couple of European flexo folder-gluers coming to India. It was a perfect launchpad for future growth in the corrugated industry.

Back in 2010-11, it was impossible to imagine how big the corrugation industry would become. But we at Bobst had complete confidence about the huge potential in this industry. And, we were convinced that corrugation would become big one day.

Shift to corrugation
When I shifted from mono cartons to corrugation, developing the market was challenging because the low-investment set-up was quite popular in this industry. I could create the market with a lot of support from my company. When I left Bobst in 2017, there were multiple installations of Bobst FFGs.

My business partner, Tufan Saha, and I, were both doing well in our respective companies. Still, the motivation behind starting our venture came from a desire to bridge the demand gap of good dependable machines at attractive investment levels. We could foresee a demand for good technology machines without being exposed to high capital investment.

We saw this gap as a potential opportunity to fill in with our knowledge and our contacts. And thus, we came together. Saha came from BHS, and his prior experience was from the paper industry. I was from Bobst. So, it was a perfect combination. That’s how we started.

We selected our partners very carefully where our customers will not have to compromise on the quality and dependability of the equipment. Finding overseas equipment manufacturers was not easy, especially in capital equipment. Sale is okay, but after-sales service is a significant factor.

We had all those things. By the grace of God and our efforts, we are doing good and growing well. Our previous employers, Bobst and BHS, have helped us get a good reputation in the market.  
Implementing the learnings

At Tetra Pak, I could learn a lot about the process. So, the printing process, a global multinational company's work culture, world-class manufacturing, and the sort of discipline came into my personality from Tetra Pak.  This helped me immensely, a person from a production background, a diploma-holder, not highly educated, to establish myself and grow in this industry.

We are investing a lot in training our service engineers to cater to our customers in a better and systematic way. Apart from technical skills, soft skills and local networking are a must.

In 2016, we decided to start on our own. We did not do it because we were not earning well. And even before leaving our jobs, we created an impression in the industry with our customers and business associates. So, right from day one, we were well-received by all our customers. They encouraged us and supported us right from day one.

As of now, the focus is on corrugation only. But again, we don't know where the process will drive us tomorrow. Let's say, the industry goes into digital printing, for example. So, we will have to adapt to the change. We might also go into digital printing and mono cartons because of our existing knowledge.

At Infinity
Established in 2017, Infinity has installed more than 75 machines in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. We represent eight different brands. Most importantly, we offer complete handholding support to our customers. We do pre-sales, sales and post-sales. Probably customers see the value in this, and that is why people join hands with us.

We don’t want just to sell machines, but to develop a business model, which is sustainable. We want to solve corrugators’ pain points with our products, solutions and services. Having worked with big brands like Bobst and BHS, we take that legacy forward into our organisation.