Prasad Balan Iyer: Students should be focused listeners and proactive

It is a challenge to convince parents to allow students to choose print and packaging, says Prasad Balan Iyer, director, SIES SOP PTC.

28 Jan 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Prasad Balan Iyer

What do you perceive is the USP of India's print and packaging industry?

Creativity, imagination and innovation have no bounds in this industry be it for male or female candidates. A powerful industry which people, especially parents & students don't seem to realise in the present day.

As an educator, what have been the three biggest problems you have faced?

One, convincing parents to allow students to choose print and packaging. Two, making printing and packaging mainstream, both in academia and career. Three, convincing companies to improve the pay packages for students.

How do you think these obstacles could be tackled creatively?

Creating awareness at the school level about the power of print and the packaging industry when they are also learning about the environment and sustainability. Also, organising events for students to entice and attract them to the various aspects of this industry. We have been doing this for 11th and 12th standard students in various colleges in and around Mumbai since 2015.

Which is your favourite subject, and why is it important?

Packaging design. Because it forms the basis for any product before it reaches the market. Here the term design is not only graphic/structural but includes material selection and stages of packaging development.

Today, you are a teacher. Who was your guru and why so?

My first guru was my mother, who, of course, is the first guru for everyone. But I have possibly imbibed the principles of teaching-learning since childhood directly from her since she was also a teacher. My guru in packaging are the late Prof CS Purushothaman and Prof KB Gupta, people with incredible drive, and passion for packaging and who have mentored me directly.

One innovation you implemented after listening to your student?

Out of the various methods employed while teaching, one accidentally happened to be a storytelling/experiential type of delivering lectures. This was implemented more regularly after listening to students.

Were you the minister of printing and packaging, how would you tackle the industry's problems creatively?

Creating more modular/skill-based courses within the printing and packaging industry by working closely with companies that say they see a lack of skilled/trained students in the industry today and creating continuous dialogues. To bridge the industry-academia connect, one thing I would do is urge companies to look at their HR and talent acquisition policies and make them get involved with various printing and packaging institutes right at the admission stages, identify good candidates, sponsor few shortlisted ones, take students for internships, conduct placement & awareness drives in various schools and colleges in their vicinity, pay the students at par with other lucrative industry segments. This is very critical because we are seeing number of students seeking admissions dwindling in many of the print and packaging institutes across India since 2019 and we are not doing enough to glamourise this industry for the kind of growth that is expected in the next five to 10 years.

What ingredient do you seek among your young disciples? 

They should be focused listeners, be proactive and always ready for tasks.

An article/listing in which publication that impressed you?

The Plastics Paradox by Chris DeArmitt is the first and only book to reveal the truth about plastics and the environment. Based on over 400 scientific articles, it dispels the myths that the public believes today. A must read for every human being on earth.

Your present preoccupation in the field of research?

Packaging design and packaging sustainability, especially working with existing industries to develop innovative solutions.

One project which you are excited about?

There are multiple projects we are working on, with student participation, involving various facets of innovative packaging designs for FMCG and industrial sectors.

The industry needs skilled professionals on the shopfloor, and different printing education institutes have been churning out printing professionals for decades now. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between industry and academia. Why? What do print teachers want from the industry? Read more in this series where PrintWeek asks 13 print gurus.