R Sridharan: Covid overhauls business strategy

Employees, customers, suppliers and service providers along with the bankers are the four pillars of industry and to prioritise everyone’s interest will need a rethink of business models to thrive again in the post-Covid-19 world, according to R Sridharan, managing director at Spico Printing Inks

29 Sep 2020 | By PrintWeek Team

R Sridharan, managing director at Spico Printing Inks

Printweek (PW): How have you been leading your organisation through this once-in-a-lifetime crisis? Describe a typical day? How much has been altered?
R Sridharan (RS):
Initially, it was no work and stay at home. As we are in the supply chain of food and pharmaceutical packaging materials, we were allowed to work from mid-April 2020. It was a question of hardly 20-25% workforce, limited raw material stock, no transports resulting in blockage of incoming and outgoing materials. Today, quite a bit of improvement has taken place as the transport has been revived throughout the country clearing the major challenge of transportation of goods without which we could not have done anything.

PW: We’re in an extraordinary moment. As a leader what are you telling your team now?
The topmost priority is given to the safety of all members who are involved directly or indirectly with our activities including their family members. All were provided with the SOP given by the government and were given strict instructions to follow the same. Next priority is to give an assurance to one and all concerned that their job will be taken care of to the best of our ability under the circumstances. Third point was to give them a feeling that there is nothing to fear as one can prevent one’s self from the attack of Covid-19 if the SOP is followed strictly with a warning that they are likely to be affected if they take the SOP lightly.

PW: Is it different messaging for different teams? For example, department heads, factory supervisors, admin staff, shopfloor experts, logistics and support staff, etc?
Being an MSME, we have a single approach to all our staff and the staff of our partner organisations about following the SOPs strictly.

PW: The post-Covid-19 world will need massive HR repair with your entire team. How are you planning to achieve this?
The four pillars of our industry are our employees, customers, suppliers and service providers; and bankers. As each one of them are worried about their interest vis-à-vis our activities during and after Covid-19, we ensured that our pillars are not weakened. For this we have assured all of them that their interest will be our top priority and requested for their support as much as possible to help us tide over the situation. Better said than done, we may find it difficult to meet both ends. This is the challenge that we need to tackle in the days to come through hard work and through change in strategy.

PW: Have you been re-negotiating deals with your customers? From a position of strength? Or the same old same old?
The re-negotiation with our customers is more on mutual terms rather than from a position of strength.

PW: How have you been planning your next step with your banks and financiers when you don’t know what the future will hold? One step that you have taken...
Our bankers are always proactive. We also ensure that we do not depend heavily on bank finance beyond a limit. Hopefully our bankers are likely to offer us the facilities as suggested by the government and it is likely that we have to take a call on this as it will increase our burden of repayment and the cost of this extra finance will be an added liability.

PW: Is your factory ready for what’s next? How have you been empowering your team at the bottom of the pyramid?
It is very important to empower the people at the bottom of the pyramid, especially when one hasn’t completely automated their own operations. We have taken the necessary steps to ensure their safety and livelihood by taking care of their day-to-day needs in such a way that it will not affect the performance of the company on a long term basis. However, the steps that we have taken to ensure this has some short term challenges.

PW: Any specific steps to keep your office healthy and psychologically safe?
Sanitisation, physical distancing and air vents. Wearing of masks and disinfecting the work area are things that are being well taken care of. Physical partitioning of the space may be a hindrance to the employees as it may be dangerous in the event of any emergency situation. It may become detrimental to the interest of the employees. Hence, we have not done it. Generally, work from home is not encouraged except in the case of yours truly, due to his age.

PW: A personal question: How has Covid-19 changed the nature of what you are working on, your own resilience and self-renewal and how you do it?
As my movement for other activities has come to a standstill, I spend more time in doing exercises and walking. I always adhered to the approach of “accept this moment” and hence, I always think of what next in a calm and composed manner. Hence, Covid-19 era has not really brought about a big change in me.

PW: Any final predictions about how, as a leader, you can harness digital technology for good?
Digital technology is going to take us to levels which we haven’t even imagined due to the application of AI. Since early ‘80s we have been ahead of many of the MSMEs in using the digital application and we are likely to continue the similar approach in the years to come.

At a glance: Spico NTNK series inks

As the Government of India through Bureau of Indian Standards is planning to ban toluene-based inks for food packaging inks and are likely to ban toluene altogether in the years to come due to the toxic nature of toluene, we at Spico have already introduced NTNK inks and these inks are used mainly for lamination jobs. At present we are exporting these inks to Middle East countries and hopefully our Indian customers will also follow suit once the ban is introduced.

How does it score on the main merits such as intense colours, high gloss, sharp dot retention, tack?
These are low tack inks specially formulated and have high strength and resolubility. These inks offer excellent bond strength and are highly stable products. Can be used in high speed gravure machines.

Explain its compatibility with UV varnish, aqueous coating, foil or lamination?
These inks are mainly used as lamination inks to print on corona-treated/chemically-coated polyester, and corona-treated BOPP films. Both adhesive lamination and extrusion laminations are possible with this series of inks.

Any certifications like ISO 2846-1: 2006 and ISO 12647 on-press compliance?
We are ISO 9001:2015 certified company. So far we have not taken any certification for any of our products and hopefully we will be going in for the same in the months to come as and when our customers demand for the same.

How good is it for spot colours?
Works excellent.

How does it differ from previous products?
NTNK inks were not very familiar among the Indian ink manufacturers and converters. In the past two decades internationally, these inks have become more prevalent and Indian MNCs have started producing these products. 

What’s the USP?
Spico NTNK series is a high-quality PU-based inks which offers high bond strength to give good laminated products for retort and boil-in laminated pouches. One can achieve better productivity with this series of inks compared to vinyl-based inks.

NTNK inks for gravure systems are fairly new to our country. As one of the leading ink manufacturers from the southern part of the country, we compete with others through our value-added products.

How easy is it to use?
No major difference in usage angle compared to the existing systems. These inks are highly user-friendly.

In what form is it supplied?
Two kgs / 180 kgs(process colours/extending med) / 200kgs (white) drums.

What technical support is on offer?
We offer 24x7 technical service support. Our well trained and qualified technical team handles the customer support activities.

What’s the price?
These are costlier inks. However, the value addition makes these inks cost effective from the end-user angle. Our pricing is normally based on volume and payment terms as we normally pass on the benefits derived out of the above factors to our customers.