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Trained professionals in packaging are in great demand across many sectors in India, including FMCG, Pranab Ghosh talks more about this flourishing profession
Hindustan Times | By Pranab Ghosh Pranab Ghosh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2009 12:55 PM IST

Sriman Banerjee, 34
Job: Manager, Packaging Development

Sriman Banerjee, 34, did his graduation in mechanical engineering from MIT, Pune University, in the year 1996 and went on to do his two-year PG diploma from the Indian Institute of Packaging. He joined the industry in 1999 and earned Rs 15,000 a month.

Today, he is working as Manager, Packaging Development, in a leading FMCG company, earning around Rs 1.5 lakh per month. In the intervening period he has become a Certified Packaging Professional from the Institute of Packaging Professionals (USA). He is one of the only five such certified professionals in India.

True, Banerjee has grown faster than the industry trend but the growth potential of a packaging professional in the country is growing by the day and people like him are in great demand. “Trained professionals in packaging are in great demand these days and the demand spreads across FMCG, processed food, personal care, pharma sectors – even to the hard goods sectors such as home appliances, office equipment and medical devices, etc. In addition to technologists the packaging industry also provides specialised employment to designers, buyers and machinery developers,” says Subodh Gupta, MD Triveni Polymers Pvt Ltd and Chairman, Northern Region Committee, Indian Institute of Packaging.

Pointing out the evolution of packaging in the country, Gupta says, “Almost everything that is manufactured for retailing needs to be packaged. Over time, packaging has begun to be viewed as an extension of the advertising and marketing activity around a brand, instead of merely a means of “containment” or handling of the product. This means that the product package is viewed as a direct means of communicating with the customer at the shop shelf and over time this aspect has gained so much strategic importance as a marketing tool that the pack is often seen as the product! In other words, the medium has become the message.

“In India too with the recent advent of modern format retail as well as free market competition from international packaged products, the role of packaging technology and design has gained critical importance in the marketing mix of a product. This is particularly true for personal care, FMCG, lifestyle, confectionery, liquor and tobacco products, among others. This has led to the development of packaging design and technology as a specialisation of its own instead of just an extension of the work of the traditional advertising agency.”

Banerjee, who belongs to the second-generation of packaging professionals, having joined his family business of packaging materials way back in 1989, points out the growing scope of study of packaging both from the point of view of employment and further studies: “Whilst packaging is a very specialised field, its requirement exists across diverse sectors. Using the food industry as an example – today the consumer first touches and accepts the pack, and thereafter, consumes the product. That itself is an indication of the scope that packaging offers. Earlier it was said that you require a product first and the pack follows; now it is vice-versa – the pack comes first and the product can be made thereafter.

“Opportunities for further studies in Packaging are opening up with doctoral programmes being offered in the USA, and specialisations (Masters) in design, polymer sciences, marketing, materials management and related field available in India.”
However, there is a demand-supply mismatch of skilled packaging experts. “The rapid demand for packaging professionals is far outstripping the supply at present. There is a great need for experienced and trained professionals, which the Institutions and Industry are doing their best to address,” says Gupta.

But what does it take to become a successful professional? What is the basic required skill set? “In addition to having an expertise in multiple subjects, a packaging expert should have a strong sense of creativity and design as well as good communication skills. The individual should also be technology savvy,” says Banerjee, who gets motivated to perform at his peak, day after day, because of factors like innovation and creativity, the buzzwords in packaging. “The challenge of winning the consumer at the first moment of contact with your packaging design is stimulating. The bar gets raised every time a new pack has to be designed. Furthermore, this line of work gives one an opportunity to do something new, explore new avenues every time,” he adds.

And what are the challenges facing the packaging technology in India? “The biggest challenge to packaging technology in India today is one of catching up with the developed world in terms of the materials, processes and design aesthetics. It demands not only the financial resources and the evolution of markets, but also an application of mind to think differently and boldly, in order to take on the challenges,” says Gupta.

The 'happening' world of packaging has its own share of pressure. And how do people like Sriman Banerjee handle this job pressure? “There is always the pressure of connecting with the consumer, getting things right – preferably first time around, timelines and managing multiple stakeholders. The best way of handling pressure is to stay calm, take a five-minute break, chat with friends and get back to work,”says our young achiever Banerjee.

Career Ladder

Trainee pay: Rs 15,000 per month
Asst Manager: Rs 50,000 to 60,000 per month
Manager: Rs 75,000 to 1,00,000 per month
Sr. Manager: Rs 1,50,000 to 2,00,000 per month
GeneralManager: Rs 2,50,000 to 3,00,000 per month
Vice President: Rs 3,50,000 to 4,00,000 per month

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