Professor Rajendrakumar Anayath Bringing Indian print education to greater heights

Presently, the fast emerging Indian graphics arts industry needs efficiently trained man-power to diversify its scope and strengths. Here the role of print faculties becomes very important to meet this requirement. Professor Dr Rajendrakumar Anayath, head, Heidelberg Print Media Academy, Chennai is one such personality who has been contributing the industry being an erudite academician, researcher, with extensive experience of more than two decades in result-oriented research and training in the global graphic arts industry. Recently, Printing Industries of America announced to honour him with ‘the 2011 Education Award of Excellence’ for his outstanding educational and training contributions. D Ramalingam of Print & Publishing meets with Dr Anayath at a rendezvous. Ramalingam: We know each other for a decade or so. While in Manipal, you arranged overseas faculty. Now, with PMA for the past five years, you have been categorized for the Award under Industry Trainer constituted by PIA-GATF. This is for your commitment to education to students as well as to the industry. Congratulations. I believe your challenges are increasing.

Professor Dr Rajendrakumar Anayath, head of Heidelberg PMA.Dr Anayath: I do believe so. I think in the past five years I have had the benefit of few opportunities to transform myself from a traditional university teacher to an industry-oriented practical solutions provider. The platform I received from Heidelberg is ideal and perfect that has sharpened my abilities and I am privileged to receive unbelievable opportunities in my organization to interact with both Indian and international printers, experts and gurus from the broad media industry and academia. Today, our industry expects more from our team and me and I have to keep on updating myself and restructure our programmes to meet the increasing demand from the customers. In this sense, yes, the challenges are increasing.

Ramalingam: The Award ‘Press Release’ also recognises your contribution to research. I personally feel there is much to be done in this direction in our country. Do you have any plans?

Dr Anayath: I express similar views on this matter at various forums. And once again repeat these here. Perceiving printing just as a traditional technology to ‘add ink on paper’ days are over. Today, jovially we ask if somebody is doing only a four colour ‘Are you still in black & White?’ A mere ‘four colour’ job has become an old ‘black and white’ job today. Printers want to add lot of values in their product. Modern press designs and workflow systems transformed the traditional skill based print industry into a knowledge based, application know how driven industry. Today, no printer ‘prints’ but ‘manufactures’ thus he doesn’t look for a printer who is with decades of experience but look for one who has a thorough knowledge base, processes and willingness to adapt change. To manufacture something in your press you have to ‘learn’ and ‘learn to unlearn’. This attitude is what makes a printer different and successful today. I have been observing printers who have an R&D in their press; they simply excel in their production with ultimate precision and novelty in products. I strongly believe we have to do a lot more work in ‘research and development’. For this to happen we need to approach printing technology more seriously. I some time wonder, our subset industries such as paper, ink and packaging are much more serious in this line and given more priorities. How this could happen? The new developments in nano-science and technology have opened up new vistas for printing technology which demands a thorough scientific base. Interdisciplinary research in printing has become a need of the hour. I want to continue our contribution as much as possible with the existing universities and research centers in academics and combined research programmes. Printed electronics is going to play a big role in the future. Micro-structuring techniques will provide innumerable opportunities for printers. All these are possible only with a strong research base. Today I have two students who are pursuing PhD programme with me. That is not sufficient. We need at least one hundred doctorates by 2020. I believe, one day, a real R&D centre focusing print media technology will happen in our country too.

Ramalingam: I understand manufacturers like Heidelberg, Kodak, etc give equipment to Rochester Institute (RIT), for example, for teaching as well for beta operation and research. If that is correct, do you feel that the same trend will follow in our country too? If not, what do you think as the major obstacle?

Dr Anayath: I strongly believe it will happen in our country also even though we do not have an RIT. It is not happening in India, as like in the US, primarily because the facilities available (physical and other resources) at our universities are very primitive. As a result our industry does not have the level of exposure and confidence in approaching an institution for any kind of research or consultancy. Heidelberg has donated complete ‘Prinect workflow solutions’ to five universities and trained their faculties in India. Every institution involved in print education in India should do a SWOT analysis and perform a sincere benchmarking with international standards to understand where they stand vis-à-vis world standards. We must be continuously ready to adapt and change without any reservation in the mind. Then the confidenance level of industry can be realigned. I am always optimistic and am confident that this will happen in India too.

Ramalingam: As a globetrotter, I believe you must have visited many countries and their printing institutions. Can you brief us on printing education in other countries you have visited so far?

Dr Anayath: Probably, I am one among the few lucky printing teachers in the world who has got the opportunity to interact with many of the important print institutions in the world. I am a member of the IARIGAI (International Association of Research Organizations for the Information, Media and Graphic Arts Industries) and an editorial board member of IC (International Circle of Educational Institutes for Graphic Arts Technology and Management). Both represent the most important global apex bodies in print media education and research. This aquaintance gives me the chance and opportunity to understand global print and graphic education systems much closer and the actual research avenues in emerging trends. In Germany, still print education is highly respected and they approach it very scientifically, always focussing on future research. Being a visiting scholar at Chemnitz University of Technology (Technische Universitat Chemnitz), I could witness their dedication in focussed research on every selected areas. Today, the whole EU follows Bologna Education System which guaranties a uniform standard in the whole region. USA is already in the path of next level applications of printing technology. It was surprising for me to visit a ‘University of Printing’ in China, BIGC (Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication) in 2005, which employs 656 faculties and more than 10,000 students. Beijing municipalities printing presses are located inside its premises. Probably one of the biggest facility I have ever seen in an institution. One thing I could notice is that every institutions around the globe is in the path of change to cater the needs of tomorrow. We also have to follow the same trend in India. Else we will witness a complete extinction of technically oriented print community in our nation.

Ramalingam: Will the inputs you gather during your educational trips/lectures help in restructuring PMA courses or what you have is near perfect?

Dr Anayath: Of course! These exposures help me to clearly understand the future requirements and the latest trends in the global media industry. One old school of thought says that education should be at least five years ahead of the existing system in the market. In PMA, we have a perfect balance between modern systems and the future requirements. We are able to guide our customers precisely for their future project plans on what they should focus on and where they can invest. Also, we could add many important concepts like ISO certifications, importance of postpress equipments and systems, web to print, etc in our regular training programmes.

Ramalingam: How do you rate the standard of printing education in our country, not as a criticism but as some suggestions for improvement?

Dr Anayath: Infact, we have the best in terms of students and they are comparable to anywhere in the world. But our systems are rigid and exam centric. This restricts the student to become knowledge centric. It should be student centric. We have excellent teachers too in our printing communities. But except few, no one goes to the industry. Industry-institute interactions have to be increased much more. In Indian education system, theoretical teaching is as good as anywhere in the world. But when it comes to practical demonstrations our facilities are poor and teachers too are not that oriented. This may be because of the initial high investment cost and the huge recurring expenses to run a printing facility. Master level programmes should focus more into scientific approaches and applications. More focused interdisciplinary research should start with strong industry participation.

I also strongly recommend our fellow teachers to participate internationally in various activities. Some time we may have to spend some money from ourselves. But consider it as an investment. There are many excellent teachers who also deserve accolades. My only suggestion to my fellow teachers is that, take printing seriously and create a ‘passion for print’. Let us take the Indian print education to greater heights. I can assure every possible support from my side and from PMA.

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