At Indian packaging giant UFlex, growth is all about upskilling staff

Nurturing talent.
Nurturing talent.
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Indian packaging solutions major UFlex attributes its leadership in the segment to a relentless focus on employees.

“When we bring candidates on-board, we assume that they don’t know much about the industry. The company has training programmes for all its employees right from associates to the top leadership,” says Anantshree Chaturvedi, vice-chairman of UFlex Group.

The people-focus has helped the 35-year-old company spread its wings overseas. It now has packaging plants in the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Poland, Egypt, and the US. It also boasts of clients such as Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Tata Global, Britannia, snacks & sweets maker Haldiram, dairy giant Amul, and Nestle.

At UFlex, retaining nurtured talent is also a top priority. “Once someone becomes a part of our family, we do all we can to make them stay longer with us. We make sure we offer competitive salaries to employees,” said Chaturvedi.

In a conversation with Quartz, he spoke about how critical it is to hire team players. Edited excerpts:

What is the one job that would be the most crucial to UFlex Group in the future?

Cultural productivity officer. The way people work and where they work is changing rapidly. Some employees work best in a traditional office environment, others will be comfortable anywhere, anytime. Someone who can manage the cultural productivity will be a must-have person.

What are the qualities you look for when you hire?

Packaging continues to be a traditional business. The basic qualities we look for in potential candidates are: Do they think creatively when faced with challenges, and are they problem solvers? One trait that is hard to gauge, but can stand out and put a candidate in a different category, is whether he or she is a team player.

If you were interviewing a fresh graduate, what is the one question you will definitely ask?

UFlex is a packaging solutions provider.
Anantshree Chaturvedi.
Image: UFlex Group

I will ask a candidate why he or she is choosing the packaging industry? I would be curious to understand what is it that attracts a candidate towards manufacturing, and not just polymers or packaging. Not many young people pick up manufacturing as a career nowadays.

What do you want that candidate to ask you?

I would want the candidate to ask me how this job is going to challenge her? That shows the candidate is not afraid of challenges and is capable of creating order even in chaos.

Do you feel Indian academia is doing enough to ensure that graduates are employable?

Our educational institutes need to nurture talent that can think strategically and prove to be an advantage for the firm they are working for. It is a hard job. Academia needs to do a lot more. There has to be greater academia-industry collaboration.

What initiatives have been launched by UFlex Group to upskill its workforce?

Our upskilling initiatives focus on enhancing the technical, functional, behavioural, managerial, and leadership competencies of our employees.

How do you keep pace with changing technology and evolving customer demands?

There’s a lot of useful information online and spending an hour a day reading the right content can help gain insights into relevant technology developments. Keeping pace with sales teams and interacting with customers will tell you about their evolving demands.

Why has data suddenly become centrestage? Also, is analytics being effectively implemented?

The age of big data and running large-scale statistical analytics…is passé. I’d be surprised if CEOs are still looking through macro data. Using data effectively is all about combing through the junk (data) that we are bombarded with daily.

How big a problem is attrition? How are you working to bring this down at UFlex?

It varies from country to country. For instance, attrition in India is low because packaging is a specialised field and we are the number one company by capacity and revenue in the country. We make sure we are competitive across the board when it comes to salaries and benefits.

However, if you look at our plants in Kentucky, Poland, and Hungary where local economies are booming, there is a lot of investment coming in. Attrition is high there. Offering competitive salaries is the only way to check attrition.

In Jobs of the Future series, Quartz writers speak to CXOs at some of India’s biggest companies and ask them about that one job that will be critical to their companies in the coming years.