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Spotlight: Irfan Rajabali, director of business development at E.B. Box Company


April 16, 2021
By PrintAction Staff

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Irfan Rajabali joined E.B. Box Company 13 years ago. As director of business development, Irfan heads up the sales and strategy departments to manage client relationships, as well as lead the sales teams, managing them to help them grow their base, and work on new product innovation for the 48-year-old company.

What attracted you to the print industry?
IR: It was one of the industries that I saw growth as we start to look down the retail store shelf. In our business, a lot of the up-and-coming companies are really focused on branding, Instagram appeal and retail store shelf appeal. You could see that this was going to be a bigger part of the retail experience.

How do you think the industry can attract more of the next generation?
IR: It’s probably the single biggest challenge that we face. I think there’s a lot of other industries that are maybe a little more, on the face of it, appealing. As kids in this day and age are starting to leave university, they’re trying to get into some of these other industries, be it tech, banking or telco, but we have a hard time finding people who want to really focus on print and graphics management.

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Unfortunately, with the school programs, it’s harder to attract people because it’s somewhat more of a trade school program than a traditional university route, and a lot of people who take the post-secondary route don’t necessarily come to a print shop as their first choice of work after. It’s not a traditionally appealing industry that people are targeting to join as they pursue higher education.

At some point, there’s going to have to be some collaboration with post-secondary programs and regional job boards and organizations that supply labour to really outline the fact that in a growing industry, like we have today, the actual wage rates inside the industry are very competitive with what people can make in a different sector. I don’t think that’s communicated well by our industry.

What are some strategies for a company to win more sales?
IR: What we are seeing in the market is a lot of pressure on lead times. You’re starting to see the traditional folding carton shops, where lead times might be six to eight weeks, and traditional commercial print shops, [where] turnaround might be five to seven days, converge. Their business models are very different, but they’re starting to put a lot of downward pressure on lead times. It’s been a big focus of ours that we start to invest in the technology, people and processes required for us to bring our own lead times down.

What are some of the biggest opportunities you see in the industry?
IR: I think one of the biggest ones that may have been somewhat accelerated by COVID-19 has been in the food space. E.B. Box is about 80 per cent committed to food, so we’ve seen a lot of great opportunities because everybody needs to eat. People are accessing meals through the grocery channels, or through takeout food from restaurants, and that’s really driven up the requirements for packaging. If you look at the space that exists right now, especially in the world that we’re in, food and pharmaceutical are the two fastest-growing segments of the folding carton packaging space.

What is one project you are particularly proud of working on?
IR: One of the things we’ve been working on as the world moves towards more eco-friendly packaging is replacing plastic coatings in boxes with an environmentally-friendly water-based solution. We came up with a coating that we successfully pitched to a national grocery chain, allowing them to switch out all of their plastic packaging with paperboard boxes with an environmentally-friendly coating. We believe that you can get a box in a lot of places, but for us, we view ourselves as a partner to [our clients’] business, and being able to be flexible and meet the ever-changing needs in the food space has been the recipe for our success.

Eric’s answers were edited for length and clarity. For more Spotlight Q&A interviews, please visit printaction.com/profiles.

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of PrintAction.