Aashna Popli rolls up muscles and trains in flexo factory

Barriers to entry in an industry dominated by men and heavy machinery are very high. Aashna Popli shows the way

05 Dec 2023 | By Disha Chakraborty

The two days of training covered both the technical aspects of the equipment, and their unique selling points

Disha Chakraborty(DC): Our industry has a lower female representation, but this depends on the position and location. Your view?
Aashna Popli (AP):
Female representation has been lower, particularly in positions related to engineering, and this trend is reflected in the dominance of males in engineering colleges. Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the representation of women in leadership roles. Universities are emphasising on gender diversity, leading to more women entering the workforce. 

DC: Can women in India play an important role in producing packaging that will make a difference?
What difference do we aim to make? For me, it revolves around creating safe, sustainable, and appealing packaging. Considering that women often make crucial decisions about household product purchases, especially food packaging, it's clear that they have an intricate understanding of packaging needs. Incorporating the insights and perspectives of women in the design and production of packaging can pave the way for a more sustainable and responsible approach.

DC: You had a stint at Soma. What are the top tips and tricks you can share with us about CI flexo?
Soma's machines are known for their sophisticated engineering and automation. It’s time that converters look to leverage these innovations of flexo to meet current market requirements such as quick changeovers and short runs with IRIS technology. With its unique advance bounce control for shorter repeat lengths; close to zero wastage; Soma cloud to stay connected with services 24x7.

DC: How can we ensure your Soma experience is replicated in factories across India? 
Well it’s a challenge we have taken up. We were able to see ourselves, the distinctions and benefits this machine possesses over others. Since Suhas Kulkarni is the industry pioneer, we are working together under his leadership, to do all it takes to inspire confidence in this equipment.  We plan to conduct a number of marketing campaigns, including road shows and seminars, in order to connect with possible converters. 

DC: Other than Soma, where else have you seen women on the production floor - all the things you would want in a print factory?
I had the chance to meet a few customers and stakeholders across India and have witnessed women in a variety of roles.  Apart from leadership roles, a lot of them are involved in detail oriented processes for example, in the pre-press stage. I met two powerful women at Labelexpo, Sofie Agergaard from AGS Flexo and Maite Nogue from TEG Technologies. They are both in executive roles in the respective businesses and exhibit exceptional industry and business acumen. 

DC: Any women role models in our industry whose names you can share ... 
In our industry, Nalini Jaichandra and her success story has always been an inspiration. I am inspired by her leadership qualities and her control over the operations. Every time has been a learning moment. In terms of role models, Pavla Kusa has been a huge influence. Watching her lead Soma with her knowledge about the products. 

DC: Is it true that you don't walk into a room now and you're almost the only woman in the stall. Has recognition of women for their ability moved forward incredibly? 
The value of gender diversity and equal opportunity for women has gained attention in recent years in many parts of the industry, but it's crucial to remember that not all job roles have seen equal advancements in this regard. The audience in Labelexpo Brussels was more diversified than the one in India. It's more of a work in progress in India.

DC: Do you feel our industry is now a more technologically advanced industry?
My grandfather’s legacy started with letterpress. He saw a major shift to a more technologically advanced offset process. My father is always discussing and explaining the latest advancements and emerging trends in all processes right from offset to flexo to digital. With the rise of automation softwares, printing has gotten much more advanced.

Aashna Popli: Women have a clear understanding of packaging needs, hence we want to create safe, sustainable, and appealing packaging

DC: The industry needs to do a lot more to promote women in the industry. 
The insights highlight critical areas for improvement within our industry. There is a clear recognition that we need to do more to actively promote and support women in the sector. This involves creating inclusive environments, mentorship programs, and advocating for equal opportunities. I believe that even basic factors, such as providing hygienic washrooms for women, are ignored.

DC: Do you believe that to see the sector become more visible at showcasing career paths, within universities and other academic routes?
Enhancing the visibility of the industry in academic settings is crucial. By showcasing diverse and rewarding career paths within universities and other educational institutions, we can attract more women. Academically, we are doing our part. My father contributes by delivering lectures and participating in hiring processes at his alma mater, actively seeking to encourage more women to join our company. 

DC: One solution to a circumstance where women might need help 
I see a particular need for providing additional guidance and training in certain smart skills, especially those traditionally associated with men. In our industry, skills such as networking, negotiation, and financial management are invaluable, and women may not have had as many opportunities to cultivate and practise these skills. Therefore, focusing on providing mentorship and resources to enhance these smart skills can empower women.

Aashna Popli at Soma

“My family has been in this industry for almost 30 years, which means they are the source of all the knowledge I possess. As an aspiring businesswoman armed with a MBA and a degree in hotel management, my journey into the world of printing technology is guided by a commitment to learn and innovate. I recognise the importance of embracing technologies to stay competitive in today’s market..

In my journey to learn and gain technical expertise, I had the privilege to attend a sales training program by Soma at their headquarters in Lanskroun, Czech, focusing on its CI flexo machines and other ancillary equipment. The two days of training covered both the technical aspects of the equipment, and their unique selling points. We also had the opportunity to tour the manufacturing facility, where each component is assembled to create the machine. 

In fact, the purpose of the arranged visit in the month of September was to enable us to meet our service engineer from Popli Graphics who officially started training at the facility in August. 

The chance to network with industry experts and the firms we represent, Teg and  Agergaard, at Labelexpo, Brussels, shortly before the training, added more significance to this experience. Meeting industry peers, especially women leaders and partners in person gave insights and strengthened the ties that sustain successful cooperation. 

As a woman navigating this industry, continual training and networking reinforces my determination to bring innovation and excellence into our family business. “I have learned from Labelexpo 2023 to constantly be present. Get to know yourself and be recognised by others, and eventually, women attending or leading trade events will become a common thing,” said Aashna Popli, business development associate at Popli Graphics.

Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?


The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Shortcomings in EPR policy



Inadequate infrastructure



Shortage of recycling firms



Lack of consumer awareness



Total Votes : 18


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