Owner and Managing Director of Chemsol (SA) Adhesives
Premi Subramany is the owner and managing director of Chemsol (South African) Adhesives, which is based in Durban. The company manufactures chemicals and adhesives used for paper and packaging. The company’s focus and strengths are specialised waterborne adhesives for paper and packaging.
Premi started off her career as an accountant and has worked for many corporate companies over the years. After qualifying, she moved to a manufacturing business where she played the role of management accountant. Thereafter, she moved on to a corporate company where she was the financial director of the business.
In 2005, said Premi, “I decided it was time to move on my own. Let me try and take on the risks of owning my own business.”
The company Chemsol Adhesives CC was sold to her, and she commented that she had to take on the company and grow it to another level. Premi explained, “It was incredibly challenging, but I made it work. We started off making solvent adhesives for the footwear industry. In 2013, South African Adhesives was founded, and thereafter, we started manufacturing waterborne adhesives.
Know your product
Reflecting on the numerous challenges in the manufacturing environment, Premi said that she thinks firstly knowing your product before you go out to market the product is essential.
“I was highly successful in getting to know my product. The challenge was getting out there and meeting people on the floor to introduce my product and getting them to understand what I actually do. And if I say falling in love with my product that I could supply.”
“In addition, I needed to work with ground staff, getting them to know the product, how it performs, and its ability to give them their results that are required and that was a great challenge. I think achieving that and knowing how their machinery would work with my product was very satisfying.”
The manufacturing sector is also a male dominated environment and particularly challenging for women. “Just getting them to believe in me, that yes, the product can work and make their job easier was challenging. At the end of the day they have to achieve results and ensure that there is less downtime and that their end products are excellent.”
However, says Premi, “I am passionate about what I do, I think my customers motivate me more when they come with a new development and I take on the product and ensure that I achieve the required result with my team and their technical expertise. There is much satisfaction when the product works. There are a lots of trials and there are many steps in ensuring that the product is what the customer really needs and that’s what they will sign off at the end of the day.”
In addition, says Premi the new developments within the changing environment and ‘going bio and green’ is making manufacturing chemical products more exciting nowadays. “Lots of avenues have been opened up for me in supplying biodegradable products, biodegradable adhesives, and biodegradable HDP polymers for our plastic division – they are our go-getters at the moment. We’re looking forward to providing our customers green products to ensure that the environment is safe. We’ve got to ensure we sustain both the environment and our business.”
While Premi has several projects on hand at the moment, she also has future goals. “Looking at my business as a whole, we need customers, we need to go green, and we need to be sustainable. However, there’s a lot of training and development happening currently. There is a focus on the youth in our business to get them to enjoy what we are doing. We have lots of technical expertise in the business and we’re trying to pass that on to our graduates. My goal is to ensure they are trained, that they know what’s happening and they understand what they are doing.”
While Premi is conscious of the need to empower women in the workplace, she has a 50/50 split of male and female employees. She explained that it is important to keep gender equality going between males and females as this adds value to the business and is enabling. “The interlink is important because the ideas that are discussed between a male and female achieve the results required,” Premi explained.
However, 50% of the company’s women employees are in management roles. “We have empowered our younger women, who we have brought in as young graduates, to take on senior roles and to become involved in decision making processes within the business as well.”
Reflecting on the impacts that she has made in her field, Premi says that she uses both her business environment and her family environment to empower the people around her. “I ensure and give them confidence to believe in me that I can lead my team members. That’s what gives us excellent results in the business, and I see that right through my business. I think that what I enjoy most in my business is my staff, and my family around me. My staff and my family members work together as a team, which gives me much satisfaction.”
Never give up
In advising younger people, Premi says that her advice is to never give up. She explains, “Work can be very challenging, and it can also be very uncomfortable in different environments. But again, it’s how you will allow yourself to accept rejection. I think that’s important. If you’re rejected, do not give up, just continue. Just see how you could improve on rejection, and it happens almost all the time. You will be rejected, guaranteed, but it’s what you do. Just take it as a challenge, go sit down, think about it, and see how you can better it and never give up.”
In order to have time out, Premi explains that she shuts off at 6 p.m. every day when she goes home. In addition, her focus on the weekends is for herself and her family who are extremely important to her. “So,” she says, “the weekends are for me. I love my cooking, I love my naps, I read, and I enjoy documentaries. So that’s how I relax.”