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Pui-Chi Li, head of marketing for the Middle East and Africa at Xerox – speaks to Venkat Raghavan – assistant editor of PrintWeek MEA

There were many industries which was doing far better than printing industry when you have graduated so what inspired you to start your career in printing industry?

Initially – like many young people–I joined an industry rather by coincidence after pursuing a job listing for a role I believed would be a prospective one in a region I felt was dynamic. That industry happened to be Printing and Graphics, and the real choice I made was to stay in this field. Over the last decade, an industry that was once focused on the printed page is now so much more; expanding fully into the digitization of the workplace, embracing IoT, all the way to entering new spaces such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

 

What is the trend you are seeing in Middle East market? Do you think that printing industry is getting saturated or user perception has got changed in regard to quality?

The printing industry is rapidly evolving, especially in the workplace. It’s time to stop thinking about devices like printers as stand-alone, task-specific workhorses, and start demanding more up-to-date, useful – and useable – solutions. That’s why we need so much more than a machine – we need a workplace assistant. Having thoughtful and user-friendly features in a printer can make a huge difference in the way work is done.

 

What kind of changes you are expecting to happen in printing industry in next couple of years? Do you think that artificial intelligence and augmented reality could help printing industry to take it to next level?

Digital transformation, the process of replacing analogue procedures with digital ones, is driving the printing industry to progress rapidly. Digitalization today is especially focused on transforming office printers into workplace assistance.  That will not just speed up and automate a lot of the internal work flow processes but also optimize the time taken to achieve daily task. In fact, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can bring about digital transformation across many sectors, and not only in the printing industry. 

Companies like Xerox have already applied their research in AI, machine learning, and natural language processing into their products. The AI can understand, diagnose, and solve customer problems — without being specifically programmed to give rote responses. In the very near future, advancements in artificial intelligence technology will make machines successfully emulate human cognition.

 

We all would have heard about gender roles but only a few would have witnessed so can you elaborate your experience on this? 

Since joining the workforce just under two decades ago, we have seen significant shifts in the occurrence of female executives in critical, high profile jobs. Regardless of the role, company or industry, we need to recognize the importance of strong examples for the next generations to follow – to encourage and inspire.  Having resilient, capable female leaders in positions of power will continue to give this movement continued momentum. From my personal experience, I have been fortunate to build my career in the progressive environment that Xerox embraces which has meant I had the full breath of opportunity and support to succeed.

 

In the various roles you have occupied within the Xerox Group, which one would be the best role? What are the most important decisions you took after becoming head of marketing?

My current role as Head of Marketing for the Middle East & Africa region continues to be one of the most challenging and interesting roles within my time at Xerox. The diversity and opportunity available makes for a dynamic and fresh environment to work in each day.

One of the most critical decisions I have taken on since assuming this role is how we interact with our partners and their marketing community. For marketing to continue to be relevant, connected and have a strong influence on the achievement of business objectives, we need to refocus and treat marketing as its own professional discipline with measurable outcomes across the board. Working with our partner marketing teams to not only provide programs and campaigns but to work with them as one team significantly changes the dynamic of our relationship for the better.

 

Do you think that we need to change the mindset of every customer to adapt the latest technological enhancements or do we need to have any campaign to make them understand the importance of it?

Countries like the United Arab Emirates and its government greatly encourage businesses to adopt the latest technologies. With key national initiatives such as Emirates Smart Data Centre, -a large-scale Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform dedicated to the strategic analysis of data, information is provided to better integrate efforts between government, private and academic-sector institutions.

We see a robust innovation environment that is being strongly supported by the UAE government. UAE’s shift towards innovation is tremendous and we observed this across multiple verticals, such as e-government, SME, education, healthcare, transportation and many more. Digital transformation is one of the key areas where the UAE government is exceling, and it goes in line with global trends.  All markets are different, but the UAE is paving the way towards innovation in the Middle East region.

 

What is your opinion about counterfeit products and how to educate customers to use original products alone?

Counterfeit products may look on the surface to be the same, but the truth is that they are very far away from the real products – often while they may be managed to imitate one element of a product other items are simply not the same. From a vendor perspective, the presence of fake technology gadgets in the market can negatively impact the reputation of the brand that counterfeiters are trying to copy.  More importantly, the user experience will be incomplete at best and negatively affect users at the worst case.  Unfortunately, the continued demand for cheap, fake products continue to feed the counterfeit supply. Customers are not aware of the dangers that such underground businesses pose on themselves and on real, registered organizations. Therefore, brands are responsible to raise awareness about such topics and help customers identify their real products apart from the fake ones.

 

What would be your advice to the next generation of youngsters and particularly for young women?

Understanding the field, you’re working in is critical and spending time interacting with customers is the best way to achieve this. My advice to women is to spend time with the full spectrum, from the large corporate customers with printing facilities all the way to the smaller print houses who run on a shoe string budget –because each represents a learning opportunity on how to add more value to the customer.

You also need to define what you want and what matters most to you; go into the details and thoroughly understand the layers and different elements involved in your work field. This will form your core values and stake on the ground, which will drive everything you do to achieve your business goals. Women in the workplace frequently take on an amicable persona and lose sight of their own goals in favor of other pressures and demands—thus, having a clear goal in mind will help you overcome these challenges.

 

What is one characteristic that you believe every woman should possess?

Tenacity is the one characteristics that I see in many successful women in the workplace – the confidence and drive to pursue their goals and objectives.

 

What would be your greatest achievements in all these years?

To have this opportunity and be part of this intersection and transition of the physical world to the digital one brings new challenges and opportunities which make every day feel fresh and exciting. Creating this environment for my team is one of my top priorities when it comes to people management. Empowering members of my team and giving them the space to grow and exercise their creativity enables us to get the best out of people.