Member Spotlight: Muralikrishnan Rangan
Member Spotlight: Muralikrishnan Rangan
Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said in his book The Alchemist: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” That rings true in the case of Muralikrishnan Rangan, CEO of Print Lab Group, as the universe came calling in various forms in his life—through good, bad and ugly events—pushing him to realise his dream to become a successful businessman. Although, the very humble and spiritually inclined 44-year-old puts it to the orchestrations of a higher power.
We meet at LATITUDE Bistro for our interview, and Murali rushes in apologising profusely for being late. It’s a very rainy day in a rather rainy week, so peak-time traffic disruptions were factored in. But as we get down to chatting, it becomes obvious that Murali does not take anything for granted in his life.
PATH OF HIS OWN
Born into a family of academics and professionals— his mother was the Vice-principal of Catholic High School and his dad, an ex-marine engineer, was the principal of National Maritime Academy and retired as Assistant Director at PSA Singapore. Going down generations, his grandfather was the Head Officer for administration at St Joseph’s Institution Singapore— Murali’s alma mater and now, of his three sons.
One would imagine that his career path was already written. But Murali wanted to do something that was his own. And rescue came in the form of O-Level grades—they were a tad shy for junior college. He enrolled in Ngee Ann Polytechnic instead.
“To my family it was like the world had come crashing down as I was the only one to have not gone to college. But, if you were to ask me today, it was the best thing that happened in my life,” says Murali. Tertiary education unearthed his innate creativity and independent nature.
It was also where his music career blossomed. Trained in classical Indian music by his maternal aunt since the age of seven, Murali went on to win the most popular singer award on local Indian television channel Vasantham a few years later. He has also lent his voice for some popular movies in the Tamil movie industry in India.
THE TURNING POINTS
“My mantra is ‘in adversity, opportunity presents itself’.” To say that his life trajectory has been directed by it would not be a stretch. Chief among them being a rejection that kept him from realising his other childhood dream: To be a pilot.
After expertly swimming through numerous rounds of interviews, Murali lost out at the final and deciding round. As he found out later, it was a call made by the chief interviewer and deciding officer. The reason he quoted for his decision is what set Murali even more pointedly towards his entrepreneurial journey. “He said ‘I would be doing Singapore a disservice if I were to employ you, and one day you will thank me for it’,” recalls Murali.
Hard as it was to stomach for someone who barely had money to last him the week, the fire had been lit. Murali chose the third option from the kind of businesses he had ever wanted to get into—event management, interior design and creative printing.
As anyone wandering into the world of business without the luxury of capital, Murali started as a middleman. He was the agent, client coordinator and errand boy, as hiring a delivery person aside, he could not afford the cab fare to deliver his orders.
His celebrity status amongst the Indian diaspora in Singapore, ironically only stood in judgement. Again, as if put there for a bigger purpose, a naysayer’s disparaging public comment shocked Murali into the reality of his life and drove him singlemindedly towards success.
“I wrote what she said on a piece of paper, printed it and hung it in my office. I already had a burning desire to be successful, but looking at that piece of paper in front of me made that under-fire even bigger,” says Murali, surprisingly thankful and showing no trace of anger. Instead, he says: “This and many others have moulded me into who I am today.”
LIFE WITH A PURPOSE
Today Print Lab is the largest one-stop shop for small- and large-format, and offset printing in Singapore, boasting a portfolio of many major brands. In 2019, it also celebrated a merger with Fraser and Neave’s Times Publishing Pte Ltd. This was possible because the printers Murali had worked with as an agent came together under one roof towards a unified goal. Today, he counts his partners Lawrence and Boon Lee as part of his family.
As we chat, ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove is preparing for its inaugural marine conservation event, Blue Water EduFest, and Print Lab which has been one of its chief vendors is the obvious choice—as well as a sponsor—with its new eco-friendly iteration Green Lab. All the marketing materials—from stickers to hoardings and banners—were made using 100 per cent environmentally friendly PVC-free materials. The company has since its conception been revolutionising the approach to branding, printing and food packaging in Singapore with compostable and biodegradable printing solutions. From October, its production facility at Tuas also started the journey towards making all its operations carbon neutral.
Murali has achieved a lot to be proud about, but “none of this success is my own”, he says humbly. Topmost on his list of people to thank is his wife Poorany, a former 96.8FM DJ and presenter-turned teacher, for her unconditional support through his journey, from an ambitious youngster, to struggling entrepreneur, to a successful businessman. Family time is priority for Murali, especially with their three sons. “Their innocence and wide-eyed wonder for even the smallest of things keeps things in perspective for me. I will not trade that for anything.”