The professor who keeps on keeping on
Rudrajeet Pal will be installed as professor at the Academic Ceremony 22 April.
Inaugural professorial lecture: Textile sustainability – impacts, spillovers, and solutions: A management engineering view
Date and time: 19 April at 09:00
Location: C203, University of Borås
(The inaugural professorial lecture will open to the public).
Read more about the Academic Ceremony
Rudrajeet began his career as a textile engineer. He is not the only academic in the family, but he is the first textile researcher. During the IT boom in India, everyone with an engineering degree went on to work at IT companies, regardless of their specialisation. The industry accepted everyone from these programmes with open arms: everything was about the internet and programming. But Rudrajeet wanted something different. After earning his Bachelor's degree, he began working in the textile industry in a position with a lot of travel between different factories. He was interested in the challenges of textiles and discovered an interest in developing things, rather than following the instruction manual. In his work, he became aware of how the people, processes, and machines are connected.
“Travelling around to different factories, cities, and resorts in India gave me perspective. I met the people who worked in the industries, both with production but also with management and sales. I began to understand textiles and how the field of textiles works. I got to know the machines down to each screw and nut, both when put together and taken apart. Then I realised: this is interesting, this is really something. I really learned a lot!”
In one of the factories, Rudrajeet wants to develop something new. He sees a way to streamline a production chain. He asks the manager at the factory if he can get started right away, but the answer is not very positive. "Is this in the instruction manual? If not, then no.” The industry's monotony and unwillingness to think outside the box sows a seed. He wants to do something else. Rudrajeet, after a lot of careful consideration, applies to the Swedish School of Textiles and Textile Management; he was attracted by the focus on innovation and the interaction between processes and business development. His trip to Sweden is his first international trip and in 2007 he enters the Swedish School of Textiles to study towards his Master's degree in Textile Management. His studies are going well, really well, and he decides to continue on to a doctorate.
“I understood the challenges of sustainability issues and I saw what could be done – the possibilities within the subject. That, combined with the fact that we started to define and develop the subject, made it obvious which path I would take. I think that's where it all started.”
This is where the pioneering starts. Initially, a solution was needed to the fact that, at that time, it was not possible to defend a doctoral thesis in textile management at the Swedish School of Textiles. Instead, Rudrajeet received his doctorate from Tampere University of Technology.
Together with other researchers, in 2014, re:textile is created, a project within Science Park Borås that aims to develop new design principles, business models, and production systems that enable circular flows in the textile industry. At the same time, the research subject of textile management was being developed. Applications, rejections, rejections, approved! Educational programmes, courses, and projects.
“We saved textile management. We took the initiative and then the ball started rolling. It gave us momentum to explore a circular focus. It felt like a beginning for the Swedish School of Textiles, where we started our journey towards becoming the experts in reverse logistics and circular value chains. Everything made sense and the road was clear. I knew where to go.”
The way forward
Along the way, there are a number of occasions and milestones for Rudrajeet to be proud of. Among all of Rudrajeet’s prestigious roles, he is an expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank Group. And there's still a lot to do:
“I'm very proud to be under 40 and a professor, it's not that common, I believe. But what I'm most proud of is that I really enjoy it, I really think it's very fun. I'm happy to work with what I do, the way I do. It motivates me every day; I can sometimes think that the great achievement is to become a professor under 40 but not to settle for it, to want to develop further.”
He is a young professor with many projects underway and is passionate about developing the Swedish School of Textiles and his subject area. Something he takes with him in his assignments and roles:
“Of course, it is important for me to be in all these forums and projects, and I do it as an individual but also as a representative. I am a representative of the Swedish School of Textiles and the University of Borås in very prestigious contexts and this is important to me.
In the end, there is really only one thing that is important and that matters the most.
“My family, of course: I have to say my family! My daughter, she's the biggest diamond in my life.”
It is easy to be tempted to believe that Rudrajeet's path has been calculated and paved out. And that's not entirely wrong... But he likes some initial chaos that is then mapped out and structured. At home, he is the one who plans, manages things, and keeps track of everything. At work, order is a tool and a way of working. It is not a question of control, rather instinct or maybe academic genetics.
“I’m not a control freak, but I like to keep track of things that concern me and are close to what I do. I think it comes from my engineering background. Everything has to be tangible, I want to know where the limits of my framework are in order to be able to do as relevant an analysis as possible. That's how I know if something is relevant or not. That's how I conduct my research, that's how I work.”
Right now, the framework is in place, so the path is clear for continuing on. Rudrajeet continues to further develop his research. His research is based on sustainable industries and how textile value chains can manage and minimise risks. He mainly works within three areas: small-scale local manufacturing, reverse logistics and circular value chains, as well as traceability in value chains. Everyday life consists, as for so many other researchers, of seeking funding for different projects – a process where the rejections are almost as important as the approvals. His thesis on Resilience and Risk Management has left its mark. Almost automatically, he counts out the risks in commitments and projects. Is the risk of getting involved worth taking? Is this challenge possible to overcome in the first place? What will be the consequence?
“I don't look negatively at failures. I see it as trying. I tried, I tested, I failed, I tried again and finally I succeeded. It must be a part of everyday life. After the third or fourth attempt, you succeed, but you have to dare to try. And then it's clear... You succeed more often if you attempt things that you know have a chance of succeeding.”
With Rudrajeet, things feel obvious and everything seems so logical. One step leads to another, one road leads to a new crossroads. Every decision moves the individual forward. And the important thing is to develop and push on. He's the young professor, who keeps on keeping on.
Title: Professor in Textile Management
Lives in: Borås
Tips for junior researchers: Follow your passion and dare to think big
Hidden talent: Singing, for sure!