HotSeat – Pravin Mistry, Global CEO at PREA Ltd

PREA Ltd is a leading management consultancy established over 25 years ago, specialising in the polymer industry, providing recruitment services, technical and management consultancy to a wide range of technical sectors. Global CEO Pravin Mistry is next to face the HotSeat.

What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will PREA respond?

PREA is a global management consultancy serving the chemicals and polymer industry – with expertise including plastics, rubber, composites, textiles, polyurethanes, adhesives, paints and coatings.

During its 25 years of business, PREA has guided countless companies through uncertain periods with our consultancy and recruitment services, from our headquarters in Manchester. We work with small local companies, up to large multinationals, and our services are split into three divisions: Management Consultancy (mergers and acquisitions, company restructuring, chairperson guidance), Recruitment (recruitment services, interim management and outplacement services) and Technical Consultancy (formulations, coatings, injection moulding, rubber compounding and extrusion).

There are several challenges facing the UK plastics industry at the moment, including raw material prices, COVID-19, geo-political events, and rocketing energy prices and interest rates to combat inflation.

There is also a real skills shortage within our industry, on both a national and global scale. With many companies looking to make changes to their working practices by adopting a 4-day working week, we must remain optimistic and adapt how we operate to best meet the needs of our customers during this challenging period.

As a result of the skills shortage, we have been and will always be busy regardless of the wider economic situation. In addition, we have recently been reshoring work from China back into the UK, mainland Europe and the USA.

If anything, the pandemic has been a catalyst in reshoring and reducing manufacturers’ carbon footprint.

How has PREA developed during your tenure?

PREA has gone from a small UK national management consultancy to a global management consultancy, serving the plastics, rubber, composites, adhesives, polyurethane and textile markets. We started out working with small businesses, dealing primarily with local companies and SMEs, before adding some multinational and international clients.

Over 25 years since it was formed, PREA is now well established and respected on a national and international level.

I am also delighted to announce that PREA will be exhibiting at K2022 to meet new and existing customers from around the globe. We will use our presence at the show to represent the company and our customers.

What do you credit as the key to your success?

My motivation from an early age has always been my parents, who moved to the UK from India in the 1950s. From an early age, my parents taught me the importance of a strong work ethic and to embrace learning at every opportunity.

I have always been able to adapt well to changing situations, and this has served me well in my personal life and throughout my career, especially in the past couple of years as we’ve had to adapt to a new way of working.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

I have had many, so it is hard to pinpoint the greatest, but I would say having to adapt to difficult conditions on an ongoing basis throughout my career. Whether working with plastics, rubber, or composites, there is a requirement to stay informed and embrace new technologies, new processes and changing markets across many different countries and sectors of industry.

My greatest challenges as a consultant came during the 2008 recession and more recently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but as always, these challenges have been overcome, and we have emerged on the other side stronger and wiser for it.

During the pandemic, we couldn’t travel and as a result, I was headhunted to take up several roles within the UK for the last 19 months. These included part-time, full-time and interim roles, with positions ranging from Chairman to CEO and Managing Director. I worked with SMEs and multinationals throughout this period and used video conferencing software to communicate with my colleagues in their respective countries, which has been a very challenging but rewarding experience.

What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?

I can only speak personally, as when I entered the industry around 40 years ago, it was by accident! I came across polymers at school when I was 14, we made nylon in the school lab, and that was it. I became a member of the plastics industry.

A job was advertised in the local paper for a Laboratory Technician in a local rubber and plastics company. I applied and got the job and was lucky enough to be sent to study at Manchester Polytechnic part-time for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Honours degree in Polymer Science.

Times have changed since then, so my advice would be to bide your time, learn both theoretically and practically. Always embrace new technology, and if you are able to move within the polymer industry and work abroad as I did, or in a new sector, this is a great way to improve your skills and broaden your knowledge.

Also, listen to and work with people in all areas of manufacturing. Spend some time with machine operators and process and material experts – you will learn a lot; there is no textbook in the world that can teach you this!

What hidden talents do you have?

My other passion is sports. I am a retired Badminton Association of England coach and was sponsored by Wilson Racquets as a player when I was younger. I had the chance to go professional, but I put my career in plastics first!

These days I prefer walking and cycling to keep myself fit and healthy.

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