“Online Communication is Helping Us to Become More Customer Oriented”
Sarawat Printers and Publishers is one of the biggest and most respected printing companies in KSA. The company is a one stop shop for a variety of printing jobs including books, booklets, manuals, catalogs, newsletters, brochures, exclusive boxes, shopping bags and much more.
Sarawat boasts three plants in and around Jeddah and offers the full range of print and value-added services to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region and beyond.
To find out more about challenges the company faced during the Coronavirus pandemic and their plans for the future we talked to Abdul Aziz Al Ghamdi, CEO of the company who is with the company since its inception.
Here are the excerpts:
What are the concrete measures you are taking to protect employees, in the light of Coronavirus challenges?
The Corona epidemic has altered all aspects of our lives. But praise Allah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been one of the first countries which was able to apply preventive measures to stop the spread of the epidemic. Current situation also forced everyone to adhere to these measures. Both private sector companies and governmental institutions were required to impose regulations that would protect their employees and the employees were asked to respect the social distancing and other protective measures. The measures we adopted are showing concrete positive results for everyone. Our employees were able to keep the machines running while also observing social distancing protocols. We also decided to reduce the working time to 6 hours per day. Once the situation improved, the pace of work returned to normal.
How did the Coronavirus affect your production capacity?
Reduction in working hours, as well as decline in demand from government and business sectors for printing products, had a huge impact but we never went below 60% capacity. There was also a considerable cut back in our long-term contracts. All these had a significant negative impact on our revenues.
Do you think the epidemic will force or encourage printing houses to resort more to automation and rely less on labor?
working remotely is showing positive results in some areas of operation, especially when you are dealing with new customers. We realized that our reputation that had been built over the years now precedes us. Our clients trust us and that makes it easy for us to handle some part of the whole cycle of print process and to communicate with customers using automation and workflow. We had valuable experience in operating our business remotely. On the other hand, modern digital machines also played an effective role in processing orders and supporting customers. We have also linked our digital equipment and offset machine using a single automated workflow. This initiative streamlines the whole operation in the printing house.
Do you believe that the Coronavirus pandemic, which seems to be with us for some time, will change the media landscape in your country?
Publishing industry in general and newspapers in particular are the sectors of the print industry that were hit the hardest by the pandemic. Some of the newspaper were even forced to close down. As for newsletters, their volume has decreased to 50% or less. Publishers have no other choice but to reduce expenses in order to be able to mitigate the crisis and ride the storm until the situation is back to normal.
How much you rely on Internet for receiving and processing orders?
Based on our 40 years of experience in printing industry, we still believe in face to face communication with our clients on daily basis. However, we are increasingly relying on Internet to communicate with our customers online. Online communication is also helping us to become more customer oriented, especially during lockdown. But we still maintain direct communication with our customers.
Have you downsized due to pandemic?
Our decision regarding reducing headcounts depends largely to the economic situation. Since COVID 19 negatively affected the volume of our business, we were forced to cut cost and let go some of our employees. However, we have always invested in training for our employees. Most of them are multitasked and can operate several machines and handle multiple operations and processes.
What is your plan for future investments? Which area of printing has the greater potential for investment?
Mostly packaging printing. At the moment we are studying the opportunities to diversify into new areas specially package printing.
Did you invest in new printing equipment recently?
We have invested in digital printing and added large format digital printer from Canon to our fleet of machines as well as other digital kits equipped with UV technology. Thanks to our new digital equipment machines we are able to meet our customer demands for short run high quality print products. we are also able to boost our digital printing production capacity to meet the growing demand of our customers. We have established a separate company for our digital printing operation as well.