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Reflection Of Success

The Future Of Print In The Middle East And North Africa To 2018Download the PDF from here

Several thousand people each month spend time with ME Printer. Some read it to catch up with breaking industry news, for some the appeal is the informative technical information it brings and some read it for the simple pleasure of a good read.  If this is you then the following story is a real cracker.

Many readers with English as their first or second language may not know that the Arabic words ‘Al Jazeera’ means an island. The English translation is simplistic; as with the English so with the Arabic, the word ‘Island’ runs with a wider remit – the word has all sorts of wonderful nuances and inflections. Al Jazeera Printing Press of Qatar chose wisely when it chose this name. Though Qatar is not quite an island, more a peninsula, it was for centuries as singular and close knit a community of just a few souls as any island could be, but today my how this has changed.

An English writer back in the 16th century made the suggestion:  “No man is an island entire of himself.” He meant of course that no person or business can be truly isolated, there will always be important interactions with others. Al Jazeera Printing Press is a mirror exactly reflecting modern day Qatar – a business bustling with wonderful energy, solid growth and through its skills and strategic planning is well on the way to expanding its services to ever wider fields.

When Al Jazeera Printing Press was founded in 2003 a little more than a decade ago, it sort of drifted, perhaps meandered with a work load and equipment structured primarily to carry out print for the local community, but in 2007 all this changed when new owners took over.

Two Brothers, Two Perspectives

It is often said cometh the hour, cometh the man, but in this case it was two men – brothers Jacob and Vincent Kannath. Though siblings, both men have distinctly different business backgrounds and this has proved to be of exceptional benefit. At the time of purchase, they could each take separate perspectives of the opportunities Qatar offered and much of their subsequent considerable success can be attributed to recognising the role printing could play in tapping the opportunities Qatar has just waiting to be grasped.

Jacob the elder of the two brothers chose after 28 years in senior management roles with one of the leading public sector banks in India to retire and join his brother Vincent, who  had been CEO of Gem Advertising one of the leading advertising agencies in Doha to purchase Al Jazeera Printing Press. The catalyst in the decision to take on such a challenge is fairly easy to see; Gem Advertising  were obliged to source print for its premium clients across a wide spread of countries, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai in particular. Anyone who buys print on this scale knows well how fraught with danger this can be. Quality control, on the shop floor management and meeting tight delivery schedules can be a challenge of considerable proportions. Naturally this begs the question – why not produce the print in Qatar and retain such challenges within a more manageable reach?

This is exactly what the brothers have done and what is so clever about that you may ask? Well the real interest and any lessons that others may learn from the Kannaths is in the way they approached the task. No helter skelter rushing this way and that, Jacob’s skills learnt as a banker centres around the way good businesses, to enjoy a long term future, need to have in place firm foundations. The business they were taking over was equipped with machinery, though very good were dated and designed for an earlier generation. GTOs one color SORM and two color SM 102 will always be able to produce good work, but presses of that age won’t cut the mustard when called on to produce high quality premium print in today’s highly competitive environment.

The brothers initially weren’t in the position to make wholesale changes and wisely recognised that what is done before the plates go on the press and what happens to the paper after it has been printed will always play a crucial role in meeting time and quality thresholds.

After all most printers know any well maintained Heidelberg will go the distance, it was elsewhere early attention was called for.  Jacob says: “During 2007-9 we concentrated on the development of in house facilities –particularly modernising prepress and finishing equipment.” 

The modern digital environment demanded top class investment in workflows and computer to plate systems and so the decision was made to install Screen PlateRite systems and to widen the scope of finishing options a Heidelberg Cylinder and state of the art Stahl folder was installed.

A Time for Modernisation

Plans were put in place to install modern high speed offset presses but Jacob thought the time was not quite right: “It was important that we got the right equipment and made sure that we supported the investment by recruiting well qualified staff and instituting thorough training programmes.” An able supporter right from 2008 in those formative couple of years has been Mr. Ananda Desapriya whose 30 years of print management experience ensured the focus has stayed on the areas that were really crucial. Both brothers always thought when buying Al Jazeera in 2007 that it was important not to make any form of marketing drive until at the very least, good prepress, press and finishing facilities were in place.

Amjad Tahtamouni, Heidelberg’s branch manager in Abu Dhabi can see the wisdom of this strategy. He has known Jacob and Vincent throughout this time and they are now close friends. He says: “The Kannath brothers are very down to earth, genuine entrepreneurs with long term objectives, and aim for steady growth.” Amjad adds: “I am impressed with the innovations, high ethics and moral principles that govern the way they do business.  The Kannath brothers have a hands on approach to how the businesses are run, and it is not hard to see why the group has enjoyed success when others may have struggled.”

Any experienced observer of the printing industry will recognise that the potential for good profitability was being put in place, and once this investment was complete attention could be turned to more versatile and productive presses.  Vincent explains it was at this point their plans for Al Jazeera Printing Press really begun to take off: “It was now time to embark on an expansion phase.” For all that steady-eddy approach, it seems the brothers do not do anything by halves. In 2008 The Al Jazeera Press shifted to a new and much more spacious building close by and installed the first of two Heidelberg CD 102 five colour presses along with post press finishing equipment.

The brothers definitely looked to Heidelberg for support and advice in part because they already had the SORM presses and Heidelberg was the dominant supplier in the area thanks to the faith the manufacturer had generated through service and support in the print community. Heidelberg though got the order on merit:  Vincent says: “Longer durability and dependability of the machine, consistency in quality of printing by Heidelberg machines, availability of spare parts (even though the same is very expensive) and after sales service is readily available from Heidelberg’s Abu Dhabi office.

Everything was now in place to crank up the pace and the two brothers were a little like super fit cyclists on a tandem, each making a major, but equal contribution. Jacob’s skills are managerial and marketing while Vincent drove ever upwards the standards related to quality and production ably supported in the engine room by Mr. Desapriya.

The economic storms of 2008 had been weathered and from 2009 onwards Al Jazeera Printing Press went from strength to strength and many QAR multi million contracts were being won and processed to considerable acclaim. For example, in 2011 it received ‘Best Supplier Award’ from the Qatar foundation, followed in 2012 with the ‘Dubai International Print Award. Recognition at this level only comes about through consistent rock solid production, produced to superb standards of quality and consistency over long periods of time. The portfolio of work is awe inspiring: over the past 4-5 years contracts for producing text books worth QAR 7.5m, support material worth over QAR 3.7m for Qatar’s largest ever conference, it would be easy to go on and on, but it is safe to say that Al Jazeera Printing Press is the major port of call for all of Qatar’s premier print buyers. There is another element contributing to this success that should not be overlooked, though many printers often put this off; it is the gaining of ISO accreditations. Time consuming, not without costs, but extremely important in the way accreditation offers reassurance to significant buyers of print. Among the accreditations Al Jazeera holds include ISO 9001, 14001 and BS OHSAS 18001 There are some pretty sound reasons for the success now being enjoyed by Al Jazeera Printing Press; thoughtful planning, developing a clear strategy and the investing in equipment  capable of implementing these strategies. All have played their part, yet instinct suggests there needs to be some other ingredient – ‘a something more’ to explain the success enjoyed by the press.

That ‘missing ingredient’ must surely be the family background of the two brothers They have siblings who are also talented and successful while their father is a teacher, multi-lingual and noted as being somewhat of a polymath. It is clear Jacob’s 28 years in banking stand him good stead, he must have seen businesses that have succeeded and many that have failed and absorbed the lessons generated. Vincent, with Gem Advertising, gained a knowledge of the direction markets were taking in Qatar and which sectors had exceptional potential for growth. By creating specialist divisions focused on specific market sectors and then surprisingly, excelling in each of them demonstrates these two men are entrepreneurs with exceptional talents.

Heidelberg Contribution

Another ingredient that shouldn’t be dismissed lightly is the contribution Heidelberg has made. The five colour CD 102s are superb machines, ideal for an economy based in Qatar.

Mr. Tahtamouni Heidelberg’s branch manager clearly knows the printing sector in Qatar very well.  It might have been tempting for Al Jazeera to take on a six colour 102 with perfecting and coating, but this probably would not have been appropriate at that stage of the Group’s development.

With the now well  established Top Printers division close-by, specialist value added finishing and coating services can be offered to clients well in excess of any printing press add-on system could provide.

The services Al Jazeera can now offer creates considerable clear water between it and the numerous chasing competitors Qatar’s burgeoning economy generates.

The Future Of Print In The Middle East And North Africa To 2018Download the PDF from here

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