Al Jazeera award winning printing house in Doha is a leading and a high quality print service provider as well as a one stop shop for print buyers. The company product range is very diverse and includes Booklets and Brochures, Journals and Newsletters, Annual Reports, School books, Catalogues, Files and Folders, Flyers and Posters, Sticky notes, Diaries, Desk Top Calendars, Packaging boxes, Shopping bags and Gift items as well as Signage and much more.
Jacob Kannath is the director of the company since many years and a veteran in printing industry. In order to find out how a successful commercial printer is dealing with coronavirus crisis we asked him few questions and he offered us a rather complete picture of how Al Jazeera Printing press faced the challenges of Covid 19 without having to resort to drastic measures such as downsizing.
What measures have you taken in order to protect your employees while still managing day to day activities of the print house?
We implement a series of action to overcome the crisis including:
a) On 17th March Industrial area locked down was declared so we provided face masks and sanitizer on 18th March –Staff not closely related to production were permitted to stay out of industrial area and work from our associate company in Doha and marketing team to work from home.
b) Almost 30% of staff were temporary laid off for one week each during April and May to help maintenance crew observe social distancing while working.
c) Despite the revenue dropping considerably during the period from March to June, management arranged salary payments on time with the support of additional bank finance provided as per the COVID support measures of the Government of Qatar.
d) By the middle of June one of our employees was having fever and hence quarantined in our own accommodation in a separate room
e) On June 17 fogging was carried out in the Company
f) On June 20 aged and vulnerable people shifted to outside accommodation.
g) On June 21 hot dry ginger coffee and hot lime juice were offered to personnel to improve immunity
h) Swab Test was done for all the employees staying in the Company accommodation on 25.06.2020 and a couple of employees identified as asymptomatic COVID patients and were sent to Government. Quarantine centers. After 14 days all of them recovered and resumed duty.
In which way does the Corona virus affect your business?
When our company located in Street No.1 to 33 of Old Industrial area in Doha entered into lockdown from 17th March to 16th June 2020 no entry or exit was permitted to and from the lockdown area. But most of the production staff was staying in the company accommodation within the Company premises and hence we were able to manage production in a low key with the piled up pending jobs. But our revenue was dropped considerably during the entire lockdown period of 3 months.
Have you recently invested in new equipment?
Do you believe the Corona pandemic which it appears to be with us for some time will change the media landscape in the region?
It is likely to be negatively impacted at least for a period of one year.
What is your printing capacity and what kind of printing jobs you are producing?
We are engaged in all types of commercial printing and partially into packaging as well. We do undertake anything in printing as per customer needs.
Have you reduced your work force because of the pandemic?
No. But almost 10% of the employees were on vacation when inbound flights were halted in March to July 2020 and hence they are not reported for duty. Management didn’t opt for terminations as many other companies including corporate companies did. Management protected the employees, as termination is not justifiable during their hour of distress.
What is your plan for future investment? Which area of printing do you believe has more potential for investment?
Building of more spacious, own premises is in progress. Paper oriented environment friendly Packaging is likely to be in the limelight as the Middle-East has to develop its own products as well as Industrial production in the context of diminishing oil based economies. Small scale Digital printing units can also survive. Commercial printing presses entertaining proactive marketing can also survive. Printing Industry is one of the diminishing industries in the World, and hence large investments in the printing Industry are not advisable.
One of the consequences of the Coronavirus crisis is working from home and remote work, which means more automation and less presence in the print house. Are you planning to rely more on automation and less on manual labor?
Working from home as a consequence of the Coronavirus will not likely last long. The seriousness during the initial outbreak of the COVID pandemic is being lost when the time passes. The world population was estimated to have reached 7,800,000,000 people as of March 2020. The total estimated deaths as per WHO in 2019 was 58, 394,000. Hence the death rate for 2019 can be arrived at approximately as 0.75%. As per Worldometers the estimated total death due to COVID 19 within a span of approximately 6 months as on 22nd August 2020 is only 803,201. It denotes that the death rate per annum due to COVID19 is only 0.01% (A good majority of them are aged, ailing from other severe diseases or younger people who are affected with serious ailments but not diagnosed.) of the World population. It means 0.74% of deaths are due to the reasons other than that of COVID19. Phobia is vanishing. All countries are lifting complete lockdowns and lockdown is not a definitive solution for preventing COVID 19.
In today’s competitive environment, huge investment on automation is not advisable, as long as the printing Industry remains open for anybody who wants to enter this industry without any restriction. Technology is also subject to very fast changes. Anyhow low cost automation with innovative technologies is the need of the hour.