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"I speak Arabic fluently," says Jacob Kannath, owner and director of Al Jazeera Printing Press. "Since I interact with locals, speaking their language puts them at ease and helps our business deals."

A workoholic, Kannath works 12 hours daily from 7.30 in the morning. Kannath graduated in 1976 from Calicut University started his career in a premier public sector bank in India before migrating to Qatar. "The banking experience stands me in good stead in my business since I can understand the economic impacts, costing decisions and expenditure budgets, administration and management. Learning is a continuous process, I never give up saying 'I don't know', but my motto is 'let me try'.

Taking over Al Jazeera in 2007, Kannath has increased monthly sales from thousands to millions. "Though we do not advertise, most of the top advertising agencies and premium corporate companies looking for quality print jobs are our customers."

Encouraged by the printing portfolio, which was an extention of advertising, Kannath entered into the printing industry by investing into a small printshop named Al Jazeera Printing Press. "Al Jazeera was a small print shop, established in 2001 and in 2007 with 12 employees, we took over the press and have established a brand name with more than 100 staff members. Immediately after taking over the press we have introduced CTP in pre-press to the Qatar market at a time most of the established printers were using conventional method of Film to Plate system. We have also ensured a complete back up for all our machines in order to ensure uninterrupted production."

Al Jazeera bagged a prestigious order from the Ministry of Education's Supreme Education Council to print Arabic textbooks from grades 1-12 for the year 2010. "This biggest print job of Qatar was a single order worth 5.4 million riyals, and a moment of pride for all of us. We had a tight deadline and miraculously executed it on time." The print shop also won the 'Best Supplier Award', from Qatar Foundation for the year 2010.

Talking about the differences in the printing industry in Qatar and UAE, Kannath says, "Ancillary services which are readily available in Dubai and part of the jobs can be out sourced which is convenient to printers there since they do not need to maintain a full fledged press. However, this is not the case in Doha and so to satisfy quality clients, we need to increase investment to provide added services. Even the technical support and services available in the two countries is vastly different. So rent-wise, technical services-wise Qatar is more expensive. Another deterrent factor is that raw materials are routed through UAE, meaning 20-25% increase in costs. Having said that, I still say that the markets are accepting those who are giving professional services."

Kannath conceded that the printing industry was facing serious challenges from the internet. "Though online is a threat to some sectors, I do not think printing has bleak prospects and other sectors will continue doing well. Also, Qatar is still some years away from online overtaking print, so we are well placed now."

While Al Jazeera is a commercial printer, they take pride in executing all kinds of jobs, even those that are difficult and not undertaken by other printshops. "We are not only offering what we have, but we provide technical guidance and deliver customers requirements even by sourcing from middle east, Europe and China as well. Al Jazeera is also procuring and printing on speciality papers as per clients' needs."

Al Jazeera and its Director have complete faith in machinery from Heidelberg. "With regard to printing, no other brand is permitted in our premises. This policy has been adopted to ensure quality and consistency of our jobs. In 2011, we invested in new machines including CD 74 from Heidelberg, Sakurai UV Coater 70 x 100, Muller Martini's Tigra for online gathering and perfect binding and Champion's bag making machine. Further additions in the pipeline is another CTP and a hard case maker for hard bound books."

Expressing his opinion on the changes in the printing industry, Kannath said that in the past, printers were not much concerned with quality and with fewer printing presses they were able to manage, but in the aftermath of the slowdown, which impacted Dubai, a lot of people migrated their printing presses from UAE to Qatar, increasing competition. However, 'those who do not maintain quality will not be able to survive'. "In some sectors there is a situation of over supply, and with the FIFA World Cup, printers are buoyant and expecting more business, however, it will take time.""When we took over the press, we announced that within a period of 3 years we will be among the top five printing presses in Qatar, a target we achieved. Five years down the line, we aim to be in the first or second position in the country," concluded the confident Director of Al Jazeera Printing Press.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Al Jazeera Printing Press was established in 2001
  • The print shop currently employs 103 staff members
  • Annual turnover is 30 million riyals
  • Al Jazeera won the "Best Supplier Award" from Qatar Foundation