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Among the largest distributors of acrylic in the Middle East, Blue Rhine operates out of 100,000 square metre space, from 5 locations within UAE.

Established in 1996, as a general trading company, Blue Rhine finally found its calling in outdoor signage and resellers of acrylic, POP and display stands, large format print, LED's, vinyl's, textiles etc, and more recently machinery including plotters, die cutters among others.

"We took a strategic decision to split our entire UAE operations territorially in 5 locations including Abu Dhabi, Dubai Investment Park in Jebel Ali, Ajman, Al Quoz and Deira. Every location has a branch manager, store in-charge and 3-4 sales staff catering to customers in their geographical location," says Anand Joseph, general manager and owner's son.

In the initial years, Blue Rhine entered the outdoor signage market by taking up the distributorship of Taiwan based manufacturers Yearlong and Venus. Explains Joseph, "In 1999, my father, who had established Blue Rhine, realised the business potential of acrylic supplies to printhouses, signmakers, advertising agencies, and entered into an agreement with our Taiwanese principals to supply cast acrylic sheets to customers in the UAE and Middle East region as well."

Among recent milestones for Blue Rhine was the distributorship of Germany-based Plexiglass for the entire GCC region. "Plexiglass is the number one quality acrylic in the world, infact they invented acrylic 50 years ago. The USP of this product is the 30-year guarantee that Plexiglass gives for clear material and 10 years guarantee for coloured sheets used in signage; which is unmatched anywhere in the industry. Considering the extreme heat conditions in the region, this is exceptional confidence the manufacturers have in their products," explains Joseph. "Also, recently Plexiglass have come up with products which will have equivalent pricing with Taiwanese products, while also giving the 30-year guarantee."

Besides Plexiglass, Blue Rhine distributes polycarbonate products of Lexan, printable vinyl's from Neschen, coated and laminated banners, printable textiles and PVC substrates from Germany based Heytex, Taiwan based producers Yearlong, and Venus.

"While Lexan are Holland-based manufactures," elaborates Joseph, "we have a very satisfactory 8-year association with Germany based Neschen. They have a lot of 'green' products - PVC free wall papers, textiles in different textures. We displayed their products at the Sign and Graphics show in Dubai recently. Neschen wall papers have a lot of advantages over normal PVC vinyls, no overlapping, easy to remove, ink absorbing coating on the surface with capability of printing photo realistic prints."

Blue Rhine is adapting to the gradual shift to latex printing technology trends in the market, the use of water based pigment inks and the gaining popularity of textile printing, says its general manager. "We are bringing in products to cater to the latex printing and increasing use of textiles for printing purposes. Since these are the emerging technologies, we would like to be prepared when the market wants more of these products."

Expanding to Saudi Arabia and India, Blue Rhine has established offices in Riyadh and Bangalore, besides having agents and stockists in Doha (Qatar), an export team in UAE looks after Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

"Dubai is a more mature market, with exposure to and availability of technology, presence of corporate brands, headquarters of multinational companies, while Saudi Arabia is a more volume market, but not as mature as Dubai since they are not accustomed to newer technology for printing and materials. It is more stable though, due to its size. Our customers in Oman are expanding with new projects, as a result our turnover in the country is also increasing."

Blue Rhine too, saw stagnation in the year 2009, a 14% growth in 2010, and a 16% improvement in turnover in 2011. "Last year was our biggest growth in the printing segment, and eco solvent, solvents grew by 40%," added Joseph. "We always like to bring in innovative products. I am personally involved in the purchase department and we are constantly sourcing new products from China and Korea."

The decision taken by Blue Rhine to operate out of 5 locations within UAE has helped in the progress of the company. "We primarily stock and sell, so being closer to the customer helps us serve them better. We hope to becoming leaders in LED technology for the signage and advertising industries with our innovative products, and by expanding to newer markets, " signs off Joseph.