menu

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi told me 'We are proud of you, my son', that is the most memorable moment in my life," recalls Ali Saif Al Neaimi, CEO of United Printing and Publishing.

These words of encouragement were spoken by the Crown Prince when he found out that UPP had employed 11 local ex-lawbreakers, accused of petty crimes, after training them at their premises, while larger organisations volunteered to take in 1 each.

Studying management and finance from the Higher College of Technology, Al Neaimi initially joined his father's business, then known as Emirates Media. "I was looking after and later headed, the finance department of TV and printing accounts. It was during this time, (end of 2004), that the idea of starting a full-fledged printing press germinated. UPP was established in 2006, with an external partner. Currently, it is fully-owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company."

In the initial years, UPP was printing 1 newspaper and 3 magazines. This has now grown to 4 newspapers (including The National, 7 Days, Financial Times and the Arabic daily Al Ittihad) and 120 magazines. The printshop plans expansion into security printing from this month announcing that it will take up jobs for plastic cards, credit and id cards and sim cards for telephone.

"Technology is moving very fast with major changes happening in the pre-press department and there is onslaught from digital. Run lenghts are coming down and faster turnover has become the need of the hour. Manufacturers will need to re-invent themselves to survive the changing times. Printers too will need an overhaul and change of mindset."

An avid collector of classic cars, Al Neaimi owns 25 of them, the latest acquisition being the Plymouth Barracuda. "Locals from this region tend to underestimate the potential of printing industry, equating it to photo-copying, but there are so many technological advancements that now it ranks among the top 10 industries globally.

"Though some people say that, currently the printing industry is facing a downswing, my opinion is that when any industry employs 50 million people worldwide(if you take into account printing and its ancillary industries), would governments allow such a large number of people to loose their livelihoods? It would be more correct to depict the fluid scenario as changing dynamics, which calls for change in strategies. Maybe the unviable units would be forced to close shop and the profitable businesses will need to restructure. Having said that, I strongly propose a printers association where each member benefits from the common platform."

Expressing concern about the rat race among printers, with each undercutting and offering longer periods of credit, Al Neaimi opines, "There is unhealthy competition and printers are killing each other. However, these detrimental practices have had one good outcome and that is UAE is grown technologically as compared with other GCC countries, due to this cutthroat competition."

Articulating his opinion on the recession, Al Neaimi adds, "The market has restructured, and I can foresee growth trends from 2013, however I feel more players should not enter the print industry as the market is saturated already. The difficult years were 2009-2010." UPP has undertaken a CSR activity by establishing the first print-training institute in the entire GCC, called Higher Colleges of Technology in its premises, to train local talent. "We have spent more than AED 1.8 million from our pockets to train locals, offering them job options upon graduation. There are sizeable numbers of girl students as well, which is another industry first. This is how I would like to give back to my country. From the 15,000 plus local workforce in the industry, you would barely find 15 who have studied and trained in printing. I exhort others to support the institute and hire the graduates. To me success is empowering the next generation to become leaders of tomorrow."

Walking on the road ahead, Al Neaimi discloses, "We are already at number one position now, and five years down the line we will strengthen and cement this position. Though it would be premature to make any announcements right now, we have a lot of expansion plans."