Prashant Chaurasia in conversation with Nadim Elias, CEO of Sahara Printing Company & chairman of Elias Modern Publishing House in Egypt, shares his far sighted rear mirror  view for vibrant Egyptian publishing, backing innovation as the way to move fast forward

Born in 1951 Egypt, Nadim Elias belongs to a family having a long traditional publishing and printing heritage. Nadim is the grandson of Elias Antoun Elias, author of the famous Elias Modern Dictionary and founder of Elias Modern Press (1913). He graduated with honours from the American University in Cairo with a B.Sc. in Materials Engineering in 1976.
After finishing his military service, Nadim worked at Arab World Printing House where he started as a junior engineer and finished in 1984 as the Production Manager of the company. During his apprenticeship at Arab World Printing House, Nadim Elias travelled to the UK where he got an intensive training in colour separation. He has also followed a number of courses in management, leadership and managing change.
Elias, a strong supporter of the young Egyptian artists, joined Elias Modern Publishing House in 1984, shouldering the responsibility of restructuring the press into a ‘state-of-the-art printing house’ serving local markets. “I had the urge of transforming Elias Modern Press, specially the printing division from just serving the publishing activity to a modern, high-tech, quality oriented, commercial printing company serving the Egyptian market,” says Elias.

Elias founded Sahara Printing,  a high-tech company in Nasr City Free Zone in Cairo to cater to international as well as local markets. “I have seen the industry transition from metal letter setting to photo-type setting, and from colour separation using cameras, enlargers to scanners in the markets. Our printing press operates out of an area of 13,000 square meters and also houses printing, binding and warehouse facilities. We have been awarded the ISO certification as well as FSC certifications,” he adds.
Going back in time Elias believes that the most memorable moments in his career was when Sahara became the very first press to introduce  an eight colour sheet fed offset machine into Africa, establishing them as pioneers in bringing CTP technology to the private sector in Egypt.
Talking about the difficult times Elias comments “Difficult times are always there for any company.  The world has just passed through a crises but I think that our staff is well trained and equipped technically and managerially to overcome and solve almost all problems.  If we can optimise the use of our assets, every situation can be handled or controlled.”

Elias believes that there is an ‘excess supply over demand situation’ internationally which has created  a detrimental effect on prices and development of the printing industry. “The parameters we need to compete on, to overcome and stand out are  service, knowledge, updation and innovations in our work. We also need a good workforce, Our company puts lots of emphasis on retaining its employees through training programs, medical insurance, retirement and loyalty plans and by providing a friendly working environment. Our staff members are proud of their company and are always challenged to outperform themselves,” he added.
With the current economic climate scenario, balance of funding and subsequent returns needs to be attained says Elias, “I think the credit to the clients should be balanced by the credit received from banks and suppliers, and should only be given to an extent that the cost of funding dosen’t affect the growth of the company. Companies should be diversified enough to face the risks of market trends, changes and challanges.”

In terms of potential and capabilities, he believes that the digital markets still have a long way to go before it can compete and become affordable to a larger segment of the industry.
Glancing at the future against the backdrop of present times, Elias highlights, “Sahara has positioned itself as a market leader in the Middle East region and established its name as an exporter with a large number of clients in Europe including Macmillan HELT, Infinitas Learning Group, Pearson Education, Anness Publishing, and others. Sahara is expanding its box making department and we have already acquired die cutting, gluing and UV equipments. This investment was made because we believe that our production facilities should be diversified to minimize risks.”
Elias is also a member of  the board of directors of GAFI (General Authority For Investment) Nasr City-Free Zone, an active Rotarian and a member/ board member of several business associations. “Success is a dynamic process where every day is a new experience.  It is based on team work and the continuous search for excellence,” concludes Elias.