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Salman Al Jishi, owner and chairman of Salman Group of companies, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in conversation with Prashant Chaurasia, discusses major issues of funding, excess of supply over demands, consolidations, credit policies and the age of printing in past & present Arabian markets.

I saw an advertisement of a ‘Printing Press for sale’ and my desire to be an entrepreneur made me take the risk of bidding for it and working to turn it around. This was the beginning of my first printing press in 1990,” says Salman Al Jishi, chairman of Al Raja Printing Press & owner of Salman Group, KSA.
With a prolific educational background, he hails from Al Qatif in Saudi Arabia but his ancestral roots find their way into Bahrain, across the border where his grandfather was a successful businessman dealing in the world famous natural pearls of Bahrain. The advent of the Japanese cultured pearls, adversely affected their family business, necessitating a shift in domicile. Al Jishi had a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia & Master of Business Administration from American University in Beirut. He has also been an alumni of institutes like Harvard Business School, London Business School and Indian Business School.
He worked hard to learn the nuances of the trade and today owns one of the ‘finest printing presses’ in the Eastern province that boasts of a distinguished list of clients headed by Aramco, Sabic and some leading MNC’s. Jishi a family man named his first industrial venture Al Raja Printing Press, after his wife Madam Raja. And later established a duplex carton box printing and manufacturing unit, both of which are named after his first daughter Noor located in the city of Dammam. Four years later he launched yet another flexible packaging printing and manufacturing company. “I worked very hard to learn the business from scratch and was involved in all aspects from layout and design of plant to layout and selection of plant and machinery to actual production and supply chain, including marketing, sales and delivery to customers. I even made deliveries to customers when required in an emergency,” Jishi said.
Jishi, who likes trading in shares, traveling and reading says. “The Saudi market is very similar to any other GCC/Middle eastern markets the only difference is the bigger size.” Comparing globally he believes that, “We have a globally arrayed client list, the quality of paper and printing differs from market to market. It is of higher for some clients in Europe and North America, while it is much lower in Asian and African markets. This impacts on the purchasing power of clients and margin on sales for industrial and commercial print businesses. Another major factor is now gaining in Europe and North America to emphasize the ‘Green Factor’ to reduce carbon foot print. Hence these markets have seen major shift in medium to bio -degradable and complete shift to electronic medium to reduce paper.”
In the Arabian niche Jishi noticed several trends building  up like increasing automation in almost all aspects, improve-ment in quality of printing output, high definition color, recently a trend towards electronic print media, and even eco-friendly chemical and greener electronics.
Articulating major industrial problems as, “Increasing cost especially from raw material suppliers on one hand and demand to reduce price from major clients.” Addressing the rat race among the printers he continues,  “Increasing competition in local markets with many new entrants and many small presses in three major cities with fast changing technological trends contribute to shrinking market size.” He continues, “The market for printers is very much saturated and demand expected to decrease as market shifts to electronic media. We have been in very bad situation with year long contracts & fixed prices, while price of major raw materials shot up beyond our projections and caused major losses and strained relations with clients.”
He says that even the cost of hiring qualified staff has increased considerably and recent governmental hike to hire expat labor has added to the total cost to company. Addressing these problems he comments, “We expect a move towards consolidation through merger/takeovers, or many small players will shut down over a period of time, as credit period are forcing to seek funding from commercial banks which again adds increasing cost to company.”
Jishi contemplates that the digital market is still in its nascent stage in KSA and still has a long way for total shift in trend to utilize the full potential of digital printing which can reduce time of processing with faster service to clients.
Walking on the road head Jishi advices, “Printer must focus on new trends and innovate to keep in line with changing technology and demand patterns. To consolidate with mergers and acquisition for growing hands in hands as an industry and an economy.”