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Chairman and managing director of Delta Group, Kabeer Jalaluddin shares with Shilpa Jasani his future plans of putting Delta Group in the forefront of the regional map

landing in UAE in 1977 at the ‘tender’ age of 21, current owner of Delta Group, Jalaluddin reminisces about his life journey.  “Looking at earning a fortune in life, I reached Dubai with stars in my eyes and got a sales and cleaning job in a garment shop in Sharjah.  At the end of the day, I was given AED 30/-  and terminated on my first day of work for not knowing Hindi and Urdu.  My next job was bill collector at  Technical Printing Press. Within 2 months, I was shifted to the sales department in the press and given a pay hike.  I worked with the press for over 19 years, occupying the general manager’s chair before resigning from the company over some issue.  I must add here that the owner of the press, who passed away last year, was a Godfather to me, and it is only because of him that I have been climbing the ladder of success over the years.”
    A physics graduate from Kerala University, Jalaluddin explains the challenges he faced as general manager. “So often, I would work 17-18 hours a day.   At work, leading a team of 400, I had to deal with co-workers of different nationalities, with differing mind sets which needed to be handled. I have also been through a personal tragedy at that time with the death of my 14-year old daughter.  So life has been a roller coaster.”
    Moving on Jalaluddin bought a small press in Sharjah  in 1996.  “This press, Al Bateen then, had 4 employees and no business. I invested AED 100,000/-, taking it on lease from the exisiting owner. Within 2 years, I had changed the course of the printshop, turning it into a 150-employee unit, becoming a partner in the firm.  A misunderstanding saw me resigning and starting my own printshop in 2002.  In the following years I honed my business skills by handling finances, banks, suppliers and customers.  In 2005, I established Delta Printing Press as the sole owner, without partners,  with an investment of AED 20 million and 100 staff members.  We invested in machines from KBA and Heidelberg. Obviously our timing was right and we moved from a staff strength of 100 to 400, with the boom in Dubai helping us tremendously.”
    Recalling how recession and global slowdown brought  problems in the form of bad debts and poor recovery.  “We did loose a few millions,” says Jalaluddin candidly.  “The collapse of real estate and companies facing bankruptcy brought with it, its own difficulties. We had invested in the 6-colour CD 102 at drupa, but by the time the machine arrived there were no jobs for the machine. The drop in commercial printing jobs made us decide to invest in a packaging unit in 2010.  We invested in a die cutter and folder gluer from Bobst, putting in an additional AED 10 million. Packaging is doing well, we are thinking of further investments in machinery.”
   The chairman of Delta Group does not believe in making employees redundant.  “With decline in commercial jobs, the only way to gainfully employ existing staff is by branching out into newer fields like packaging which is growing at 10% annually. Last year we executed packaging printing jobs of AED 25 million. Our esteeemed clients include Dabur, Gulf Pharma, Zulfar among others.”
    Talking about the changes in the printing industry, Jalaluddin says, “The work culture  and technology in Dubai is much better, but now there is over capacity in the market and the printing industry is going through tough times.  Until the recession hit our shores, printing industry was doing very well. Nowadays, recovering your outstanding is becoming a big challenge.  We follow strict credit policy and luckily had no bad debts in the last 2 years. We have been successful due to the dedication of our manpower.”
   Delta Group is making forays into other geographical regions in the Middle East and African continent. “ We have started our PrintOut Printing Press in Tanzania, we also plan to establish an operation in North and South Sudan and Ghana. In the pipeline is a small production and marketing unit in Mauritius.  There are plans to establish a unit in Saudi Arabia as well. We will be starting a flexographics unit in Dubai as well.”
    Looking back at the most memorable moment in his career, Jalaluddin says, “The day I was appointed as the general manager of Technical Printing Press, I have fond memories of that day.”