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Abdullah A. Al-Moallem, general manager of Khaleej Afan Printing Press, shares with Prashant Chaurasia  the experience & hardwork he put in to transform a small scale commercial print business into a ‘state-of-the-art technologically equipped press’.

A graduate in computer science, Abdullah A.Al-Moallem from Saihat (near Dammam), Eastern Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the vice-president of the Al-Moallem Group of Companies. His efforts and interest has transformed the Saihat Printing Press established 33 years ago by his father, Late Abdul Wahab Mansour Al-Moallem, into a modern press having state-of the-art machinery. “After attending the DRUPA exhibition in 1998, I got very interested in print and decided to get more involved in printing business,” says Moallem who is now also, the general manager of the press.
“Immediately after my graduation, I joined Al-Moallem Group of Companies, who were engaged in general services contracts with Saudi Aramco. Those times, Al-Moallem Group had long term contracts in landscaping, gardening, general office services etc. And the group had a printing press as a small scale business,” he adds.
In 1980, Al Afan formerly known as Saihat Printing Press had five staff members and specialised only in commercial printing for the  Saudi Arabian market. Since it was the only printing press in the region, they had a long queue of orders. The press has now branched out into digital as well as commercial printing and employs a staff of 70, “Back then, we had only limited number of machines. But today we have different Roland Machines, Xerox iGEN, Muller Martini Machines in our press.”
Moallem believes that print market is always growing  and the demands are always elevated with new trends and technologies coming in, “Digital print witnessed a lot of changes in the recent past. The print quality is being improved frequently. The quality what we saw 10 years ago is not the same as observed these days. Also, we can see the cost of digital printing cost is showing a decline. So we expect more cost-effective digital print in the coming future,” he explains.
Moallem says that Afan Printing Press remained untouched by the universal recession that hit back in 2008. As the market picks up now Moallem believes that print still has a long way to go but the only challenge that the industry faces is  from  the increase in ‘e-Print’. However, the general manager adds that print quality and authenticity can never be compared as it is an art itself in-hands with high on technology.
Working in the local markets, Moallem see no difference in the different GCC markets “At present, we are satisfied with our territory. In our 5 year Business Plan, we focus more on local market. We have two Roland B1 offset printing presses, in addition to the latest Müller Matini binding line we just bought.”
Even though there is a number of new presses in the region,  Moallem believes that the supply over demand situation has never been noted and that it has reached a break even level so far, but there are still enough jobs for the presses present in the region.
Talking about the effect on returns for credit period taken by print buyers Moallem says, “As we do 90% of our business with Saudi Aramco, our return are never affected. Instead, we get our payments with in 30 business days. Bad debts and doubtful debts are controlled as we follow cash on delivery accounting policy.”
Moallem recalls the most celebrated moments was the construction of ‘own’ Printing Press & Admin Building. He likes travel and adventure, involving more in business activities makes him happy. He says that awards are not common in Saudi, “Our press has won many appreciation and certificates from Saudi Aramco for our outstanding graphics and printing jobs.”
For retaining of employees prevailing Saudi Labour Law, “All facilities such as accommodation, electricity, water, transportation etc. Are provided by the company. We have staff those who have completed more than 30 years. We never feel, retaining our employees will be a challenge as we want to make use of their experience in this field for further period.”
Advising the future print entrepreneurs Moallem says, “Embracing the conventional art is as important as warmly welcoming the new research & technologies may it be nanotechnology, 3D -printing, sustainability through print, eco-friendly approaches, etc. Quick Print, the concept introduced by the digital market should be utilized by all printers. Not to forget, still a majority of customers prefer off-set to digital. “Never compromise with print quality. Instead control the production and administrative costs by cutting down the expenses which can be cut down and may not affect the quality of print.”
He signs off by saying, “Success is never an accident, but is the final product of continuous hard work.”