Managing Director of Arabian Printing  and Advertising FZ LLC shares with Shilpa Jasani  his hopes for improved order bookings and concerns about rising costs, which affects the bottom line."Winning Expo 2020 has been a boon for the printing and other industries in the UAE, since all of us can see an upward movement in the regional markets,” explains the managing director and owner of Arabian Printing and Advertising Kunjumon Parakkal to the PrintWeek MEA team taking his interview.  “I foresee improved business prospects. What with the numerous projects being launched, an estimated 600,000-700,000 additional manpower will be needed to be brought into the country.  All this additional spending and investment is sure to boost the print and allied industries.  However, having said that I would like to add here a note of caution - the sharply increasing costs are proving detrimental to business. Rents are escalating, especially in Dubai.  We are paying AED 600,000/- as annual rent for 15,000 square floor space.”
A graduate from Cochin, India, Parakkal has no print qualifications.  He arrived on the shores of Dubai in  1978, with a job working on a construction project. While working at Lintas, he got inspiration to venture into the advertising segment.  Parakkal started Promo Advertising in 1983 supplying print services to various shipping companies.
“Promo Advertising was a one-man show.  My wife joined the company at a later stage. Gradually we branched into screen printing services.  It was only in 2003, that Arabian Printing was established through investment of AED 3 million in various machines including the PrintMaster 74, GTO 52,  cutting, stitching and lamination machines among others in Al Quoz.   During the heady days of 2006-7, we planned to expand and in 2007, we moved to a 15,000 square feet factory premises in IMPZ.  It was a four-fold expansion - in machinery, manpower, increased space and technology.  This expansion amounted to an additional investment of AED 15 million.  So, capacity increased and market crashed.
The next 2-3 years were very difficult and I had to dig into my personal funds from India to pump additional finance into the company to survive. Our business and clientele plateaued, there was no additional business and no new clients, but funds were used up to increase capacity.  Though, at this stage, I must say our suppliers like Heidelberg were very supportive.”
Talking about the changes in the printing industry, Parakkal says that the printing industry must embrace technology, that is the only way forward. “Customers are becoming more demanding, expecting immediate delivery of job orders.  Printers will have to go the digital way.  Though, offset cannot be overlooked, but digital printing will gain increasing importance and printing for packaging is sure to maintain a healthy growth.”
Expressing his opinion that the printing industry will see growth in the coming years, Parakkal says, “However, I do foresee that the printing industry will now move forward, and not only because of Expo 2020, but also due to the number of new projects being announced.  Having said that, I would also like to add, that with the loosening of restrictions since 2003, there has been an oversupply of printers in the country, creating an unhealthy situation where competition is concerned.  Also, another concern is rising costs - rents, labour accommodation - everything is becoming more expensive. Skilled workforce is also becoming very difficult to source.”
Attributing hard work and an experienced team to be the very basis for the success of any firm, Parakkal emphasizes, “It is very important to weed out the bad apples, since they spoil the basket. While this is applicable to employees, printshops need to be very selective while choosing their clientele.  It is advisable to be cautious while recruiting staff and  customers.  I have always been in favour of appreciating the employee in public, while if required, reprimand in private.”
Working on the mantra ‘Work is Worship’, Parakkal adds that it is very important to be friendly with everyone, with the friend as well as the enemy.
Arabian Printing has not been participating in any award competition.  “The most memorable day in my career was the day my mother first switched on the power of my very first GTO machine in our old premises in Al Quoz.  In the next 5 years, I dream to make Arabian Printing among the top 10 printing presses in the region. Now, I also have members of my family - daughter and son-in-law joining our company. I would advise all companies to spend cautiously.  In my opinion, it is better to invest in property to hedge against increasing rents.”