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Shawaf Muhammad Sheriff, director of Ajmal Printing Press, Sharjah in conversation with Venkat Raghavan, shares his technical experience.

Hailing from UAE, Shawaf Muhammad Sheriff completed all his schooling at New Indian Modern School, Sharjah. Later, he did his Bachelor in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at BITS Pilani and completed the same in 2010. After completing his education in Bachelor degree, he decided to do post graduation in Energy and did it in Heriot Watt University. After that, he directly started his printing career in Ajmal Printing Press. Speaking about the reason why he selected the printing as his career, Shawaf Muhammad Sheriff, director of Ajmal Printing Press, UAE says, “As a family business, we have been into printing industry for a long while and that is main reason I selected this career. However, printing was the area where I kept my feet first during my childhood and it is not a regular business and it needs to be treated specially. I went for several trainings in different companies before starting my career in our family business. Apart from this, I worked separately in each department and learned their workflow which helped me a lot while handling the customer requirement.

HIGHLIGHTS
● The press which was started in 1994, plans to work towards ISO certification
● Currently, commercial printing jobs account for 40% of the business, while packaging orders are at 60% of the business

About press, he added, “Ajmal Printing Press was started in 1994 with minimal employees with machines like letter press, single GTO colour, cutting machine, conventional camera and few more. Initially, we were doing commercial jobs like notebooks, schoolbooks and more. Since, the volume dropped, we have moved towards packaging. Currently, we are doing 40% commercial and 60% packaging. The reading habits of the people have changed and that is one of the reason there is a decline in printing. We are doing around 85% of the jobs in local markets and we do around 15% in other markets. ”
Speaking about the changes in the industry, he added, “Earlier, conventional camera was doing great and people were making huge money through them. Later, it slowly started to move towards CTP which was a very good change to the industry. We saw many printing presses open between 2005 to 2007 for commercial printing but, it started to drop over a period of time. After some period, people started to prefer spot UV and mainly UV itself was a big boom. Nowadays, packaging players started to adapt the latest finishing techniques, which are definitely a good sign for the industry. However, in the last four years, digital machines and technologies have come and almost ruled the industry but don’t know up to what extent it can continue. To accept the market requirement, the price of the digital machines have come down and even price of the second hand offset machines have come down.
Talking about hobbies and interest, he added, “I love to play cricket but nowadays I am busy with the press where I work from 8 am to 8 pm. However, I still brush up on my engineering knowledge and keep updated on technologies.”
Talking about the challenges in the industry, he said, “The main challenge is in receivinge payment from the customers. Of course, the price wars and the competition in the market always persist. Printing industry is always connected to all the industries. The current scenario is such where small presses are ready to reduce the price for taking the small jobs. For the large presses, this is very difficult as they cannot bring down  the prices than the base price. Medium segment is the one where everyone concentrates to have a decent margin. In general market, the customer just needs to do cost cutting and they need a decent printing.”
Speaking about the company success, Sheriff added, “Success of our company is mainly from the hardwork and stability. We always avoid unnecessary financial investment. We are very cautious. We always think thrice before making any decision. We always maintain a very good relationship with our clients. The knowledge of the press is vast and we have tried many new things which many hesitated to try. For the last three years, we have not had a sales team and we are getting sales through our relationship. We tried a gamble to continue without a sales team and it worked well for us. We are planning  to hire a sales team soon once we gain some confidence from the market. In business, success is always attained only when we receive the desired output and not just any output. As long as your financial situation is good, definitely you will be attaining success. In the long run, you need to have good growth. We have seen many presses who were doing great but now they have failed in the market. However, there were many reasons for this.”
About credit period, he added, “The credit period is a difficult task to handle and the whole market has minimized the issuance of credit for customers. There should be a harmony between the supplier and customer in the credit period to run the business. With the VAT in progress, we are supposed to get the money in 75 days as we need to pay to the government in 90 days. The market is currently shifting towards cash delivery, which is a good sign for everyone.”
Signing off, he said, everyone has to be ethical in business and should pay the supplier on time.