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Kumail Ali Khalfan, CEO of Sign Works, in conversation with Venkat Raghavan, shares his knowledge about the signage and printing industry and explains where the industry is heading.

Born and raised in New York, Kumail Ali Khalfan completed all his education in the United States. After completing his education, he worked in the industry in New York before coming to UAE. He came to the UAE in 2010 to join Sign Works, which was then managed by his father, Safder Ahmed Khalfan.
Speaking about his past, Kumail Ali Khalfan, CEO of Sign Works, said, “I studied Business Management & Entrepreneurship at Pace University in New York. However, my technical and hands-on experience comes from being raised in the Sign Industry.  It is in my blood.  My father started his sign business in New York in the 1970s and I used to work for him every summer since quite a young age. Every year, I would train in a different department such as printing, painting, installation and every other department in the New York facility.  During University, I gained experience in production management and sales.
Speaking about the beginning of Sign Works, he said, “Our family used to travel to Dubai often and during these trips, my father realized that the market was picking up here so he thought of opening a new office in Dubai which was started in 2007.  In 2010, I moved over to Dubai to manage sales and in 2013, I took over as CEO. We have come a long way since 2007.  Today, we have almost 400 employees and we are one of the largest in the region. In the early years, we purchased another company and merged it with Sign Works when we moved into our first 35,000 sq. foot facility in Dubai Investment Park. Three years later, we moved to our 65,000 sq foot facility and in 2014, we signed a contract for this land and moved here in January 2017 with 145,000 sq feet.”

HIGHLIGHTS
● They have an office in New York
● They are planning to expand internationally
● They started 2 new companies Power Interactive and Forme International

He further added, “The key to having continued growth is having the right people on-board.  We have the best machinery available but the machines are useless without the right people.  We have been able to grow because of the great Sign Works family that we have built over the years and we continue to build by continuously adding new talents to the family.  Architectural Signage and Visual Merchandising production have been our main 2 areas of business over the years.  Last year, we added luxury permanent store fixtures as a third division and all three divisions are currently growing simultaneously.  This combination of divisions along with our 2 other companies, Forme International and Power Interactive, allow us to be a true single source solution.  Power Interactive, which we started in 2018, focuses on digital and interactive solutions for the retail world such as virtual reality, augmented reality, touch screen TVs, animatronics and more.  Forme International focuses on visual merchandising tools and mannequins.  Our goal for all of our divisions is to produce and ship around the world.  Many of our clients in the west believe they can produce locally in their home country or in China with no option in between.  We are educating them on the possibilities of Sign Works producing in Dubai and shipping around the world with quality, reliability and more speed.  Dubai is logistically placed in a better position compared to China so we wanted to let the world know what Sign Works and Dubai are capable of in line with the vision of his highness.”
Speaking about the trends, he said, “When I started my career, 3D printing was not an option but we are now 3D-printing several thousand Braille signs for a client in Saudi Arabia.”
Speaking about what makes Sign Works different from other Sign companies, he said, “Our entire company has gotten used to the fast-paced world of Visual Merchandising. Because of this division, all departments regularly work quite quickly in order to keep up with the demanding timelines. Also, we can produce a wide range of signs using a variety of materials.  Because of our other divisions, we are also strong in departments like carpentry and fiberglass whereas most sign companies focus on metal fabrication and would usually outsource in these areas. We are a pure one stop shop, a single source solution.”
Speaking about his favourite part of the business, he said, “One of the best feelings is seeing our work all around Dubai whenever we deliver an amazing project.  Walking through The Dubai Mall and checking out all of our projects is something most of my team loves to do.” And on their success, he said, “Change is always an important factor in business and our ability to adapt to change is one of the keys to our success.  Our market and industry are continuously changing and we need to be able to adapt quickly and efficiently, as a team, in order to stay up to date.”
Signing off he said, “In the next 5 years, we are seeing a branch of Sign Works in every GCC country. We also want to expand internationally.”