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Rajesh K Kutty, managing partner, Col.Art Publishing and Advertising LLC, UAE, in conversation with Venkat Raghavan talks of his experiences.

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Rajesh K Kutty completed his graduation in Commerce from Kelkar College, Mumbai & post graduated (PG) from Mumbai University. After completing his PG, he worked in India for some years and later came to Dubai to join the family business.
Speaking about his career and how he got into printing, Rajesh K Kutty, from Col.Art Publising and Advertising LLC said, “After completing my degree in the year 1993, I started my career as an account assistant in an auditing firm. A year later I joined an IT company as a commercial executive & worked there till 1996. However, my first job incidentally was of a proof reader in a printing press and happened during summer breaks between my school & graduation. Since, it was a part-time job, pocketed with some stipend, I gleefully took it. Not in the slightest of my dream I ever thought my future beholds somewhere in a print related activities or jobs connected with printing. In the year 1996, I came to Dubai with sort of unwillingness, welcomed by the heat and the absence of friends made a discomfort begin. With a bit of perusals, I joined Col.Art owned by my uncle and managed by my dad. Initially, it was not a happy start as I was not very much interested and moreover skillset of selling was not in my blood. My role was to do sales and support the growth of the company. I had to sell business cards to start with and related print products like flyers, brochures etc. Frankly it wasn’t very interesting.I used to walk for hours at times to reach a place and sometimes whole week would pass by without much success. During those days Jebel Ali companies had supposedly more potential enquires then the town customers as access to that place was bit of a task. It used to take 2 to 3 hours of journey including public transport and by merit of walking. Some of my friends or relatives would help me to reach there at times but yes still it was a challenge. My heavy feet, sweaty body and tired face may not be very welcome and when reached to some customers, they may offer water and sympathy but not necessarily business opportunities. “Selling is a task, enjoyed if cracked disappointed if lost!
“An interesting incident to share was of a MNC’s CEO who once warmly welcomed me into his office and offered me a cup of coffee and to top it up, confirmed a good and a bulk print order. That was icing on the cake and my joy knew no bounds and that incident changed my thought process about print industry forever. I was hungry for more business and since then I never looked back. We were initially 5 people in our company including my dad and were operating a small office in Bur Dubai which also acted as our screen printing unit. With our team work and drive to do more our small unit made it look really small and wasn’t able to cope up with bigger orders, so I persuaded my dad and uncle to move into a bigger place. Seeing my enthusiasm and eagerness to do more they were persuaded, thus moving to a bigger facility in Rashidiya in 1999 and further to Ras Al Khor in 2002,” said Kutty.
He further added, “During those days in the year 2003, my uncle C.K. Mukundan (also my mentor) was general manager in a leading printing press, had an opportunity to set up his own press (Liberty Printing). To curtail the operations, and keep control on the operating cost, Col.Art merged with Liberty and ceased to operate independently. But in the year 2008, sensing more opportunities in digital printing we reinstated Col.Art and its operations thus giving it a second life. Our focus changed to mainly digital and signages jobs. Business by that period was changing and apparent shift towards quick digital prints was obvious, our business shifted from traditional screen printing to a digital printing unit. My younger brother Ramesh also joined the organisation and currently handles the marketing department.”
Further adding about the Col.Art, changes and challenges in the market he said, “Col.Art is a one stop solution for all the print requirements and we do more than what a printing press can actually offer. Customer’s changing requirements and our “Never Say No” attitude has kept us growing. We specialise in shop, in-store and mall branding. As we all know that printing industry is one of the oldest industries, we wanted to do more to this industry. I have seen massive change in the last two decades.Earlier, customers had the patience to wait for the print but now time and precision with the quality is the key to retain them. The needs of the customers and their ever demanding requirements, has to be considered thus keeping us always on toes. Change in the formats and technologies has been a vital part of business.Initially a basic letterpress would do the jobs along with a supportive screen-printing unit. It moved to offset printing which initially started with film based process, then CTP, and direct to print and so on. Last few years  digital means of print and media took over complimented with quick output machineries have  been  introduced to keep up to the ever demanding market. The large volumes/quantity has come down particularly in the last five years and the turnaround time is just a simple ask.”
He further added, “Nowadays, customers demand everything instantly and if you are inefficient then you are out of business. Having said that, its the way the industry currently works so we can’t blame anyone. To stay afloat we sometimes accept it without much hesitation. To overcome some of the industry shortfalls, I strongly believe that we must stay updated with the latest technologies, thus resulting in upgrading of machineries with latest technologies which is the main thing. We have invested in high end machineries like Xerox, HP Latex, and eco friendly printers. We are equipped with high end Laser and CNC machineries to strengthen our signage capabilities as well. All these components constitutes a successful business. In today’s scenario our commitment is the most important factor which also determines the progress and we will take all the essential steps to fulfil it. Even twenty years back the mantra was same, and will remain same forever. In addition, I would always like to invest in branded machines for their quality, better result and long-lasting nature.”
Speaking about the credit period, and employee benefits, he added, “Things have been very difficult in the current market so now we have cut down the credit period and the current period is between 30 to 60 days. I basically reward my staffs depending upon their performance. Moreover, I try to be very friendly with my employees and always welcome their suggestions as  I always believe they are the company’s strength.”
Talking about the hobbies and family, he said, “I am a passionate off-roader so every weekend I go for a desert drive. My wife is a civil engineer, she works as consultant and I have two kids.”
Signing off, he advises, “Everyone to have a long-term plan and must work for it as this would allow them to make a mark in future.” And he also believes in the tag line of his company which says “Leave it to the Expert”.