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In a conversation with Bandana Shah, the general manager of Neighbourhood Promotions LLC Rajeen Absal discusses his business journey so far and the current market situation in the region.  

A post-graduate from Industrial Fisheries from Cochin University of Science & Technology in Kerala, India, Rajeen Absal flew to the UAE in 1999 to look for a suitable job in his line of studies. Luck, felt Absal, didn’t strike then so he joined a print distribution company in Abu Dhabi. Nine months later he became a part of Emirates Distribution as its distribution manager to improve the circulation of Al Wahdah, an Arabic daily. After serving the company for a solid decade, Absal along with another veteran in the local distribution industry founded Neighbourhood Promotion LLC in November 2009 with 14 employees.  

The general manager of Neighbourhood now has his eggs in different baskets with four divisions - distribution, printing, drinking water and courier, with more than 300 employees from different countries such as the UAE, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Philippines, Egypt and Nigeria, employed in the company’s Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain branches. The company has a fleet of eight large-format HP machines; HP Designjet L26500 being its first provided by Jacky’s. The company’s printing division started in 2013, followed by the signage section in 2016. In 2018, they also floated their digital offset wing with a Xerox machine.

According to Absal all three segments have been growing. “Neighbourhood holds a market share of 70% in the country’s distribution industry and our digital printing division works with major clients in the industry,” shared a proud Absal.

Absal, who was born and raised in South India’s Kerala feels that the print industry in India is as good as Middle East’s: “The only difference is the availability of manpower, which is lacking in my country (India).”

During his 20 years in the UAE, Absal has witnessed the print industry evolve. “The pace in which technology is changing, particularly in this (print) industry, is unlike any other field. Machines have swiftly replaced the need for human interference in processes. The digital market, too, is developing rapidly. We are trying to keep up with the changing scenario by adapting to new technology.”

The company, according to its GM has acquired a clientele of 800, not only in the UAE, but also in Kuwait and Qatar, and had a business of around 200 million so far. On Neighbourhood’s success, Absal said: “We have made the right move at the right time with the right team and right attitude. We trust that our people are our strength. Dispensing salaries on time is a key factor to keep your employees motivated. We give our good wishes to any employee who wishes to leave and thank them for contributing while they worked with us. If you steer your ship properly, your crew will stay and cheer for you. We have employment retention of 95%.”

When asked about the challenges his business faces in the market, Absal said: “Unnecessary competition is affecting the mindset of price centric clients. Lowering prices just to compete is not even fetching the costs for businesses. It should be understood that good quality and low pricing cannot go hand in hand.” Given a rather difficult market scenario with businesses having a tough time staying afloat, a positive Absal elaborates on how the various divisions of Neighbourhood are keeping the company steady.

“We have a merchandising division which deals with major banks and fast food chains in the UAE. Our drinking water brand ‘Noor’ is a market leader. Our new addition, NEX Courier is doing well in the last mile delivery and documents sector. If the print is slow in summer water makes up for it. The verticals balance each other out. We do face difficulties with cash flow in the market. This has made us mindful about whom we do business with. We don’t take up all projects just for the sake of business. Though there is excess supply as printing is an easy business to get into, we have been getting good printing jobs from our regular clients.

We are also getting jobs from the upcoming Expo 2020. Due to excess supply over demand, there is difficulty in the market. However, market always fluctuates and then corrects itself. There’s no one to blame. It’s a cycle.”