Oriental Printing Press celebrates its 60th anniversary this year," says Majeed Al Zeera, president of Oriental Printing Press. "My father Issa Al Zeera and his partner K.A. George started the business in 1952 with two hand-fed letterpress platen machines, some composing racks, manual binding, wire stitching, guillotine in Central Manama. The idea to start a printing shop came when they went to one of the two printing companies in Bahrain to print some stationery and saw a notice on the entrance door saying "Regret we cannot receive any new orders for one month due to busy schedule". Soon after starting the company, Oriental Press was able to meet the market demand for basic stationery jobs. As the economy started picking up, the demand for wider range of printing and higher quality had increased. Oriental Press introduced many products and processes into the Bahrain and Gulf markets such as thermography, blind embossing, foiling, die cutting, gilt edging and colour separation."

In the 1960's and 70's, Oriental Printing introduced new processes and products right from design stage to finishing, all under one roof including printing of books, directories, annual reports, computer stationery, packaging and security printing. "Earlier complex jobs were printed in London and Singapore," says Al Zeera, "but our ground breaking initiatives were recognised and orders started flowing in from Gulf countries and Africa. We expanded operations with investments in plant and technology in sheetfed offset, commercial and narrow web machinery. We were the only private printers in the Middle East to print stamps and airline tickets. In 1989, we established our first production plant outside Bahrain in Jebel Ali, Dubai. In 1993, we started a book production plant also in Jebel Ali and opened a sales and marketing office in London. The company's vision later developed to become a global player in the international arena. Through continuous investment in human resources and latest technology and by the blessing of Almighty God we were able to achieve our goals. Today, Oriental Press exports more than 70% of its printed products to 65 countries across the globe."

Though initially intending to study architecture, Al Zeera changed his mind and enrolled inWatford College in UK to study printing technology. "When I joined the family business towards the end of 1974," reminisces Al Zeera, "I spent a few months in the prepress, accounting and estimating departments. Being the oldest son of the chairman was an advantage and I was quickly promoted to the position of joint -director. However, I soon discovered that this apparent advantage meant that I had to work three times harder than the other managers in the company. In 1985, I became the president of Oriental Press. I am also the chairman of Oriental Group Holding owning Oriental Press Bahrain, Delmon Press, Oriental Security Printing Solutions and Oriental Press Dubai."

Elaborating the changes in the printing industry, Al Zeera says that the industry has evolved from hot metal linotype & monotype, letterpress machines, photo-colour separation, engraved colour separation using Hell vario Klischograph. "Then came sheetfed offset litho and photo-typesetting. The electronic controls invaded conventional printing and binding machines. The CTF and CTP era followed and finally a whole new world of digital printing arrived."

The challenges faced by the industry according to Al Zeera are the effects of digital, competing with the Chinese printers on the price front, and attracting talented people in the industry. "I do not see digital printing as a threat, but an opportunity with wide possibilities. We are able to compete against top printing companies anywhere in the world in terms of quality, price and service, all except China!

"The advice I would give to other printers is reduce costs, establish rapport with your customers, suggest new products and services to clients, and explore export markets."

Intending to retire in 5 years, Al Zeera says, "Oriental Press will continue on the path of development and look for new challenges. The last three years have been the worst years for Oriental Press in terms of performance because immediately after completing a major investment programme in new facilities and machinery, we were hit by the recession and later that was compounded by the political situation in Bahrain. But as I said we can see the end of the tunnel, Inshallah. As the recession recedes, there will be more demand on print."

Majeed Al Zeera was presented with 'Personality of the Year' award by Dubai International Print Awards, 2012, in February this year. To the last question from PrintWeek MEA, Al Zeera says confidently, "Success to me is excelling in the industry, continuous growth and development, creating new job opportunities, corporate governance and service to society and environment."