My father worked in security printing for 40 years, starting his career with Thomas de la Rue in Burma, one of the largest currency printers in the world, which in hindsight may have sparked my interest in the field," explains Vijay Menon, the general manager of Khalifa Juma Al Nabooda Group owned Dubai Printing Press. "I too started my career in 1973 in a security printing press in Nashik, India operated by the Government of India. When I joined, it was the only press in India doing security printing jobs. About 2,500 items including currency, cheques, stamp papers, all bank documents, commemorative stamps and many more were all printed at this facility. I must mention here that in a security printing press one gets hands-on experience working with all printing processes including dry and wet offset, rotogravure, flexo, screen printing and all kinds of prepress and post press as well."

A physics graduate from Pune University, Menon joined India Security Printing to study printing technology, a four-year course which culminated in employment with the same organisation. "After working 9 years with the government sector, I moved into packaging, setting up a production line with Komori Chambon (combination of gravure and UV offset) machines for a global cigarette brand in Lagos, Nigeria."

Explaining the changes he has seen in his 3-4 decades of work experience in the printing industry, Menon says, "Margins are shrinking alarmingly, while raw material prices have increased by about 30%. With selling prices also declining at an average of 30%, there is a variation of about 60%. The situation has aggravated due to price wars among printers. Prices should never have fallen when raw materials and inflation is increasing. For the industry this is a dangerous situation. Its easy to fight old technology with new, but very difficult to fight price wars. Another worrying factor is the over capacity that is created in the market. Pre-recession days, people have committed to investments and now with the slowdown, these machines have become white elephants."

The printing industry according to Menon is dynamic, with changes happening all the time. He explains 'offset will loose commercial jobs to digital, however, for packaging, offset is still the best option. So giant manufacturers like Heidelberg, Komori, KBA would not face hurdles if they produce machinery for the right segment'.

"While flexo has improved vastly, rotogravure has dipped and offset is grappling with the inroads digital is making into its markets. However, if printers back innovation and keep up with technology, they can easily survive any market. Printing is like bread, you require it everyday, everywhere; but you cannot be doing the same job that 400-500 other printers are doing and hope to survive and be profitable. Backing this theory we always aim to innovate and stay one step ahead of the competition. We recently introduced 3-D lenticular, animation, security printing, and holograms among other things. At Drupa this year, we saw a lot on innovation specially for 'print-on-demand' jobs like variable data-spot UV and variable data laser die-cutting."

Dubai Printing Press has done away with chemical in plate making using only their eco-friendly, non-hazardous brethren. "We use only vegetable oil inks, lots of recycled paper, chemistry free plate processing and vegetable based powder spray."

UAE, according to Menon has the best commercial printing and packaging facilities for offset, gravure and flexo among all the GCC countries. "However Saudi Arabia is also as technologically updated as the UAE."

Exhorting clients to deliver print-ready files to save time and increase efficiency, Menon says, "We always explain the various processes to our clients. Everything takes time to produce, its not that you press one button and receive a printed sheet from the other side. If files are delivered in the required formats, then the pre-media department can process them faster and deliver them to the printing department on time. We have conducted seminars through Printing and Publishing Group (PPG) to educate customers on file formats which saves them and us valuable time required during tighter delivery schedules."

Menon signs off by saying, "In five years' time we would like to see Dubai Printing Press as a lean and mean machine, operating at full capacity with reduced competition."