Graeme Selby, general manager of Mazoon Printing Publishing & Advertising, Oman shares with Prashant Chaurasia his extensive experience in Middle East region with dynamic trends, evolving technologies and the relative policies.


During the particularly tough economic times in UK and Europe in the 70’s, there were lots of industry strikes and discontent in the workplace. I remember once during a visit to a friend’s father’s printshop in Nottingham, I had liked the look and feel of the place and it was then that the idea of producing a finished printed document that people would appreciate germinated in my mind. I was hooked and went to University to get my degree,” recalls the general manager of Mazoon Printing Publishing and Advertising, Graeme Selby.


Starting his career as an account executive working for the Boots Company in Nottingham, a well known pharmaceutical company and one that had the ‘largest in-house’ print works in Europe at that time. Selby worked his way to becoming the sales executive. After several years, he joined the Polestar Group (previously known as British Printing Company) where he worked for 15 years and went on to become sales director, eventually moving up the ladder to being appointed managing director; running a commercial print operation in Leeds and a direct mail factory in Nottingham, UK. Following this, Selby joined Vertis, a print group, and spent several years with them looking after operations in Leicester and Croydon, UK.


Opportunity came knocking to his door, motivating him to move to the Middle East, working with ITP Group Dubai, where he helped establish their digital print operation. Soon came the big move to Muscat, Oman to his current job as general manager of Mazoon Printing, Publishing & Advertising, a position he has occupied for 4 years now.


Going back in time Selby explains: “Mazoon has a long, proud and traditional history in Oman. It was the first printing press established over 40 years ago by the Sultan’s family, who own and run the W.J.Towell Group, one of the largest groups in Oman. Back then I guess it was very risky venturing into print business, and I am sure it was very difficult establishing a printing press.”


Commenting on the changes in the industry, Selby opines that technology, quality, speed and skill base drives the print segment forward and always will.


Moving to bigger and modern premises in Wadi Kabir (center of Muscat) and hiring a staff of 110; 40 of which are local Omani citizens, Selby is optimistic, “Though operating mainly in Oman, Mazoon has customers in UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, UK and Africa. The print industry in Oman is not all that different from the rest of the Middle East now. The last few years has seen the industry move forward at a slower pace and faces similar challenges, opportunities and risks. However, Oman is a relatively small market. We need to embrace the digital print world just as say UAE has. Government policy and red tape also impacts the way we work, changes in business and labour laws also have an impact. But in general we face the same day-to-day issues.”


Recollecting the recent global financial slowdown, Selby extrapolates, “Yes, it was a bad phase, but we have not lost orders. Ironically, our sales have increased, though the profit margins have declined. We find ourselves doing more volumes for less returns.”


Selby believes that credit policies are the biggest concern in the market that affects the cash flow, growth and future investments, causing massive uncertainty regarding payments. “There seems to be no credit policy. The attitude of print buyers towards printers needs to change. I feel an organisation or association needs to be established that maintains records, payment histories of each company and rates them accordingly. This database then can be used to assess credit risk of companies”.


Accounting the present demand-supply situation of industry the general manager comments, “There is a situation of over supply in the industry, mostly in the larger Gulf region, though not so evident in Oman. There are many small presses who are fighting for work at low prices. In Oman, though we have enough work to keep our presses busy, the issue that we face is the profit margins that make the job affordable.”


Cautioning fellow printers, Selby signs off saying “We need tighter control, ability to take tough commercial decisions and the ability to steer through the minefield. I would advice the print fraternity to keep going! Its tough, I know, but we are a great industry and people still need print.”