The managing director of Century Printing Press, C V Kurian, talks to Bandana Shah about his journey in the printing industry for more than four decades.

Kurian’s passion for print was sparked by the hands-on experience he got at one of the oldest printing companies in India. “My father was employed with S T Reddiar & Sons, a pioneering printing press in Kerala established in 1886. During school holidays, I would be found either rotating the big flywheel of the guillotine machine or simply observing the mechanical Columbian press in motion.”

His print career began in 1974 with lithography plate making. His career steadily took off from being an apprentice to an assistant machine operator and working in the prepress department of Kerala Books & Publication Society, a government venture which was the then largest textbooks plant in Asia.

In 1981, Kurian moved to Bahrain to work in the prepress department at Oriental Press Bahrain where he soon was promoted as the manager of the department. Thirteen years later, he briefly worked in Abu Dhabi before joining Al Futtaim Printers in Dubai, where he continued for four years and then moved to Oman for a while. “Oman market was very slow with less opportunity for creativity,” he said. So, he returned to Dubai to work with Dubai Marketing and Printing Press for four years.

Century Printing Press was established in 2006 with just seven employees and today, the company has 45-members strong representing people from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Philippines.

“My friends encouraged me to start this business. I also shared a good rapport with some elite clients from my previous assignments. Century took off without even a gram of printing ink or even a rubber roller but with the support of my well-wishers and people who believed in my work. We first got a Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 74-5. Now, we also have a Komori Lithrone 420 L,” said Kurian. Century recently got a CtP Kodak Trendsetter.

The company specializes in gift packaging solutions and book binding informed Kurian. While Century’s greeting cards, catalogues, luxury packaging designs are more popular among the European brands, the company also has clients in Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Kurian felt that the current markets trends are towards digital, stationery, print-on-demand and personalized items. “We have support from printers across the UAE,” he added.

Talking about the success behind his company, Kurian said that it is the dedication and creativity of his employees that keeps them going. “I feel like their team leader rather than the company’s managing director. I encourage them to reach me out regardless of a technical, official or a personal issue. Their satisfaction also comes from the timely dispensation of salaries every month since the company was founded and also the fact that I pay them slightly higher than the other companies in this segment,” said Kurian, adding, “People are my base, printing is my passion.”

Having been in the GCC printing industry for almost 40 years, Kurian noted that the printers in the UAE are being exploited by the mushrooming advertisement agencies, which act like middlemen. “These companies with barely two or three members, tend to lure the end users without doing the actual work. At the most, they compile various components and get the printers to do the job.

Once they get paid in full, they get the money rolling without paying the printers,” rued Kurian. Similarly, he pointed that digital agencies benefit because the clients are often unaware of the difference between a digital print house and a regular printing press.
When asked if he was a “victim” of long credit periods, he laughed, “You’re actually lucky if you do get paid even after 120 days.”

Commenting on the region’s current market situation, he informed that the start of 2019 had been quite dull. “Business has been picking up since the last few months but not as vibrantly as it should this time of the year.”

In the last five years, Century has seen a growth rate of 20%.  When asked about the next few years, Kurian said, “I have limited ambitions. I’m contented with what I have been doing; how much we earn; and, my people (employees) are taken care off.”

Kurian signed off saying that he is positive that the upcoming Expo 2020 will create considerable jobs for printers. “Till then, my fellow businessowners, hold on to your credit.”