Qatar-based First Pack LLC’s general manager Rami Shanaah  tells PrintWeek about his journey in the regions packaging sector, challenges, and future plans.

Having spent the last 16 years in the region’s advertising, marketing, branding and digital printing industry, First Pack LLC’s general manager Rami Shanaah set up his company in Qatar at the beginning of this year.

 Shanaah completed his MBA from USA after getting a degree in Mass Communications and began his career in his home country Jordan as a marketing executive and later worked as an account manager in an advertising and digital printing company. In 2004, he moved to Qatar to work as the business development manager for Frame Communications. Within two years, he was appointed the company’s managing director in 2006. “I was responsible for turning the fortunes of Frame Communications during that period by helping it achieve a revenue growth of over 40% year-on-year since 2006 and it was ranked among the top five advertising agencies in the market. I also worked to diversify the investment.”

Shanaah’s communication background kept him close to the printing and packaging industry. “I had been working with targeted clients in the food and agricultural sectors, helping them develop and promote their brands with suitable labels and packaging. This sparked my interest to explore investment opportunity in the packaging sector,” he said. In 2012, Shanaah founded Frame Digital, a full-fledged digital printing press, which is also one of Qatar’s leading gift suppliers. He continues to work with Frame Communications, which has a team of 45 staffers. “Taking a company which was in a tough spot was a life changer for me as well,” he reminisced.

Commenting on how the industry has evolved over the years, Shanaah said, “The market is undergoing a digital shift, and the print and packaging suppliers are exploring more ways to support their customers and diversify their services.” He feels that the region faces the same set of challenges when it comes to commercial printing, because of the current economic weather and the revolution in the digital media instead of traditional. He, however, feels that digital printing has not yet proved its worth.

“I believe that flexo printing is the future of the regional market providing us with a great opportunity to lead locally,” he added.

According to Shanaah, the main challenge faced by the packaging industry is the threat of excess supply over demand posed by the “increasing number of investors interested in establishing packaging printers, so one has to be careful about any future investment”. “However, our region still lacks packaging suppliers,” he said.

“First Pack seeks to offer top quality labeling and flexible packaging products using the most advanced printing technologies in the industry. We consider several factors central to our business’ success. First would be the innovative modern production techniques, which are achieved with the help of our latest purchase – Nilpeter New FA Line Press. Second, would be our highly trained and professionally qualified team who ensure the best quality standards with their deep knowledge of the local market,” Shanaah said, adding that true success for him would be when his clients are satisfied and the business grows based on the company’s reputation. “For now we are focusing on the local market and planning to target selected markets soon, specially while expanding the CI Flexo technology,” he added.

When asked about his future plans, Shanaah said that he wants his company to be the most advanced, world-class, specialty flexible packaging converter in Qatar and the region. “In the coming years, the market trend will be towards digital printing, especially in Qatar. In smaller countries, the short run jobs will be more relevant,” he said. Shanaah said that it is his team that would play most important role in his company’s journey to becoming an advanced world-class convertor, “We have a quality screening process for recruitment and in turn give professional benefits for all our employees.”

Regarding the effect of longer credit periods affecting business, Shanaah said, “Lack of commitment results in bad cash flow. In our sector, the credit period is standard and faces no big issues regarding collection.”

Shanaah signed off with a word of caution for fellow businesses, “Though the market is not as vibrant now, let’s maintain our ethics of competition. Don’t spoil the prices just to sustain our industry.”