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Zaabeel Advertising LLC’s managing partner George Tadros  tells PrintWeek about what he has seen and learnt during his 30 years in  the region’s print industry.

Tadros grew up in Lebanon, where he did his schooling and went on to get a diploma in printing in 1986. He was fascinated with the concept of print and the wide spectrum of the medium. “I started my career in flexo printing at a plastic factory and became its production manager in 1990. The following year, I set up my own factory. It was operational till 2003, but the printing business was deteriorating. I then moved to Dubai and joined Mediatech, which subsequently became Printworks-Mediatech, as assistant managing director till October 2011 before moving on to co-establish Zaabeel Advertising LLC,” he said.

Zaabeel Advertising LLC was established in 2012 by Ali Essa along with Tadros and Mohammed Sadiq. “The project was the realization of a dream that combined printing and photography – particularly for Ali Essa, who is also the owner of Zaabeel Studio, one of the leading quality photography operations in Dubai,” Tadros added.

“I have been a keen photographer since childhood. At one point, I pursued photography as my second career but had to abandon it as I got deeply involved in the printing business. However, it remains my main hobby. I also have a passion for collecting old cameras,” he said.

Zaabeel Advertising LLC started with less than 20 staffers and now has a team of 110. The company offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor digital printing services including posters, stickers, banners, flags, vehicle-branding, printing on fabrics, wood, and glass.

“Our pride lies in the relationship we share with our clients who are effectively our partners. This is reflected in our loyal client base that has organically grown over the years. We have always placed our clients’ priorities on par with our own, which is the main reason for the growth of the company to what it is today,” said Tadros. “Another major reason for our success is also the relationship between the management and the staff members as well as among the staffers. We have been blessed with a healthy work environment that benefits all parties. We believe that our main asset is the human resources domain. We invest heavily in the training and skill-development of our employees while maintaining a balance between their work and their family lives.”

Zaabeel Advertising LLC has received several accolades locally. For Tadros, success means achieving or surpassing goals you have set for yourselves no matter how many and great the hurdles you encounter; all that while maintaining your integrity, professionalism and pride in what you do.

Commenting on the changes that the printing industry has undergone in his three decades in the field, Tadros said, “Perhaps the single most important development in the industry I have witnessed is the phenomenal growth of digital printing and all the technology that came with it. Hardware and software developments have raised the industry to high levels and greatly expanded printing options in every way. It is fascinating when you consider the speed, the media and the colour accuracy you can now achieve.”

Reflecting upon his career so far, Tadros said, “The most memorable thing is being part of the remarkable evolution of Dubai and the UAE. It’s like time travel from when I first started in 2003.”

When asked to share his company’s plans in the next five years, Tadros said, “In the next five years, we’ll all be five years older and five years wiser and hopefully on the same growth path we have enjoyed so far as a company. It is inevitable that new technologies will come on stream and offer further opportunities for progress and expansion. The challenge is not to be overwhelmed by these technologies. As in any business, we too have witnessed our share of ups and downs as a result of market situations. You lose some and win some and it evens out. But we usually come out stronger from dips as they seem to sharpen our resolve and our commitment to up our game.”

Tadros pointed to the predominance of digital technology as one of the major challenges faced by printers today: “It is difficult for all operators to keep up with the ever-changing printing landscape. Unlike offset printing, the life span of digital printing hardware and software is short and the investment required for keeping up with the rapid changes will force out the smaller operators. There has been a major shift from traditional print media to digital media and today, social media is taking away increasing advertising budgets away from traditional media. However, tactical media including billboards and LED panels have and will continue to have a significant market share. Traditional printers are the casualties of the digital revolution.”

Regarding the current market trends, Tadros said, “It is a dynamic market that is witnessing an increase in LED outdoor signage at the expense of printed signage. In parallel, there is an increasingly growing market in vehicle-branding and events, which are covering in part the drop in the volume of outdoor signage.”

Commenting on how the long credit periods affect business, Tadros said, “With the gradual decline in printing, some buyers try to take advantage of the situation and drive very hard bargains with suppliers – including sluggish payment schedules. This is creating strains in relations between printers and buyers and is affecting negatively the cash flow of the former. However, it should also be mentioned that some buyers do understand the implications of stifling suppliers and continue to deal fairly with them but this is rare.”

“The biggest advice I can offer all companies is to retain their employees because when the economic cycle changes and markets start coming back, they will not face the challenge of re-manning the fort to maintain their market share,” said Tadros signing off.

Highlights:

* Zaabeel Advertising LLC was established in 2012 by Ali Essa along with Tadros and Mohammed Sadiq

* The company started with less than 20 staffers now has a team of 110 members

* The company offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor digital printing services including posters, stickers, banners, flags, vehicle-branding, printing on fabrics, wood, and glass