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CEO of NDigitec Vatche Kavlakian shares his vision of the future of the printing industry with Shilpa Jasani, emphasizing how technological advances in the printing industry will amaze one and all.

A computer engineer by education and Yale Business School graduate,  Armenian Syrian Vatche Kavlakian, CEO of NDigitec, ventured into the printing industry in 1993, with the aim of amalgamating computer science with printing. “In 1993, I was among the pioneers to bring my knowledge of computers into the media and prepress segment of the printing industry. With the aim of expanding our geographies, we (my two brothers and myself) came to Dubai, and established NDigitec in 2005 partnered with Nesma Holdings. Our aim was to be an innovative and creative one-stop services company in the field of prepress, premedia, digital printing, fabrication, and online printing, graphic arts among others.”

Starting out with a mere 6 employees, NDigitec today employs over 100. In 2009, NDigitec established their branch office in Riyadh, KSA in a 4000 sq. meter premises. Future plans include expansion into India and Egypt.

Walking down memory lane, Kavlakian spoke about the changes in the printing industry. “Since establishing NDigitec in 2005 and then in early 2010, we could see significant transformation in the printing and packaging industry. The industry was now moving towards technology and further integration of the whole printing process. Sensing this, we started positioning our company as a prepress and printing technology solution provider.   We evolved to providing full solutions to our customers, even going as far as studying their processes and introducing further automation.”

Talking about the differences in the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets, Kavlakian explained: “Saudi Arabian market has larger volumes but less automation, and UAE is more advanced technologically. The way we see it is that there is scope in the Saudi market for technology, automation and other value added services, while the UAE being a logistic hub for regional markets, offers scope for exports into Africa, India and other Asian countries. Therefore, our business in Saudi Arabia is more localized and in the UAE, we cater to the local as well as export markets.”

Emphasizing how imperative it is for any company to move with the changing times and requirements, Kavlakian explained that: “In my opinion, any company that does not improve and evolve with changing times will soon become a dinosaur. By evolving, I mean becoming more technologically sound and bringing value added products. So not sensing the requirements and adapting to them will slow down the progress of any company.”

To remain abreast of current times, Kavlakian took up courses in Artificial Intelligence and FinTech. “Printing industry will enter markets never imagined,” he declared.  “If you ask me about the future of commercial or traditional print and say for example that labels would be printed through flexo, roto or digital processes? – I will say, none of the above. There will be just one code, printed on the product and through artificial intelligence or VR technology, customers will be able to see all details related to the product – the name, expiry date, manufacturer details, anything.”  Giving another example of the future of print, Kavlakian added: “Imagine a huge hoarding on Sheikh Zayed road, and every person viewing the billboard will see contents depending on his or her preference or interest. A person interested in sport -  would be able to view content related to sport, while another person interested in fashion, would be able to see content related to that.  And mind you, this technology is not that far away.  It’s coming in 10 years.”

Explaining their web-to-print platform Dubaiprint.com, Kavlakian noted: “Dubaiprint.com is the first professional, online web-to-print platform in the region that we launched 5 years ago. It’s like the Amazon of printing and we plan to diversify the product and make it like a marketplace.”

On the subject of the challenges facing the print industry today, Kavlakian said: “Price, operational cost and overcapacity are the 3 formidable challenges facing the print industry today.”  Giving insight about how NDigitec overcomes the above challenges, Kavlakian said: “In the first place, we do not enter into price wars. We explain to our customers that we provide quality and this is the price for quality.  Regarding overcapacity – we only order machines when we actually need them and not because some price is right.  Often people buy machinery expecting orders, but that is not the case with us. And our way of reducing operational cost is by optimizing our human resources. We control wasteful expenses, train people to be more efficient and don’t over-promise.   Also, we do not enter markets where there is over-capacity like for example we would not invest in offset machines or offset prepress plates or 5-meter digital printing wide-format machines, since there is already an over-capacity in the market.”

Reminiscing about the financial slowdown in the last few years, Kavlakian explained: “Yes, of course we have had our share of bad debts and the last 5 years have been difficult in terms of collection but what we did was smart restructuring.  So we undertook cost cutting measures without hurting our business, like instead of 5 drivers, we opted for 2.   We strategically planned to increase efficiencies, by ordering fewer but more efficient machines.”

Defining success, Kavlakian says: “For us, success is when we are able to increase our customers’ profits.  In 5 years’ time, I would like to see NDigitec double its revenue and gain global recognition. My message to other printers would be that everyone will need to work 6 days a week, instead of 5, if one wants to survive and thrive. However, I am optimistic about the future.  UAE will increase to a population of 20 million, and therefore demand will increase; purchasing power will increase; and daily consumption will increase.”

Highlights:


NDigitec was established in 2005 and specializes in pre-press and packaging solutions, digital flexo plates, large format, textile. sticker, label and 3D printing, and digital signage

Starting with 6 employees, NDigitec today employs over one hundred 

In 2009, NDigitec expanded into Saudi Arabia, future plans include expansions in India and Egypt