The Oman printing industry has started back from 1970s. Before that there was only one printing press for government. There are about estimated 150 printing presses now. The main printers are Mazoon printing press, International printing press, Oman printing, RMP, Al Anan etc. Some printing presses like Al Nahda, Firdous printing press and Oman printers take up export jobs mostly to African countries and it includes stationary and packaging materials.

Supply of materials

In terms of paper and consumable most of the big printing presses import directly. But there are some local companies mainly subsidiaries from Dubai like, Ali Alhashemi, Giffin graphics and Regraf.

Ahmed Abo Al Soud, general manager at Al Anan Printing Press said: "Once when I visited in Dubai, the printing presses of our size were not keeping stock of paper and range like we do. If we want to compete in Omani market, we have import ourselves and stock all range. This takes a big liquidity from our pool and becomes a substantial investment.

Ravindra Dauria, managing director of Ruwi Modern Printers said: "Most of the material used to come from Dubai. We have reduced that almost by 70% and do the direct import to save the cost. We have taken a unit of 2,000 sqm near our press just to become self sufficient in stocks. With the second purchase we cant make any money. Most of the traders keep 25 to 30% margins. So even if we increase our inventory ultimately we can make profit."

Availability of trained labour

"There is a private Printing Technical Institute in Oman. The government is trying to promote the industry by absorbing the cost of the training. But the issue what we have faced is that once we hire the students they will get trained in the press and then they go and try for the government jobs. As per the new rule, there should be 35% of the Omani people of the total workforce in the company," said Al Soud. Many companies need to depend on expatriate work force.

Limited outsourcing of jobs

Most of the companies try to keep their work limited to their setup. There is very less outsourcing happening within the print community.

Samuel Paul, production director at Mazoon Printing Press said: "I would love to get the work done from outside but situation is that we don't have proper suppliers and expertise outside. There are no specialized finishing shops available in the market." Al Soud said: "There is a trend in the market to have all the facilities under one roof as not to depend on outside market. So we need to have everything from die cutting to UV coating and digital printing."

Recent investments

Ruwi Modern Printers company took over last year, Al Firdous Printing and packaging, which specializes in packaging and government jobs. "They produce folding and corrugated boxes for tissues, detergents etc. It was 12 years old with 7,000 sqm unit with sheetfed printing and planning to go for web press," said Ravindra Dauria.

Al Anan Printing Press has also invested in a fully automatic UV screen coating machine from Proteck. Company has invested $100,000 for the ST 74 machine with 740x520mm and $80,000 in Xerox 700 digital press.

Mazoon Printing recently went for KBA Rapida 105 printing press with 5 colour printing plus online varnishing and drying. Mazoon have also recently invested in new prepress Agfa CTP with chemistry free technology. Graeme Selby, general manager of Mazoon, said: "this new investment is the next stage of growth and development for Mazoon, it represents our commitment to our current and future clients on delivery, quality, service and price. Mazoon has a great history in Oman and we must continue with this tradition and reputation for quality and service whilst keeping up with technological advances in printing." Mazoon is focussing on jobs like magazines, catalogues, directories, leaflets, flyers, annual reports, books from new printing press.

Requirement of local association

There is currently no local association for printing industry in Oman. "We have small group of printers meeting each other but there is nothing yet association formed," said Samuel Paul of Mazzon. "Many of the packaging requirements get out sourced from Dubai or Saudi Arabia because of their huge capacity. There is no government association for printing industry in Oman. Last year they had invited all the printing presses to Chamber of Commerce but it is not activated yet," said Al Soud of Al Anan. Many Omani companies are participating at the Dubai Print Awards and have been successful in winning awards for the last two years.

Cost cutting within print market

"The paper price hike has affected the market by which many printers lost some contracts. Printers are trying to cut the cost, look for another suppliers. Many printers are using Chinese papers, which sometimes cause problems in the machine. We also import consumable directly from the main distributors. It takes sometime one week for the material to arrive from port to our warehouse," said Al Soud.

"To avoid the paper fluctuations we had purchased paper in advance especially for school books jobs. But there is a pressure on price because of expensive paper," said Paul.

But Ravindra Dauria of RMP feels that many printers are not doing the calculations properly and they are selling below cost. "If the situation is bad lets face it or otherwise it becomes a charity organization. If machines are not fully utilized let it remain like that, as at least there is less wear and tear. Employees run most of the presses locally and owners are not involved," he said.

Most of the printers feel that the infrastructure of Oman is good and there is a lot of development happening in it. "There are SME companies coming and investing in Oman, so the development is bound to be progressive," said Dauria.