A Quarterly Newsletter from the UAE and Oman member firms of the PKF International Ltd. network

VOL 19, Issue 2 April 2017

Interview

Born and brought up in Kenya, Amit Radia completed his degree in Business and Finance at one of the country’s American universities, USIU with its main campus in San Diego, with his sights set on a career in advertising. However, political instability intervened and at 21 he moved to London, where he started his career in print in 1981. Having hailed from a family with a print background and business for over 3 generations, Amit Radia ironically moved into print business due to circumstances.

Starting as an estimator, Radia rose swiftly to become the general manager of the UK printer Clementine in 8 years during which time he helped oversee the company’s substantial growth by four-fold. After his tenure in print, Radia was involved with a large multinational group to head their division involved in setting up a security print plant in Africa and this involved procuring the necessary equipment and setting it up with the budget and time deadlines.

In 1992 the trading potential of the African market brought him to Dubai, where he soon spotted an opportunity for print and began working on the feasibility of setting up a printing company. By the end of 1994 he had set up Atlas Printing Press and thus began an organisation which is today recognised as one of the largest and most sophisticated printing presses in the UAE. Today, Atlas prints for the top publishing houses in the Middle East with a portfolio of approximately 35 monthly and weekly titles.

Propelled by the city’s accelerating growth and backed by supportive suppliers, the press expanded into niche areas of print including digital and variable data. Having researched the market, we realised that specialisation was the key. With the investment in a Screen Digital Web press with complete finishing lines for newspaper and cut to sheet, Atlas Media Communications then tied up with various front end specialists such as Newspaper Direct for newspaper content, Merrill Corporation for financial and variable data print, and GMC for data management and variable data direct mail.

Q. Apart from your visible support role, who are the unsung heroes behind your group’s success?

A. Well, when we started the group, it was quite a small operation and, obviously my wife, Amarjeet Radia, was a key player in supporting me not only in daily operations but also morally. Apart from that, there are quite a few staff who have been with me for a number of years and too many to mention but today I can say that my whole “Team Atlas” is my key strength and each and everyone who is still with me is an unsung hero.

Q. Success can never be achieved overnight. Beyond the sleepless nights and toil what are the principles that have worked and still endure as the work ethic in your group?

A. My passion for the business has always been a driving force with all my employees as apart from the money, my key ambition was to make Atlas a brand associated with quality and service, which is what we are renowned for today. It’s about knowing and understanding the business and driving forward rather than being a “bean counter” running a business on numbers and budgets.

Q. Where do you see Lulu Exchange in 2020?

A. We have plans chalked up for our entities over the next 4 years. For its next milestone, Lulu Exchange is looking towards the Asia-Pacific region. With a number of initiatives already taken up for moving towards a digital tomorrow, we also believe that our businesses should keep pace with the technological innovations of the time. With this in mind, we aim to move 30% of our exchange and remittance business on to the digital platform by 2020.

Q. Experience, consistency in quality, innovation or customer service. Which of these factors is the most important in your line of business?

A. Quality, motivation, integrity. I look at my position as being that of a CMO, or Chief Motivation Officer, rather than a CEO as without the buzz and vibrancy within the environment, no amount of marketing will get you the work. I always tell my staff, if you believe in your company and its services, it will reflect very quickly through to the customer and inspire them as well.
Q. 3D printing is quite the rage right now. Does your group intend to enter this area and, if so, do you feel this is the future of the printing industry?

3D printing is a completely unique business model and I suppose the word “printing” almost denotes a threat to our business, which it does not. There are specialists in the industry and I suspect over the years, as the related equipment become more sophisticated and faster, it will certainly become a viable commercial business but in the present day and age it is still a very niche business which still has a long way to go.
Q. In this world of online media and news the printing industry in general has suffered. “Who reads printed paper…” seems to be the general outlook. Have you been able to buck this trend?

A. We are the largest production house of “newspapers on demand” in this part of the world thanks to our investment and our location. With a capacity of just under 500 meters per minute of full color variable print, we produce over 80 titles of international newspapers in short runs every day for airlines, the hospitality sector and for the corporates. We are also in the process of developing a specialist online “newspapers” app that will complement this service and surely develop more rapidly over the coming years.

Q. What is the way forward for the Group in particular and the printing industry in general?

A. Solution driven markets whereby we work with our clients to enable creative, economical and efficient models to support their complete print and media needs. We use offset, web, digital and content driven data to offer the best solution for our clients.

Q. You are a fiercely private person when it comes to your family and your extra- curricular pursuits. What are your interests outside the work sphere?

A. Absolutely, and although I have been in Dubai over 25 years, we are still very limited in our exposure to social circles. Fitness, golf and running are my key hobbies and socially, very content to smoke a nice cigar and enjoy a decent malt with close friends.

Q. Any parting words of wisdom for budding businessmen who want to make their mark in the region?

A. Whatever you decide to venture into, have a passion for achieving excellence…that is the only telling feature that will separate you from the rest of the crowd, especially in the UAE which is a highly competitive market.