SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Label industry in UAE: Intense competition, still growing!

Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai
UAE (United Arab Emirates), a federation of seven countries has a population of just about 9 million out of which over 85% are expatriates, yet there is a label industry that is growing steadily and is attracting interest from global suppliers all the time. At the start of this millennium the number of label printers in UAE worth the mention was less than 10. The number of label companies has been rapidly growing ever since. Those were the days when Industrial growth started seeing an upswing in UAE. The number of companies from India who started to set up shop in the UAE was also growing. Indian label printers who were ambitious to go global started to make efforts to use UAE as a gateway to the world of international business. The then Finance minister (later Prime Minister) Dr. Manmohan Singh’s economic liberalization programs had become the catalyst in aiding the Indian entrepreneurs’ aspiration to be called a multinational!

Dubai has always been the face of UAE even though in terms of area it is just less than 5% of the of the total of 83,600 km² area of UAE (The whole of UAE in terms of area is smaller than the small state of Meghalaya in East India). The largest emirate (or country) in UAE is Abu Dhabi at 67,340 square kilometers, yet it is Dubai that is recognized as the face of UAE. Dubai has a population of 2.7 million that, if not already there, is inching towards a figure twice that of the population in Abu Dhabi. Surprisingly the percentage of women in Dubai is just 31 % and men 69 % according to data available as of 2014. This is largely due to expatriate population who, leave their families back home and travel to UAE for gainful employment. The gender mismatch is also similar in other emirates. UAE is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on December 2, 1971. 

The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. UAE is a major international tourist and business hub. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world at nearly $25,000 USD.  UAE has approximately 10% of the world's total known oil reserves, 90% of these oil reserves are in Abu Dhabi and only about 10% of these are in Dubai. UAE is not anymore solely reliant on oil and gas revenues. The oil sector contributes about 30% of the country's GDP.  Lead by Dubai the trade, tourism, real estate and construction are large contributors to UAE economy. Sometimes one wonders how a country with population and area less than most big cities in India, continues to attract such fervor for tourism and investment. Indians form over 25 % of UAE population. With the country being home to between 50,000 and 60,000 Indian companies, today India is UAE's largest trading partner.

The label industry in UAE is facing a more or less similar situation as in India. The market keeps growing and the number of printers also keeps on increasing, thereby translating into intense competition and lower margins. Being a federation of emirates or countries with low population, it is actually the exports that are driving growth in labels. From being a trading distribution centre, UAE has transformed to be a manufacturing hub selling globally. The immediate access to Middle-Eastern and African markets is the starting point for all label companies and as they step up their capabilities, from here they venture into Europe and beyond as well. The glitter, liberal life style, cosmopolitan character and excellent infrastructure of Dubai and the rest of UAE, has always tempted the ambitious investors to establish presence here. According to recent Smithers Pira report, total printing revenues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA Region) were $17.6 billion in 2012, and are forecast to grow 7.2% per annum reaching $26 billion by 2018. On trying to reach an approximate market size in the region; considering labels to be 20% of the total print industry, the size of label industry in this region in 2018 is estimated at $5.2 Billion. Pressure sensitive labels being a little over 40% of the total labels industry one can estimate the market size of pressure sensitive labels in the MENA region in 2018 to reach approximately $2.08 Billion.

UAE Label industry is largely, either owned, run or managed by Indian expatriates. This
Kimoha Factory in Dubai
market is divided into 3 distinct segments; (A) the top end that has 5-6 very big players. (B) The big players that are the middle segment and (C) The not so big players who are either testing their luck or are the offshoots, ex employees of A & B trying to emulate their ex-employers. As is always, the middle segment suffers the most as they are continuously held back by the competition from the smaller players making it difficult for them to invest so as to get into the top segment due to lower margins and unviable return on investment. The niche or top segment has the least competition but delivering to customer’s expectations and retention is in itself a big challenge that the top players keep attending to so as to meet the demands of their high end customers. Therefore the increase in number of printing companies, affects largely within the segments they operate in. The established top players in UAE include; Emirates Printing Forms in Abu Dhabi, Kimoha in Jebel Ali-Dubai, Pacman CCL in Alquoz-Dubai, Futurepack in Sharjah and GulfAdhesive Label Factory in Ajman. In recent times established Indian companies who have invested in UAE include Gulfscan, Prakash Labels and Ajanta packaging.
Vinesh Bhimani Managing Director Kimoha
The rough estimate of the total market size in terms of labelstock usage in UAE alone is approximately 50 million square meters per year. This maybe off the mark, but after interaction with leading printers, this estimation has been arrived at. We cannot really translate this in terms of per capita usage as about 80 % of the labelstock is exported either as converted labels or as a part of manufactured end products. UAE appears to be a bigger market then Saudi Arabia for production of labels because of better infrastructure and liberal policies aided by no tax regime for sales within the GCC countries. According to Nimeesh Lilani at PacmanCCL, “The reason for this is the ease of doing business in UAE, easy availability of funds and it being a logistic hub with ease of making clearances and shipments”. According to Vinesh Bhimani heading Kimoha, “from the just a handful of label companies,there are now in excess of 45 label companies. 

Gopalan Nair & Chinnadurai at Future Pack
The market is getting crowded”. Chinnadurai at Future Pack says, “New entrants are just one part of the story affecting margins, online auctions have started to surface in UAE also, this will be another headache!” he further added, “We are trying to replace old machines with new technologically advanced equipment to produce cost effectively.” Sachin Arya at Ajanta packaging says, “Prices have become challenging and payments are delayed making it difficult for us to operate. More and more Indians are wishing to locate outside India and to succeed; they are under compulsion to sell by undercutting prices”. Chinnadurai feels that if the trend goes on like this it will not be long before we see some people exiting this business. 

Assad Antonios heading Abu Dhabi based Emirates Printing Forms says, “Cost of living in
Assad Antonios of Emirates Printing Forms Abu Dhabi
UAE has gone up and with new printing companies coming up in Africa the market place is shrinking bringing pressure on smaller players to exist” Increasing number of printing companies, bring with it the need for more operators whose demands become difficult to meet as they wish to bring their families to UAE as well. It is becoming very expensive to hire operators. One wonders how the new entrants with just one machine and that too of a lower end can survive in an economy where per capita income is one of the highest in the world and the market appears to be almost saturated. However still, most big printers have said that there is definite growth in the market.
The UAE market as mentioned earlier in this report is dominated by a few large printing companies. Dubai based Pacman CCL Is headed by John Dawson and has been in the news for their recent takeover of Mumbai based Super labels. The company is a joint venture between the Albwardy group and Geoffrey Martin lead CCL Label, the world’s largest label company. They have units in Dubai, Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and now India. Jebel Ali headquartered Kimoha headed by Vinesh Bhimani has been a front runner and always striving to excel. Abu Dhabi located Emirates Printing Forms has been another success story. They have grown from just being a computer forms manufacturer to a huge enterprise manufacturing Continuous forms, Self adhesive labels, document security printing, wrap around labels on wide web machines, EDP products, Shrink Sleeves, IML, Cut & Stack Labels, etc. Assad Antonios of Lebanese descent has been heading the company for last 26 years. He is proud to mention that this company, growing at a steady rate of 10% per annum, now operates out of over 100,000 square feet shop floor space with 140 employees. He is happy that due to respect given to all employees and creation of a family like atmosphere, the company has very low employee turnover. Sharjah based Future Pack is a part of the Saudi Arabian ENPI group which in turn is a part of the Saudi Printing and packaging Co. (a public listed company in Saudi Arabia). The company produces a diverse range of paper and plastic packaging. Chinnadurai as their Vice President Operations at Sharjah has lead the company from just labels to even production of specialized labelstocks and innovative label products. 
 
The Label industry in UAE started from Dubai then spread to other emirates like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman. With real estate prices escalating and cost of living in Dubai becoming unaffordable, label printing started to come up in other Emirates like Ras Al Khaimah, Umm al-Quwain and Fujairah. Today the label printers are spread over in all emirates. However it is pertinent to note that it is not the domestic sale or locational advantage that makes them locate their units in far off emirates rather than in Dubai. It is actually the need to produce cost effectively with lower overheads that takes them to other emirates. The growing market at this manufacturing hub has made Tarsus the organizers of Labelexpo series of events around the world to invest in Gulf Print and Pack Dubai. The show has become a premier event in Middle East Asia and printers from all countries in the region make it a point to visit the show. This year’s edition, as per their official website has over 200 exhibitors. Registering a 26.7% increase, 11918 visitors from 110 countries visited the last edition of the show. The interesting part of UAE is that the local governments recognize the need for exporting and increasing their share of global trade rather than relying on the limited and fast depleting oil reserves. They have transformed the UAE economy from oil revenue based one to one based on global trading, manufacturing, tourism and real estate development. It is evident that mindset of rulers of the country will make manufacturing to prosper and with that, the market of labels in UAE will surely grow.

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-India February 2017

The article maybe published with the permission of Narrow WebTech Germany giving credit to them and to the author

For advertising enquiries please email to; harveersahni@gmail.com

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