Africa Outlook talks to Shawky Hemeidan, the Managing Director of Lusaka-based New Horizon Printing Press.
Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Ben Wigger
Shawky Hemeidan is one of the most passionate and interesting Managing Directors/ entrepreneurs I've ever talked to (and over the many years I've talked to a lot). He's a confident, positive thinker who believes heavily in the projects and things he does – and he isn't the sort of man you can keep in a box.
These traits have helped to create one of Zambia's leading printers, New Horizon Printing Press (NHPP).
"We founded the business in February 2000," says Hemeidan. "I'm the Managing Director and major shareholder of NHPP and we came into the country and started commercial printing such as catalogues, magazines, brochures and books and since then we have been re-investing into this industry in various diversified sectors."
A focus on customer requirements and a flexible approach has stood the company in good stead.
"We are not afraid to invest - we ventured into new flexi printing machines and we diversified into packaging such as lightweight boxes," Hemeidan continues. "For the past 14 years we have been re-investing and growing in the market whilst trying to satisfy the market needs and minimise the importation of printed materials. We've also invested in digital and large format printing as well as t-shirt screen printing. It's the latest equipment and state-of-the-art technology."
Of course, it's no secret that top talent makes businesses go. Whether you are a start-up business or a multinational conglomerate, you want and need top talent to grow and add value to your company. NHPP recognises this. "We've invested considerable resources in to our workforce and training is a major focus. We are one of the leading companies in our sector and we employ over 200 people. New Horizon's policy is to grow in Zambia to make sure that the country has a strong printing industry and is easily able to accommodate the demands from the manufacturing sector, service sector, and mining sector – all the sectors. We want to produce high quality products with the best turnaround time and the best price."
And there it is – two of Hemeidan's defining characteristics, a willingness to take a calculated risk when necessary and a burning desire to be more. "This is a family-owned business and we all want to expand," he says. "We give almost 12 hours a day as directors to our business and we are running the day-today operations, making sure that customer satisfaction is always there. This doesn't just depend on price. There's also quality, turnaround time and we want to make sure we can meet their demands on short notice."
Zambia's investment climate is one of the most stable and attractive in Africa and the future of NHPP is certainly bright. Hemeidan is excited. "This is one of the most stable countries in the SADC region, maybe in all of Africa. It has a vibrant investment policy. Your investment is protected and is encouraged by the Government. They want to grow the manufacturing sector and you will have a lot of support. There is a lot of potential here in Zambia. If you are looking to invest you can make a good return on it here. It is secure and the Government is doing its best to attract investors into the country and offer incentives to people who wish to come here. As a business we are well positioned because of our diversification."
In the last 12 months NHPP has invested over $4 million into expanding its capabilities and strengthening its business offering. In the first quarter of 2014, NHPP will roll out 24 outdoor LED Screens nationwide at prime locations and will offer advertising and promotional space to local and international clients.
For the first time in Zambia, NHPP will introduce state-of-the-art machineries to print paper bags packaging for application like sugar, flour and mealie meal as well as other industries. Paper packaging is a "safer material and environmentally friendly" compared to plastic and other types of packaging, says the ambitious Hemeidan. "NHPP is the only and first press that can now offer spot UV based varnishing. SPOT UV Varnishing has been around in the printing industry for many years but love it or hate it, it remains one of the most popular creative print finishes ever. Spot UV will help our client's products to stand out from the crowd. Applying a high gloss varnish onto selected areas has the immediate impact of capturing the attention. It not only helps to create interest in the printed piece but also promotes the impression of a quality, premium product and international standard.
"We are always looking at how we can grow and compete," he adds. "We're buying in bulk and doing volume work in order to reduce our costs in order to compete with the world market – there is lot of imported product from Asia, Europe and African neighbours like South Africa and Kenya. We are very competitive and, of course, being in Zambia, we are local and on the ground so the service will be far better than any foreign company can offer."
Looking to the future, security printing is one option Hemeidan is exploring. "Cheque books and security featured printing such as holograms... that is on the table," he says. "There is a need for it in Zambia. Most of the security printed materials are coming from outside Zambia currently. It is a niche market that we are looking to penetrate." What Mr Hemeidan is most proud of isn't that his business has grown and continues to grow or that it has become a leader in the market. He is most proud of the fact that, through its competitiveness and ambition, NHPP has stimulated the local market and fellow local players have emerged. "Let me tell you, ten years ago no one would have had the capacity to do a very good job at a very good rate but now people see through our example that other companies can compete in this sector," he explains. "We have had a very positive effect on the sector. The printing market has grown and we've had a positive impact on the printing industry as a whole in Zambia and we are very proud of this.
Born in Liberia, Hemeidan says he now views Zambia as his "home country" and plans to become a nationalised citizen next year. "I feel that Zambia is my home now. I'm the Honorary Consul General for Zambiain Beirut and I represent Zambia in that respect and I am very excited about Zambia's future because it is a destination where your return on investment is very good. It is a winwin situation. I would recommend for anyone to come to Zambia and invest here. The tourism sector, manufacturing sector and even the printing sector – I don't mind having competition. It is good for the consumer. There is a lot of space for investment to come in."
We wish him well.