Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting stuff printed in Muscat.

I would like to highlight an extraordinary bit of beurocracy that we have here in Oman. Play along boys and girls!

Here is the scene:

You are a legitimate Omani company, Omani owned, have a commercial registration number, registered with every business regulating entity in the country and engaged in totally legitimate business endeavours. You are, for lack of a better term, an awsome company, making headways into an international business market.

Let's say you want to attend an overseas trade show, and you want to take with you 3 different sets of 1,000 printed brochures detailing the services that your company offers. Simple right? you ring up your printers, take a disk with the artwork in, and they print it. Presto! a week later you have 3,000 gorgeous glossy brochures to take with you to your overseas trade show. Right? Right?


Here is how it works if you are my company, or any other small company in Muscat.
  1. Call your freelance graphic designer, and get the stuff designed
  2. Burn it to a bunch of disks, and take it to the printers
  3. Finalise the layout, and approve the proofs
  4. Ask how long it will take
  5. Be told that it depends on Ministry of Information approval, and Muscat Municipality Approval.
  6. And it costs 10 bucks per design
  7. Tell them it's for overseas distribution, you shouldn't need approvals
  8. Be told that it does not matter, everything printed in the whole goddamn country needs approval.
  9. Tell them to go ahead and get the approvals then.
  10. Be told they need a letter on company letterhead, with the company stamp, and a copy of the company's commercial registration document to procede.
  11. Spend a day in the office sorting out everything, finding the C.R. paper, and extracting the stamp from the grimy claws of the accountant.
  12. drive from Ruwi to Qurm and back to get an authourised signature for the letter.
  13. Return to the printers with all the stuff.
  14. Be told the letter must be in arabic.
  15. try not to scream, or rip your eyeballs from thier sockets.
  16. fail on the first count.
  17. Re type the letter in arabic, stamp it when nobody is looking, sign it yourself.
  18. Hand it all in to be taken for approval.
  19. Go home and pour yourself a triple gin and tonic.
  20. Next afternoon receive a call from the printers. Your proofs have been rejected because they are only in English. All flyers must be bilingual.
  21. Wail, gnash teeth. explain that they are for overseas distribution. In like, Europe.
  22. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  23. Ministry #1 approves all your proofs next day.
  24. hear nothing for 3 days.
  25. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of a different Ministry (ministry #3).
  26. Explain that you don't fall under the auspices of ANY ministry, since the government, as far as you are aware, does not own your company.
  27. Printer says he will send somebody back with a new proof and try to get it passed the next day by a different guy at the ministry.
  28. weekend.
  29. Receive a call from the printers that Ministry #2 will not approve the flyers because your business falls under the auspices of Ministry#3 . Ministry#3 must approve your flyers before ministry #2 will approve your flyers.
  30. Tell printers to go see Ministry #3 and try to get someone there to stamp the proofs.
  31. Printer guy goes to see Ministry #3 four seperate times trying to get someone in the ministry to stamp the proofs.
  32. Despite the fact that you are a legitimate business known to everyone in Ministry #3, Noone in Ministry #3 is willing to stamp the proofs since they have never been asked to do so before.
  33. With the deadline looming, Call in a favor, Apply Wasta, Cry, and drink yourself to a stupor.
  34. Ministry #3 finally acknowleges your existance. Send printer to get approval from Ministry #2
  35. Ministry #2 rejects your proofs because they are not bi-lingual and Arabic, only English.
  36. Ask the printers if they could just please print the notally non-objectional shit you need without seeking any approval.
  37. Printers say no. There are really heavy fines for unauthourised printing.
  38. Give up.
  39. Send Ro 800 in business that could have supported Omani companies to Dubai, and have the printing done there.
  40. Pay an extortionate amount to have it delivered here.
  41. Beat your head against a nearby wall until you bleed profusely. Apply bandages.
  42. Repeat twice a year.

Want to know what the kicker is? Offset printing requires approval, but if I wanted the stuff lazer printed or color copied at Bishara Xerox, I don't need any approval whatsoever.

Offset printing? Approvals needed. Same document, Xeroxed? No approval needed.



Anonymous said...


I understand your frustration and trust me its all a part of the beauracracy in all the ministries for any jobs that you might need get done.

But then here the fault lies of 2 parties (and nones you!)- your designer and your printer.

Your designer should get all the proofs and copy and the approvals sorted prior to it being printed. Next the printer should not trouble you for it, he should revert back to the designer (unless you have given him the job directly, again the fault of the designer0 he should let you deal with printers - its not your job). Even if you deal with the printer -he should have told you all this before hand not during the stages of it being done.

Bottom line - both your printer and designer are novices and/or give a damn about you. Change them (unless they are free!)

I am saying this because I run a design and print business!


Sid said...

Aaah, this is just too much. No country seems to be spared of the beaurocracy, whom we in India call the Babus.
Babus go to hell.

Undercover Dragon said...


Great Story Sub'!!!

And Oman is so ... business friendly!

boxster said...

why go the offset route? would laser/color printing/copying cost you much more?

ah, bishara... i needed several a3 prints scanned, they asked for 10 rial per scan! 10 bloody rial for something that does not involve paper or ink or toner! bargained down to 5... scans come out awful, with blemishes, back and forth for a whole week until the engineer was called in to fix the scanner... scans are supposedly ready, but i bet they just photoshopped the blemishes...

Amber said...

uggh...just throw your business elsewhere...clearly Oman doesn't want it.

Seriously, you can get things designed in the US for cheap, through e-mail. And have them printed there and sent to you in less time and with less expense and with happier results. Doha probably offers the same options. There are a few ad agencies here that would be more than happy to have your business.

It's a shame...and with the expense of all that alcohol to offset your insanity...other options are WAY cheaper.

Anonymous said...

Printing 1000 (high quality) brochures is never an easy job sweetie even when there are no 'ministries' involved.

If you have ever got brochures printed without checking the proofs, God help your organisation, I certainly would not want you in mine.

Seema Guha

Standy said...

LOOL!! omg!

this is not helping us AT ALL!!

Suburban said...

THanks for the comments guys!

Anon#1- thanks for your lovely and detailed comment.

In defense of my graphic designer, he is freelance, and works in something totally unrelated by day. He just designs the stuff for us.

In defense of my printers, they warned me in advance about the issues we later encountered. I don't want the brochures to be bi-lingual. I like them the way they are, that's why I had them designed like that. THey are for overseas customers, and if I was going to have a second language on them, it would likely be French or German.

The real Novice is me!

Sid- How funny! I had an evil accountant named Babu once. How appropriate.


Boxter- The brochures were double sided, weirdly sized, and some required folding. Bishara's quote was almost triple what the printers wanted, although Bishare has been offering me much more competitive pricing of late.

Amber- Cheers. If we were not such a small / cheap-ass company we would likely have a proper ad agency working for us, and they would take care of everything. Instead, for the moment we do everything on the cheap. which isn't so cheap when you add in my gin expenses and the psychological therapy needed after every governmental advanture.

"Seema" To clarify, because maybe you are too stupid to grasp it; I checked all the proofs. The post was about governmental interference in everyday business activities. Don't worry about having me in your orginisation, I have a job, and about 25 other offers waiting on the table. But Thanks so much for the nasty-gram! Aren't you lovely!

Standy- No joke.

Suburban said...

One more thing, I have since occasionally printed some stuff without hassles at the ministry levels. It seems to depend on who is wealding the rubber stamp on any given day.

Anonymous said...

Haha... Tonnes and tonnes of offset printers in India. Say one in every lane. Find a reliable one, email The design to them and be sure to receive it back in a couple of days... This is the easy way out !!!

Anonymous said...

Print your brochures with a company in Europe you are attending and collect from there.

Problem solved. very simple.

sYeD said...

we are a print & Copy center located near Grand Mosque, Ghala

We are involved in Printing photos, documents and Auto-cad drawings.

reach us at our website or contact at 98952232