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Sustainable Printing Solutions With ECOPLAN: Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi As The Founder Of GIT 

Introducing Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi, an adept professional with over two decades of expertise in the industry, leading the way in sustainable printing solutions. As the Founder and CEO of German Imaging Technologies (GIT), Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi has pioneered revolutionary changes, assisting businesses with remanufactured products, toner cartridges, software, and related services. His career journey mirrors his dedication to enacting positive societal contributions.

In this enlightening interview, Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi discusses the evolution of his field, the key attributes necessary to succeed as an industry leader, and how to adapt to changing trends. He also offers valuable advice for budding entrepreneurs. Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi gives us a look into the organization’s standing within the industry and his fervor for environmental sustainability, while guiding new entrepreneurs on their path. Join us as we explore Sassan’s path and vision for a superior world.

Can you walk us through your professional journey, highlighting key milestones that have shaped your career?

 

Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi

Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi

The beginning of my professional career was both exciting and vibrant. I worked as a corporate attorney for one of Germany’s top 10 city law firms. With my mixed Middle Eastern and German heritage and years of specialized legal education and practice focused on the needs of German corporations conducting business in the Middle East, my career took off from day one.

My Ph.D. on the transfer of technology from Germany to the region was published as a book, with Siemens covering the publication expenses—Siemens being the quintessence of German enterprise at that time. The law firm seconded me to a highly engaging project at the Federal Ministry of Economy in Germany, where I contributed to work on the sanctions laws imposed on Iran then.

I dare say that entrepreneurs are not typical—no offense intended; I certainly was not. I felt an internal drive to do something different, something that seemed more meaningful to me. Leaving behind a prominent legal career in Frankfurt, along with twelve years of rigorous legal education and practice, I ventured to pursue my entrepreneurial dream in Dubai. For those who remember, the Dubai of 1999 was vastly different from the glittering metropolis it is today.

Together with another German colleague and one Emirati equity partner, we began what was destined to become the premier remanufacturing facility in the Middle East and Africa. None of this was apparent to us at the outset, as our initial plan was to establish an outsourced manufacturing concept, through which we would produce toner cartridges for laserjet printers for a German manufacturer under a subcontracting agreement.

What was the driving force behind your decision to join this sector? 

It was in manufacturing, it was eco-friendly, and it was situated in a region greatly in need of job creation and the development of a knowledge-based economy. During my university days, I had made a promise to myself: to become an entrepreneur who would employ as many people as possible, making this the primary measure of my entrepreneurial success. I aimed to make a difference in a part of the world where it would have the most impact, where I could be a part of positive change and make a significant contribution to society.

Back then, no one could have predicted that the sustainability aspect of remanufacturing print cartridges would become central to the Circular Economy, now one of the most prominent and fashionable subjects worldwide! Just a year ago, our facility hosted a visit from a high-ranking German government delegation led by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Protection. Such attention to waste management and extending the product life cycle of electronic goods was unheard of 20 years ago, as it was not on anyone’s agenda.

Who or what has been your biggest influence or mentor in your career?

Throughout my journey, from my early school days and legal practice to my later professional endeavors, I have always valued learning from others and imparting my knowledge. I believe that being mentored and mentoring in return is one of the most beneficial practices for any entrepreneur. It was with this mindset that I joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) nearly nine years ago. As the world’s leading entrepreneurial network with 18,000 members across more than 75 countries, EO has been instrumental in my growth.

Stepping into this organization, which was unfamiliar to me at the time, resulted in the most profound transformation in my life. The foundation of EO lies in peer-to-peer exchange, exceptional educational events, and shared experiences that resonate with entrepreneurs globally.

In my nine years with EO, I have encountered some of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs and individuals, all united by a commitment to improving our world, each from their unique perspective. The opportunities for mentorship, sharing, and learning within this organization are unparalleled. To my delight and somewhat to Jo’s surprise, I felt an urge to contribute to the organization that had given me so much. I have served on the Board of Directors for the past four years and hold the position of President this year.

How would you describe the evolution of your sector within the UAE’s context in the last few years?

The Circular Economy is now a priority for every government. Climate protection, along with raw material and supply chain shortages experienced during and post-COVID, have propelled our business segment to the forefront of the global agenda and into the list of the top ten trendiest businesses in the world.

We began with remanufacturing print cartridges and later expanded to include printers. The future holds much promise. We have already initiated two studies on remanufacturing electric vehicle batteries, which represent the next significant ecological challenge. The focus of my industry is on what happens to these batteries and how their lifespan can be extended. This presents a significant opportunity beyond the printing world, which was our initial business endeavor.

In your opinion, what qualities make a successful leader in your industry? 

I firmly believe that leadership skills transcend industries. They can be applied to any sector and are not limited to any specific industry. Vision, passion, and perseverance are crucial for a leader to create a scalable business. The growth of a business relies heavily on the leader’s ability to recruit outstanding individuals in sufficient numbers and to guide them in expanding the business. People and their management are the most significant challenges in scaling a business.

Of all the skills that matter, this is the most crucial and, regrettably, the least taught. If there were one subject I wish were a standard part of school and university curricula, it would be emotional intelligence. It is the most essential skill needed yet remains, unfortunately, the least explored.

How has your organization responded to the ongoing digital revolution and tech-driven changes? 

We are deeply rooted in the pure technology business. I must challenge the popular term “tech business,” as, in my view, operating online sales and connectivity platforms represents the least technical aspect of all businesses. I’m uncertain how this terminology became standard. The so-called “tech businesses” haven’t significantly altered our industry. They neither produce nor consume the products that we and the rest of the world manufacture. Instead, they act as intermediaries, linking products with consumers. In document imaging, our role has always been to assist companies in reducing their printing costs by 50% while advocating for sustainable practices.

Our business’s green technology component, which includes remanufactured toners and printers, is enhanced by our commitment for “2 pages planted for each page printed!”. This year alone, we’ve planted over 150,000 trees. The digital revolution hasn’t been a game-changer in our field; the concept of a paperless office has been discussed since 1984 when the first commercial LaserJet printer was introduced. Yet, paper consumption continues to rise at a rate of 4-5% annually. The reality is that in most jurisdictions, there is a legal and practical necessity for printing. Our services enable clients to print in a manner that is responsible both in terms of cost and the environment.

What advice would you give to someone just starting in your field?

I believe the advice I would offer to someone starting out in business, particularly in a niche field like mine, is straightforward: just begin. The circular economy is expected to reach its commercial zenith within the next 10-20 years.

However, for anyone embarking on a business venture, my foremost advice is this: the idea of a business is significantly overvalued. The most concrete embodiment of an idea is a patent, and yet, if you investigate, merely about 3% of all patent applications ever achieve registered status. Approximately the same proportion of all registered patents achieve commercial success. This indicates that the idea, in isolation, is of little consequence. Take the well-known case of Kodak, which once led the film industry. Kodak possessed the concept of the digital camera but dismissed it, reasoning that people would not take the effort to print out pictures. Now, observe where film cameras and Kodak stand in comparison to digital cameras.

The lessons to be learned are all about: 

  • Who acts on an idea 
  • Who has the perseverance to weather all storms and persevere long enough till the idea picks up? 

Taking risks and acting, coupled with the resilience to maintain a deep belief in one’s vision, are, in my view, the fundamental traits of an entrepreneur. Everything else is secondary and can be acquired. These two qualities, however, are innate.

As a parting thought, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to receive many excellent pieces of advice. One of the most impactful recommendations I’ve embraced recently is journaling. The path of an entrepreneur can be fraught with challenges. A mentor suggested that I should jot down any recurring fears or negative thoughts in a journal. Remarkably, once I recorded these fears, they ceased to return. Journaling has brought a heightened awareness of my thought patterns, enabling me to manage and reframe my thoughts and feelings. It has become an invaluable tool for self-regulation.

Connect with Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi on LinkedIn.

Find German Imaging Technologies (GIT) on LinkedIn or visit their website to learn more. 

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