Jean-Michel Habis Is Ready To Take His Enterprise, Layout International, To New Horizons

With publishers facing struggles on various levels, Habis notes they want to focus on publishers profitability.

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Launched in 1989, Layout International offers intelligent enterprise and software solutions, especially tailored for the publishing and media industry. The company is headquartered in Dubai, UAE, with development offices across the MENA region and operations across the world. Leading the enterprise is Jean-Michel Habis, a French Lebanese technology entrepreneur and publishing consultant with more than 20 years of experience in publishing.

Layout International
Jean-Michel Habis, CEO, Layout International

Armed with a decade of experience and an infallible belief that technology and the digital revolution will impact the publishing industry, in 2010, Habis was invigorated to spin off Layout Limited -the company originally established by his father, Gabriel Habis- into Layout International, a company specializing in content management system for publishers. “The need to have a complete solution to automate the publishing process was inevitable,” says Habis. “I remember finding it extremely inconvenient and confusing, not to mention time-consuming, to shuffle between a bunch of softwares and a traditional non-electronic process. Solutions in the market back then lacked the required simplicity and ease-of-use and were never properly adapted to support multilingual publishers.

With Habis’ stewardship, Layout Internationals offered the tools to centralize and streamline publishing workflows. Its flagship product, NewsPublish, is a multi-channel publishing platform designed to shorten task times and improve efficiency, an essential tool for a digital-first approach. Habis explains, “The convenience of having an all-in-one system, also allows publishers to save at least 30% on the effort to generate content for print and web- this is where they previously had different editors for print and for web making the process a slow and costly one.” Its extended products include, A7Pro, an enterprise digital asset management, and Premium Read, a unified payment gateway for publishers.

Since undergoing its comprehensive expansion in 2010, the enterprise has experienced steady trajectory. To name a few, the company is currently present in 20 countries, with more than 200 clients, 30 business partners, 250+ print titles, hosting 22 high-traffic news websites, and generating 800 million page views a month. Within two years of market penetration in Asia, it boasts eight large clients, including South China Morning Post, The Japan Times, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Karangkraf Malaysia, and The Star Malaysia, among others. According to Habis, the company also holds 90% of market share in the Middle East, with a clientele that includes Dubai Media, Abu Dhabi Media, SRMG, and ITP Publishing.

Related: For The Love Of Books: A Peek Into The Business Of Publishing

Source: Layout International

With a distinct portfolio on hand, when asked his approach to ensuring his business’ success throughout the years, the CEO’s methodology is pretty simple: “Our mission and our purpose are one and the same- it is to put technology at the service of efficiency, in a simple yet innovative and profitable way. With our solutions, publishers increase their revenue and reduce their operating costs.” He elaborates, “In order to succeed in our mission, we focused on the important aspects of the business, namely product quality, performance and security, but the core of our success is first and foremost our clients, they are the reason we have come this far. We have built a relationship of trust and loyalty with our clients because we listen to their requirements and their feedback, and we deliver results.”

Habis’ intuition to veer towards technology seems to have paid off, and as a company offering software solutions specializing in publishing and media solutions, it’s also interesting to see how the team ensures it keeps up with trends and challenges in the media and publishing industry. To that, Habis proudly credits their research and development department. “We invest in knowledge and innovation. We have the reputation to go the extra mile and get knee-deep in the situation at hand.” On the publishing industry’s numerous challenges, he points out, “We adapted the way we provide our services to match the ability of the market. We stand by our clients when difficulties arise: we put our expertise to work in giving publishers adaptability and stability, creating competitive advantage in complex and volatile conditions.”

To add to that, when asked on how the company handles numerous competitors in the market, Habis states how they welcome it: “Competition is healthy for any business; it pushes us to work harder and never lose focus. We have found key factors to give us an edge over the competitors on the market, and we commit to deliver on our promises.” This, he says, includes offering solutions that are easy to buy and user-friendly for the team and organization, by meeting and exceeding clients’ expectations on features, support and service, and finally by adapting its pricing plans to the financial situation of the industry.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Habis admits that it has indeed been a challenging year.  The company’s biggest hurdle was working remotely for 18 months without affecting performance or service level, and Habis notes that their results have been very promising, and they have considered keeping the adaptable work culture. “The COVID-19 crisis taught us to embrace change and flexibility,” says Habis. “We had to put things into perspective and re-evaluate priorities. It was a stepping stone to build resilience for future challenges.”

Looking ahead, with publishers facing struggles on various levels, Habis notes they want to focus on publishers profitability. “Our main focus at the moment is to help them survive, sustain and eventually become profitable again. As in any other business, this can only be achieved through reducing operating costs and increasing revenue. Both objectives are attained only when a proper technological and digital strategy is put in place and adequate systems are rolled out.” Habis also reveals that the company is looking to diversify t other verticals, particularly government entities starting in 2022. “After a steady growth for 10 years and taking the lead position in several regions, we were ready to grow even bigger.”

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‘TREP TALK: Q&A with Jean-Michel Habis, CEO, Layout International

What’s your advice for new business owners in MENA region?

“‘Pleasure in the job, puts perfection in the work,’ are words by the great Aristotle. If you choose a work you are passionate about, challenges will feel easier to deal with, and achievements will be more fulfilling. Focus on relationships. Keep your client on top of your mind always. Listen to their needs and their feedback, it builds a sense of customer loyalty that generates increased leads. Invest in your employees. make sure to value their opinion and promote their growth."

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