Hamed Abdullah Al Roumi grew Kuwait's Romco Trading from a high-street cassette retailer into a fully-fledged professional audio retailer before the 1991-92 Iraqi invasion set the company back to its starting point. What equipment and stock wasn't looted was destroyed, either by the Iraqi troops or by the devastation left behind. 'The recording studios are in the basement of the building and while there was no power, they were flooded and everything was destroyed,' explains Romco's commercial manager Mansour Hussain. Left with derelict premises, no stock and no employees, the company took the opportunity to regenerate and set its sights higher, and it is now a leading supplier and installer for the Kuwait broadcast and professional market. The shop in Kuwait reopened to continue with cassette and album distribution, and was joined by a branch in Dubai, purely for album sales. Soon after the invasion, Mr. Al Roumi restructured the company and got heavily involved in broadcast. 'Now we represent many companies including Genelec, Studer, StageTec, Alesis, Crown and BSS,' says Mr. Mansour. 'The idea when was to be strong - not only in music and audio but in broadcast.'
The state-owned Kuwait Radio is currently in the process of completely refurbishing all of its studios and its master control room after having made a hasty job of re-equipping after the Iraqi invasion. The refurbishment programme began two years ago, in stages determined by the available budget. The first phase was for the archive system and two on-air studios, and was completed two years ago, under Romco's guidance. The second phase covers updating the MCR, refurbishing two more studios and four editing rooms and expanding the archive system, again all Genelec and with Romco in the driving seat. Kuwait's first commercial radio station - called Marina FM - has also recently gone on-air. 'We have begun working with this new station both in the hardware and with production of jingles, and I think that we will be working extensively in this way for the near future,' Mr. Mansour says. Although around half of its business is in broadcasting projects and it also serves hotel and similar installations, Romco is not ready to turn its back on its roots and is looking to set up a CD replication plant as the cassette market is steadily giving way to CDs. 'We have seen a drop in the cost of CD replication, so we are considering entering the CD manufacturing market,'
Mr. Mansour says.
'Presently there is only one CD replication plant in Kuwait, which began operation in late 2004. We are working with General Magnetics in Singapore on this because we don't have the expertise at present but we are still maintaining our cassette plant and improving the quality.'