Printers call for access to finance

Cash-starved printers are calling for government support in their efforts to expand their business in what could be profitable times.

The chief complaint in the printing world is that they cannot borrow money from banks amid increasing competition from foreign businesses.

Fujiyama Press spokesperson U Than Myint said his company lacked large presses, but could not buy them due to a lack of funds and no access to bank lending.

“We can’t borrow because we can’t produce the collateral required by the bank. But if we had the kind of collateral they request, we wouldn’t need to borrow,” he said.

Printing for the government can be lucrative, with such recent large-scale jobs as the publicity for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games, hosted by Myanmar, and the country-wide HIV campaign that required extensive billboard advertising, he said.

But without an influx of funding, most local printers are ill-equipped to ride any future boom.

“Traditionally, printing is a cottage industry here. Parents start the business and their children work in it and take it over,” said U Than Myint. One such family concern, the Theingi Shwe Sin printing press, was established in1970.

“It’s always been a family business, since the days of lead blocks right up to modern computer printing,” said manager Ma Yuzana Tin.

Advanced technology allows a greater workload with fewer staff as family members learn the trade on the job, she said. “If people want to start up in this business, they need money to invest in equipment. The business will not develop if there isn’t enough money in it.

We’re facing foreign competition now, and if we had the money we would buy bigger machines. Some printing organisations offer training, but our staff don’t attend,” she said.

“This organisation is not directly connected with the printing owners. The training they apparently offer seems to be theoretical, but we prefer our staff to learn on the job. Anything else is a bit of a waste of time,” said one printing house owner.

He added that the printing business would greatly benefit from a free market and a freer media in the country.

U Myo Aung, vice chair of the Myanmar Publishers and Booksellers Association, said, “The main difficulty is getting a bank loan. You need collateral, which means land, which we don’t have.”

He added that some printing presses print textbooks, so need to invest in the four months before the opening of the school year. “They can’t get a loan for that period. If they borrow with interest, they make no profit,” he said.

U Myo Aung said an additional problem is competition from Thai and Singaporean companies trying to enter the printing market.

“We can’t compete with them because they can borrow in their own country,” he said.

Packaging is a hot new field for printers, as Western companies enter the Myanmar market. KFC is already in, and McDonald’s is said to be coming soon, offering the prospect of good pickings. Only about one-third of printers produce newspapers and magazines, he said.

Some newspapers, lacking their own plant, farm out their printing work. “We used an outside print shop, but the deadlines were difficult. We sell in Mandalay, and sometimes we used to miss the bus and had to deliver the paper by car,” said U Kyaw Min Swe, editor of The Voice.

“We have printing machines now, but sometimes they break down.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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