The Philippine printing industry can take advantage of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic integration with the regional bloc’s members now looking at more trade in this field, thanks to lower tariffs, capital restrictions, and entry barriers in the region, a Board of Investments (BOI) official said on Tuesday.
“Within Asean, we have an economic integration in full swing. As home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world today, there exists a potentially lucrative market opportunity for printing companies” in light of Southeast Asia’s 600 million predominantly young population, BOI Governor Napoleon Concepcion said in a speech at the Asean Printing Forum at the City of Dreams Manila’s Crown Towers Manila hotel in Parañaque City.
He said that, while Asean integration will lead to a large number of industry players, and consequently stiffer competition, bloc members should be able to standardize the quality of the goods and services in a way that these would complement, not compete, with one another.
“As one big regional market, we need to come together to become more cost-efficient and more quality-conscious. We also need to plan and anticipate the demand of goods and services from non-Asean [members]. We note that various global reports recognize the strong growth in most product categories of printing in Southeast Asia,” Concepcion said.
“With the printing [sector]on a positive growth path, we should be aware of opportunities and challenges, so that we can [take advantage of]the potential for bigger revenues and employment for our respective economies.
Clearly, it is important that we understand that it is only through a positive and cooperative strategy that we can ensure that our individual countries, and the [Southeast Asian printing industry in general], will remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly evolving market,” he added.
The BOI governor, however, said that while there is plenty of growth opportunties for the printing industry, its players should be able to adapt to changing market conditions. He noted that they’re being affected by the rise of digital media.
“On a broader front, [industry players in Southeast Asia]know that if they want to succeed in the long term, they must continue to adapt to ever-changing market and economic conditions. Companies must be able to perform a variety of functions, including printing on paper, plastic, metal, glass and other materials, and typically produce different forms of literature, packaging and labels. This needs a deliberate approach to efficiency and automation, while at the same time learning new skills and adding new value services,” Concepcion said.
“Like any industry, printing is primarily affected by the dynamics of the supply and value chain, and for Asean to be competitive, it is important to examine the quality of human resources, capital resources, and technology utilized in the production of goods or in the delivery of services,” he added.
“There is a need to adopt product mix changes with a greater share of higher-value products in growth areas like packaging, while recognizing that the publication and commercial sectors are transitioning as demand shifts from paper media to digital devices. [In] the past couple of years, commercial printers have faced increasing competition from digital media. As [they]increasingly replace traditional media and broadband connectivity improves and mobile media connections [increase], we believe that printing companies in [Southeast Asia] must be [adept in adapting]to the needs of the industry,” Concepcion said.
“Having said that, we know that there are clear indications of how big the task is to have standardized procedures [and]practices in printing and related services among [Asean members]. We understand that we have a lot of work to do before we bridge the gap between the top-performing nations and the developing economies in [the region]. This is why we need the printing industry in [Southeast Asia] to unite. The leaders of the major printing associations in the region should work together and push for a common agenda and make competitiveness and innovation a priority for the [region’s] printing industry,” he added.
In the case of the Philippines, Concepcion said one of the challenges facing the printing industry is “people not wanting to read anymore.” Other growth-inhibiting factors include managerial and technical personnel lacking formal training, and inadequate investment in new technology.
“For equipment, you buy a new one and then, after a few months, a new one will be released again. Our industry needs to update. That’s why we are emphasizing that they need to collaborate, that sometimes you don’t have to buy the latest. You don’t have to be on all the time. Take a breather and then invest again. With the advent of computer technology, things really change fast,” he said.
There is also a need to review the country’s printing industry roadmap to take into consideration the newest trends in the industry.
“The roadmap was already overtaken [by developments]. It’s still relevant, as it gives you direction, but we need to update it,” Concepcion said, adding that Philippine printers should be able to “repackage” themselves.
He also assured that the government will address the concerns of local printers, saying that it would help them.