Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE outlook for Zimpapers’ Commercial Printing Division is bullish following the re-opening of Typocrafters and commissioning of a $1 million exercise book making machine in Bulawayo last November.
The investments are part of the integrated multi-media company’s efforts to contribute to the revival of industries and employment creation.
Despite the challenging macro-economic environment characterised by acute foreign currency shortages, the group has revived Typocrafters, one of the key industries in the city. The firm had been closed for over seven years. The division also runs another unit in Harare, Natprint. Going forward the division has set its eyes on consolidation of the performance of the two business units and growth for full exploitation of production capacity and market potential.
“Our major plans are, therefore, unsurprisingly related to continued equipment replacement and modernisation as well as the introduction of new product lines to meet the needs and preferences of the market. The division has taken the strategic posture that there is no better time than the present to expand and diversify,” general manager commercial printing and packaging, Mr Njabulo Nkomo, said.
“We took the decision that we would get the best or nothing in 2016 in terms of new equipment acquisitions and true to our word we have been consistent, purchasing only brand new equipment similar to that which runs in major printing houses in London, Paris, Lisbon, Perth, Amsterdam and Rome since then. This is from a deep-seated appreciation of the effects of globalisation and open trade.”
Zimbabwe is signatory to bilateral trade agreements with several countries as well as multilateral agreements with major trading blocs that encourage free trade with little or no protection from competition from other countries. As a result, Mr Nkomo said there was a need for the company to equip itself fast to meet global standards so as to defend its market and penetrate new ones by operating competitively.
“Major equipment acquisitions are planned for Natprint to enhance capacity and efficiencies. The acquisitions will be faster and more automated versions of current plant, reducing set-up times and allowing higher production efficiencies with better and more stable print quality,” he said.
“Typocrafters acquitted itself well in its first selling season in December/January ahead of the first term and already has significant market share that exceeds our most optimistic projections made at the re-commissioning of the factory in November last year.”
Mr Nkomo paid tribute to customers who have supported the business, adding that their products were now available in major outlets and bookshops nationwide. The company also runs factory shops in Harare and Bulawayo to supply walk-in customers and bulk purchase corporate clients.
“Our PASS soft cover exercise book brand has no competition in terms of quality and affordability and the reviews we have from our diverse customer base are consistently positive. We intend to consolidate local market share this year and export into the region too. Our location in Bulawayo is strategic and in support of the re-industrialisation of the City of Kings.
“We are firmly committed to this and as such we intend to install additional capacity to do the full range of exercise books and completely capture the scholastic market. This will cater for the needs of the full spectrum of our education system spanning from ECD to tertiary level,” he said.
The group believes that although the economic terrain is littered with as many challenges, there are also more opportunities, which “multiply as they are seized”, said Mr Nkomo citing the famous quote by prominent military strategist, Sun Tzu.
“We realised that trust, reliability and customer service have disappeared from the market so we have re-energised ourselves to commit to these fundamentals of business. We are out to endear ourselves to our customers by being transparent in our dealings with them. This frankness includes delivery time projections and cost structure builds up for price determination. This has allowed us to align ourselves to the strategic thoughts of our customers and to anticipate their needs,” he said.
“We are in the business of delighting our customers. Our delivery reliability is underpinned by the realisation from our staff that we do not merely sell products, we sell time. Our whole system is, therefore, configured to understand that speed is a key success factor, in all facets of our business.”
Mr Nkomo also noted that efficient utilisation of time and inflexible deadlines were key characteristics of the business and have become part of the group’s DNA.
“Our staff are the backbone of all we do and we know that their support allows us to change tactics swiftly in one swoop and attack or defend as necessary. We never procrastinate. We make decisions on our feet and we implement in unison with a momentum that is unstoppable. Without a doubt, our staff’s alignment to our vision is key in our ability to navigate the terrain and we are mindful of their immense value to the business,” he said.