Smodprint is here for Africa print industry

Traditional print houses have no doubt suffered at the hands of the growth of the internet and the rise of home printers, but a number of companies are using digital to breathe new life into the business.

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The idea is that, once you reach scale, it is possible to find feat of efficiency that was impossible offline. That’s because print companies collect an outsized volume of orders which allows them to mix different customers request to fill each print sheet to capacity. ‘Batching’ prints together, is what they call it, means less space is wasted on a print sheet, which might traditionally run a way below capacity. That level of efficiency enables online printing companies to process more orders with fewer print runs — that translates to much lower prices for purchasers and better profit margins for the business. It also gives printers guaranteed volume, too.

Why the long backstory? Smodprint.com believes it can bring learnings and business models from the West Africa, and the company is working on gaining massive investor backing. Since launching in April 2017, Smodprint.com has single handedly being run by a lead entrepreneur who believe the right investors will make that will connect with the model of operation and grow with the business.

Smodprint.com currently has a team of less than 20 people which serve the domestic market in Nigeria. The target customer is small and medium scale businesses, startups and large scale businesses, and for now it offers printing for paper-based products such as business cards, flyers invitations and brochures and also large formats such as banners, rollup, flag banners, stickers and general branding which are delivered 24 to 48 hours after order.

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Smodprint.com is starting out in Lagos, Nigeria, where the founders were born and brought up, but it has plans to be regional. They estimate the printing industry in Africa to be worth $25 billion annually, with smaller customers like SMEs “heavily underserved” by existing solutions. For that expansion to happen, the company is looking to raise a Series A funding round very soon.

“We’re not talking about one or two countries, we’re talking about the whole region. So [if] you want to go into five countries, you need some capital for that,” Seun Shotonwa who has run multiple online commerce businesses, said.

When it comes to going regional, we plan to introduce local printing model in each country. That means going out to meet printers and explaining that we can bring them new business, not to mention hiring locals to found the business in each country. Local printing makes more sense than running everything through Lagos, Nigeria, Seun said, because of faster fulfillment speed and no need for overseas shipping which raises costs.

As of now, the Smodprint founders are weighing up which countries to enter next based on factors such as competition, market pricing and cost of production. But they could move into new countries as soon as July this year.

Beyond geographical expansion, they are also looking to move into other kinds of printing, including banners, stickers and more. Since many businesses come to them with intent to run marketing or promotional campaigns, Suss and Berghaeuser said they might consider offering related services such as flyer campaigns or design consultancy via partnerships with local players. They are also working to open a dispatch office in Bangkok to manage the movement of their print runs more efficiently.

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