Sri Lankan printing industry has a rich and vibrant heritage dating back hundreds of years. However, what is to be taken as the modern printing can be from the post-independence era. Until then the printing was largely restricted to a few publications mainly controlled by the western colonial powers and was highly used also in book publishing and newspapers. Just prior to independence, Associated News Papers Sri Lanka moved into Lake House in 1929 which is largely considered to be the ancestral home of the newspapers. This coincided with the national freedom struggle and by the post-independence era, Print industry had been a mainstay of the industrial sectors of Sri Lanka as it defined cultural and socio-economic conditions the era.
Things were largely the same up until the open economy model introduced in the 70’s by the then Administration which saw more and more companies being set up and more foreign products arriving to Sri Lanka. At the era, offset printing was quite new yet many companies were engaging due to promising revenues. A main institution that helped educate the printing hopeful were the Printing School of the government press.
The Sri Lanka association of printers had been set up by 1956 and by this point had grown to a large organization which participated in overseas exhibitions as well as successful in many lobbying campaigns to obtain many benefits to the industry.
However, the landscape today is vastly different. Sri Lankan printing industry at present is largely reliant on the tea and garment industry as exports. Due to volumes of packaging and being Sri Lanka’s biggest exports, this can be a very obvious choice. Yet, the situation beyond that is faced with many problems. Sri Lanka, was able to concentrate heavily on tea and garment export based printing and packaging for a longer period due to increasing returns. With diminishing demands for tea in a global level however, the volumes have dropped adding a massive pressure on the printing industry.
Due to the above and due to a saturation of the marketplace printer combined with increasing consumer demands industry has had to undergo a price war within itself, which has affected margins of the printing companies.
The immediate problem is to solve the challenge of market saturation and one option is to look towards the global aspect as to attract a bigger market share. There are many countries in the world, particularly in the Asian region where printing industry is as not matured and skilled as the Sri Lankan industry and talent. These countries present a lucrative option to expand and grow printing operations.
Sri Lanka can in fact act as global printing hub catering to many nations in the world, especially in the Silk Route (China’s One Belt one Road) which will connect up to 65% of the world population and 25 of the world’s GDP.
With Sri Lanka Print 2018, the aim is to look outwards and support the Sri Lankan printing industry to form the required connections as well as provide training to enable them to excel in their operations outside of Sri Lanka.