July 2013, I called a friend up to discuss the Printivo idea. We all have those friends in our lives you can call at 1am in the morning and they would pick the call and talk. The first thing he said to me was “Dude, are you crazy, print is dying, the future is digital, don’t even think of it. Let’s talk tomorrow, you can think up another idea without involving print”. I pondered about it and asked myself just how true is it that print is dying? I have spent my entire life around the printing industry, every Kobo I have ever made has its roots in printing and graphics. From handmade cards, to Tshirt printing, graphic design and eventually becaming a print broker, before founding Urbanbaze and building an advert agency from the ground up. I can in fact say “I have printed all my life”. Should my friend be right, then I will need to abandon this ship less I go down with a sinking industry. But then print is not going anywhere, my friend was seriously concerned about the print media. However, commercial printing is totally different from the print media. While one is about the object and tangibility that can be added to events, brands and businesses, the other makes its revenue from the content being printed and distributed and the moment the contents were being consumed else while (via the web on mobile phones and devices), the print media started receiving the biggest blows of all time, while the commercial printing industry keeps growing. The world will continue to print, it is what we print and how we print that will change. I don’t think I will be here when we start pulling out a printed T-shirt from our iPad screens without ACTUALLY printing it.
That brings me back to the Nigerian printing industry. If you stay in Lagos, you will know Shomolu, West Africa’s largest printing hub. My dream was born here. In early 2001, fresh out of secondary school, I would walk from one classroom to another in UNILAG selling handmade greeting cards and would proceed to an old printing press in Shomolu to buy offcuts for the next day’s hustle (offcuts are smaller wastes from trimmed prints that can be use for smaller print products, mostly useless to the printing press but very useful to handmade card makers and people who print on small machines). It paid my bills, paid my way into college, paid my way through college. An industry built on brick and mortar with customers coming all the way from Ghana, Cotonou, Togo to print in Shomolu. You sometimes have to sleep at the press to get your job out in 48 hours. Finding a good printer is not really a problem for the multinationals. In fact, print suppliers are given projects purchasing orders and post payment agreements, you don’t get paid until you delivery (Some form of corporate POD). But for the SMEs and freelancers, young business owners who are just starting a business, (larger in number but prints really low volumes, sometimes as low 100 copies of business cards) finding a reliable printer with good quality delivery becomes a problem. If you are reading this blog post, I am sure you’ve had one problem or the other with a printer in the past. And this is the need we strive to meet at Printivo. To make printing services available to anyone, anywhere and build a viable business out of it. We saw a market where most printers can’t see one and perhaps are no positioned to serve. Low volume on demand printing. These were the people whose print need Printivo seeks to meet. Everyone everywhere should be able to order print product for their businesses no matter how small. We launched Printivo with the mission and we are glad to be meeting in.
So last week when my friend called me and said “Yomi, on going into printing, you were right, I was wrong”. I told him even though I knew we were about to launch the right thing, I was completely ready to be wrong as well. We launched Printivo in January 2014 and It’s been one of the best thing I have ever done. Actually meeting customers needs and delighting them brings so much joy to me. You go home every day with a sense of fulfilment and look forward to the next day. E-commerce in Nigeria is made of so many moving parts, printing is made of more moving parts and when you bring the two together, you know what you can get but for everyone at Printivo, it’s something we love to do and are committed to doing. As we wrap up 2014 in few days to come. I look back at when Deji said to me “let’s take this place and build from here and on that day, we paid the rent for an old warehouse that would eventually become our printing press and Printivo HQ in Jibowu, Lagos, when we took delivery of the first set of machines, when we shopped for the team and machine operators. I will surely remember 2014 as the year we launched Printivo and I will remember taking that risk as one of the best thing I have ever done, I will remember those wonderful people who said Yomi, that’s a great thing you guys are doing, what can I do to help. I will remember the level of commitment the team gives to making customers happy, and we will surely do it again and better in 2015.
Hello 2015. Let’s delight more for Printivo customers