Since the domestic print market hit choppy waters five years ago there has been a significant increase in the amount of companies both looking to sell overseas, and those actually doing it. There have been major successes in particular sectors, wine labels to the US being the obvious example, but exports are being achieved across the board.
Last year, 2003 for instance, saw printing exports from Australia sell for a total of $297m, a fair sum, while paper and paperboard packaging accounted for a further $70m. The major market was New Zealand, with a 59 per cent of all print and a third of all packaging heading across the Tasman, but the US is a rapidly growing market.
Hagop Tchamkertenian, manager of Industry and Commercial Policy at the PIAA says, "While certain parts of the printing industry have done very well, such as wine label printers, book printers and packaging companies, there is nothing to stop any printer from any sector creating an export market. Clearly for commercial printers there has to be some value add to the product, as the technology is the same everywhere and the operating costs are often lower overseas."
However with Australia being located near to, well nowhere, and with myriad regulations in all potential markets, how does the printing company begin to develop an export plan?
First stop for most printers would be Printing Industries, the national association of printers. Indeed the PIAA is a strong advocate of export, in its Print 21 Action Agenda it cited exports as a major opportunity for beleaguered printers.
Here the PIAA would make an initial assessment of your proposition, look at your potential markets, and advise you. You may be advised to go on, you may be advised to team up with a network of like minded print companies to form a joint assault on the outside world. The PIAA would likely point you in the direction of Austrade, the government agency established solely to provide guidance to Australian companies looking to export.
According to Peter Murphy, the deputy state manager for Austrade NSW, there is plenty of opportunity for Australian companies of whatever size to make their mark overseas. Murphy points to the example of a small company based in Caringbah in Sydney, Australian Packaging. The company now has a major market in Fiji, which it has developed only in the last few years, mainly through the efforts of a dynamic managing director combined with the help of the local Austrade office, which at the time happened to be managed by... Peter Murphy. He says, "The company had a go for it attitude, and it had some innovative products. I know Australian Packaging would say that using Austrade provided them with the gateway they needed to begin operating in that market".
Austrade is a government agency with offices in 58 countries around the world and 14 in Australia. Its motto is ‘We’re in the business of taking your business around the world’. It provides much in the way of practical help, including market profiles and business briefs, quick market assessments to assist in prioritising markets, specific research for a company’s products in overseas markets, export updates through a monthly newsletter, export market development grants, a new exporter development programme, and information on import requirements in any other country of your choice.
The overseas offices of Austrade can make appointments and introductions for you, they will even go with you to meetings, and will arrange interpreters and translators where necessary.
This doesn’t all come free, although some of it does, but fees apply to some services. There is though a complete package of free services for new exporters. This would include practical advice in Australia to get you started, market selection assistance, a supported appointment programme overseas, follow up to help you make your first export deal, and international business development in Australia, for example introductions to visiting delegations. To be eligible for this package you will need your ABN and must not have exported for the past three years.
Grants are available, including the EMDG export market development grant, which covers a sizeable 50 per cent of your export expenses, less the first $15,000. These expenses would include your own overseas visits, and bringing potential customers here, overseas marketing and business development.
Finally, Austrade has its own web site, which is a searchable database of exportable Australian products and services. The web site, which receives 30,000 distinct visitors, per month, from all over the world, is free to be a part of for any Australian company.
Exporting is not the easiest way to make money, but the markets do exist, and certainly with the help of Austrade there appears to be no reason why any dynamic Australian printer should not be considering the market offshore, and with the growth potential unlimited, unlike the domestic market, there is clearly a huge potential for outward looking printing companies.