KARACHI, Feb 13: Panaflex banners and hoardings of various sizes have virtually captured 70 to 80 per cent share of printing business as the election campaign is nearing its peak.
Panaflex printers offer divergent estimates of election-related business which included total number of banners, hoardings, and pole banners. S M Faheem Hashmi of Printciti at Mashriq Centre at Gulshan-i-Iqbal said an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 square feet of panaflex sheets have been used in Karachi alone at a price ranging between Rs14 and 18 per square feet for making various display items of candidates for provincial and National Assembly belonging to various political parties.
But Mushtaq Khan of Mushtaq Brothers Advertising at Al-Karam Square Liaquatabad was of the view that more than two million square feet of panaflex sheet has been used in making various items in Karachi alone and if orders from Balochistan and Interior of Sindh are added, the figure surges to over five million square feet.
In view of above data, the cost of work paid by various political parties in making panaflex display items comes to a minimum of Rs30 million while the cost of panaflex items from Karachi to Sindh and Balochistan amounts to minimum Rs75 million if an average price of Rs15 per square metre is taken, he said, adding that the share of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in placing orders for panaflex items is 70 per cent.
He added that around two million square feet of cloth had been consumed in making screen banners and flags in Karachi in this election as compared to seven to eight million square feet in the previous election, he said.
With the arrival of panaflex technology, the screen printing has virtually taken a back seat as its share has dropped to 30 per cent in the 2008 elections as compared to over 90 per cent share in the previous elections.
The worst sufferer of the modern era printing has been the hand-written banner and flag makers whose work has now shrunk to only five per cent, Mushtaq said.
Screen printing usually used in making banners and flags costs less than panaflex printing in case of bulk orders not less than 100 banners, flags or hoardings but in Panaflex, a customer can place order for only one banner.
For example, a three metre banner of panaflex costs Rs90 depending on the rate of Rs12-15 per square feet while screen printing costs Rs3 to 3.50 per square feet for a three metre banner.
Panaflex-made items are durable for longer periods and hold sharp quality images of photos and written material as compared to cloth banners and flags which lack durability. Political candidates feel proud in placing orders for panaflex banners than cloth banners.
Mushtaq said Karachi has over 100 units of panaflex printing items in which each unit has either one to four machines. He recalled that there was over 90 per cent work of screen printing at Al-Karam Square in the previous elections which had now reduced to only 35 per cent.
Out of 35 per cent, orders from MQM stand at 20 per cent followed by 10 per cent from the PPP and five per cent from the Muslim League candidates.
He said Al-Karam Square used to have 500 to 600 people working for screen printing and 200 to 300 people involved in hand-written banners and flag-making till the previous elections and workers used to work day and night till last elections.
“Now there is hardly any big activity in screen printing and only 150 to 200 workers are working in this segment,” he said, adding that in hand-written printing of banners, this year only 20 to 25 people are doing business since panaflex has virtually taken over the market.
Out of 35 per cent work in screen printing, the share of flags is 25 per cent.
Faheem Hashmi said as many as 120 units of panaflex printers had remained very busy in the last one month to meet the demand. Each setup of a panaflex unit has either one or two machines, thus providing jobs to 15-16 persons directly and indirectly. He said the printing market started getting orders from October 2007 when elections were as planned for Jan 8, 2008. But the Oct 18 incident, followed by imposition of emergency in November and later assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27 had hit the business hard. However, orders again started coming from Jan 15 and currently printers are in the last stages of fulfilling their advance booking orders.
Out of 120 units – 80 to 90 per cent of them are using Chinese- made panaflex printing machines while the rest are using Taiwan, Korean and US-made machines. The price of Chinese panaflex printing machine starts from minimum Rs900,000 to Rs5 million while five per cent of them are working on Korean machines whose price hovers between Rs2.5 to Rs6 million while the price of US-made machine ranges from Rs10 to 20 million.
Shamim Akhtar of SMS Digital Printers and Advertising at Al-Karam Square said panaflex enjoys 70 to 80 per cent market share and printers had got huge orders from Balochistan and interior of Sindh. A majority of the printing sheets for panaflex banners and other display items is arriving from China and even its raw material, like ink and colors, also arrive from China.