By: Vinodhani Nair
Election frenzy for all, but for many businesses and industries, it is a time to “wait and see.” A fair indication of this predicament is the recently concluded Pikom PC Fair. It was a subdued affair, with far fewer exhibitors and participants than its usual funfair.
In fact, many exhibitors lamented that, while the public thronged the leading ICT event in the country, they were tight-fisted this time around. While many were happy to scout around for bargains, they were reluctant to spend on big ticket items – again citing the uncertainties of the election and opting for a “wait-and-see” approach.
However, not all is doom and gloom for the economy and business during election time. Some industries and sectors have, in fact, thrived during this temporary slowdown. Graphic design businesses, printing firms and factories and even media houses are among the biggest winners.
According to a sector update from Maybank IB Research for February, the media sector benefitted the most and there was a call to buy for counters, such as Media Prima and Astro, seeing as the month saw total gross adex (advertising expenditure) up five per cent year on year.
It cites: “This was due to pre-13th General Election ad spend by government agencies, especially the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). We maintain our 2.5 per cent gross adex growth forecast for 2013. Our BUYs are Media Prima and Astro.”
It also states that of the four major mediums, TV and radio performed the best.
“The PMO was the top ad spender. It spent RM36.1 million on ads, comprising seven per cent of the February total gross adex… The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), appeared on the top 20 advertisers’ list after having spent RM4.9 million on ads. We expect ad spend by both the PMO and BN to sustain ahead of the 13th GE.”
A cursory view of the media by the Asia News Network also shares this sentiment where there were “advertisement wars” in the mainstream papers with adverts by both the ruling parties, as well as the oppositions in nearly all major newspapers. Online portals, too, have seen an increase in revenues.
Besides the media houses, graphic design firms and printers have also hit the jackpot with bulk or large printing orders. One such benefactor is K. Ramalingam of Umarani Graphics Sdn Bhd.
Having been in the design and printing business for the last two years, Ramalingam has seen a boom with this election. In fact, he claims the influx of printing jobs came in as early as six months ago.
“It all started about six months ago with some quarters wanting to convey their Deepavali wishes to the public, and it went on for the other festivities as well. Since then, demand hasn’t abated,” he says.
Printing orders come for banners, bunting, handbills, leaflets, stickers, posters, booklets and h more, with demand outstripping supply.
With a surge in demand for printing election materials, Ramalingam shares his spoils with others as well. “As the election nears, the demand is increasing and we have resorted to declining orders. The huge volumes that we have been getting have kept us busy and we have also started relying on some sub-contractors to fulfil our demand.”
The multiplier benefit can be seen for many other printing factories as well. A printer from Serdang is one such sub-contractor for another main contract holder, who could not cope with his orders. Claiming to have printed for the ruling and opposition parties, this printer cites volume in the millions for printing leaflets, stickers, booklets and posters.
Since this golden rush only happens once in four or five years, this printer charges 50-60 per cent deposit for a job taken, with the rest being cash on delivery. Ramalingam, on the other hand, says for some new political candidates, he demands full payment upfront.
To grasp the magnitude of the spoils for the printing industry, per piece of leaflet or sticker, some printers charge four sen and the order runs into the millions. Ramalingam adds: “For instance, on an average normal business month, we can make about RM10,000 profit. However, during election season, we make about 10-20 times more.”
Who says that businesses slow down during elections? For many media houses and printers, it is business extraordinary this 13th general election.