Is this Nigerian start-up about to overhaul Africa's $6 billion printing sector?
Nigerian digital printing start-up Printivo has closed on seed financing from early-stage technology venture capital firm, EchoVC Partners. The investment will be used to broaden the company’s product range, increase headcount, accelerate customer acquisition and generally scale up operations.
Initially servicing Nigeria’s SME sector, Printivo is poised to become a major player in Nigeria’s $200 million print market, which has until now, had no credible online presence.
From $6 billion in 2011, the print industry on the African continent is currently estimated to grow to $9 billion annually by 2016, as businesses invest in design and print to keep up with African consumers’ increasing literacy, brand adoption, and demand for quality.
A self-styled ‘Vistaprint for Africa’, the company provides the only fully automated online print service for over 3,000 customers, providing local and international businesses with business cards, letterheads and notepads, and has seen year-on-year growth of 200 percent since its launch in 2014.
Market-wide challenges for Africa’s print industry have historically included the high cost of printing, lack of graphic designers, poor customer service and time-intensive ordering practices, making top quality printing all but unaffordable for the majority of small businesses.
Olu’yomi Ojo, Printivo Co-Founder and CEO says, “Securing institutional seed financing means we can accelerate the growth of our online print services and community platform and achieve the ambitious targets we have set for ourselves, as we transform an industry that has, until now, lacked digital infrastructure, investment and innovation.
“We can now transition print from bricks and mortar ‘mom-and-pop’ stores that struggle to scale and meet quality requirements, to online ordering and direct delivery, while enabling job creation and distribution.
“We are in the process of removing the friction for companies that want access to great design, transparent pricing, high quality products and fast turnaround on orders. Simple, yes, but something local printers have historically been unable to provide.”
With revenues rapidly growing at 50 percent quarter-over-quarter, Printivo has secured contracts with leading global brands operating in Nigeria, including Google, Uber, Samsung, DHL and Etisalat.
After just one year of business, it has serviced over 3,000 customers and is currently on track to fulfilling 1,000 orders per month. The company is now clearly positioned to be the primary print outsourcing partner to the 17 million active Nigerian SMEs, with a goal to be the Pan-African e-print platform of choice.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”