Staying relevant in a digital world

MAJOR UPGRADES. For Donato Manuel Busa, printing was his passion. And when it appeared like the end of an era for printing, he made sure to innovate and modernize to adapt to the times. (Contributed photo)

PRINTING was tagged as a sunset industry when electronic books came into the picture.

Many predicted printing companies will cease to operate as consumers turn to digital platforms and tools to read books, news, magazines and ad placements, which is more sustainable and cost-efficient.

But to survive in the era of digitalization, business leader and entrepreneur Donato Manuel Busa of DMC Busa Printers took innovation by heart.

He embedded innovation into DMC Busa Printers’s DNA at a time when the industry was forewarned of how technology was going to disrupt the paper and ink business. This was in 2010.

He then prepared the business to scale to greater heights.

Today, the family operates four branches with different specializations in printing in Tipolo, Mandaue City, Parkmall, V. Rama Ave., Cebu City, and MJ Cuenco Ave., Ceby City. Three of these branches are now being managed by his children.

Busa’s family has been in the printing business since 1958 with Balintawak Printing Press, the family’s main source of income that enabled him and his siblings to finish school.

“More than the smell of paper and ink, printing is my passion. I grew up helping my father run the business,” said Busa, an industrial engineering graduate from the University of San Jose-Recoletos.

Armed with P6,000 in capital that he saved from his corporate job, Busa rented his father’s printing machines and opened up his own printing business in 1983.

DMC Busa Printers is now a one-stop print service solutions provider that handles packaging, publishing and general printing services.

“We were one of the flourishing businesses in the past until the digital era came, when it compelled us to rethink the way we did business and eventually invest in modern printing technologies to survive the disruption,” he said.

Busa’s can-do attitude and his unwavering passion in the business made him and the business stand the test of time.

Of the more than 1,000 registered printing shops in Cebu that dated back in 1930’s, only a few have survived.

“Maybe now it’s 100 or probably lower than that,” he said. “For the last eight years, we saw the industry dwindling.”

Busa recalled they were already forewarned about the industry’s timetable in one of his trips in Europe, should players fail to immediately react and innovate.

“We were at least spared because we did not only limit our services to a specific area in printing. Now we are across all segments, from large to small formats, laser and the like,” said Busa, a former president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He added that they have also made sacrifices just to stay in the game, putting the needs of their clients as a top priority, even if it meant accommodating last-minute orders on a Sunday.

“Last month, DMC Busa received a call from England. They needed a printer that could print their magazine from 11 p.m to 6 a.m., and delivered by 7 a.m. They called several printers in Cebu, and there were no takers. We assembled a team of 10 plus one mechanic from the provider. We worked until dawn. On March 12, we delivered exactly as specified,” said Busa in his Facebook account.

But innovation in the printing business also meant additional investments in the form of state-of-the-art printing machines and other equipment to modernize the traditional printing operations.

Busa said he reached out to banks to help them sustain the business. Through Landbank of the Philippines’ Small and Medium Enterprise Funding, his company was able to secure a loan to modernize their operations.

“We have grown to all facets of printing,” he said.

Busa also invested in training his people and in setting up a seamless workflow system to make the operations run smoothly and efficiently.

In a span of 36 years, DMC Busa Printers has defied the odds and achieved remarkable success in the printing industry in this technology-driven economy.

What was your first job?

Right after college, I worked in the sales department of Procter and Gamble (P&G). It was a job I wanted to be in because I wanted to learn more about sales and market trends.

Who inspired you to get into business?

I grew up in the printing business. As young as 10 years old, I was already operating a machine. I knew the job like the back of my hand. It was even my childhood dream to run a printing business one day.

At the age of 16, my father, who ran Balintawak Printing Press, retired from the business. After my stint in P&G, I built my own. I pursued my passion.

When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?

When we were going to far-flung areas to sell products, I couldn’t help but think about the smell of ink and paper, as well the sound of the printing machines. It was like something was pulling me back to where I should be.

Why did you pick this type of business or industry?

Printing was a big business back then. Well, even up to now, if you invested in innovation. I believe it still can exist in today’s era. It may go down a little bit, but it will never die. During recent years, people were introduced to electronic books. Sure, it gained popularity and was easily accepted, but we still see people holding paperback because experience is another thing.

Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?

In this age of digital economy, it is important to advance one’s knowledge in business. From time to time, I joined expos abroad to learn about the new technologies in the printing business, as well as learn about the current market demands.

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

This I believe—that in every failure, there is an opportunity coming.

When I started the business, my father taught me to observe how it goes in the first three months, and the next three, and so on. He said if I make it to three years and more, then I’m already there. What he simply meant was for me to constantly grow and never be complacent.

There were setbacks in the initial years, but that never paralyzed us. The digital revolution challenged us to refresh our offering to the market and inject innovation in every business process. Innovation has to be in the business’ DNA.


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