Following liberalisation of Uganda’s economy in the 1990’s, private sectors alongside the public enterprises and publishers have increased investments in printing infrastructure, and the business is now on the upward trend. The Independent’sIsaac Khisa spoke to the Irene Muwanguzi, the Managing Director at the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation (UPPC) about the industry’s future outlook.
There’s a perception that being at the top of any organisation is so lonely. What is your view on this?
Well, view leadership like a journey. This journey sometimes necessitates that you walk with others, and sometimes you walk alone. Hence loneliness at the top. This happens when you as a leader need to take personal responsibility and make difficult, bold decisions that others might be afraid of making. To lead is to have a vision. Visioning is seeing and standing in a clear future and walking backwards to bring people with you to that future. Now that process is what differentiates leaders from managers. It’s not an easy road because you are seeing what others are not seeing. To lead is to inspire not to manage because people have to accept to come with or follow you. Envisioning and enabling others to see what you see is a huge task. It requires resilience, persistence, patience, consistence and clarity of purpose because that process is tough. Brace E. Barber in No excuse leadership says that leadership is to ‘watch the direction that the majority is going and you go the opposite way’. This is the essence of leadership; Loneliness at the top the package of the leadership journey. You must distinguish yourself from the crowd.
How do you exhibit leadership as the MD for a public entity as compared to where you were in the private sector?
What I can say is that leadership principles are universal and can be applied wherever one finds opportunity to put them in practice. It is about flexibility and adaptability. The context in which these principles apply and the art of applying them might change but the principles are similar. Applying these principles to a particular situation or context with success is what differentiates leadership styles. As for me, my leadership having been nurtured from the private sector; basically in International development nongovernmental organisations, my ability to be flexible and adaptable is strong. However, I should admit that with my background, leading in a public entity with different culture demands some level of patience and developing a muscle to tussle strongly engrained difficult mind-sets and attitudes. So, it can be frustrating at times. But like I said, the mastery and applicability of one’s leadership style to a contextual change is what differentiates gifted leaders.
Leading one of the biggest printing firms in the country means that you do clear follow ups on issues in the industry. What is your assessment of commercial business in Uganda?
Printing business in Uganda is quite competitive. It is growing by day. Since the 1990s, when the liberalized economy facilitated private players into various sectors alongside the public enterprises and publishers, it was to add more value to the industry. Competition has grown including in the printing sector. Businesses are thriving although some people are saying the economy is going down. I don’t understand. Perhaps the statisticians should help to provide figures. As for me, speaking for the printing sector, I believe that today, the fruits of this policy (liberalisation) are reflected in the over ten publishing companies and more than 100 printing companies in the country engaged in this business which was not the case before.
Printing and publishing is now one of the major economic activities carried out in full swing in Uganda. Though concentrated in Kampala to a great extent, printing has the potential to spread to spread to over 108 towns across the country beyond.
And by the way, this competition is not only limited to Ugandan based companies but it is global. Many Ugandans, for one reason or the other, are procuring printing services abroad- in most cases due to quality issues. So the competition is real. As a state owned printing corporation we have a mandate to offer not only Security printing for Ministries, Departments and Agencies but also to non-government actors and individuals. We thus, find ourselves, entangled in stiff competition from the numerous commercial printers.
UPPC has over the years performed poorly in terms of revenue generation. What strategies are you putting in place to grow the business amidst the stiff competition?
Strategic partnerships are underway. We recognise the various players in the industry and so, we need to tap on each other’s strengths. Competition should bring us together as we tap onto each other’s potency in growing our businesses. We need partnerships and synergies. For instance, we are in discussions to develop and sign MOU’s with likeminded institutions like the Law Reform Commission, Parliament of Uganda, Uganda Registration services bureau, Makerere University among others, to expand our revenue base. This is coupled with various proposals to different institutions for gazette sales and subscription.
Innovation, creativity and finding alternative sources of revenue are other strategies to business growth. Operationally, we are establishing revenue centres to provide reports on each product on a weekly basis and our new finance team has established products with high profit margins especially the Uganda gazette. We are planning to improve market coverage by using business executives as well as use of outlets to sell our products such as copies of Vision 2040 and others. We have improved capability for our sales team and more training will be conducted to ensure effectiveness.
We are consolidating the laws into compendiums as requested by our clients. We plan to have these and other products accessed electronically as we improve our soft and hardware infrastructure such as the website and partnerships with companies such as LexisNexis that have already developed online systems of distribution. Optimising on technology through online platforms will definitely increase access to our products. We also trying to be on top of our game by increasing productivity through ensuring that our teams are accountable.