MADURAI: With the number of Covid cases coming down and the lockdown restrictions being relaxed step by step, the flex and poster printing units are hoping for the return to normalcy. The socio-cultural and political aspects linked to the popular poster culture in Madurai has also paved the way for a huge economy revolving around the sector, with thousands of families dependent on the business.
Speaking to TNIE, J Raja Prabhu, who has been running a flex and poster printing unit for over 12 years said that in the pre-Covid scenario, the business had flourished for over seven months. "We used to get bulk orders during weddings, festivals, movie releases, birthday celebrations by fan clubs and elections. Many from the southern districts would also come to Madurai, as they could get the prints at low cost. The profit from the seven months would be sufficient to make ends meet. This apart, we would also take corporate orders. The outbreak of Covid has changed everything. We have never faced such a huge loss in the past 12 years," he said.
To establish a designing centre, only a computer or laptop is needed. Anyone could do it from anywhere. But the printing units require huge investments. "Each machinery would cost a minimum of Rs 20 lakh. Only when the unit is set up in the city limits, we would be able to get regular orders. The building rent in the city would alone cost a minimum of Rs 30,000. In addition to this, the electricity charges would sum up to another Rs 30,000. This apart, there are labour working charges, raw material purchase and other expenses," he added.
While most of those in the business had got bank loans for capital investment, around 30 per cent of them in the district had left the business and had gone for regular jobs as they could not make ends meet. From the raw material suppliers including the sales of paper, flex materials, ink, designing, printing unit, framing, transportation and welding to the poster boys, thousands of families depend on the economy of this sector, said Raja.
For over 15 years, N Manickam(45) has been earning his daily bread by pasting cinema posters for theatres across the city walls. "We used to paste single, double spread, six and nine sheet posters. For each bit, we would earn from Rs 3 to Rs 6. We would have designated areas to paste them. Since the Covid-induced lockdown, all the theatres have been closed and we have lost our jobs," he said. The 'poster boys' ranged from 16 to 60 years old and the job was a major source of income for college going students.
Responding to the query on the regulations brought by the Chennai Corporation, Manickam said that such initiatives would destroy their future. "While the printing units and other stakeholders would manage with flex and other digital banners, pasting posters has been a sole income for many families here," he added.
However, the stakeholders hope that it is only a temporary setback. "We believe that things will be back to normal once the lock down restrictions are lifted completely, as the poster culture is an inseparable phenomena of Madurai" they added