Huge demand: Wearing face masks is now a necessity under the new normal. The global market for face masks is expected to hit US$31.8bil (RM134.1bil) by 2027.

THE Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on the local economy and with businesses grappling with the stop-start operations due to movement control orders, companies are faced with the possibility of either diversifying income streams or ceasing operations.

Homegrown printing and labelling specialist Komarkcorp Bhd opted to venture into the healthcare-related sector.

While this move happens to be the first out of its field, the group is no stranger to diversifying its income stream, as it manufactures self-adhesive labels, flexible packaging such as multi-layer packaging, OPP roll-fed and shrink sleeves in consumer packaging.

But, even with top clients such as Fraser and Neave, Petronas and Nestle using its labelling and printing services during its heyday, the group noted a shift in the business.

Komarkcorp saw that customers were opting to adopt the open tender system on the local front, the localisation procurement policy in the overseas segments caused loss of customers, and an overall shrinkage of business regionally.

So the 46-year-old business looked at alternative revenue streams.

According to Polaris Market Research, the global market for face masks was valued at US$4.4bil (RM18.55bil) in 2019, with its growth expected to hit US$31.8bil (RM134.1bil) by 2027.

With a compound annual growth rate of 24.5% over the forecasted period, demand is expected to increase drastically.

Taking note of this diversification opportunity, the group leveraged its industrial-grade printing expertise and its know-how in flexible packaging.

It explored making disposable masks in mid-2020 and now some 12 months on, the group’s printers – operating 24 hours a day – are also rolling out designer fabric used to print decorative and fashion-based masks.

Meanwhile, it also noted that some of the larger labelling business has returned with sizeable contracts – with BP Castrol and Dole extending until 2022 – competing with the demand of the consumer market for bespoke designer masks and other OEM orders.

Through its subsidiary Komark Mask (M) Sdn Bhd, the group boasts 28 production lines currently, with four more due.

It also has the ability to churn out disposable masks for hijab wearers as well as standard three-ply masks for adults and children.

Its flagship brand Dove Masks comes in three designs – the traditional three-ply, the KN95 version and Komarkcorp’s own Dove+ brand.

With the new normal way of living – wearing face masks and sanitising – the company expects demand to pick up and finds that there is a growing international demand for manufactured masks.

Although not its core business, the group managed to obtain ISO certification from regulators, which confirmed its premises, facility and manufacturing to meet international quality standards for its new venture.

With decades of experience in the manufacturing business and investment to turn its factory into a clean room for mask forming machines, the group was set to ensure that this new venture is a success.

It not only received a licence from the Medical Device Authority (MDA) Malaysia to manufacture medical grade face masks, but the group also received full certification from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CE marking from the European Conformite Europeenne which would allow the company to export its products worldwide.

With targeted principal export markets such as the United States, Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and India, the group inked partnerships to push this initiative along.

Its partnership with LKL Advance Metaltech Sdn Bhd is for the right to market, sell and distribute disposable medical grade face masks worldwide.

Set to be the country’s largest manufacturer, the sprawling 150,000-sq-ft headquarters factory in Balakong, Selangor, can fit up to 50 mask forming machines with a potential capacity of 50 million disposable face masks a month.

To further cement its commitment, the group estimates to achieve a yearly production capacity of approximately 522 million three-ply surgical face masks and 120 million KN95 face masks. It aims to launch children masks in time for school reopening.

With the group’s adaptive skill set in technology transfer from industrial printing and packaging, business know-how as well existing international operations in Bangkok and Singapore, Komarkcorp is well on its way to achieving its goal to produce the best in class face mask in Malaysia and the world.

During this pandemic, Komark distributed 95,000 masks to residents in Bangi, Selangor, to raise awareness on the importance of wearing face masks.

Komark also donated 500,000 mask to the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

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