Interview with Sabine Geldermann – drupa postponed to 2021

Global print community responds to the postponement positively

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drupa director Sabine Geldermann at a drupa promotion event in New Delhi in autumn 2019 Photo IPP at Messe Dusseldorf
drupa director Sabine Geldermann at a drupa promotion event in New Delhi in autumn 2019 Photo IPP at Messe Dusseldorf

Mid-March, the postponement of the world’s leading trade fair for printing technologies, drupa to 20 to 30 April 2021 was announced due to the exponential spread of the coronavirus. The director of drupa and Global Head Print Technologies of Messe Düsseldorf, Sabine Geldermann, answers questions that concern the print industry.

Sabine Geldermann, what was the decisive factor for Messe Düsseldorf to postpone drupa?

Messe Düsseldorf is following the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German Federal Government to take into account the principles of the Robert Koch Institute when assessing the risk of major events. Based on this recommendation and the recent significant increase in the number of people infected with the new corona virus (SARS-CoV-2), including in Europe, Messe Düsseldorf has reassessed the situation. In addition, there was the general ruling issued by the city of Düsseldorf on 11 March 2020, in which major events with more than 1,000 participants present at the same time are generally prohibited. Against this background, there was unfortunately no other option than to postpone drupa.

On which criteria did you determine the new date?

Under normal circumstances the year 2020 would have been a trade fair rally for Messe Düsseldorf because from August last year until this June almost all of Düsseldorf’s major world-leading trade fairs should have taken place – with drupa as the finale. Due to the influence of the coronavirus and the associated official decrees or restrictions, seven trade fairs planned for this spring have already been postponed to the second half of 2020 and to spring 2021. Since we need a time frame of around two months for drupa (due to its set-up, duration and dismantling), there were only limited options available. Having weighed up all the parameters and in view of the international trade fair calendar, the date chosen, 20 to 30 April 2021, is the earliest and best possible date, which we have agreed together with our president and the VDMA as the supporting association. Under the current circumstances, this date now allows the greatest possible planning security for all parties involved. Fortunately, we are now once again in a similar timeframe to the original, traditional May date of drupa, which has become widely established in the industry.

How has the global printing community responded to your announcement?

The current situation is affecting all industries worldwide in an unprecedented way and the effects of the coronavirus are already having a drastic impact on public and economic life. As in other industries, the printing industry is feeling the effects of this in the form of short-time work, production downtime and supply bottlenecks – on a national and global level. In this situation, however, the health and protection of employees and partners takes precedence. The reaction of our international customers and partners to the postponement was therefore consistently positive and met with great understanding and acceptance. Three months before the regularly scheduled start of drupa, we were thus able to give many exhibitors the opportunity at this point in time to reschedule their upcoming logistical and very cost-intensive measures, such as the shipment of machines.

We were very pleased with the numerous emotional feedbacks on our social networks and platforms. One thing is certain, the industry wants to have a drupa again, one that retains its image, its radiance and its global standing – this would not have been feasible under the current conditions. That’s why we will now take every possible measure to meet the expectations of our global customers in April 2021 – let’s embrace the future in 2021 together!

Exhibitors traditionally work towards the drupa date with their new products. Much is already completed for June, exhibitors do not want to wait to present the new products to their customers. Does drupa now see itself confronted with alternative, virtual presentation formats?

Our exhibitors will certainly present some of their innovations this year already, using different formats such as customer events or digital platforms. However, these can only bridge the current demand – in our opinion, they do not offer a complete replacement for a trade fair with worldwide appeal. drupa is and will remain the top platform for the printing industry to present innovations, come together and, above all, network. That is why drupa will remain the target the print industry is working towards even after the postponement. drupa represents an indispensable platform for industry participants, providing orientation, impetus and, above all, satisfying the demand for face-to-face meetings and worlds of experience to a high degree. It is all about human needs, haptic experiences and running machines that fascinate participants and which definitely cannot be fulfilled at this point by digital media. What distinguishes leading world trade fairs such as drupa is the concentrated energy that arises from the selective gathering of many people; the personal and emotional exchange; the joint presence of decision-makers, multipliers and idea providers; lively discussions; presentations that set the pace; chance encounters; opportunities to acquire new customers; recruiting options…

Especially in the current situation, where numerous European countries are subject to unexpected restrictions, the need for personal encounters and an extraordinary customer experience after such an experience will certainly be even more pronounced in the future. We are people, not avatars – and the desire for personal exchange, knowledge transfer and networking in a fascinating ambience is unbroken despite all digital formats. That’s why it’s great to see that numerous key accounts are already shaping the motto – let’s embrace the future in 2021 together.

How do you believe print businesses can weather the storm caused by the pandemic?

There is no doubt that there will be declines and lasting economic setbacks. The government’s measures and aids are on the way. However, it is important that the industry does not suffer a complete standstill in production as a result of the current measures. Our industry must continue to invest in the future in order to seize market opportunities, because print, with its so many different and extensive applications and forms of use, will continue to be indispensable in many markets in the future. The exchange of ideas between industry players and the necessary inspiration are key means to this end, and are lived out and introduced in a future-oriented manner at leading world trade fairs such as drupa.

What changes will the postponement mean for drupa 2021?

The postponement represents a new, unprecedented scenario for all concerned and requires a certain degree of flexibility. As in the past, we will continue to take every possible measure to carry over the successful status of drupa to the new date in 2021. It is our ambition and desire to organize another unique and successful drupa for our global customers in 2021.

Will the framework programme remain in place?

Our supporting programme at the five special forums has already impressed with a fascinating range of formats, renowned speakers and exciting topics.

Our top priority is to offer our visitors highly relevant, inspiring and lastingly valuable content. The lecture programme is rounded off by guided tours and was already available for bookings via our portal. Our aim is now, of course, to adapt and transfer the programme as far as possible to the April date.

Significant issues concerning the ongoing digital transformation, topics related to circular economy and sustainability or new business models, which will be presented as keynotes, panel discussions and best cases, will continue to inspire and successfully advise companies – and this will be more relevant than ever after the impact of the coronavirus.

What are the effects of the postponement on the satellites?

We do not currently see any effects of the shift on our printing technologies portfolio and thus on Messe Düsseldorf’s foreign trade fairs.

As a result of drupa’s postponement, the most important trade show in our international portfolio, All in Print China in Shanghai in October, will become the largest and most important print trade show in 2020, giving our international exhibitors another highly relevant trade show in Asia this year. Furthermore, PPP Manila in October will provide an additional platform in an emerging Southeast Asian market. And indoprint in Jakarta, planned for September 2020, will also take place on schedule – according to current information. Of course, we are also closely monitoring the situation together with our subsidiaries Messe Düsseldorf China and Messe Düsseldorf Asia as well as participating partners and will act in good time if necessary. For this purpose we keep in touch with our customers via our various platforms and our foreign representatives and my team in Düsseldorf are available for all questions.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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