The zen drupa is on from 16 to 26 June 2020

The brave new normal

zen drupa
A screen shot of Koenig & Bauer Live discussing the new hybrid and digital carton presses on 19 June 2020 Photo PSA

One wonders whether to call it the zen drupa or the zoom drupa, but it is on till at least 26 June. These are webinars and virtual expos that started at the beginning of June just before the actual was meant to take place, and have gathered steam this week since the 16th when drupa would have begun. The drupa mood or the zen drupa means not to wait for the actual event but to bring the new products to the attention of buyers and journalists. To start the conversation at the quadrennial level.

With a variety of virtual communication tools, Google Meet, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live, and others, we have CEOs and technology leaders showing their stuff and talking up the underlying message. They say, “We cannot wait for a year to tell you what we have been up to for the past four years. And we need for you to understand where we are, what we are thinking and where the technology and the markets are heading. These are the innovations that we have ready, almost ready, and planning to make ready later in the year.”

We have taken part in webinars, and virtual expos of companies such as Bobst, Flint-Xeikon, Kodak, Koenig & Bauer, MassiviT 3D, and are awaiting the virtual exhibition of Windmoeller & Holscher on 24 and 25 June. There have also been webinars on Outdoor Signage, Food Packaging, Digital Marketing, and many others. In other words, at least to my mind, there is virtually a drupa-like feeling – that there is too much to do and too little time to get it done. Mostly because this level of virtual exposition and skill, in some cases, is unexpected.

The Bobst virtual expo exciting because the company not only brought its new products to customers but also because it established the virtual exhibition and interaction as the new way of advancing technology. Apart from talking about a highly automated CI flexo press that will run at 800 meters a minute, the company said it would not take part in the postponed drupa 2021 event. (Xerox has similarly said it would not be taking part, and others in their virtual meetings have suggested that it is too early to commit. And they will make a call as the post-Covid-19 clarity emerges. But the overall message is the same, to work at a high level in the continued constrained circumstances – the new normal.

The zen drupa – Indian exhibitors and deals

On 17 June, on what would have been the second day of drupa 20, Kohli Industries of Mumbai, who has been a drupa exhibitor for over 30 years, conducted its virtual open houses to show the new features of its Thea 918 gravure press. As Kaku Kohli told us, “More than 170 customers joined the open house and what was to be a one-hour virtual show, went on for two and a half hours. There were just so many features to show, demonstrate, and talk about in the interactive session.”

The zen drupa – Screen shot of Koenig & Bauer Live Photo PSA
The zen drupa – Screen shot of Koenig & Bauer Live Photo PSA

The equipment suppliers are making deals over zoom with and without virtual demonstrations and webinars. Depending on the printing and packaging segment, machines are selling. Flexible packaging is very optimistic and buoyant. Even in labels and cartons which are not as cheerful or hopeful, earlier signings are being installed or reaching ports, and some new machines bought. Nevertheless, there are indications that the new normal is likely to be at best, a 90% solution in the best of circumstances, and for the Indian packaging industry, most likely a 70% solution.

Of course, what is missing is the travel, networking, and running into people that one never sees again or at least back home – but just once every four years in Dusseldorf. One misses the Altstadt and all the vegetarians congregating every evening in their favorite Italian restaurant. But this is the brave new normal.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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