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.

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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