drupa goes digital – calls it hybrid

The new normal – thinking beyond exhibitions

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

drupa has come further to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic by what it calls extending its digital offering. This eventuality was clearly implied in the recent interview of VDMA’s Markus Heering. 

Starting in October, the online platform drupa preview will offer exhibitors and visitors an additional channel for touching base with the sector, discussing trending themes, and presenting product portfolios. The portal will consist of the content formats – Conference, Exhibition, and Networking. 

The most important, of course is Exhibition as it implies the admission that the hybrid drupa 2021 is likely to be a digital or virtual exhibition increasingly. It has also now become, in a fantastic and unanticipated internet of things or Io4, extended the idea of buying and selling technology to a six-month window that is likely to become a continuum of space and time. The idea is not new, the Frankfurt Book Fair has openly said its Special Edition fair this October will be hybrid and thrown open its catalog to 7,500 publishers around the world with the financial help of the German government.

The drupa preview will enable a continuous exchange of information until the hybrid trade fair in April 2021, combining the on-site event with what the organizers call ‘additional digital content.’ In the Conference Area, users will find lectures, videos and interviews – providing a preview of drupa 2021 to build hybrid traffic leading up to the event.

The schedule in terms of content and the knowledge transfer will on fixed days and times let stakeholders and visitors participate in the web sessions free of charge and chat with the speakers. Afterward, the videos will be available on demand.

Exhibition Space brings together what visitors can expect to usually see in the exhibition areas – exciting products, innovative companies, and expert input. This means visits (one presumes this means virtual visits also) to the live event can be planned at this early stage. In addition, virtual, web, or physical meetings can be set up at the Networking Plaza. The networking options allow companies and interested parties to establish live online contact in advance and intensify this contact at the event in April 2021.

drupa bridging time, distance, and space

Thanks to the new digital offering, drupa provides the sector with continuous exchange and knowledge transfer and meaningfully bridges the remaining time until drupa for both visitors and exhibitors. “We have already been working long and hard on enhancing our digital offering. The pandemic has faced us with new challenges and has ultimately been a catalyst for digitization,” says Sabine Geldermann, director of drupa, and Print Technologies. She adds, “With the hybrid drupa, we also give those visitors who are unable to travel the possibility to take part in the industry get-together. At the same time, we meet exhibitors’ needs to reach the international community personally. Therefore, via the portal, the drupa platform unites the global print community in a targeted manner.”

The content of the drupa preview is free of charge for visitors. After registration, content, and videos can be accessed at any time. There will be a separate (free) registration for a specific day and time for web sessions, live lectures, and Matchmaking. The list of live sessions will follow soon.

Our view – thinking beyond postponements and exhibitions

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging and especially in India. While there are various levels of constraints to visitors from most regions and countries, in India, we have not only the highest number of new cases each day anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 but also an economic recovery that is more debated than real. 

It is unlikely that Indian exhibitors or visitors will realistically take part physically in the postponed and shortened drupa 2021. Apart from the virus itself, even if it subsides in Q1 of 2021, there are the issues of travel protocols, including airline operations, visas, quarantines, and the overall risk that is personal and puts populations at risk on both ends. The virtual drupa 2021 had to happen, and it follows what we called the dress rehearsal of the zen drupa that already took place in June with many virtual shows, demos, and webinars. Welcome to the 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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