Gulf Print and Pack hosts second virtual industry round table

Gulf Print and Pack discussing digital print technology in MEA

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Gulf Print and Pack
Gulf Print and Pack virtual round table

Tarsus Group, the organizer of Gulf Print and Pack 2021, recently hosted the second of its virtual round table discussions with top representatives from the commercial and wide-format printing industry in the Middle East.

“Smart use of digital print technologies in the MEA region” took place on Wednesday, 24 February. Topics discussed included: how individual large-format printing businesses had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; exploring if digital printers / print service providers in MEA have identified new markets during this time; digital printing and textiles; regional trends in selecting/buying machinery; hybrid printing; digital package printing; automation; and demographic trends.

Four expert panelists from the region took part in the lively discussion: Ayman Aly, senior marketing manager, Canon Middle East; Halim El-Khoury, business manager, large format printing, UAE & KSA, HP; Philippe Hosni, general manager, Helliozid Océ Emirates; and Shihab Zubair, regional sales manager, Epson Europe. While Akanksha Meena, editor, Labels and Labeling Middle East, and North Africa / Brand Print / Gulf Print and Pack, chaired the session.

Overall, the panel agreed that the pandemic had significant positive changes to the printing industry, creating opportunities to adapt and be flexible. It had also encouraged customers and suppliers alike to rethink short-term over long-term priorities and ways of working. Several key factors that had helped print remain resilient in recent months were credited with the industry’s current high level of trust.

It included many market segments that have performed exceptionally well and proved popular with customers; digital signage, COVID applications such as in-office safety signage, vinyl printing, and entry-level consumer printing. Short-run personalized label printing was also noted as a significant growth area, with an increasing move from conventional to digital printing. Simultaneously, hybrid too was seen as an area with potential, given its space-saving benefits. The panel also agreed that service support and maintenance are being done increasingly via software and online. Simultaneously, the lack of face-to-face contact with customers and working from home have driven automation technology.

Digital label and package printing – corrugated in particular – was likewise regarded as one of the most positively impacted applications, driven by the growth in e-commerce following the temporary closure of shopping malls and changing consumer habits. The panel agreed that most vendors would be looking at this as a significant growth area as reversing these trends will be difficult. Simultaneously, the retail industry’s impact had also created an opportunity, with considerable effort being put into signage campaigns and in-store promotion, to entice customers back into shops.

Gulf Print and Pack virtual round table discussions

Andy Thomas-Emans, strategic director, Labelexpo/Gulf Print and Pack, said of the session: “We are delighted to see our virtual round table discussions gathering momentum, with a successful second open discussion with the commercial and wide-format printing industry in the MEA region. It’s incredibly encouraging to hear that smart digital technologies continue to flourish since these will be vitally important as we move into the post-COVID recovery phase.”

Echoing this, Ayman Ali said: “Today, we are witnessing a shift from traditional Offsets to digital printing, and this is mainly due to growing customer demands when it comes to faster turnaround times and shorter runs. As we see increasing demand, this segment is poised to create new growth opportunities in 2021 and beyond. This discussion was an opportunity for us to discuss this growth and further examine regional market trends and outlook and technology opportunities. At Canon Middle East, we continue to leverage cutting-edge digital print tools in line with customer needs.”

Thomas-Emans added: “I’d like to thank our panelists for taking part, and we look forward to running the next Gulf Print & Pack hosted discussion in the coming weeks. It’s vitally important that the industry continues to engage and exchange ideas openly. At the same time, we cannot meet face to face, so any supplier or printer keen to take part in future round table sessions is encouraged to get in touch with us.”

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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