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.”

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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