The rise of SGI Dubai

In the mid 90s, when we conceptualised the SGI show, we never thought that we will grow to this size with so many local, regional and international brands. It’s been over two decades and each year we have learnt something new in terms of the show and also in regard to the industry.
SGI Dubai started right from the old Dubai World Trade Centre days and has been an integral part of DWTC for over two decades now.
Those days people were getting used to emails and internet was just getting its foothold in the region.  No social media, no mobile phones. The world was totally different, a fact that will be difficult for the millennial to digest.
In such a market scenario, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, the chairman of IEC and his team took this futuristic decision to embark on a completely uncharted territory. As a visionary entrepreneur he went ahead and created a marketplace for several players in the industry.  He brought everyone under one umbrella and that was SGI Dubai.  
If you look at the profile of the show in the 1990s, we didn’t have 3D printers, or any form of advanced technology that we see today.  The demand and the market was quite nascent.  The mall culture, retail sector were all in the infancy stage.  That was an era when transition from hardware to software was taking place within the printing industry.
Contrary to contemporary thought, the colour printing craze is not new. Colour printed end products were on the rise even back then. Manufacturers were investing in more colour units on their presses as colour continued to gain momentum in the world of communications.
During the mid 90’s computer technology was predicted to merge with conventional presses, leading to more automation. Printing equipment was being developed to produce images faster and with much more accuracy. Experts and industry stakeholders continue to make similar predictions even today.  Today they want more precision than ever before.  This was a necessity then and even now.

Success of SGI Dubai

Coming on to the 22nd consecutive year of SGI Dubai, it has been a testament to the figurative blood and tears that has gone into organising the event for over two decades. From having just a few exhibitors in our initial years we now welcome more than 300 each year and the number is growing every year. If we look at the number of brands that are being represented, that number would grow even higher as sometimes the brand and their regional distributors have similar booth and it’s not unnatural for multiple brands to be represented by a common distributor.  
We grew from a few countries to establishing our footprint in over 35 countries in terms of exhibitors and also 75 plus countries in terms of the trade visitors.  The show has touched almost all the continents through this trade event.
During this phase we created several vertical sectors in regard to the show. Some of the prominent ones are large format printing, digital printing and signages, LED, retail, fabrication, textile, ink and substrates among others.
Over the years, SGI Dubai has become the event of choice for everyone related to the signage and large format printing industry. This effect is observed not just in the MENA region but all over the world.
All the brands in the industry, whether big or small recognise SGI Dubai as the platform for reaching out to the industry in the Middle East and Northern Africa region. Whether it is for launching the company in the region, sourcing distributors and partners, launching a new technology or product in the region or just to network or catch up with old friends and colleagues.
In terms of floor space, we started off from few thousand square metres and just one hall to over 21,000 square metres now spread across several halls.
The Dubai World Trade Centre has been an invaluable partner in our journey. Today the total value of just the equipment showcased by the exhibitors is close to US$250 million. Many of these machines are also sold out at the event itself.
With time we have introduced several new features and events into the show. One fan-favourite is the ‘Wall of Fame’ competition which puts the exhibitors against each other to recognise and celebrate the most creative piece of artwork and printing capabilities. This exhibition of exquisite pieces of print, which could very well be considered art is another way to showcase the technology and machinery to the various visitors.
SGI Dubai is one of the best events for networking if you’re a part of the industry. One thing is for sure that we were able to pull in some of the biggest names in the industry.
The logical thing for us to do was to create a platform where these experts could help share their knowledge with others. ‘Knowledge Series’ was with an aim of creating a setting where these leaders could share their wealth of experience with the rest of the industry in the form of panel discussion.
Masters of Wrap is another crowd favourite event in the exhibition. We invited car wrap specialists from around the country to come and participate in the car wrapping competition.
Due to its live action nature, this event draws huge crowds who come and look at these artists go to work.
Apart from the competition, there is a dedicated area for car wrapping with a vehicle provided by us. Many exhibitors also bring their own vehicles where they can show off their products to the various visitors.

Future of SGI

The future of the show and the industry at large lies in the various specialisations or verticals that are prevalent in the market. Focusing on individual verticals like textile printing, lithography, signage, digital signage, retail, metal engraving, LED, 3D printing among several components. This will be vital in the years to come.
We regularly do an industry audit to evaluate the core requirements of the stakeholders and then take the necessary steps in terms of adding the right profiles to the show.
With the upcoming billion dollar EXPO 2020 initiative, the government has catapulted the economy to a new level and is going to be the cynosure of global eyes.  With millions of trade bodies and 190 plus countries and over 20 million visitors, this economy is on a threshold of global opportunities.
Due to its trading roots, textile was an important commodity for the ports such as Dubai. In fact, the textile industry in the country was the largest traded sector barring oil. Textile printing therefore plays a big part for the region and not just the UAE but our neighbours in the Middle East and Africa as well. With complicated designs, personailsed clothing and branding and merchandising opportunities the printing industry plays an important role for the apparels manufacturers. Its applications aren’t just limited to the apparels but can be used in the interior design space as well. Now limitless designs depending on the artists minds can be brought to life using any material.
In the coming years, we are also planning to incorporate a ‘demonstration zone’ where all the exhibitors are welcome to set up additional machinery for demonstrating their use and functionality to the visitors. This dedicated area will be set up in Hall 4 of the DWTC and will help the exhibitors show off their machines to the potential customers. For the visitors can now compare various brands on a real time basis in one area.
Retail printing has been a big part of the large format printing industry. Signages for retail shops have been utilised to help promote the store and brands in numerous shopping malls and other commercial avenues. With the increasing popularity of ecommerce, the retail segment has had to find new ways to catch the consumers eye. Signage and of late digital signage, have been the most effective tools for bringing about the desired results.
Digital signage is all about being able to provide a completely new retail experience to the customer. With new technologies such as internet of things and augmented reality, digital signage will completely revolutionise how we make purchases. Stores with inbuilt AR video wall can help you figure out how a certain dress will look on you or what will be the result from the chosen cosmetic product.
For our show the exhibitor profile will move from companies that showcase just LED screens to solution providers that will capture the entire enhanced shopping experience.
LED is another space that is highly sought after in the show. Signage has moved from the neon signs to accommodate the more energy conscious LED technology.
Apart from just lighting solutions in the modern world LED has more to offer in the world of electronic signage. Even today, we see so many applications from this technological marvel and we expect the space to grow bigger in the immediate future as its use is adopted in the different parts of the region.
3D printing has begun to live up to its potential. Now owning one isn’t just commercially viable, but its list of applications is growing on a regular basis. Its potential in the medical and construction industry is well known and documented. Other areas of applications include interior design, industrial utility, prototype design, automotive computers and a whole range of other industries.
One segment that will be the focus in the near future is the spare parts and maintenance of the huge printing machines. For the past 2 decades we have worked with helping the manufacturers educate the market, promoting the technology and selling the printers.
It makes sense that we help the customer know how to maintain and repair the bulky machines. Branching out to include the spare parts manufacturers is a logical step in the evolution of the show.
SGI Dubai takes pride in its pivotal role in the industry in the Middle East and Africa region. We have seen the market evolve for the past 20 years. We like to think that we have achieved our first aim to help this market grow into its current state. Our next objective is to help it evolve in tune with the consumers’ requirements so that we and the rest of the industry remains relevant in the years to come.