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Jason McMillan, sales director, Epson Middle East, speaks about 2021 opportunities

How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year has changed the ways we live, work, and do business. The crisis has generated a lot of challenges for every industry, but it has also created opportunities by accelerating the need for different types of more flexible and sustainable technology solutions and different ways of working.

While it has been a challenging year for organisations around the world with the country lockdowns and people having to work remotely, like every other business, Epson has had to adapt to ensure the safety of its employees and to help meet customer demands. We supported our resellers and channel partners as best we could, reassuring them that we were there to help them adjust to this new normal.

As we control every aspect of our supply chain, we were able to adapt to the situation where possible, moving production of products to alternative locations when necessary.

What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
2020 has accelerated the growth of some industries. Take for example the e-commerce sector in the Middle East region. Online retailers became key sources of retail when the option or inclination to physically go into shops wasn’t there. Many businesses have shifted their business models to include an online aspect so that they are able to meet the changing demands of consumers.

With an increased need for home printing this year – with people working from home and educating children remotely or in hybrid learning models – we have seen increased demand for home printers, particularly for our EcoTank range. These ink tank systems mean that cartridges are no longer needed, significantly reducing the need for users to shop for and replace ink.

In addition, offices have had to implement social distancing practices, with reduced gathering points, touchpoints, and contactless interactions being key to keeping businesses functioning in line with government guidelines. Middle East organizations are now looking at adopting innovative technology that can enable the socially distanced workplace. Epson’s business inkjet products can address these challenges through distributed print fleets or by leveraging software features within our Epson Print Admin.

Many sectors, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, faced supply chain disruptions this year, as products are largely imported. A huge opportunity has been identified in the Middle East for reshoring. If acted upon, our robotics solutions are already in place to help support this area of potential growth.

Delivery services have also seen rising demand, ensuring that people were still able to receive goods in a safe and secure manner. Our label printers and portable POS receipt printers have helped businesses responding to this demand.

And within the manufacturing and heavy industry, our Moverio smart glasses have helped with remote diagnostics and servicing, enabling specialist support in the field without the need for engineers to physically attend. In retail, our Moverio glasses have also been used for virtual shopping to help retailers remain open by reviewing products live in-store for potential customers viewing at home.

Finally, a topic that has really emerged this year is the importance of sustainability. With lockdowns across the world revealing how less human activity saw an increase in environmental healing, consumers are further demanding change and looking to businesses to protect the environment in their future plans. Epson’s business inkjet printers use Heat-Free technology that enables organizations of any size to reduce energy consumption by up to 95% compared to laser printers – this will allow them to save energy, reduce CO2 emissions, while also saving money.

What were the challenges that you faced in 2020?
Like businesses all over the world, this year we faced fundamental challenges such as having to temporarily close offices and establish mass-remote working practices. This meant that areas of the business needed to be flexible and our employees both in the Middle East and around the globe needed to support each other and adapt to what was a new way of working for us. We are proud of how everyone adapted, from our IT departments to management teams, where the physical distance did not limit our ability to connect with each other.

Our customers and partners are key to our business and not being able to meet and support them in person was particularly difficult. However, we made every effort to ensure that we remained steadfast and were here to support and guide them both through technology solutions and maintaining personal relationships.

We’ve looked for ways to support our customers in a socially distanced way and championed solutions to help other businesses continue to function, be that by enabling social distancing in the office, launching desktop versions of our LFP printers for photographers, architects, and engineers working from home or interactive projector solutions to assist teachers whose classrooms were more spread out or split between those learning in person and remotely.

What were your key achievements in 2020?
After a year of ups and downs, it is of course nice to look at the key milestones Epson has achieved both globally and here in the Middle East. As sustainability is at the core of our company ethos, we are extremely proud of the sustainability credentials we have earned this year. We are continually committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and were delighted to earn a platinum rating for sustainability from EcoVadis. The platinum rating means that Epson is ranked among the top 1% of companies for sustainability achievements globally. Epson has also been placed on the prestigious CDP A-List for tackling climate change and protecting water security. We were also proud to receive RBA platinum status for socially responsible manufacturing.

This year we hit the sale of over 30 million 3LCD projectors and 50 million EcoTank printers globally. These are huge achievements for us, particularly as EcoTank printers save energy and reduce waste. These 50 million EcoTanks sold have saved over 166,000 tonnes of CO2.

Our successes go hand in hand with the achievements of our customers. One of the biggest customer successes from this year is La Perle, the first permanent, aqua-based, live show in Dubai. They installed eight Epson EB-L20000U projectors to enhance their incredible live show. Previously, La Perle’s lamp-based projectors were leading to high lamp and maintenance costs, they were spending USD 300,000 annually on lamp changes alone. Apart from the significant savings and sustainability benefits, our projectors help to create a fantastic show.

What does 2021 look like to Epson?
Two key areas of focus for Epson Middle East in 2021 are sustainable solutions for business and smart solutions for education. Our technology solutions can deliver both efficiency and cost savings, as well as support the growing demand for sustainability. Epson’s ethos has always been deeply rooted in not only creating technology that runs in a more sustainable way but in being aware of the environment, nature, communities, and people.

2021 is going to be a journey for Epson Middle East to help connect businesses with sustainable technology solutions that can not only save them money but also contribute to their sustainability goals. Our business inkjet printers for instance use less energy than laser printers, significantly reducing energy consumption. With this one simple technology switch small and large businesses alike can be more sustainable while protecting their bottom line.

We invest a lot of time and money into creating the right products to place into education environments. Technology has played a pivotal role in supporting teachers through a year of great change – particularly when it comes to the way teachers are now required to deliver lessons. Due to social distancing measures, spreading children further apart and some teachers needing to deliver lessons to students both in the room and connecting from home, Epson’s interactive display solutions and visualisers have meant that regardless of where a child is sitting in the classroom, they can still see what is being projected and fully interact with the lesson.

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