Small Talk

OPI takes a look at some highlights – and soundbites – from recent podcast episodes.


Listen and learn

Lyreco Germany’s Falko Köhler is one of the rising stars of the European business products industry. In fact, the 31-year-old won the Young Professional of the Year prize at this year’s European Office Products Awards (EOPA) celebration which took place in March. At the time, Köhler said that “we need to push a dusty industry into the digital era”. It was a sentiment very much echoed in an OPI Talk podcast where he also urged employers to take risks in their recruitment processes.

“[At Lyreco], I was given the chance to point out the things that were not going well, and people listened to my ideas of how to solve them. For me, that was absolutely the right thing to do, because I was looking for challenges – exactly what I got. This approach is something you can transfer to every employment situation – there are a lot of young people looking for this kind of opportunity.”

“My recommendation for resellers is to never have a product standalone because, for most customers, it is just a commodity. It’s all about offering solutions in tandem with a range of products.”

“Hire people you don’t understand. Get talent that is talking about stuff you have no clue about. If you are brave enough to listen and give them clear goals and objectives, it will help your company enormously.”

“There is no real culture of partnerships in our industry – where people and companies are working together, going for the same goals and delivering towards a target.”

“From a reseller perspective, it is a death sentence to call ourselves the business products industry. I have never come across customers who say, ‘I need to go to a business products specialist’. They don’t see it like this.”

Difficult market

Hans Servas has been part of the South African business products sector longer than he probably cares to remember. After retiring from his role at Bidvest-owned vendor SSC in 2012, Servas served as Chairman of local trade association shop-sa for ten years – finally stepping down at the end of June 2022.

“Between 2017 and now, the price of petrol has gone from the equivalent of $0.83 to $1.51. That may not sound a lot, but for South Africa, it is huge. Added to that, we had severe floods [earlier this year] and the Mondi paper factory was put out of action. Waltons issued a force majeure because supply has almost come to a standstill.”

Tackling dealer challenges in Italy

Adriano Alessio has been a key figure in the Italian office products market for the past 25 years, both as Managing Director of dealer group In Ufficio and as President of the now-defunct trade association AIFU.

“One thing is clear: we cannot copy the Amazon model – ever.”

“New market entrants are now changing their structure, after experiencing that Italy has its own dynamics, and realising sometimes they cannot copy and paste what is happening in other parts of Europe. The Italian market is not easy.”

“My number one priority for our dealers is digitalisation. We need to simplify the flow of information among the membership and […] take advantage of new ways of communicating.”

For more details on OPI Talk, visit