ES: Please tell us about yourself and your organisation.
Girish: I am the Founder CEO of Meetings and More, one of the most renowned Conference Management Companies in the country. I have 20 years of dedicated experience in meeting management. Meetings and More is a Professional Conference Organiser, we handle around 25-300 thousand delegates in different parts of the country. I am a pharmacy (B-Pharmacy) graduate and MBA degree holder. Apart from the academic qualification, I am certified incentive specialist (CIS) from SITE GLOBAL.
ES: You are on the board of many industry associations. Can you highlight the role of these associations?
Girish: Yes, I am on the Board as Treasurer to India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB) as well as the Secretary cum Treasurer to International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), India Chapter. Role of ICPB is to promote India as a potential convention destination while the role of ICCA is to provide common platforms to DMC, convention centres, to bid the International meetings/conferences to respective countries.
ES: Can you share the highlights of the recently concluded ICPB’s CIC Conclave in Kolkata?
Girish: ICPB, a body sponsored by Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India recently concluded its flagship event “Conventions India Conclave” held in Kolkata from August 29 – 31, 2018 at Biswa Bangla Convention Centre. The theme of the event was “Scaling New Heights – Building for the Future”, the focus area during the Conclave was to enhance their activities and compete in the International Market, to promote India as a conference destination. There was an active participation of the Government of West Bengal, to promote new Town Kolkata, Biswa Bangla as a convention venue. More than 250-300 delegates had participated in CIC, including around 100 hosted buyers. For the first time, we held sessions regarding bidding of international conferences & ways and means of promoting the destinations.
ES: Can you share some unique characteristics of the Meetings industry? How much has this industry evolved in India?
Girish: Meeting Industry to the small destinations are getting International conferences, like Slovenia , Croatia etc, similarly small Tier 2 and 3 cities have really come up as good convention destinations, like Indore, Coimbatore, Nagpur , they are hosting large size meetings.
Respondents around the world state that attendee security is always top of mind for meeting planners and owners. It drives decisions about mode of transportation, destination, property type, and meeting activities, and shapes meetings and events policy and programs.
ES: What is the kind of support you expect from the Govt. of India? To what extent is this industry being supported by the govt. at the moment?
Girish: Government should support in the form of incentives for meeting planners by hosting inaugural dinners and events, waivers on taxations etc. Adding a few incentives can certainly boost the interest of international associations while considering India as a future destination. In order to give boost to the MICE tourism, the Government of India has an existing Market Development Assistance (MDA) scheme, administered by Ministry of Tourism to the members of ICPB towards bidding for international conferences/ conventions to the country. Under this scheme, association/ societies would be given financial support on winning the bid or obtaining second or third positions in the bidding process, subject to the terms and conditions.
ES: What is the role of a PCO and a DMC? Do their roles overlap in India?
Girish: Professional Conference/Congress Organiser (PCO) or conference company is a company which specialises in the organisation and management of congresses, conferences, seminars and similar events. They provide end-to-end solutions to the business meetings by providing end-to-end services for management of conferences; including conference design abstract management software, program development, registration, site and venue selection and booking, audiovisuals, IT support, logistics, leisure management, marketing, printing and web services, sourcing speakers, funding, sponsorship and exhibitor sales, financial management and budget control. Destination Management Companies (DMC) provide ground service based on local knowledge of their given destinations. These services can be related to transportation, hotel accommodation, restaurants, activities, excursions, conference venues, themed events, gala dinners and logistics, meetings, incentive schemes as well as helping with overcoming language barriers. Yes, at times, their roles are overlapping. A Lot of DMCs have entered the market to provide their services as a conference manager. Due to lack of proper knowledge and resources, there is rough competition in the trade.
ES: What are the top meeting destinations in Asia? How does India stand in this arrangement?
Girish: Top meeting destinations in Asia are Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia, Malaysia. India has a worldwide ranking of
24th and 5th in Asia-Pacific, with 175 meetings per year.
ES: India surpassed China as the fastest growing country of the world. What challenges and opportunities lie ahead of India in the MICE segment?
Girish: China has a huge infrastructure as of now, yes that’s an advantage. The control on the association, is also unilateral. This makes the penetration easy for International associations. India needs to develop itself as one of the most lucrative destinations with its world heritage sites, culture and ethos. The greatest challenge the Indian MICE segment faces is lack of infrastructure. One of the fastest growing markets has not been completely equipped to welcome the advent of one of the fastest growing segments. It is any wonder that hotels as well as the government and private sector have jumped at the chance to grab a slice of the pie. The MICE segment in India is growing at around 20 per cent annually, a figure that has encouraged the government to, first and foremost, identify, invest in and plan the construction of state-of-the-art convention centres. In addition, Public Private Partnership (PPP) models have been adopted for several more such venues. Pragati Maidan, run by India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), is all set for a mega expansion and makeover and now being turned into an integrated international exhibition centre-cum-convention complex, Apart from these, new world class convention venues are coming up in Dwarka & Mumbai. As per the opportunities are concerned, India has lot of Nobel laureates , with domain knowledge in their specific field, these create an opportunity to bid & inspire the international organisations to host their conferences in India.
ES: What are the emerging trends in the Global Meetings industry?
Girish: World class convention venues are coming up in India with world class facilities. Government also needs to provide support to incentivize like, hosting specific events, tax rebate etc.
ES: It is seen that countries bid for international conventions. How can we have International Association Congresses and Conventions in India?
Girish: India has been instrumental in getting major conferences to India, yes there are lot more international associations, who have made their ways into India, but gradually, they are approaching India, through their Asian/ Asia pacific chapters, and then bring the World / international conferences to the country. International Roadshows & international trade shows like IMEX/EIBTMS, should have more players from India, herein Government should subsidize the tarrifs for participation, enabling big delegations, to join in the trade fairs.
ES: What have been your major learnings in this industry? What do you cherish the most about being in this industry?
Girish: I love the way the meeting industry has evolved; the travel agents turned to PCO,s . The RFP for all association conferences demands experience as PCO,s and not travel agents. So the industry is evolving, I am confident , a lot more clients , in all sectors, would hire specific service agencies, this will lead to professional courses being set up for specific domains.I always believe Meeting management is a science, and always dealt by specialised people; we have been training people from various fields and making the specialised Meeting planners. Every meeting is a different meeting, so are the requirements, so it’s always interesting and challenging to meet the expectations, for every new conference. Tourism and destination marketing and management now go hand in hand with event marketing. Destination support services, activities and attractions remain an important factor when meeting planners choose a venue, because delegates want to go to a destination that offers comfortable and clean hotel accommodation, good food and wine, local entertainment and other facilities that they can use when the conference is over. “Smart organisations excel at guiding guests through the hotel, resort or centre’s sustainability story, giving them a role to play in conservation and community initiatives and empowering them to recognise that they play an important part of the environmental solution.