Exhibition Showcase Talks To Rupa Naik Executive Director, World Trade Center Mumbai, Promoted By MVIRDC

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“My vision for WTC Mumbai is to develop a dynamic trade support ecosystem anchored on the four pillars of trade promotion, trade research, trade education and trade facility management. Every year, the Expo Center hosts 65 exhibitions and several promotional activities. Recently, we hosted new events such as Astro World, Contemporary Art Fair, BIMSTEC, Sail Exposition, Kids Karva, DRT Show India, IKPE Toy Fair, Slag Summer Fest, FCB 2019, SX Retail Open House and Indian Handicraft Factory. Our conference and meeting rooms in the Centre recorded excellent occupancy.”

ES. Could you provide the readers about your early life and career? What is your vision ahead for WTC Mumbai?

Rupa Naik. I started my career in the tourism industry after having graduated in Economics and armed with a Diploma in Travel and Tourism from IATA. My stint in the tourism industry helped me acquaint with the cultures, cuisines and traditions of different countries. Even as I enjoyed my career in travel industry, I nurtured passion for trade promotion and strategic alliances that urged me to explore opportunity in chambers of commerce and trade organizations. Since then, I have spent more than 30 years in trade support institutions beginning with AIMO (All India Manufacturers Organization), AIAI (All India Association of Industries) and presently with MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai.

My vision for WTC Mumbai is to develop a dynamic trade support ecosystem anchored on the four pillars of trade promotion, trade research, trade education and trade facility management. It gives me great pleasure to say that this vision fulfills the dream of Bharat Ratna Sir Dr. M Visvesvaraya, who was the inspiration behind the MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai. My vision of a dynamic trade support ecosystem is one which responds to the emerging challenges of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and women owned businesses. Today, MSMEs account more than 30% of our GDP and they contribute at least 40% to our exports.

Through an efficient trade support ecosystem, we can enhance their contribution to the economy to 50%. Secondly, despite constituting 50% of population, women account for hardly 13% of all enterprises in India. By providing an efficient platform to meet the global aspiration of small scale women entrepreneurs, we can create a breed of successful women owned enterprises, who will in turn be a role model for aspiring women entrepreneurs.

Our organization completed 50 years in June 2020. Even though we are a 50 year old organization, we remain young by reinventing our operational model to stay relevant to the changing times. In this era of social distancing and remote working, we thought it appropriate to bring digital transformation in our trade support services. As part of this effort, we launched our new age digital trade, exhibition and networking platform wetrade.org last year to connect local companies to the global market at a minimal cost in a most efficient manner.

ES. As one of the oldest venues, WTC Mumbai has been built into one of the leading MICE venues in Mumbai. Please tell us other features that set your WTC apart from other venues.

Rupa Naik. Our Expo Center is located at one of the oldest business districts in the commercial capital of Mumbai and is an ideal venue for both national and international trade shows, besides consumer fairs. The Expo Center is a world-class centrally air-conditioned venue spread across 41,000 sq. ft. area and is backed by round the clock support services. It is the most sought after exhibition venue in South Mumbai. As we offer state-of-the-art support and technical services through our panel of contractors for stall design and construction, the venue is also equipped with store rooms, telephone facility, reception area, freight elevator and Cafeteria to cater multi-cuisine food. Apart from Expo Center, we also have 13,735 sq feet garden lawn and other venues with different capacities to host exhibitions and conferences. As a testimony to our superior performance, we won the awards i.e. Fastest Growing Venue in 2017, Corporate Excellence in 2018, Excellence in Services in 2019 and ‘Star in MICE’ Category in 2020 at the Exhibition Excellence Awards organised by Exhibition Showcase.

ES. How many regional, national and international conventions, meetings and trade shows, are hosted by the WTC Mumbai? How do you overcome the challenge in initiating and conducting the events?

Rupa Naik. Every year, the Expo Center hosts 65 Exhibitions and several Promotional activities. Recently, we hosted new events such as Astro World, Contemporary Art Fair, BIMSTEC, Sail Exposition, Kids Karva, DRT Show India, IKPE Toy Fair, Slag Summer Fest, FCB 2019, SX Retail Open House and Indian Handicraft Factory. Our conference and meeting rooms in the Centre recorded excellent occupancy.

ES. How does WTC Mumbai make important contributions to the economy in India with its advanced professional capabilities?

Rupa Naik. Indian exhibition economy is a multi-billion dollar industry that creates direct and indirect jobs across hospitality, food, housekeeping, booth construction, advertisement, creative design and logistics sectors. Apart from having direct impact on these sectors, the exhibition industry indirectly stimulates economic growth by providing lead generation and sales to the exhibitors. WTC Mumbai is located at a premier location in the southern business district of Mumbai, with proximity to iconic hotel brands, renowned tourism spots and fine dining restaurants.

WTC Mumbai contributes to the exhibition economy of India by holding Textile, Travel & Tourism, Food & Hospitality exhibitions and attracting business leaders, representatives from multilateral organizations, consular corps and other government officials. Few of the well established exhibitions are Fibres & Yarns, SCaT, MCS (Numismatic) and iconic events such as Global Economic Summit and World Trade Expo. The Conference and Exhibitions in these events draw speakers, exhibitors and visitors from across the country.

ES. Technological change is creating historic shifts in industry footprints. Do you think this process will accelerate? How would this technology take shape at your organisation?

Rupa Naik. It is our constant endeavour to reinvent ourself to stay ahead of the technology curve to benefit exhibition organizers and other members of trade and industry. As part of this effort, we launched our new age digital platform wetrade.org last year to connect local exhibitors to the global market. This online platform is developed to offer greater returns on investment with low cost of participation for small and medium enterprises. This online platform offers enhanced online presence with high reach and engagement with targeted visitors and buyers from India and overseas. In FY 2020-21, we organized three online expos, viz. Handloom Expo, Handicraft Expo and Healthcare & Wellness Expo. Collectively, over 500 exhibitors participated in these virtual expos.

In the current financial year, we have organized bilateral exhibition with Zambia and are currently organizing such exhibitions with Caribbean countries and Vietnam. In future, we are planning to leverage our digital platform to help domestic sellers to cater to buyers in various other countries as well, and help them to understand various aspects of exports such as quality standards, packaging requirements, country specific trade restrictions etc. Going forward, we firmly believe that hybrid events are a way forward to reach to desired stakeholders effectively by integrating physical events with online participation.

ES. How have things changed within the industry during your career?

Rupa Naik. In my career, the exhibition industry has witnessed changes across three fronts, viz. privatization, formalization and globalization. A major change that I have witnessed in recent decades is the substantial growth in the venue capacity of India, led by huge investment by private players such as HITEX, Bombay Exhibition Center and Bangalore International Exhibition Center. The second change witnessed in my career is formalization as today 40% of venue providers in the exhibition industry are organized players (according to Indian Exhibition Industry Association). The third major change is the globalization of the Indian exhibition industry. In a year, the Indian exhibition industry provides venue to 745 events, of which 40% are organized by international players.

Another remarkable change that I have witnessed in the exhibition industry in the recent period of my career is the increasing consciousness towards environment protection and sustainable development goals.

“WTC Mumbai has adopted best practices in harnessing natural energy and recycling waste through initiatives such as rooftop solar paneling, installation of e-waste bins, composting machine, pet bottle crusher machine, and energy efficient lighting design. These have significantly contributed to sustainable practices. We have upgraded infrastructure facilities of our venues through renovation, rehabilitation and maintenance projects, such as installation of 100 Kwp Grid tied Roof Top Solar Power Plant at The Arcade terrace.”

ES. Could you please share with us a brief summary of your session at IMS 2.0? What are some major points that you would like to highlight?ES. Could you please share with us a brief summary of your session at IMS 2.0? What are some major points that you would like to highlight?

Rupa Naik. My session at IMS 2.0 focused on the evolving trend of hybrid events, which combine physical and virtual features to adapt to the changing situation. The outcome of the pandemic and its impact, though negative, have created great opportunities for enhancing virtual showcasing of products and reaching out to larger number of buyers and expanding footprints to exhibitors globally. But the impact of the pandemic is felt more by service providers such as exhibition organisers, venue owners and other service providers required for installing stalls, lighting, designing etc. Going forward, physical events may continue to face pressures like venue availability to adjust to social distancing and other SOPs, extra costs of meeting regulations along with challenges in attracting overseas buyers and visitors. The hybrid events may provide an excellent opportunity to mitigate these challenges while maintaining profitability. Hybrid events can also help serve local as well as international participants, and enhance the geographical reach of the events.

ES. How has WTC Mumbai been instrumental in the promotion of domestic and international economic exchanges by virtue of its unique location advantages, and an ideal venue for holding various social and corporate events?

Rupa Naik. WTC Mumbai has always believed in exchange of trade delegations as a way to promote international trade, investment, technology transfer and joint ventures. Through our strategic alliance with diplomatic missions of foreign countries and bilateral chambers of commerce, we organized 65 trade-related programs in the normal year of 2019-20. Our association with the network of 320 World Trade Centers across 90 countries also provides a unique advantage in stimulating cross-border economic exchange. Even during the pandemic year of 2020-21, we organized more than 50 webinars with diplomatic corps, other government officials, leaders from multilateral institutions and senior business executives from across the world.

WTC Mumbai has signed MoUs with nearly 200 organisations, including chambers of commerce and trade promotion agencies in India and abroad. Besides, our organization also partners with Government of Maharashtra to organize conferences on topics of policy significance such as international trade, women’s economic empowerment and public procurement policy.

ES. With the objective of providing major impetus to safety, how have you equipped to ensure safe and secure events? Please name some major events hosted recently by WTC Mumbai.

Rupa Naik. Safety and security are the top priorities of our organization’s endeavour to maintain the trust and conviction reposed in us by event organizers and exhibitors. We follow all safety protocols, such as thermal scanning, hand sanitization and social distancing norms, as prescribed by the local Government authorities. hosted events such as Elite Clothing Exhibition, Furniture & Furnishing Show, Fashion Jalsa, Numismatic & Philatelic Fair and Fashion Affair recently.

ES. Do you have some hybrid element involved in shows at WTC Mumbai? How do you ensure contactless delivery and services at your venue?

Rupa Naik. According to the guidelines issued by Government of India and Government of Maharashtra, all the safety & precautionary measures are followed viz: Venue sanitization, Temperature check, prohibiting entry for participants without Masks, installing Hand sanitizer dispensing machines and Maintaining social distancing. We have also introduced pre-registration for visitors to manage the crowd better.

ES. What according to you will be the role of venues and the preparations they will need to thrive in the new normal?

Rupa Naik. The pandemic is driving changes to the way we interact and socialize with each other as health and safety has become a key concern in the minds of people. Trust is essential get people back to the exhibition venue. The role of venue providers is crucial in securing the confidence of exhibitors and visitors by allaying their safety concerns. Responding to the challenges & seizing the opportunities will be the key defining factor to thrive in this new normal. Venue providers should focus on operational agility and also cost competitiveness to navigate uncertainty. Thus, according to me, considerations for employee and customer health and safety are the key effective business recovery.

ES. What are your upcoming plans? What major events are in the pipeline?

Rupa Naik. WTC Mumbai is committed to promote bilateral trade and investment through our new age digital platform wetrade.org. In the coming months, we are planning to connect Indian MSMEs to buyers in Peru, South Africa and Eswatini by organizing dedicated online exhibitions with these countries. In addition, we are excited to bounce back in an in-person format and have Travel & Tourism, Textiles, Art Fair, Handicrafts and Food & Wine exhibitions, to name a few, lined up in the coming months. All physical exhibitions will be supported by safety guidelines as per the government norms for its organizers, exhibitors, visitors who will be coming to the venue. As a Venue provider, to conduct B2B and B2C exhibitions amidst the new normal, we have a detailed set of enhanced measures. WTC provides organizers and attendees the reassurance and confidence that they are participating in a safe and controlled environment and are based on the broader principles of Physical Distancing & Hygiene.

ES. What would be your message to the industry?

Rupa Naik. In one year, the COVID pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation process, which would have otherwise taken several years. As the world is constantly evolving technologically and economically, we need to reinvent our operational model to adapt to the changing scenario and also to become cost-effective.