ES. As a leading stakeholder in Indian exhibitions, please share your message to the industry.
Yogesh. I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the Indian exhibition industry for the heartfelt, concerted and untiring advocacy to allow it to restart. The Government has recognised B2B marketplaces for providing “major stimulus for industrial and commercial development”. This is the first time that the Government has also mentioned trade exhibitions as an independent and relevant catalyst for the economy. Having got the nod, it is now time for us to take all the necessary steps to securely restart the industry and repose the trust of our Government and our stakeholders.
“We first introduced a line of virtual trade shows by June. But ‘Super September – Virtual B2B Celebration’, was a concerted effort to give the industry something to celebrate with the onset of the festive season and our most busy time of the year. It was first launched as a powerful array of 6 virtual trade shows in the month of September 2020. These were supplemented by a host of conferences, trainings, webinars and awards in the same month, to drive our leadership vision to serve the industry and rebuild the economy.”
ES. How has the pandemic affected Informa Markets in India? How have you all managed to cope up with the situation and come back to the new normal?
Yogesh. The pandemic situation played havoc with public health, necessitating a lockdown that had a huge impact on the economy. While India’s GDP is predicted to contract 9.5 % for FY 2020-21, a strong rebound in the form of a growth of about 8 per cent is projected for 2021-22. This interim phase is critical to learn, adapt, seek solutions and rebuild towards that vision. It is also an opportunity to showcase India’s ability to affect an exceptional turnaround. Over the course of the pandemic, the exhibitions sector per se took a resounding blow from this fallout. But we relentlessly persevered by means of our alternate/additional methods of engaging and staying connected with our customers through our wide-ranging array of over 85 digital events. We were quick to comprehend that our stakeholders’ business needs had started evolving. Correspondingly, we too are ready to serve them with unique, new and meaningful experiences in our trade exhibitions lined up for December, 2020. Looking ahead, we seek to provide turnkey hybrid engagements, combining the best of physical and virtual platforms. These will enable us to offer efficient, impressive and state-of-the-art solutions for their evolving requirements and restart vision.
ES. What was the idea behind organising ‘On Super September -Virtual B2B Celebration’ and why was it extended?
Yogesh. We first introduced a line of virtual trade shows by June. But ‘Super September – Virtual B2B Celebration’, was a concerted effort to give the industry something to celebrate with the onset of the festive season and our most busy time of the year. It was first launched as a powerful array of 6 virtual trade shows in the month of September 2020. These were supplemented by a host of conferences, trainings, webinars and awards in the same month, to drive our leadership vision to serve the industry and rebuild the economy. Humbled by the impressive response we received for ‘Super September’, we extended the celebration to fortify 6 more specialist markets. The celebration enabled various industries to continue with their critical business conversations, information sharing and training. The Virtual B2B Celebrations supported the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ s COVID-19 stimulus initiative to build a self-reliant India through the prioritisation of MSMEs, sustainability, power distribution, hospitality, health, and rural employment, among others. As it turned out, the virtual celebrations ended the day (October 15) the Government permitted trade exhibitions to start.
ES. Please comment on Virtual Shows and their future. Can you highlight various intriguing aspects of the Virtual Shows, their pros and cons, learnings you have had from these shows? How is your audience engaged and gets interacted at your virtual shows? What is the feedback from the participants and whether they will be around in future?
Yogesh. Virtual events can analyse a lot about attendees, including data on which sessions were attended the most and for how long, and which booths had maximum interaction, among others. This kind of insight is invaluable for developing targeted content and enhancing the value proposition of virtual events. Their ability to track leads, quantitatively measure event performance and gauge event ROI is also useful. In the foreseeable future, virtual events are likely to be well-leveraged and unlike what was earlier believed, today everyone is comfortable with a virtual interface, not just millennials!
Ultimately, though, the efficiency of these platforms will really depend on how well we are able to understand and pin-point on our customers’ short term and long term requirements, pain points, and provide relevant solutions for their issues. In that context, we have received very positive feedback from our stakeholders. Yet, one’s bet is ultimately on a hybrid engagement, with physical expos supplemented by digital engagements. This observation is also basis feedback from our stakeholders, especially newly launched start-ups or SMEs, who might feel unnoticed in a virtual platform but use other means of brand advocacy in a ‘brick and mortar’ trade events. Besides, at the end of the day, all of us prefer face-to-face meetings, want to shake hands (better still, a namaste) and exchange thoughts. It provides an environment of friendliness which, in turn, boosts the success of our relationships, whether they are personal or professional.
ES. The Govt has allowed B2B expos to function again. This is a victory for the industry which had advocated for it — can you share some of the most significant/memorable moments of working in unison for the objective, which according to you, made it successful?
Yogesh. While the pandemic situation has resulted in unprecedented challenges and pressures, it has also served up some opportunities for the community to accomplish tasks for greater good. The advocacy by the exhibition industry to the Government for allowing physical expos to restart, is a shining example Every stakeholder — exhibition organisers, venue owners or service providers — irrespective of the fact that they may otherwise be competitors, came together, supporting one another, thereby also finding reassurance in this solidarity at a difficult time. The IEIA, as a torch bearer, guided all stakeholders, enabling them to play a vital role in this mission. Informa Markets in India was happy to be a part of the advocacy through its visionary marketing campaign to support this cause.
ES. What are your predictions for 2021 and beyond, and how is Informa Markets in India preparing to adapt to it?
Yogesh. While it is neither wise nor feasible to indulge in crystal gazing for the upcoming year given the dynamic nature of the infliction, indications are strong for 2021 to rally back in the 3rd and 4th quarters. It will be prudent to leverage the general tendency towards digital detox. Besides, Q3 and 4 of 2021 will have a busy time-table of leading trade exhibitions to enable us to gain serious momentum. It will also be the apt moment to truly imbibe by the principle of ‘self-reliance’ in the domestic sector by focusing on the local, given the formidable domestic demand.
Ever since the Government’s green signal for B2B exhibitions, we are channelising all our energies on the long-term revival of the industry. As of now, fuelled by the fact that more than 70-80 per cent of participation at our shows have always been domestic, we intend powering the hybrid format. This will be done by nurturing the domestic ecosystem more in our physical shows, while striving for greater international presence in the virtual format.
To prepare for 2021, we are delighted to kickstart the proceedings with trade exhibitions scheduled for the last month of this year with complete adherence to government extremely balanced SOP, further ring-fenced by Informa’s AllSecure health and safety standards. As the world’s leading events’ organiser, Informa has developed a detailed set of enhanced measures to provide the highest levels of hygiene and safety at its events, providing everyone with the reassurance and confidence that they are participating in a safe and controlled environment. As pioneers of the industry, and with the first mover advantage, we will be able to further customise our offerings for the stakeholders in the new year.
ES. You have been at Informa Markets in India and the world of trade expos for a decade now and at the helm of affairs for five! Can you tell us something about your stint here — What attracts you the most about the industry and what have been your biggest learning moments?
Yogesh. The best part about being in the world of exhibitions is its dynamic nature, and the excitement that catering to multiple industries provides. Besides, it is fascinating to witness how we can make a difference to the economy in conjunction with India Inc., government officials, association heads and professionals. Honestly, it is no exaggeration to say that every day is a new day in the exhibition industry and that becomes our hook. 2020 has, no doubt, sprung a different kind of challenge altogether, but this is not to say that we didn’t encounter issues in the previous years. As in life, you have to prepare in advance, nurture your Plan Bs and Cs in the strategy roadmap, implement them perfectly when the need arises, and feel the satisfaction of having learnt and overcome them as a team. In this context, it is imperative to mention that an organisation is as good as the team. Informa Markets in India is blessed to have a wonderful blend of seasoned industry professionals with their experience as well as those who have joined us from the other industries with their fresh perspective.
ES. A true leader is known in difficult times and you have excelled in the hour of crisis. Please tell us how you led your team and kept them motivated at this difficult junction? Be it WFH or other aspects, how did Informa keep up the morale of its employees?
Yogesh. Well, the Jury is still not out on that! Hard work and teamwork are behind everything we do. We have a predominantly young team, and we wanted to combat the pandemic as a team with solidarity, resilience, efficiency and compassion. From the initial days of the Lockdown, we engaged with colleagues through online wellness sessions, scheduled times reserved for social interactions, Town Hall meetings with senior management, and blogs from my side to transparently discuss and analyse updates. We also had several in-team workshops, marketing meets, and candid conversations, among others. One of Informa’s key mission is to connect market specialists to knowledge for a purpose, helping them learn more, know more and do more. We intrinsically understood that the lockdown was a good time to purpose this. Keeping the business, knowledge & networking needs of our valued customers as our priority, we built a comprehensive and virtual platform of over 85 events in record time. In this manner, we also stayed true to our responsibility of helping different sectors seamlessly spring back through our dynamic and innovative platforms.
ES. What are some of the upcoming blockbuster physical shows Informa Markets in India is working towards?
Yogesh. Taking the responsibility to kickstart trade exhibitions, Informa Markets in India is organising six physical B2B events in December. These are: 8th Annual InnoPack F&B 2020 Confex: 4th December, New Delhi (Food & Beverages Packaging)
- Fi India & Hi: 8-10th December, New Delhi (Food and health ingredients)
- Propak India: 8-10th December, New Delhi (Processing & Packaging)
- Renewable Energy India Expo: 10-12th Dec, Greater Noida (Renewable & Green Energy)
- Delhi Jewellery & Gem Fair: 12-14th Dec, N Delhi (Jewelleries & Gems)
- Hyderabad Jewellery Pearl & Gem Fair: 18-20th Dec, Hyderabad (Jewelleries & Gems)
The shows will help in recalibrating the industry with complete adherence to all health and safety standards as shared earlier and we are working real time to enhance the experience of our stakeholders.
ES. We would love to know about the top 3 learnings which you got in 2020.
Yogesh. There have been many actually, but if I were to choose three, they would be:
- It is critically important to keep engaging with your stakeholders and always align with their evolving business requirements with help of right engagement and solutions. Adapt, learn and grow with them.
- Some things are clearly beyond our control. Instead of panicking over these, look objectively at what you can control immediately and over the long term.
- Be discerning, own your thoughts and strive to arrive at informed conclusions. Not everything that appears on different media channels including social media needs to be consumed.
ES. How can the exhibition industry bounce back and remain relevant in the times to come?
Yogesh. Physical exhibitions, now enhanced by the digital corpus, will always remain relevant.
Professionals in different industries are passionately curious, love the touch and feel aspect of products, and view networking as more than just a clinical process. You cannot do without the face-to-face aspects in some key sectors, such as jewellery, food ingredients, leisure or where large machines are involved. With the pandemic, we have come closer to technology as a way of staying relevant in the physical expo ecosystem. It is up to us to leverage these to make the entire process of visiting a trade show impressively comfortable for attendees.
These would include conducting businesses seamlessly, enabling brisk registrations, adhering to safety standards, erasing geographical boundaries to terms of international thought leaders, and dignitaries, to name a few.
ES. Finally, do we need Government’s focus on our industry and how can it be done?
Yogesh. While a lot more needs to be done, it pleases us to see that over the years, there has been a visible transformation in terms of the Government’s increasing focus on our industry. Looking ahead, we need to continue working in harmony, and seek continuous dialogues with the Government, share regular updates on our achievements, challenges, suggestions and how we can make a difference in the combined vision for a prosperous India.