In Conversation With Rajan Sharma Managing Director, InterAds Exhibitions Pvt Ltd

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ES. Having been actively involved in the exhibition business for decades, please tell us about your professional journey and major milestones achieved over these glorious years.
Rajan Sharma. I come from an advertising family background. It was natural that I too joined this wonderful business of advertising which nurtures hope and spawns opportunity where it is needed. With time I ventured into exhibition business. Interads has till date been instrumental in successfully organizing 100 trade shows and conferences covering 30 niche as well as core industries. I very humbly owe my gratitude to the international and domestic industries who reposed so much faith in my capabilities.

ES. Interads laid the foundation stone in 1964, and has since organised several International Exhibitions on Power, Water, Oil & Gas, Shipping, Steel, Construction etc. Please share its journey since inception, and how it earned a reputed name in the exhibition industry?
Rajan Sharma. My journey started in exhibitions in the early 90s after spending 17 years in my parental company Interads Advertising. This experience gave me the basic foundation of communication. My late father Dr. Vishwanath, infact was one of the very few who started international exhibitions with Eastern Europe in 60’s. I was fascinated by international shows and wanted to showcase them in India. It was very difficult to convince the established brands to come to India, reasons being the policies, economy and other elements in comparison to the other countries. I remember traveling across the globe pursuing and convincing organisers of established brands. As I always wanted only the top brands which would support and help the requirements and needs of India.

My first big break came in 1995 with powergen which is one of the largest power shows in the power sector jointly with pennwell from USA. The power show, became very successful. The next big break I got in 2000, Supercom, the telecom show of TIA from USA. I would like to share a story at this point. My godfather Mr Michael Liue, from Times Singapore called me and asked me to come to Geneva, if I wanted to bring supercom to India for which I was very keen for, since the telecom industry was just about opening up in India. As he had fixed up a meeting with the president of TIA.During the time, Geneva was hosting the worlds largest show in IT at that point, so there were no rooms or flights available. My friend Mr. Ravinder sethi, of RE Rogers helped and got me a room outside Geneva. We had the meeting with TIA president which lasted only for 10 minutes and the next meeting was scheduled in Washington with the vice president of TIA. We launched supercom in India which was a great success. We had the honour of having Mr Mukesh Ambani who presented RELIANCE infocomm at supercom. Mr Ratan Tata also visited the show as TATA telecom too was presented at the show. Having a successful track record of doing 17 joint ventures till date across the globe from U.S.A, U.K, EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST and SOUTH EAST ASIA.

Our experience and track record is already showing results after the pandemic today. As the Indian economy is already being projected as one of the biggest economy of the future, has brought lots of organisers attention towards India.

ES. What were some of the major challenges that you had to overcome in your journey?
Rajan Sharma. My first major challenge was getting the international organizers to India. The other one was that we had limited venues ( we still have limited venues but they are better). Also, our exhibitors at that point did not see exhibitions as a strong marketing tool but today everybody is interested in exhibitions. We have exhibitions world over and is now rocognised as a foolproof marketing tool where a person can touch feel and see the product before they venture into it.

ES. In times when the global exhibition industry outlook is rather gloomy, you have announced the collaboration with Vinexpo, sending waves of positivity in the market. Please share with us the story behind this collaboration and the vision ahead.
Rajan Sharma. It’s a very old saying that when times get tough the tough gets going I think it’s something to feel good about and humbled about the fact that for the past one year the world is completely changed the only thing which is certain is the uncertainty we cannot refer to the past and predict the future anymore. In the past one year, I do not know about the world but I am certain that in India, no one has announced the launch of any international brand in the exhibition industry. On the other hand it gives me great pleasure and honour to announce the collaboration with Vinexpo, which is a leading wine show globally, to be co located with sial india, in December 2021. Wine and food go hand-in-hand, wine producers across the world are looking at new regions new countries with new opportunities for the product and without any doubt, India’s one of them. Consumption of Wine has changed with the exposure of the West and with a lifestyle change. One can see that wine popularity in India is growing at a rapid pace.

ES. SIAL 2021 will witness the introduction of Vinexpo India. What is the overall vibe you are looking to create over the three-day event and what kind of synergy exists between both these shows?
Rajan Sharma. Sial India is a global platform for the entire Food & Beverage Industry. It has been able to provide a professional market place for promotion of Indian and international, Food & Beverage products. Food Processing is the thrust sector for India and its promotion through a platform like Sial is of utmost importance. Unfortunately in 2020 despite good intent and preparedness we could not organise the show due to the pandemic. The feelers are coming from across the world for the participation in 2021 edition of the preferred food show . We are expecting a 30-40% increase over last edition participation.

We will be adding more activities on the floor. Vinexpo India will be one of the main highlights of this edition, being the worlds leading brand we are sure that will attract not only local manufacturers of wine but also international. At SIAL India we host buyer seller meet, tasting events, master chef cooking classes to name a few, with the synergy being the similar for vinexpo we shall be having wine tasting, wine competition, master classes amongst the many sub activities. We are hopeful that in December when the show opens, COVID should have begun to leave from our lives.

ES. The 2nd edition of SIAL India 2019 edition witnessed 300+ exhibitors from 30 countries with approx. 8,000+ trade visitors, making it the ideal networking & business platform for the food & beverage industry stakeholders. What is your expectation from SIAL 2021? How is SIAL evolving?
Rajan Sharma. It is heartening to find the enthusiasm in people for the show. People are supportive, they want to move on and it seems things are moving in the very right direction. We are getting support from various segments. Sial India 2019 edition was a big hit with people and industry how you just as mentioned above . Now if you are asking me about the 2021 edition then to tell you the truth it is going to be even bigger. Firstly it has Vinexpo co-located, which would make it a stand out event . Vinexpo being one of the largest exhibitions for wine in the world would play a huge role in the F&B sector. For SIAL 2021 we have 40 country participation confirmed as of today. The show has grown by 30-40% in show size already. We are confident that this edition will be one of the best and will break its own records.

ES. What is your opinion about consolidation and collaboration especially in the world after the pandemic? What would be your key priorities for expansion in 2021-2022?
Rajan Sharma. The thought of establishing a common ground leads to collaboration which is a precursor to consolidation. They are positive responses. But in a post covid world they have taken on a new meaning. World over a stagnant economy for over a year has left indelible marks on the industry capabilities. The compromised resources call for a coming together of like minded companies. So in the coming days we could witness Collaborations in a large way. We at Inter Ads, are already in talks with various organisers for launching new shows in the country.

ES. How InterAds India will continue with its endeavour in bringing focused international exhibitions and conferences to the Indian market post the pandemic?
Rajan Sharma. Interads is committed to this exhibition business for sure. Having organised more than 100 trade shows and conferences validates this. And since we can not shy away from our nature we will always work towards being the interface between the industry and consumers, between media and industry and so on. We shall be creating new opportunities for trade shows , devising innovative strategies which will go a long way in encouraging investments and technology transfer a prime necessity for our industry’s growth. Our current portfolio of expos is impressive touching both niche and core industries. We are aiming to maintain leadership through honest and transparent practices by providing state of the art services to our exhibitors and help them develop their businesses worldwide through exhibitions and conferences.

ES. What would be your message to the industry and the key learnings from the worldwide pandemic?
Rajan Sharma. My main point would be that we all need to be very positive during times like this. We all need to stand together, all associates, leaders, individual, stakeholders need to come together to get our industry recognized by the government and also for financial subsidies. We at CEIO a newly formed powerful Association of organizers in India, have initiated a signature campaign regarding this where nearly 400 stakeholders have signed and the campaign is still live.  We do see that exhibition industry will bounce back, we cannot take away the energy of an exhibition and I believe that we all exhibition organizers are passionate organizers and we will bounce back once again.

ES. What is your opinion on virtual/technology and its role in the traditional exhibition mix?
Rajan Sharma. Virtual exhibitions are very useful but they cannot replace the traditional face-to-face format. Virtual trade shows are more suitable for only some industries like art and fashion. But when it comes to most of the industries physical format is the only alternative. For example you can not sell a construction heavy machinery merely on screen presence. Or for that matter food- one can not relish the aroma across a virtual platform- it has to be there right before you alive. I believe that Virtual can be used as an add on valuable in hybrid mode during a physical exhibition.

ES. What according to you are the urgent concerns/challenges ahead of the Indian exhibition industry and how can they be addressed?
Rajan Sharma. One of the biggest challenges that the exhibition industry in India, is that it is not recognised by the government as an industry, despite the fact that it is an economic booster to the country. We are the bridge which brings the international investments for matchmaking, joint venture partnership in the country. The exhibition industry is one of the biggest, job creators as it involves, a lot of stakeholders to create these exhibitions. In the crises that we are going through today, the organiser who is the backbone of the industry needs government subsidies, venue subsidies, financial support to organise shows. The Venues need to come forward and give at least 50% discount on their normal rates for the next 2 years so that successful exhibitions can happen.

ES. You have launched Intermat India, could you give details on that exhibition as well?
Rajan Sharma. Intermat is world’s third largest show for construction industry. The show is held every three years in Paris. Over the years the show has earned a good amount of respect and brand equity.We decided to bring the show to India in view of the tremendous growth registered in the sector. We ventured out on a market survey for the relevance and success of the show in Indian context. The feedback was very encouraging. The survey also squared off Mumbai as being favourite location for such a show. We decided on BEC to be the medium size venue. Initial hesitation about BEC having limited outdoor space for showcasing construction machinery were ironed out. We envisioned a medium size show with big results rather than the other way round. Now our thinking stands validated as the final preparations for the October 2021 are going on. We are very excited and enthusiastic for bringing the world’s largest show of construction equipment to India. Construction sector in India is growing due to increased demand from real estate and infrastructure projects.

The objective is to bring together industry experts from across the globe to exchange knowledge and showcase the latest technology, developments and to deliver high-quality content and comprehensive in-depth practical information that will ultimately shape the Indian Construction sector. INTERMAT India 2021 will have on display latest innovations in relation with the regional needs that aim to assist Asian countries in its development while presenting a complete range of products that suits the region’s needs: production and use of construction materials, earthmoving, civil engineering, concrete manufacture, buildings and work sites, lifting, handling, drilling, boring, road infrastructure, mining and quarry equipment, vehicles and transportation, components and accessories, demolition, recycling, among others.

INTERMAT India will bring to the Indian market a trend-setting platform that will unite and lead the Asian construction industry towards higher industry standards as well as better success and greater recognition on the world stage.

ES. How many international partners/ J.V have you have you been associated with till now ?
Rajan Sharma. There have been. 17 joint ventures till date across the globe, 5 from U.S.A, 3 from U.K, 1 from South East Asia, 8 from Europe.