India's Pioneer Media on TradeFairs

“Exhibition & Allied Activities contribute 2700 cr annually to GDP.”

– Mr Sanjiv Agarwal, Chairman and CEO of Fairfest Media Ltd.

In well define interview with Trade Fair Times, Mr. Sanjeev Agarwal answers every important question with ease and statistics excerpts follows.

TFT : Tell us about the Exhibition Industry in India
Sanjeev Agarwal : A With more than 650 trade shows and a growth rate of 15%, I reckon that the exhibition industry in India is on upward curve, and is poised to play the role of a vital catalyst in the economic growth of the country. Lack of infrastructure viz. International standard halls and generally high cost – low quality paradigm in real estate are dampeners.

TFT : What makes the exhibition and event industry important?
Sanjeev Agarwal : A It is important for the marketers to be in touch with ground and not only communicate face-to-face but also shake hands. Exhibitions are very good opportunities accomplish so many goals within so many disciplines including sales, marketing, customer relationship management, market research. Many countries see Exhibitions as growth engines, China is one of them. Germany calls itself the Trade Fair Country.

TFT : What role does the Exhibition industry play in the Indian economy? How important is for the Indian economic environment?
Sanjeev Agarwal : Though still in early stages, Exhibition and allied activities contribute approximately `2,700 crore annually to the GDP, leading to direct and indirect employment to estimated one lakh people. The potential appears to be at least ten times! How has the global economy affected the exhibition industry? What are the implications of the Indian market development faced by the exhibition industry in such a scenario? A It’s a mixed bag. On one hand global meltdown means stagnation and even cancellation of traditionally robust business. On the other hand growing importance of India means many new clients wanting to expand their markets to India. Overall there is positive perception, with several multi-national players starting base in India.

TFT : What steps should India take to establish itself on the global map in the trade fair industry sector?
Sanjeev Agarwal : A Our apex organisations in this sector such as ITPO need to augment installed capacity by two times and lower the cost by half, in the short run. They have huge real estate and this can be easily done in public sector or through publicprivate partnership. An investment in this will not only pay itself back reasonably, it will spur trade fair industry in India. Mumbai as well needs a public-policy thrust to promote larger capacity at lower costs. The private sector player there relatively does a much better job. The industry has to organise itself as fairly competitive. The government’s role should change from active player to a passive provider of infrastructure and a fair regulator – well that can be said about so many other sectors of the economy!

TFT : What factors contribute to a successful trade show/fair trade/ exhibition? What should investors/ exhibitors look out for to ensure a successful event/exhibition?
Sanjeev Agarwal : A Local experience and goodwill counts a lot, also because there is heavy dependence of local infrastructure and need for localization that a new foreign player might find very difficult to negotiate. So the investors should rely on good local partnerships and exhibitors should be careful before paying a new organiser – even if it is a new owner of an old exhibition!

TFT : What sets your company apart from the other event organisers?
Sanjeev Agarwal : Success requires more than just keeping up with competition; it’s about anticipation-dealing with issues before they become problems. Our highly efficient and professional organisation enables us to occupy a coveted position in this sector. Being innovative and customer-centric is something we always try. We have been able to successfully compete and assert our leading position in a globalised and competitive market. In the Asian business scenario, where do you see Indian operations? A It is widely believed that China is racing ahead of Southeast tigers – Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok, due to huge government push. Indian scene is still based on need for extensive investment in the infrastructure viz. availability of reasonably priced high quality venues, esp. in cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

TFT : While exhibitions have long been recognised as an integral element contributing to a community’s economic health and vitality, today’s technologically based culture is changing the ways in which buyers and sellers are communicating and interacting. How has your company taken advantage of this?
Sanjeev Agarwal : That indeed is a good question! At one level we see technological progress – Virtualisation of human contact, e.g. on the Internet, as an opportunity and not necessarily a threat. Because in the increasingly virtual world, tradeshows and exhibitions neatly provide that occasional opportunity to shake-hands, which one might need all the more (due to virtualisation of contact in day to day life). At another level, we are investing heavily in other media like print (which is a traditional favourite and still going strong in India) and New Media platforms – that is how we are taking advantage of technology in communication.

TFT : What challenges have the exhibition industry faced with respect to globalisation in the last 10 years? What lessons can India take from it and how can India benefit from this knowledge in the next ten years?
Sanjeev Agarwal : Faced with superbly high cost of lowquality infrastructure and relatively lower overhead costs esp. manpower, some of the Indian organisers might find it lucrative expand their operations overseas. We have launched our maiden show in San Francisco that is doing well. As to India at a public-policy level, it must revisit its thrust which was put in ‘70s (when TFAI was formed) and ‘90s (when it was converted to ITPO), and take it to a different level (perhaps like Aviation industry), where State’s interest is magnified but the role is redefined. Why should not Pragati Maidan look like our new airport in Delhi and operate efficiently? The regulatory and operating role of ITPO must be separated and hermitically sealed, as there are obvious problems in mixing the two.

TFT : What are your company’s future plans/projects/innovations for the Indian Events and Exhibition industry?
Sanjeev Agarwal : We have always seen India as a continent size market and that explains our innovative multi-city approach (we do shows in ten cities) compared to traditional approach of onecountry- one-show approach. We are rolling out a few new lines of shows. Apart from that, I believe we have huge innovation pipeline in Print and New Media that could redefine our business as niche media.