There’s Huge Pent-Up Demand Among Businesses to Re-Connect Face-To-Face for Networking: Raj Manek

Business Events | October 20, 2020 | Interview

Messe Frankfurt Raj Manek

As the Government issues Unlock 5.0 guidelines, EVENTFAQS Media reaches out to Raj Manek, Executive Director and Board Member, Messe Frankfurt Asia Holding Ltd, to know how they are planning to re-open exhibitions, strategies post-COVID and future plans.

The exhibition industry has been financially hit due to COVID. How will implementation of Unlock 5.0 across the country help you cope with the situation?

The much-awaited announcement of re-opening B2B exhibitions with new SOPs is a positive first step, and encouraging news for the Indian exhibition industry and business fraternity. The move certainly reflects the Government’s confidence in exhibitions as a key facilitator for economic growth, and we are looking ahead more confidently now at the role exhibitions play in building strong partnerships.

The phase-wise implementation of Unlock has allowed us to plan ahead for the new SOPs and build our digital tools. Messe Frankfurt India has also been strongly working towards creating a secure B2B environment with the implementation of new protocols and also on-site preparedness plan for enhanced measures on Health, Hygiene and Physical distancing, which are based on the SOPs issued by the Government as well as best practices from the group’s global standpoint.

Technology will play a significant role in enhancing the experience of physical exhibitions in future, so as organisers, we are using this as an opportunity to build our digital tools more rapidly and open up new avenues for business that can intelligently complement our existing trade shows. As industries gear up to take on 2021, we are gearing up to provide the perfect platforms for business exchange.

Virtual events being the new normal, do you think virtual exhibitions do justice to the brands showcasing their products and services?

We believe virtual events cannot be categorised as the new normal because face-to-face business networking and trading is still the need-of-the-hour. However, with major physical restrictions imposed in the past months, businesses have moved towards tech-alternatives at an unprecedented speed and scale. This paradigm shift made us pause and rethink our exhibition formats.

While the main objective of both exhibitions and virtual events remains business continuity, the goal in terms of business effectiveness is measured very differently. Alongside physical trade fairs, virtual tools can be a good way to measure impact, audience retention and engagement levels – all of which can be used for event optimisation in the long run.

Virtual events also give a better insight into the performance metrics. For instance, our first virtual event for the Building Technology show – ISH India powered by IPA - showcased 980 products, 15 product demos and hosted six live sessions, generating a total of 4,650 contacts with 215 e-meetings and 175 business calls made in a span of two days. The numbers clearly reflect the ROI in terms of new connections and visibility. We are, therefore, excited with the possibilities it can create as a value-add feature for our clients to expand their visibility, generate leads and reach a far wider audience.

As an organiser, what are you currently working on while on-ground events have still not resumed?

Our goal has always been to ensure business growth and continuity for the sectors we operate in. For us, 2019 was definitely an eventful year where we hosted 11 exhibitions and 15 conferences, all of which have successfully ensured trade dialogue between stakeholders of various industries. It was all about creating rich trade and knowledge-sharing experiences for our customers and attendees.

This year 2020, however, has largely been about keeping the industry connected in these uncertain times, ensuring the business continues. For this, we have been exploring a combination of live virtual events and webinars, creating engaging content and bringing the industry together virtually for solution-oriented panel-discussions, sourcing meetings and knowledge forums.

Venturing into the digital space, we organised our first event for the Building Technology sector – ISH India powered by IPA Virtual edition in September 2020, and while the virtual trade fair was something very new and exciting for us, we were equally focused on delivering business value to our exhibitors, learning a lot in the process. To address the growing needs of the Medical Device industry, Messe Frankfurt India also launched a new property, Medical Device Innovation Summit, with plans to convert this into a large format Confex in 2021.

We are now gearing up for our first hybrid event for GartexTexprocess India that will offer an intelligent combination of digital and physical interactions for business exchange. The textile business thrives on the ‘touch-and-feel’ aspect of networking which makes the physical trade fair the number one choice for buyers. However, its virtual features will be the perfect extension to expand exhibitor visibility and networking opportunities with buyers.

As trade fair organisers, we are continuously working on re-inventing our strategies to support growth across industries, so we certainly could not pause during these challenging times. 

What will be your new approach post-COVID?

We definitely cannot pick up where weleft off, as this period has allowed us to take a step back and re-look into our marketing and sales strategies, re-define ways to stay connected with our stakeholders, build on customer relationships,explore new business avenues and most importantly plan ahead for the new SOPs. So, I am confident that we will emerge as a stronger B2B exhibition and conference organiser going forward.

Messe Frankfurt India has also been strongly working towards new compliance protocols to create a secure environment for B2B exhibition interactions.

• A range of physical distancing measures have been planned, which include pre-registration of visitors with limited and planned entry per day, widening aisles and seating arrangements to allow adequate distancing, fixed exhibitor badges to avoid overcrowding at assigned booths, digital self-registration kiosks at the entrance for VIP buyers.

• A framework for new hygiene measures to be incorporated at the venues to ensure the exhibition halls are suitably sanitised prior to the set-up days and during show days, installation of hands-free sanitizers at strategic locations on the show floor, along with enhanced cleaning and sanitisations of all public areas and restrooms.

• Under health measures, precautionary and preventive measures pertaining to exhibitors, attendees, staff, stand construction workers. While the Government’s track and trace app will be made mandatory for all people visiting, working or present at the venue, meticulous temperature checks will be conducted to screen all participants entering the hall on set-up as well as show days. Visitors to our events will be required to wear masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in line with local government and health authority guidelines.

• Isolation chambers for suspected visitors and tie-ups with nearby hospitals for thermal check-up and immediate medical assistance are being planned to ensure prompt response to any plausible risks.

A contactless exhibition experience and added safety measures will surely bring back the confidence of exhibitors and visitors.

What are your future plans?

After an unprecedented year causing global business disruptions, there are clear signs of economic recovery in India Inc. Our 2021 calendar is ready to bring stakeholders of various sectors face-to-face through our leading business events - ACMA Automechanika, GartexTexprocess India, Screen Print India, Light + LED Expo India, Paperworld India, Corporate Gifts Show, Media Expo, among others, to revive trade discussions.

There is a high level of pent-up demand among businesses to re-connect face-to-face for business networking and at the same time, we see a high level of positive energy among our employees to adopt new technologies entering the exhibition market. The combination makes us confident to step into the next phase and also pushes us to continuously learn about the tools that will work best for different industry sectors.

The goal for the future is very clear – to create successful trading platforms that are business-driven, enable knowledge and tech-exchange and most importantly re-connect people professionally once again. Together with this, we are also focusing on growing sectors in medical, pharma and technical textiles and evaluating JVs with stakeholders that will best serve the interests of our customers and the industry.

EVENTFAQS Media reaches out to Raj Manek, Executive Director and Board Member, Messe Frankfurt Asia Holding Ltd, to know how they are planning to re-open exhibitions, strategies post-COVID and future

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