Guest Editor – Cyril Pereira

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Challenges Faced By The Exhibition Industry

These days we all live a good part of our lives online, but nothing compares to face to face meeting. One of the ways through which businesses can meet their potential customers face to face and connect with them is through exhibitions and trade shows.

Exhibitions have a huge impact on domestic economy and it’s GDP. The exhibition market is driven by surging expansion in the developing economies. The market is gaining momentum with the increased government initiatives to boost the domestic industries. B2C or B2B exhibitions provide an opportunity to promote products and services to a wide group of customers, all in one venue. The exhibition industry is undergoing a period of turbulent change, even though the Indian exhibition market has seen a significant growth over the past 15 years, many challenges lie ahead and the industry is at crossroads. Globalization has changed the way businesses operate and opened the entrance for a digital era which will lead to customers regarding trade fairs as merely one medium among many in the B2B area in the future.

Another major challenge faced by this industry is that more and more millennials (generation between 1980 and 1996) are holding executive positions in the marketing and sales departments of companies and since they are used to living in a digital world it becomes a great challenge to attract them to be a part of the trade shows and exhibitions.

The research findings suggest that, in order to be attractive for millennials, exhibitions should turn themselves into more emotional experiences, something that visitors and exhibitors do not want to miss. Therefore, the success of exhibitions will also be influenced by their ‘digital strategy’ and their ability to integrate digital communication.

One of the main challenges for this industry in developing countries is the lack of venues and infrastructure. Limited venue capacity for holding exhibitions can be a hindrance.

In order for this industry to have continuous growth it is necessary that the venues are constantly upgraded so that exhibitors can be provided with latest technology and facilities.

The escalating cost for venues is another challenge faced by them. Many of the developing countries lack good transport infrastructure and hence if visitors can’t get to the venue, it’s not going to be a successful exhibition. A suitable exhibition venue determines the convenience of transportation and logistics, as logistic inefficiency may affect the operations of the exhibition centre. Exhibitors in developing countries also face the problem of economic, political and social stability. If the economy is not stable, exhibitors from other countries would not want to participate in the exhibitions and hence it becomes a hindrance for the industry.

Another challenge is the long planning lead time for the exhibition organizers which means that there will be uncertainties in the economy and hence the demand forecasting result will be inaccurate. Further, demand for space at exhibition venues fluctuates from period to period. Facilities planning and space and space management are main concerns. Exhibition organizers try to pack in as many booths as possible into a limited floor space. The layout process of the booths cannot be easily automated. These are just some of the operational challenges that cannot be readily addressed using conventional operational management.

The exhibition market is largely driven by an increase in the need for specialized, effective and high quality exhibition events,

which attract international buyers. Operational risks such as conflicts between exhibitors and organizers, unexpected costs and government regulations and political and social cultural scenario in the hosting country can pose a major challenge to the exhibition industry. These factors could affect the organizers ability to execute operations and may jeopardize the organization of the exhibition. India has been a difficult place to do business for many exhibitions organizers. Until last year, it was ranked 130th in the world for ease of doing business, by the World Bank.

The country has been a difficult place for successful foreign direct investment (FDI) and poor government recognition of industry and a shortage of world-class venues.

Rationalization of GST and easing of permission processes is another problem faced by the exhibition industry. Generally, 80 per cent of businesses participating in trade and other exhibitions in India are MSMEs, for whom 18 per cent GST is high.

In order for the exhibition industry to grow in India the government should reduce the rate of GST so the small and medium scale industries find it easier to participate and use these exhibitions to their advantage.

In India the exhibition sector has been ignored and has not yet attained the status of an industry and due to the lack of this status, the country does not look at the exhibition sector to propel economic growth. Yogesh Mudras, MD, UBM India Pvt. Ltd. had said, “With an industry status, our economy would grow even faster. It would help us in getting the much-needed tax benefit for long term sustainability, competitive venue rates and the development of good quality venues under the PPP model, structured finance and tax compulsions.”

As a result of the many challenges faced by the exhibition industry, its true potential has not been realized and hence the sector is unable to contribute as much as it possibly can.

Guest Editor

Cyril Pereira

Managing Director, Reed Triune Exhibitions Pvt. Ltd.

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