India is a historic land of a rich culture and heritage placed in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country (with over 1.2 billion people), and the most populous democracy in the world. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. It is the world’s seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). The country ranks 141st in per capita GDP (nominal) with $1723 and 123rd in per capita GDP (PPP) with $6,616 as of 2016. India is one of the world’s fastest growing major economy today. The long-term growth prospective of the Indian economy is positive due to its young population, corresponding low dependency ratio, healthy savings and investment rates, and increasing integration into the global economy.
India has one of the fastest growing service sectors in the world with an annual growth rate above 9% since 2001, which contributed to 57% of GDP in 2012–13. India has become a major exporter of IT services, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services, and software services with $154 billion revenue in FY 2017.This is the fastest-growing part of the economy. The IT industry continues to be the largest private-sector employer in India. India is the third-largest start-up hub in the world with over 3,100 technology start-ups in 2014–15. The agricultural sector is the largest employer in India’s economy but contributes to a declining share of its GDP (17% in 2013–14). India ranks second worldwide in farm output. The industry sector has held a steady share of its economic contribution (26% of GDP in 2013–14). The Indian automobile industry is one of the largest in the world with an annual production of 21.48 million vehicles (mostly two and three wheelers) in 2013–14.India had $600 billion worth of retail market in 2015 and one of world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets.
The Make in India initiative was launched by Prime Minister in September 2014 as part of a wider set of nation-building initiatives. Devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, Make in India was a timely initiative to promote a stronger, prosperous India.Make in India focuses on promoting national manufacturing.
Exhibitions are the catalyst to economic growth. They are the harbinger of business tourism and trade generation – National & International. In India, around 1000 trade shows were organised in 2016 (another 3-5 times the number in the unorganised sector), participants pump in around INR 900-1100 crore* for booth rentals, construction and an equal amount INR 1000 crore* for collaterals, travel and hotels. Since exhibitions are a sector that boots the economy and creates mass employment opportunities, the government is now starting to notice the significance of this sector.
Talking to Exhibition Showcase Kai Hattendorf had stated during the UFI Global Congress 2016 in Shanghai, that for a long time now India has been poised to become the next big thing in exhibitions, but somehow it has not quite leveraged its potential. With a lot of promise & hope, its time now that India delivers and gets hold of the opportunities that lay in front of it.
With the corporate now becoming increasingly aware about the significance of exhibitions, they have started allocating dedicated budgets for participation annually. The trade associations are also coming forward and showing intersest at deeper levels while leading organizers like UBM India go an extra mile to involve government at their exhibitions. As per ICCA, 86.5 % of the Conferences held throughout the World have less than 1000 delegates for which India has excellent facilities. On the exhibitions front, sure a lot needs to be done but the momentum is in the forward direction. Trade bodies like FICCI, CII, Assocham, ITPO etc. are taking delegations abroad and also hosting foreign delegations in India. We have foreign country pavilions in all major exhibitions and at the Exhibition Excellence Awards it was observed that some of the major shows where the foreign participation is at peak of almost 50% include CPHI, BC Expo, Imtex, Acrex, Renewable Energy Expo, Medial Fair India andIntersolar India. There are world class purpose built venues in the form of India Expo Mart – Gr. Noida (Delhi), Hitex (Hyderabad), BIEC ( Bangalore), BEC ( Mumbai), JECC ( Jaipur) while PragatiMaidan in New Delhi is being re-constructed as per international standards! New Dwarka venue is on the pipeline while another good couple of venues are situated in Ahemadabad & Surat. Sure this involves time and efforts but they go a long way in changing the mind-set of the government towards the industry.
I did my Bachelors in Economics, followed by a Masters in Business Economics from the Delhi School of Economics. I wanted a doctorate and become a professor. Personal reasons necessitated me to start working. My second career option was marketing in one of the pivotal private sector companies at that time. That didn’t happen either. So destiny deemed it otherwise. I got into exhibition logistics purely by chance on October 1, 1977 and here I am today! To be very honest, the initial challenges were not related to the work, to logistics, to freight, or customs, because I had all the experience and expertise. The biggest challenges was how to run a business! Here my mentor and guru, TN Vohra, with whom I was working earlier, continued to guide and help me with my venture. The other challenge was finances. My pride did not allow me to borrow! so, we struggled until we succeeded. Everyday has been an adventure! From the time five of us opened a small office in 1986 to the time we opened our fifth office in Goa last year. From the very onset, we decided to remain focussed on exhibition logistics. Though it was felt the horizon would be limited, its amazing how everyday brought new opportunities and new challenges. Here I would also like to mention that my father, no doubt, was my greatest mentor. He embedded in me virtues of life. He taught me to live in humility, to respect one and all, and to be guided by god. After a short while, as I started to get involved with various global associations, I was pained to realise that how poorly India was seen at these forums. And soon I resolved that I will travel to the length and breadth of the globe to change the mind-set about India and bring these associations to do profitable business in India one day,” recounts Ravinder Sethi, who interacts with Exhibition Showcase over an exclusive interview. Excerpts;
Q. You seem to be very passionate about the exhibition industry at large? Any comments?
A. Oh yes, definitely I am!! But first I am a true patriot! I believe that the exhibition industry in India is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a world full of opportunities to explore here. Wait for another five years and you will see what I meant!!
Q. Today you are on the Board of IEIA, UFI, AFECA & IELA and an active member of IAEE. Can you share with us your level of involvement and contribution at each of these forums?
A. IEIA: Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA), was registered with the Registrar of Societies, Under Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 Under No. 55/63 of 2006, in New Delhi. The association brings together the exhibition organizers, managers, designers & stand contractors, freight forwarders, services & facilities providers, venue owners etc. so that there is a common platform available to the entire industry to consider ways and means for the sound development of the industry.I was founding member of IEIA. I fondly remember that time when in the month of Sept. 2005 we drafted its constitution. Today I am serving as Vice President at IEIA. I can say that I have Contributed to its membership expansion, study group, and towards advisory to the association. I have also played a key role in bringing global leaders and associations to the IEIA Open Seminar. And not to forget, I put up a strong case in getting IEIA support for the Exhibition Excellence Awards, when it was just on the nascent stage!!
UFI: Founded in Milan, Italy in 1925, UFI is the leading global association of the world’s tradeshow organisers and exhibition centre operators, as well as the major national and international exhibition associations, and selected partners of the exhibition industry. I sit on the UFI Board today & I am an active participant in Policy making at UFI. I have played a major role in bringing UFI to India and as a consequence to that literally the global industry into India! Whether it is bringing its executive meeting in India in 2011 , Asia Pacific open seminar, inviting high level UFI personnel to various programs in India, I am actively involved in the arrangements. My aim is that one day in the near future, we bring the UFI Global congress in India. This would be of great benefit for both the Indian industry as well as the global one as they will understand the land of possibilities that exist here. The world today is looking at India, and via UFI this is being achieved. And yes I am proud to admit that I have played a key role in this!
IAEE: Organized in 1928 as the National Association of Exposition Managers to represent the interests of trade show and exposition managers, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events™ is the leading association for the global exhibition industry. Today IAEE represents over 10,000 individuals in 52 countries who conduct and support exhibitions around the world. Its an American headquartered body and we have been its member since 2008. I have been participant in many of its programs and even presented twice at their forums. I am a Strong supporter of IAEE’s CEM program in India. I have been approached and am looking forward to dedicate some time as a honorary faculty to their CEM program in India. I say this proudly that now David and other senior IAEE personnel regularly visit India and I am also involved in setting up IAEE India Chapter.
AFECA: Since its establishment in 2005, AFECA has continued to become the leading association for the Asian exhibition and meeting market. Starting out with 6 members, AFECA in just a decade has expanded to more than 130 members across the entire Asia-Pacific region with a membership roll that includes Australia, Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Though we have been its member since some time but my real active role in AFECA started two years ago. Today I sit on the board of AFECA. And because of my association with IEIA and AFECA, we are now looking at bringing business delegations from AFECA to come to India. I said at the last AFECA meeting that as a freight forwarder, 10 years ago in India I could only see German exhibit, American exhibit, some Japanese, maybe some Singapore but majorly European exhibit, while today at every major event we have china, Taiwan korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand participating actively so you owe it to your members that you need to be in India!
IELA – initially I was a non-believer in IELA. For many years I did not like it as I felt that I am just going to have fun there. Until Claus Rauch, the founder member of IELA convinced me! “You know Ravinder one day you will become chairman”, he said over a jug of beer!! And after a few months we became members of IELA. We were called the young turks – rebels at IELA and I was a leader among that. We were changing the traditional Euro-Centred association towards giving it a global outlook. I became active in committees and started representing IELA at various forums. And Alas! one day I became the chairman of IELA. Being a true Indian patriot I got IELA General Assembly to India. And we had one of biggest congresses in Dew Delhi which coincided with IELA’s 20th anniversary. What a show it was. Magnificent!!! We have always been one of the biggest sponsors and since last 5 years we have had one of biggest contingent visiting IELA congress every year with 13 of us having been at Prague. Two things if I have to mention about my contribution at IELA would be, firstly, I have been a great initiator of putting IELA to global industry associations of organisers so it means putting IELA to its customers. As I was involved at senior levels in global associations, this also meant getting the respect as partners to organisers and not mere vendors. And secondly, I brought health and safety concerns at IELA to forefront and raised the issue of sustainability.
Q. Well, that’s quite impressive indeed for a single man! Other than this can you identify a few subjects which are close to your heart professionally?
A. One is venue development. For years I have been feeling that there is the need of state of art purpose built venues in India. Well, there are some world-class venues like BIEC, HITEX, IEML, but the demand is much more! I have been involved with all of them mentioned above to discuss & satisfy the future needs of the industry and all of them do have solid plans for expansion. I have also played a role in influencing government in putting up the Dwarka project in New Delhi. In a few years no one will say that lack of venues in metros is hindering growth of the Industry in India. Other thing is the aspect of quality. As a company we stress a lot on quality not just through certifications but practically demonstrating it in whatever we do. And lastly, sustainability, health safety and security are the watchwords for the future!
Q. You don so many hats and run a successful company. How do you find time for family and recreation ?
A. My wife, Kiran is a great partner who has always stood for me. She often says that my first wife is my work (laughs). She is my working partner as well and she allows me to be on my role 24*7. My kids are settled abroad and doing well in their space. Well I am also proud to head the Rogers family. They trust me and they know I am working for the future. They are my strength and they are great professionals. I love my work. I love driving a forklift. I love handling boxes. I am also glad today that there are media outlets like exhibition showcase who promote our contribution to the world. What more recreation is required!
Q. What is your aim for future? Any retirement plans?
A. Well I am not going anywhere. I am going to remain active in all my roles for the near and distant future. (smiles)
Q. What is your take on Exhibition Excellence Awards Initiative?
A. I think you hit the bell at a very appropriate time. As it is, exhibition industry works in the shadows, behind the scenes. Its very important to recognise the hard work of the industry and Exhibition Showcase has done a commendable work in honouring the champions of our industry. These awards today have transformed into a mega industry event with the support of IEIA, UFI, IAEE, ICPB and many more associations. The best part is that you involve all these associations and take due caution to make the awards fair and transparent. The initiative has brought a lot of due glory to our industry and that credit definitely has to go to you. Congratulations and I am looking forward to the 2018 edition!