Interview with Max Fernandes, Director – Operations, UBM India Pvt Ltd;

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ES – Please tell us when & how you began your career in the exhibition industry?
Max – I started my career in 1990 with Talcherkars Pvt. Ltd., a well known name in the Advertising and BTL Exhibitions industry and progressed from being a Trainee Sales Executive to a Sr. Sales Executive within 2 years. I was deputed to manage the Bangalore branch and streamline the activities as per Mumbai office standards as well as recruit and train staff to handle the South activities. After a successful stint there, I was recalled to the Mumbai office in 1994, to take up the challenge of assisting the Production Director in the workshop which included managing and handling a workforce of around 150 workers in departments like Carpentry, Painting, Tailoring, Pasting, Stores, Dispatch etc. After a stint of 9+ years, I took a break to venture out of India and gain some international experience. However, around this time, I was also bitten by the Entrepreneurial bug and returned back to India to start working for agencies that needed BTL activities executed on a pan-India basis. I was also instrumental in assisting an industry colleague to set shop in India for exhibitions stand building. My next engagement was with Meroform India, Mumbai branch as Head – Production for all their stand and event building activities till 2007 when an opportunity arose to work for UBM India, which I accepted as an interesting and dynamic new assignment. I have never had any regrets in being associated with UBM till date. My responsibilities include heading the entire India Operations for 23 shows and 30+ conferences, pan-India.

ES – It is said that life of an event manager is extremely stressful. How true is it and how do you cope up with all the stress?
Max – It’s a given that the job of an event manager is a stressful one. However, being aware of this does not – and should not – mean that you need to open up with others about how tough you might find it. After all, every profession / industry has its own challenges and risks. It is how you look at the situation and handle it successfully. A glass half filled with water can be looked at in 2 different ways – ‘half empty or half full’… It is upto the individual to have one’s aspect and viewpoint and move ahead accordingly. You need to carry on and not think about the stress. As a matter of fact that real rush and excitement in this work sphere comes from the different challenges that pop up almost every day and the subsequent successful handling of it – this is what keeps us event managers hooked and our adrenaline pumping for more. I think if you consider stress in your life, you get stressed out just thinking about it — hence all you need to do is keep your calm, analyse if there’s solution, if not – move on! Just remember to tackle each day as it comes and give it your best. PS: Smile, you are in the Events Industry

ES – What does a normal working day in your life look like? Please take us through the course of your day from the time you wake up till the time you retire to bed.
Max – My normal day starts at 5.30 am and going to office by 9.30 am, checking in on my team members and assessing their progress on various projects, management meetings, post event analysis and reporting, planning for future shows, etc.. I return back home post 9.30 pm. There is a lot of travel involved too as we conduct around 75% of our shows out of Mumbai in cities like, Delhi, Greater Noida, Hyderabad, Chennai & Kolkata.

ES – UBM India organizes over 25 trade exhibitions and 40 conferences every year. What does a event day in your life look like? Please take us through your course of activities during an event day
Max – Exhibition days are invariably long and exhaustive, but briefly, it involves enormous amount of energy, enthusiasm, overseeing the implementation of what was planned earlier, team meetings, venue correspondence, best practices within the industry and their successful implementation, among an array of other factors.

ES – Please share an interesting experience with our readers when you and your team handled a crisis situation during show successfully.
Max – When life puts me in tough situations I don’t think ‘Why me?’, I say ‘Try me…’ Till date there have been many interesting instances and challenging situations faced, but most of the times, I have been able to combat those panic situations with appropriate solutions, thanks to the support of my management, peers, internal & external stakeholders, service partners, venue and industry colleagues. Recently in November 2017 during our flagship event, CPhI & P-MEC India at Bombay Exhibition Centre, there was a major issue with traffic on the highway due to the ongoing Metro work wherein the approach roads to the venue were clogged and led to traffic chaos on the Western Express Highway. The traffic department immediately asked us to change our show timings around noon of the first show day. This was successfully implemented by communicating to our extensive database of visitors, SMS, EDM’s, newspaper advertising and also all the exhibitors taken into confidence.

ES – What has been the most challenging event for you so far? Please share some interesting facets about that show with us.
Max – In 2016, the UBM management decided to conduct our flagship event CPhI & P-mec at 2 different venues (BEC, Goregaon & BKC, Bandra) around 15 kms apart. This was the first time we experimented with conducting a show simultaneously at 2 venues. Proper detailing, planning right from resources to infrastructure, and support from my management, internal & external stakeholders, service partners & industry colleagues among others, ensured that the event turned out flawless, was successful and impressed all our stakeholders. This only boosted our confidence to grow the show more over the course of the year.

ES – What 5 things makes a successful show manager
Max – From my perspective, there are more than 5 things / skills one should have in order to be successful in show management. People Skills, Organizational Ability and Flexibility are the top 3 essential skills a successful show manager must possess. Along with these, Leadership, Time Management, Eye for Detailing, Foresight, Anticipation of Challenges, Having a back-up plan in place, Passion for your Job and a Strong, Dedicated and Trustworthy team to work with are also extremely important.

ES – What 3 things to avoid for achieving success in this domain
Max – Overconfidence, Complacency and an “I know all” attitude

ES – How important is the element of operations for the show team? How do you, especially, achieve such excellence in operations?
Max – Operations is the first & last step in the process of an event as well as a very critical one. The planning for operation starts a year ahead and goes on post the conclusion of the show. Our endeavour has always been to constantly improvise over the existing practices and move forward by setting the bar higher. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t whilst still remaining flexible and adaptable enough to accept new innovations and methodologies. It is high time our industry is streamlined, organized and matches the international standards. I am always open to learning something new and keep looking out for the next best thing to be done much better than the previous. One can achieve excellence in operations, only if the ideology of making sure our customer’s experience is remarkably uneventful is embedded within the operations team.

ES – Who has been your inspiration in life? 

Max – Our brains are wired to find things we’re looking for – if you’re always cynical or waiting for things to go wrong, then your life will reflect that. On the other hand, having a positive outlook on life will bring you joy and provide you with inspiration when you least expect it. There have been many inspirations during the course of my life, but I would have to mention my parents here, for the simplicity with which they have conducted their lives, along with minimal expectations, honesty and integrity — traits they have imbibed within me. I am also inspired by the strong support of my family. Someone has rightly said, ““Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

ES – What are the key challenges surrounding our industry?
Max There are several key challenges we continue to face like the absence of an Industry status, the fact that the sector is unorganized, issues surrounding promotion and marketing, and lack of an adequate number of Public-private partnership projects etc. However, the key challenge from my viewpoint would have to be the lack of Infrastructure. The Indian economy is the fourth largest in the world, and yet even the major cities here lack the necessary support & infrastructure to conduct large scale exhibitions, thereby failing to adequately utilize these economic opportunities. Some other challenges that we also need to tackle are: lack of professionalism and ethics, no importance to Health and Safety, numerous permissions and statutory compliances requirements etc. Besides, since exhibitions are a sector that creates mass employment opportunities, skill sets and training programs are the need of the hour.

ES – What are the upcoming trends in exhibition industry?
Max – Automation and a growing awareness for sustainability issues.

ES – You were recently honored at the Exhibition Excellence Awards. How do you feel about it? Please comment.
Max – It is always a great feeling to get recognized for your efforts and that too within the industry. The EEA is an excellent platform devised to motivate upcoming individuals as well as industry professionals & veterans. We need to improvise a lot within our industry, especially with H&S issues, working professionally, ethically and innovatively. Global sustainability also needs to be considered for our future generations — and who better than us to lay down the foundations? Being a part of the Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA) and the Executive Committee, we are conducting training programmes like CEM, signing Reciprocity agreements with International associations, bringing best work practices in and for our industry. Slowly and gradually, we will be there!
I would also like to say A BIG THANK YOU to all my Industry colleagues, friends, peers, veterans, well wishers for supporting & guiding me through my entire career, without which this would not have been possible.

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