Interview with Naveen Seth, Director, Exhibitions – PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry;

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ES – What is the role of PHDCCI? What has PHDCCI been able to achieve since its inception? What shows do you organize in India and abroad
Naveen – PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a leading national Industry Chamber of India, ever since its inception in 1905, has been an active participant in the India Growth Story through its Advocacy Role for the Policy Makers and Regulators of the Country. As a true representative of the Industry with a large membership base of 1,30,000 direct and indirect members, PHD Chamber has forged ahead leveraging its legacy with the Industry knowledge across sectors. At a Global level the Chamber has been working with the Embassies and High Commissions in India to bring in the International Best Practices and Business Opportunities. Industrial Development, Health, Education & Skill development, Housing, Infrastructure, Agriculture & Agri-business and Digital India are the seven key thrust areas of the Chamber. PHD Chamber has been organizing shows within India and Overseas, to name a few ; AgriHortiTech, PITEX, HOTEX, PHARMAMED, FARM TO FORM, AROGAYA, and besides, this INDIA PAVILION’s in overseas shows, like INTERPACK, GERMANY, NEPAL BUILDCON, NEPAL WOOD, BGLADESH WOOD, SRI LANKA WOOD, GLOBAL INDIAN FESTIVAL, MALAYSIA, ASIAN INTRNATIONAL TRADE EXPO, MAURITIUS, SPRING FAIR, RUSSIA, GIFR, PREMIUM and HOUSEWARE SH, CHINA, THAIFEX, THAILAND, IRANTEX, IRAN, BEST OF INDIA SHOWS at RUSSIA, AERBAIJAN, etc.

ES – How do your view the relevance of exhibitions in today’s era? How can they become even more relevant?
Naveen – Exhibition is one of the oldest modes of reaching out to the prospect consumer and display of products and services. With the time moving on its course the local haat and bazaars under shanties and make shift tent-tamboo has transformed into a state of the art exhibition centre with all the modern amnesties. The change in the landscape has not changed the basic essence of face-to-face marketing that enables you to meet the people that matter to your business in one place, including existing customers, new prospects, suppliers, advisers, investors and key figures in your industry. What’s more, they are a good opportunity to keep an eye on the competition. SMEs can use this platform to find out more about their customers and gauge the feedback about their product and services. It can give them a valuable input for understanding the demand and thus exhibitions can act as market research platform too. It can give you a snapshot of what’s new and you may get access to the movers and shakers. Participation for these companies can be a considerable cost in absolute term but not in relative terms. The combined cost of acquiring clients and inputs is much less than doing so individually.

ES – Personally, you have been in this industry since very long. Can you share your experience in this industry? How has been your journey and how have you witnessed this industry change / evolve during these years?
Naveen – The real essences of the industry have been the same all through but yes the medium and communication has changed for good. With the advent of technology the reach to the Target Group (TG) is becoming easier day on day. The resources and its skill set too have seen a sea of change. In earlier days organizing an exhibition was more like hosting a marriage and it was a cohesive effort of the entire team to make it successful, hospitable and an experience for its stakeholders. In the run up to the show it was great fun to work day and night with the team (read professional family). But now things are more systematic, fast and organized. Exhibition still works of the touch and feel fundamentals braving the virtual marketplace.

ES – How is the Indian Industry performing currently? You represent a lot of MSME’s, what is their take on exhibitions? What ROO do they set before participating in exhibitions?
Naveen – The rationale of the economy is undergoing some stern changes and thus the environment is challenging for one and all. Exhibition industry is in its helm too. Exhibition is considered to be the launch pad for either expanding or/and starting enterprises. It covers the ROI for both the buyer and seller in same the spirit. PHDCCI represents the SME in bigger numbers and thus the expectation from the outcome of participation is the same as other enterprises. But at the same time the financial situation in the country and globally plays a significant role on The trade at the exhibitions. On the other side I strongly believe that many forms of marketing, including telesales, adverts and direct mail , involve some intrusion on customers which can be resented. Not so with exhibitions. Customers go to events prepared to give their time and attention and are often ready to buy. Exhibitions come in all shapes and sizes but the two main types are consumer shows and trade fairs Trade shows attract qualified visitors and the majorities often have buying responsibility. Indeed, trade fairs attract those people who can be elusive at other times. Many arrive with credit card in hand and will have done their homework beforehand. Whereas, consumer shows can be a great launch pad for a new business or product and also offer the chance to do live demonstrations in front of a large audience. Press attention and the power of word of mouth means that you can create a real buzz about your product or service. Exhibitions can be seen as a big investment, particularly by small businesses, but by investing in the short term, you can reap the benefits in the long term, turning the leads collected at an exhibition into loyal customers.

ES – What are the opportunities or bright spots in the Indian Exhibition Industry?

Naveen – There is a paradigm shift in the way an exhibition is conceived and further executed. The best part being that now it’s not that the ideas a borrowed and copied from the west but the organizer do their home work specifying the need of the industry domain and strive to address is it very closely. So now the exhibitions are being organized on the basis the industry needs, keeping in view its technological advancement and product life cycle than just any other west inspired theme Today, events are accorded top priority by government because they act as a catalyst for overall growth and employment generation. An exhibitions has intra-national (read domestic) and international business to cater. So the support can be given for both to promote the small businesses. The former, with due consideration to local environment, helps in propagation of innovation in products and service, whereas the later helps one to compete with the global standards. It gives a big boost to budding entrepreneurs and at the same time helps the SMEs take their products to the global market.

ES – What are the upcoming trends that will influence the exhibition industry?
Naveen – There were times when visitors would walk in the exhibition and spend all day just browsing through one booth to another and without getting the insight about the ‘actual’ product and services being offered. As the changes knocked the entire experience and flow of the events and everyone started talking about the ROI for exhibitors and visitors, the first major change that was witnessed was Pre-scheduled meeting or more conveniently baptized match making. This trend has helped in more meaningful and successful business happening on the show floor. The idea was to give a more meaningful outing to the exhibitors and visitors as both wanted to gain the maximum output for their money and efforts. Thus, the Pre-Scheduled Meetings have substantially gained the title of Match Making more like ‘Rab ne bana di jodi’ rather than randomly meeting some as ‘Luck by chance’

ES – How is the year 2018 slated to be for PHDCCI? What shows are you organizing abroad? Any new domestic shows?
Naveen – Calender of 2018 is fully booked for PHD Chamber as below :
Upcoming Overseas Shows
Global Indian Festival at Kumalumpur, Malaysia
2nd Best of India – Multi Products show at Sochi, Russia
Source Direst @ ASD Las Vegas, USA
Best of India – Multi Products show at Fiji
Asian Gifts and Premium Show, HongKong
LANKAPAK, Colombo, Sri Lanka
4th Festival De La India, Chile
25th Iran Print & Pack, Tehran, Iran
Paper World & Christmas World, Frankfurt, Germany
14th Bangladesh Plastics, Printing and Packaging Fair, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2nd Best of India – Multi Products show at Baku, Azerbaijan
Upcoming Domestic Shows:
RAC India Excon on HVAC and Cold Chain, NCR
Defense & Home Land Security, New Delhi
Alternate fuel technology in Automobile Industry, NCR
International Tarde Fair – Consumer Show, NCR
PITEX – Punjab International Trade Exhibition, Amritsar

ES – Can you share some key characteristics of the exhibitions, that you have witnessed, which are unique to their own region? (like America’s market is very different from Europe, Germany’s primary business model for B-B is exhibitions, how exhibitions combine different cultures and so on or something interesting)
Naveen – Germany is considered to be the father of modern exhibitions across the globe. Some of its cities host the largest and the most successful exhibitions in a particular industry sector. The entire city hosting the exhibition acts as a support function to make the event success and has certainly added to its growth and experience. These cities otherwise would not have gained the prominence or even known on the global map. But today the long list of hosting events has attracted global visitors to these countries and apparently these cities. It gives a big boost to tourism and economy. The infrastructure is being developed to suit the stakeholders from across the world. It connects the local economy with the country and further with the world. If executed professionally with meticulous planning than this can be one of the mediums that act as growth accelerator to the economy and results into an overall dynamics of the place. With the growing pressure in the business and the challenges faced everyday people always looks for business with leisure and exhibition captures the same theme and works in accordance.

ES – Three things that you love about this exhibition business?
Naveen – Meeting new people and understand their expectation in different ways from the same event Be a part of social fabric as after all it’s the variety of people that we work with
Get the insight of any industry through its peers

ES – Three things that you have learnt from exhibitions?
Naveen – Analyzing the need through the MIS of a particular industry
Forward thinking as that’s the only way to conceive an exhibition
Process is the key to successful execution. Exhibition being annual or biennial it’s the process and planning that keeps the morale high and register ticking of an otherwise snail pace of movement.

ES – Who is your role model?
Naveen – I have learned a lot from Mr. M L Wadhwa (Late) and Mr. IP Wadhwa from TAFCON Group, as they are the masters in this trade and working closely with them gives you complete insight on how to conceptualize and deliver the complete event. They are like unsung heroes of this industry, and I am sure many in the industry who are at a good position now, will agree with me on this.

ES – Exhibitions are a busy industry and you keep travelling so often. How do you maintain work life balance?
Naveen – It’s just that I create a schedule and the trick is to be disciplined and stick with it. I do have one caveat, and that is to remain flexible. Being too regimented will create the exact chaos and resultant pressure I was trying to avoid. At the end of the day, achieving balance means finding out what works for you and what does not. So I keep experimenting! Even if you tip the scale from time to time, the good news is, you can always tip it back. Not to forget that the family stands by me and understands me when in need!

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