Interview with Mr. Sanjiv Agarwal, Founder CEO, Fairfest Media Ltd.

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Q. You graduated in Commerce from St. Xavier’s College and received executive education from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Being so well educated what prompted you to enter this industry? What fascinated you towards the travel and tourism industry?

A. After working for a couple of companies in Calcutta (as it was called then) I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. Exhibition was a low hanging option as it did not require much investment, yet it was glamorous enough for a young man! I even joined residential post graduate certification course started by ITPO (Trade Fair Authority of India as it was called then) and stayed within Pragati Maidan for six full months! Those were some of the best days of my life…

Q. Kindly take us through the journey of  Fairfest Media Limited. When and how did it start?

A. So. it started in 1988, with a small travel show in Calcutta. It first burned holes in my pocket. After a couple of years I happened to meet a great Government official in tourism, the Regional Director of Tourism Mr. S. M. Gani, who encouraged me to relaunch the show, after he saw the pictures. There is no looking back since then!

Q. When did you organize your first event and what were the initial challenges that you encounter in setting up your show?

A. It was in 1989 and there was no challenge as such except no one including suitors of myself as a to be groom in the marriage market did not understand what I did for a living!

Q. Please tell us about your event portfolio.  What makes your show successful across multiple cities?

A. We do a travel show in 9 cities. Being from a relatively smaller market (Calcutta) makes one look beyond the shores. Then, there was this philosophy I imbibed that shows must go where markets are.

Q. What is your take on the role of technology and how do you use it at your shows?

A. Tech is the biggest enabler and a possible disrupter in trade show business. Gone are the days when people came to shows and looked around whom to meet. Increasingly, it is pre scheduled. We are at the cutting edge of tech development and application. We have licensed one of the top softwares in the domain, from an Australian company. We have a very interesting proprietary mobile app called SnapCard being launched in TTF Ahmedabad in early September.

Q. Which has been logistically your most challenging event that you organised? Please share your experience on the same and how your team managed the operations successfully?

A. Venues in different cities pose their own challenges. These are very under-developed in many cities. One of our most difficult moment was an open ground setting in Calcutta Maidans, in the thick of monsoons!

Q. What is your take on GST? How has it affected your company?

A. It’s a mixed bag. On one hand input credits are wider, on the other compliance in more complicated due to State and Central GST concepts that trigger due to our multi-city locations. Then, at 18% it is higher than the 15% Service Tax earlier.

Q. As a successful show organizer, what sets your shows apart from similar shows in the industry?

A. We are leaders in travel shows, and we have a niche show called Municipalika. I would claim we are very innovative in everything we do – that may also lead to provkems, sometimes.

Q. According to you, What is the most gratifying and satisfying experience of organizing an exhibition?

A. It is when an SME seller says we look after almost all their sales and marketing promotion needs. It is humbling.

Q. What has been your most promising project so far and what are the benchmarks your company has achieved?

A. In addition to the travel show TTF, OTM and BLTM, each one of which is leading in the category, Municipalika is making a bid for doubling or trebling within an year – that looks really promising.

Q. Please take us to the routine of your day, from the time you wake up to the time you go off to sleep. Also do you indulge in any recreational activities and hobbies?

A. Work, work and more work. That includes a lot of reading and a bit of writing as well. I penned and published a book, called The Indian Federalist. It is on our Constitution which is of a great interest to me. I believe our Constitution is as good as American (if not better), we only lost our way and turned Left. That was not the idea of our founders!

Q. What advice you would like to give to the youngsters in this industry?

A. It is a well paying industry if you take it seriously. You may end up missing opportunities if you thought it is just another show biz.

Q. Kindly throw some light on your upcoming plans?

A. Just wait and see, please!

 

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