Q. Can you recount your key achievements (year wise) in your professional journey?
A. I never kept a record. Still, as memory goes, I can recount the key milestones in my career in exhibitions. It’s not all about achievements, but incidents which formed my professional life. In 1981, I saw that the company I joined needed to upgrade to professionalism and excellence. It was good but not the best . I told my senior colleague – ‘next year, we should achieve that quality and we should be the best. The pursuit of excellence guided me on. The quality paid off. By 1984, we got the Italian Pavilion in IITF. It was a very difficult year. On 31st October, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated and there were riots in Delhi. Mr. Mohammed Younus, who was the Chairman of ITPO at that time announced that IITF would open on 14th November as scheduled. I used to drive to Pragati Maidan through Bhogal everyday during the riots. I could see burning shops and trucks everywhere. But we finished the job inspite of all difficulties. Next year we were given the contract for Italy Pavilion sprawling 8200 Sq. Mtrs. We held that contract for 14 years till they stopped participating. We made Octagonal Pre- Fab system with laminated panels and coordinated furniture for the first time in India. In 1994, we made the first temporary hangar for the Agro – Tech in Chandigarh. We didn’t have space to test it when it was made. So, we load tested it in a public park in the dead of the night. Next year we air- conditioned the tent for another fair in Chandigarh. This was all industry firsts. Another thing which is not spectacular as the first three, nevertheless long impacting for the exhibition industry was that I changed the process flow of service providers. Till that time sales, production everything was done by a one person in a company. I started recruiting engineers and restructured the company. In 1998, we created a formal process flow, QC systems and even got one Mr. Fred Meyer from National Exhibitions, Australia to create systems, forms and tried Management By Objective. It was exciting time creating structure and defining objectives.
The pursuit of excellence guided me on. The quality paid off. By 1984, we got the Italian Pavilion in IITF. It was a very difficult year.
Q. What have been the major road blocks in your journey and how did you overcome them?
A. A major road block at that time was finance as banks didn’t understand what exhibitions meant. The lack of low cost finance is still a problem for the business especially if one is competing against companies from other countries who have access to them. Second was lack of skill at every level. Labour to management. The situation has improved since. Obstacles are part of journey. It is still there and will be there in future also. The trick is to not to get baffled but approach systematically to find a suitable solution.
Q. What have been your three biggest learnings in the exhibition industry?
A. Customer is not the king. Sometimes you have to tell the king what suits him best. Our job is to create solutions. So, just don’t concentrate on hardware only. Everyone appreciates a good job. So, the only shortcut to success is the long-cut of remaining in the quality sphere. But, that said, am learning every day. The beauty of this business is the challenges it throws at you on a daily basis. The subjects we have to study to make a presentation to the ever expanding sphere of knowledge and trying to keep pace is the biggest challenge.
Q. What was the biggest event that you have handled in the past year?
A. I would rather not get into specifics of an assignment. On a volume scale, Make In India, which happened three years back was a major challenge in terms of design, logistics and construction. The brief was really brief. Create an event that is ‘ICONIC’. We made many bench marks by doing this Mega event which has now become industry benchmark. The various EXPOs that I have handled in my journey have always been a challenge. When portraying India in a foreign shore, one has to be very careful. The messaging shouldn’t fall to cliché but should portray India in a way whereby we hold our heads high. It’s quite a challenge. Challenge is not only in terms of logistics but also in finding the mind space of the audience. We have done a couple of interesting projects this year. We don’t measure it by making a statement of big or small. We like to do interesting projects that are all challenges in some way or the other.
Q. What is your vision for the future?
A. Our company will be completing 20 years in 2020. We call it 20@ 2020. That is Vision 2020. The world is changing. The preferences of people and how they live and do business is changing. It’s not only the digital space, artificial intelligence and various technologies which have directly affected our lives but also the off springs of this technological changes like Amazon or Ola or Uber which is going to dictate our future life and business.
Q. Being a part of high pressure events, how do you deal with stressful situations?
A. Stress is part of this business as everything is time bound in our business. There is no solution other than remaining prepared. The next step is coming out with a solution every time. Knowledge is your best bet here. Third is being honest with your client. I believe that client is also human being and they understand the situation if you are honest with them.
Q. How do you balance your professional work life? What do you like to do outside of work?
A. It has not been much of a problem for me as I have a family who always supported me. My interests are varied. Reading, music, art, cinemas, photography, nature, travel, it is a long list.
Q. What according to you are the challenges and the opportunities in the Indian Exhibition Industry?
A. Opportunities are huge. Indian economy is growing fastest and it’s faster than China. In India, services grew more than manufacturing. So, we are at the right place at the right time. The challenge is that most of us or all of us are too small to grab the opportunities at hand – even the low hanging fruits. Perhaps, capital formation is the biggest challenge that we face. Add to that, the twists and turns the industry is going to undergo due to changes in technology.
Q. Meroform is a leading agency in creative thinking, spatial planning, intelligent engineering, communication design and innovative interactive technology. What makes you different from other service providers?
A. We always believed that knowledge and the capacity to think are the differentiators that we want to create. We gather knowledge, upgrade systems and procedures, adapt and adopt the best available. We believe in empowering people and encouraging them to take independent decisions. So, it’s a two pronged strategy of Innovation and Empowerment.
Q. Since making creative design consumes a lot of wooden materials and plastics & after every exhibition it has to be dumped as a waste. What according to you are strategies to recycle the stuffs used in such creative works?
A. If we don’t recirculate and reuse, there will be no future for any of us. We have been doing that and we are now trying to increase the level of reuse. Having said that, it’s more complicated than someone may think. You need resource planning from the level of design and detailing to accomplish that. We are doing lots of work towards reducing waste and recycling, but let me add that there is much more to be accomplished as a responsible corporate citizen.
A quick rapid fire
Q. Your inspiration in life
A. My parents who taught that anything is possible if you put your heart to it and no dream is too big
Q. Your favourite quote
A. Perspiration is the very hinge of all virtues
Q. Your kind of music
Q. Your favourite recreation
Q. Your favourite holiday destination
A. My home state. Kerala
Q. Your favourite cuisine.
A. Mallu – Indian
Q. Your inspiration in exhibition industry
A. Those who believed in future and invested in that
Q. Your favourite car, Real & Dream ?
A. Real – I love my Toyota. Dream – Many
Q. Your favourite brand of watch
A. Not a fan of watches. I mostly wear a ten year old Rado
Q. Your favourite Sport
A. Table Tennis
Q. Guiding principles of life
A. Honesty, Integrity, Transparency