In recent years, India has emerged as the fastest-growing major economy in the world, on the verge of surpassing China. The long-term growth prospects of our economy look positive too, owing to its young population. By 2020, India is set to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group. India’s corresponding low dependency ratio, healthy savings, increasing integration into the global economy and the growth in private and public sector investments in a variety of domains including transportation, construction, education, pharma etc bodes well. In all these developments, the role of trade exhibitions in catalysing the transformation cannot be emphasised enough.
Despite the advent of technology, it has been found that face-to-face contacts build better trust between business partners, clients and competitors, and that’s why more than 4.4 million companies exhibit each year. Trade shows are marketing staples with many Indian companies spending around 20% of their marketing budget on Exhibitions and Trade shows. If you have an outstanding booth and have designed your exhibits with care, there’s no better networking platform than a trade show. Your exhibit and booth are direct reflections of your company. Regardless of whether you sell travel/holidays or a solar inverter, you are among alike spirits - their passions are your passions. Their bread is your butter and vice versa.
The global scenario
The more global a business sector, the more critically important the role of trade shows becomes for it. Trade exhibitions introduce an increasing number of vendors to buyers, while at once ensuring that industry players maintain contact with industry developments and insights on a global scale.
Globally, the size of Exhibitions/Trade Shows industry is USD 55 billion with over 31,000 major trade shows & exhibitions taking place every year. It surely is no co-incidence then that all traditional leading economies such as Germany, US, Japan, France and UK have the largest, most well-entrenched exhibition industries. Additionally, they also make valuable contributions to the economy by providing employment opportunities for events organising companies and suppliers, venues, stand/booth design and build, tourism, hotel reservations and a host of ancillary businesses linked to exhibitions.
The corresponding Indian industry
The Indian exhibition market too has witnessed a significant change and growth over the last 15 years, and is currently pegged at Rs. 65,000 crore, with over 700 major trade shows taking place every year, at a growth rate of 12% per annum. The policy of the Indian government and its bureaucracy is gradually changing, allowing private stakeholders and foreign investors to invest and develop business more easily. The economy of India which is the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) is growing by leaps and bounds -- and the Indian exhibition industry is among those, which has benefited the most. It has entered a modernization and growth phase. New tradeshows are organized, new exhibition centres are being built, and the market is opening up to foreign investors for both the organization of exhibitions and the operation of venues, making this a pulsating multi-crore industry.
All of this really boils down to the fact that the demand for acquiring the right people, with an expertise in managing a professionally executed trade exhibition, is and will be immense. Exhibition management courses from The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and UFI (The Global Association of Exhibition Industry) through tie-ups with Indian partners are now getting established in India, to raise professional standards and as a premier mark of professional achievement. A lot, however, remains to be done.
People-centricity, the exhibitions industry way
India is the greenhouse of large signature expos with a pulse increasingly on Tier II and III markets and hubs. For events organisers, a Herculean amount of manpower and synergy is involved between the teams specialising in Projects, Operations, Marketing, Business Intelligence as well as other support functions.
Being in the exhibitions and live media industry, people are the most valuable assets of the organisation as they shape the fate of the shows. The manpower is young, and has little qualms about moving on to the next best opportunity. There is a high attrition rate especially if an organization doesn’t provide the level of satisfaction, growth, learning – and yes, fun -- which they seek.
It thus becomes necessary for the Human Resource department of the organizations to be guided by the finest global best practices and strategies for talent acquisition, talent retention, talent engagement, and talent management which ensures a steady flow of equipped skills and competencies to propel the organisation – and industry -- in its onward journey.
Mandatory completion of e-learning modules on workplace safety, systems and processes, and workplace harassment trains the new employee to always do the right thing. These modules nurture the Ownership Mindset in the employee, and he/she experiences the autonomy to be creative, strategise, execute and drive results.
Depending on the nature of an employee’s responsibility, a consistent framework of training is used to enhance his/her competencies, attitude and knowledge, to keep pace with the constantly evolving expo business. Employees, including those from the HR, are periodically sent for executive and corporate training programmes, seminars and forums, while industry experts are regularly invited to hone the knowledge of the team in special events and sessions.
As of the last financial year, the cumulative training hours are one of the highest in the industry – more than 200 hours, involving 284 employees. These learning and development programmes embrace exhibition management, smart selling skills, client servicing, advisory engagements on prevention of sexual harassment, finance training and seminars, to name just a few.
That apart, practices that encourage team bonding and collaborative culture outside the realm of work has to be encouraged. As opposed to past hierarchical norms, an open-door practice by which all employees can discuss their issues freely with the senior management is gaining currency. Frequent social gatherings, and sporting events help sharpen the competitive edge of the employees and events such as Annual Picnic, Family Day, the Employee Performance Recognition Awards Night, and the outdoor Sports Premier League, for instance, need to be in the Annual Calendar.
From promoting the face to face connect at its exhibitions, to extending the people-first practice within its workplace enhanced by the power of technology, the exhibitions industry has the potential to truly complete a full circle.