“India needs better exhibition venues”- Udo Scheurtzmann, ITE
With over 23 years of experience in the international exhibition industry space, Udo Schuertzmann, MD, ITE India, has closely seen the process of organizing exhibitions evolve over the years. Having worked with likes of Messe Frankfurt in Moscow, Reed Exhibitions in Germany, Miller Freeman and Messe Dusseldorf India in the past, he now drives the development of ITE’s New Delhi-based ITEI and also works closely with ITE’s Mumbai-based partner, ABEC.
In conversation with BW APPLAUSE, Scheurtzmann shares the undergoing transformation of the global exhibition industry and the challenges exhibition organizers face in India.
Q- You have been the exhibition organizing industry for over 23 years. How do you feel the industry has evolved during this time?
I started out in the exhibition industry from Russia in 1992. At this time exhibitions were an important part of the overall marketing practices of brands. It provided them with an opportunity to showcase all their offerings at a place and also connected them with their audiences at the same time. Come in 1998, I was in Germany and noticed that with the advent of internet people who organized exhibitions were really scared of it as internet was establishing itself as a platform to communicate about a brand and features of its products, which organizers thought would take away from their business.
However it is in the basic human nature to get a touch and feel of the product before making a purchase decision and this opportunity is only provided through exhibitions and hence the presence of internet had a limited impact. From that time to today, the exhibition industry has always had a tremendous future and always will.
Not much has changed much over the years barring the part of how exhibitions are being marketed and participated in today. However the crux of how and why exhibitions are organized has pretty much remained the same. Even the business angle and the success ratio too has been constant.
Q- As an exhibition organizer how differently do you plan and organize a B2B exhibition from a B2C exhibition?
There are a few parameters but it all boils down to the topic of exhibition. For a B2C exhibition the topic, the marketing practices, the ambience and the overall vibe of the exhibition has to be very dynamic and inviting. Also you need to use mass media campaigns aggressively promote a B2C exhibition.
However, for a B2B exhibition you are focused in your approach and work towards the main content of the exhibition more rather than just focusing on the marketing part of it. You have a database and an audience segment that you already know of who is the audience for a B2B exhibition and hence you can plan for them accordingly. For marketing for a B2B magazine one uses selective media techniques such as trade magazines and association.
Q- What is the size of current exhibition industry? How is it expected to grow?
The current scenario in the industry is reflecting growth for smaller exhibitions and organizers but for bigger exhibitions to grow we need better arrangements. There are small changes that we need to make and big positive results will follow. Currently we have more than 700 exhibitions being organized and the number is 10 times more in the unorganized sector. Exhibitor’s revenue when they book stalls varies from 900-1100 INR. So the real figures can be estimated accordingly. A big exhibition like Auto Expo not only mints money for the exhibition industry but also for supporting businesses such as travel, hotel, foods and logistics. We need to understand the true potential of the industry and develop adequate infrastructure to support it.
Q- Where does India stand on the global map in terms of how exhibitions are being organized all over the world?
I recently came back from ACE tech exhibition in Bangalore and to be really honest I was amazed with how organized and fluid things were. The exhibition was at par with any international exhibition organized anywhere in the world.
So there is nothing lacking today in terms of how organizers are curating exhibitions in India but it is rather the infrastructural part of it that drags us down. India needs tremendous infrastructural development if it wants to organize an international level exhibition. In the capital like India there are hardly any good exhibition spaces. The Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida is good but it is perceived to be too far.
Even In hubs like Mumbai there are no good fair grounds and the Mumbai exhibition center is always very crowded. So the infrastructure part of it desperately needs to be developed.
Q- Most people who organize big exhibitions often outsource their work to smaller agencies. Do you think this technique works to organize better exhibitions?
Frankly, I have been always associated with companies who conceptualize and execute exhibitions single handedly. You can obviously reach out to associations to get the required support but it’s always better to have things under one hand.
Q-In your opinion what is one good thing and one bad thing about the exhibition industry in India?
100% the infrastructure is the bad thing as because that is the area we all are suffering. Organizers today create a paradise out of nothing but the current infrastructure available is restricting them. However, organizers in India have new ideas and are willing to experiment with concepts of exhibitions is something I admire.
Q- Do you predict any changes in the exhibition organizing industry 5 years down the line?
I organized my first exhibition in 1992 and till date the main principle of organizing an exhibition has remained the same. One change the hope is made will be how international brands are paying more taxes than local brands in the country. For an exhibition display if a foreign machine is imported then high amount of taxes have to be paid as security till the time the machine is exported back. This is the reason that international brands always have to partner with an Indian one if they plan to come to India. I think changing this business and taxation approach should be the next trend.
(The article first appeared on the Oct-Nov '15 issue of BW APPLAUSE)
Around The World