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Events and exhibitions are key enablers and catalysts of the economy: Yogesh Mudras, MD, Informa Markets

Restarting trade exhibitions will be a step towards Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) as envisioned by the Government for the nation, says Mudras.

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A lot happened in the past year with coronavirus pandemic turning normal life upside down, affecting each and every sphere of life. Exhibition industry was not untouched either with its business either getting delayed or cancelled altogether.

To cater to the new normal in India, Informa Markets in India has recently introduced a safety initiative ‘AllSecure’ for its external and internal stakeholders to enable them to experience exhibitions in a safe and controlled environment. 

In a recent conversation with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets spoke about the upcoming trends of events and exhibition industry, expectations from the government, the impact of technology and more.

Excerpts:

What major impacts did the year 2020 leave on the Events & Exhibition industry?

The pandemic played havoc with public health, necessitating a lockdown that had a huge impact on the economy. While India’s GDP is predicted to contract in FY 20-21, a strong rebound in the form of growth of about 8% is projected for 2021-22. This interim phase is critical to learn, adapt, seek solutions and rebuild towards that vision. The pandemic has resulted in an overall business loss of more than INR 1,25,000 crores as no exhibitions were held since March 2020. The entire spectrum of M.I.C.E (meetings-incentives-convention-exhibition) accounts for the employment of 60 million people, of whom 10 million were directly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

How are you getting ready for the return of events & exhibitions?

To cater to the new normal in India, Informa Markets has introduced a safety initiative the ‘AllSecure’ for our external and internal stakeholders. A detailed set of enhanced measures, AllSecure provides attendees with the reassurance and confidence that they are participating in a safe and controlled environment. These international protocols are based on 10 Key Commitments of enhanced cleaning, personal hygiene, non-contact registration, physical distancing, the highest standard of food safety, avoiding physical contact, wearing PPE kits, accessible first-aid kits, screening participants and trace-and-contact participants (if necessary). We also are consistently keeping in touch with our stakeholders, association members and the government. In addition to this, and to serve more competently, we have also rolled out the all-new Travel Safety Guidelines for our Employees which is a first for the exhibitions industry. This aims at providing confidence in terms of health and safety in the team members traveling for business and in turn serving optimally.

Tell us more about the detailed SOPs to regulate physical events & expos during Covid-19?

We are delighted to kickstart the proceedings with trade exhibitions, with complete adherence to the government’s extremely balanced SOP, further enhanced by Informa’s AllSecure health and safety standards. The Government has recognised B2B expos as enablers of business opportunities across all industries by directly connecting buyers with sellers. 

As catalysts for the economy, restarting trade exhibitions will be a step towards Atmanirbharta as envisaged by the Government for the nation. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry had issued a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) document for regulating the running of trade fairs in the country. While exhibitions may only take place outside certain containment zones, the SOP contains a list of preventive measures for all attendees at B2B trade exhibitions, in order to contain spread of Covid-19 including the fact that people over 65 years of age, with co-morbidities, or women who are pregnant shouldn’t attend them. Other dos or don’ts include: Venue providers need to include separate entry and exit for visitors; disinfect halls before giving possession, an isolation centre on a permanent basis and well-planned garbage disposal. Similarly, exhibition organisers would have to stagger the operational hours of the exhibition so that there is an organised gathering. They also need to regularly play recorded messages on the precautionary measures and good practices, besides encouraging the use of technology to minimise human interface. Aarogya Setu, a mobile app is recommended for all the persons manning the stall and is mandatory for the ones with a smartphone. The competent authorities may even implement additional measures within their jurisdiction as per their local assessment and in line with activities permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Having said that, the safety of our stakeholders has always been our key priority. All our future events will continue to prioritise the health and safety of colleagues and customers and, in the first instance, will be run by official government and local authority guidance, as well as any venue or location-specific regulations.

What new technology and safety measures can be employed in the future for physical expos?

During the pandemic, we have come closer to technology as a way of staying relevant in the physical expo ecosystem. This is an opportunity for the industry to leverage technology to make the visit to a trade show impressively hassle-free for attendees. These would include conducting businesses and enabling seamless registrations, adhering to safety standards, erasing geographical boundaries to terms of international thought leaders, and dignitaries, to name a few. We seek to provide turnkey hybrid engagements, combining the best of physical and virtual platforms. These will enable us to offer efficient, impressive and state-of-the-art solutions for our stakeholder’s evolving requirements.

Trade shows have always benefitted industries such as travel and hospitality. What are your thoughts on the revival of travel with the restart of exhibitions?

Exhibitions would play a crucial role in the revival of the travel industry and have the ability to bring the world together under one convenient platform. There is something truly exciting about being able to connect and communicate with visitors over common interest, which inevitably leads to the opportunity to do business internationally, making a positive mark on the travel and tourism industry. Opening up travel is vital to help all those whose livelihoods depend on the industry. So, while the Covid-19 has caused major disruption in the travel industry, the industry has shown wonderful versatility, proceeding to defy difficulties through virtual systems administration. Most promising is the number of exhibitions and conferences scheduled to happen soon, attracting an impressive number of visitors, which in-turn would act as a catalyst in reviving the Travel and Hospitality Industry.

How has the support from government and industry bodies been in the past months of the pandemic? What are some of your expectations?

Events and Exhibitions are key enablers and catalysts of the economy. Restarting trade exhibitions will be a step towards Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) as envisioned by the Government for the nation. While a lot more needs to be done, it pleases us to see that over the years, there has been a visible transformation in terms of the Government’s increasing focus on our industry. Looking ahead, we need to continue working together and seek continuous dialogues with the Government, share regular updates on our achievements, challenges, suggestions and how we can make a difference in the combined vision for a prosperous India. Exhibitions, be it virtual or physical, support the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’s COVID-19 stimulus initiative to build a self-reliant India through the prioritisation of MSMEs, sustainability, power distribution, hospitality, health, and rural employment, among others.

What are some trends and your outlook for the Exhibition industry?

The exhibition industry will go through an enormous change with organisers and venues adjusting to the new world that COVID has brought. Physical exhibitions, now boosted by the digital corpus, will always remain relevant. Professionals in different industries are passionately curious, prefer the touch and feel aspect of products, and view networking as more than just a clinical process. You cannot do without the face-to-face aspects in some key sectors such as jewellery, food ingredients, leisure or where large machines are involved. The industry is surviving, and we hope that it will recover at a fast pace after these shocks, and people will be seeing each other at a physical trade show with all the safety and health precautions in place soon.

Informa Markets also seek to provide hybrid engagements, merging the best of physical and virtual platforms, which will enable us to offer efficient, and modern solutions for our stakeholders. Meanwhile, the latest technology trends such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual reality and Machine Learning are also enabling the audience to interact with the brand and remain associated with it. Such kind of innovative technologies are predicted to grow immensely, which is going to differentiate the brand in customer experiences and transform the exhibition industry.

What have been your key learnings of the past 9 months?

Patience, perseverance and proactiveness have been our major takeaways from the last 9-10 months. With the ongoing pandemic, adopting and adapting to the new normal was not a choice but a given. Technology came to aid the exhibition industry, not as an entity in itself—rather, as a method for proceeding to draw in with the pro-business sectors. While we are continuously evolving and adapting the new norm, amidst the challenges we found opportunities to innovate and reinvent as a business. From here, we can only take the next steps towards excellence, relevance, and safety seamlessly as an industry as we continue to adopt a hybrid system, taking the best of the physical and virtual platforms.



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