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“With no shows, pandemic resulted in business loss of Rs 1,25,000 cr”
Monday, 11 January, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Informa Markets India, is the country’s foremost exhibition organiser, providing the industry a much-needed platform to bring together buyers and sellers from across the globe through a host of events, conferences, and seminars. Yogesh Mudras, MD, Informa Markets India, shares his views on the impact of Covid-19 on the industry and steps towards recovery, in an email interview with Manjushree Naik. Excerpts:

What is the Unlock procedure declared by government regarding exhibitions and events? How is it in comparison to other countries?
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 has issued a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) document for regulating the running of trade fairs in the country from October 15. 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, exhibitions organisers would have to stagger the operational hours of the exhibition so that there is organised gathering. They also have to regularly played recorded messages on the precautionary measures and good practices, besides encouraging the use of technology to minimise human interface. AarogyaSetu, 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 Ministry of Home Affairs.

Governments in countries like Germany, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Turkey and China etc., have also given a nod for reopening of physical exhibitions and conferences with a set of standards of procedures in place. For instance, China has already restarted trade fairs like the Beijing Motor Show a few months ago. Other countries are yet to restart exhibitions and events.

How is your company getting ready for the return of events and exhibitions?
To cater to the new normal in India, we created the ‘AllSecure’ safety standard. 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.

Tell us about the detailed SOPs to regulate physical events & expos during Covid-19. With only 50 per cent people permitted, what will be the impact on the business?
We are delighted to kickstart the proceedings with trade exhibitions with complete adherence to the government’s extremely balanced SOP, further ring-fenced by Informa’s AllSecure health and safety standards. Physical exhibitions, now enhanced 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 safety of our stakeholders is 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. With only 50 per cent capacity, the business of trade shows will be impacted but we believe this restart, even in a limited capacity, will only help industries generate business and keep the momentum going in these challenging times.

What new technology and safety measures can be employed in the future for physical expos?
During the pandemic, technology has become a way of staying relevant in the physical expo ecosystem. It is up to us to leverage these to make a trade show impressively comfortable for attendees. These would include conducting businesses seamlessly, enabling brisk registrations and adhering to safety standards. Looking ahead, 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.

How the physical events and exhibitions will help the travel industry get back on track?
Exhibitions represent the heartbeat of the travel industry. They are forums where buyers and sellers of everything from aircraft fleets and new hotel brands to tourist boards and booking agents secure business and where new products are launched to the world. They also serve as the barometer for the health of the industry: busy exhibitions floors mean buoyant businesses. Regardless of whether it be centred around music, sport, learning or luxury, events around the world are generating billions of revenues and changing the way organisations, travel associations and resorts work.

So, while Covid has given the travel industry a barbarous blow, 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.

What kind of losses has the trade shows industry suffered due to Covid-19? How has the last-minute cancellation of events affected the 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 9.5 per cent for FY 20-21, a strong rebound in the form of growth of about 8 per cent is projected for 2021-22. This interim phase is critical to learn, adapt, seek solutions and rebuild towards that vision. It is also an opportunity to showcase India’s ability to affect an exceptional turnaround. The pandemic has resulted in an overall business loss of more than Rs 1,25,000 crore due to no exhibitions held since March 2020.

How can the government help in this regard?
Events and Exhibitions act as a key enabler and catalyst for the economy. Restarting trade exhibitions will be a step towards Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) as envisaged 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 dialogue 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.
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