In the known history of civilization which has witnessed many life-altering interludes such as the World Wars, Epidemics, and catastrophic natural disasters, never has the world witnessed a complete lockdown – both social & economical. The Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected our daily routines, social interactions, exposed the healthcare systems globally, and unfortunately completely shattered the economy. Thus, the ongoing pandemic is rather unprecedented creating – a new normal – in what we call the post COVID world.
Construction has been a great contributor to India’s GDP, while private Architecture & Design practices have grown exponentially in the last two decades. Both industries fuel numerous building material ancillaries like Cement, Marble, Paints, Adhesives, Façade Systems, Furniture, etc. The uber growth in the AEC economy had thus led to the growth of Architecture & Design Exhibitions, Festivals & Symposiums putting India on the map for global design expositions.
From students learning the nuances of Architecture & Design to leading Architects & Interior Designers running successful practices and the building material product manufacturers, all look forward to various exhibitions & conferences held throughout the year. They mark their calendars in advance & start preparing to be a part of this unique conglomeration of designers & manufacturers displaying their innovation in design. The Covid-19 virus has perpetually reshaped the events and exhibitions industry. Various events and exhibitions were canceled or postponed with no real confidence that any future date in 2020 will be viable. It is going to be extremely arduous for Hosts to re-organize an event with numerous questions being raised & the lack of a timescale to work on. Various questions arise in our minds that provoke us to ask evident questions, for instance, ‘Is there a new way to counter this’ or ‘Will the situation normalize & snap back to business as usual’. Read on to find out what the Event Leaders from across the country discern about the ‘Future of Design Exhibits in India’.
“Marketing & communications will have to be looked at with a completely new lens. Digital marketing was an important aspect for any business but moving forward, it will be THE MOST important aspect.Kamna Malik, Brand Director, India Design ID.
Talking about the new ways of marketing and communications, she says that, “One will have to find newer digital methods to create the buzz and traction and the old traditional ways will be redundant. Only those will survive who will find innovative & unique ways of marketing and engaging with their TG.
Calling it a “kick-in-the-pants” disruption which was perhaps overdue, Sylvia Khan Editor & Creative Head, INDEX MEDIA PVT. LTD thinks,
“It’s sad the way things happened: the loss of life, the health crisis, and loss of our personal freedoms. We had already started the conversation on moving to more digital platforms and to finding more innovative ways in which to do business, and in fact were fairly prepared to launch these early this year, when this crisis kick-started the process.Sylvia Khan Editor & Creative Head, INDEX MEDIA PVT. LTD
Change is inevitable but Naeemuddin F. Qureshi, Chairperson, IIID Showcase Indore believes otherwise.
“I don’t think the old ways of marketing and communication are completely outdated. I will definitely adopt the new, but with a foundation of the old.Naeemuddin F. Qureshi, Chairperson, IIID Showcase Indore
With an experience of over two decades, he feels it is essential to adapt to change & find their place in the new scenario. Every industry has to be flexible and aid the other in whatever way they best can.
Nishit Gururani, Founder of One Digital has a unique perspective on this unprecedented situation. While taking it in his stride, he feels that,
“We have advanced by two years and this is a huge game-changer for industries like MSME’s and SMEs. As many exhibitions will go online, the scenario would be completely switched to digital. For instance, the physical products will be out there for display but the decision would be taken digitally. Automation and digitization would be prioritized & heavily implemented.Nishit Gururani, Founder of One Digital
Having said that, he lays emphasis on the plight of wholesalers for whom it’s imperative to examine the products before investing their money in it.
“The customer would like to try the product before purchasing in B2B which includes wholesalers who usually check the product before buying them in bulk.”Nishit Gururani, Founder of One Digital
Another notion that derives from this scenario is ‘live streaming’, which is being used to deliver conference content to delegates sitting at home. Shradha Badiani, Head of Sales & conferences, FOAID, is of the opinion that,
“Live streaming is a good way to engage yourself with the audience.Shradha Badiani, Head of Sales & conferences, FOAID
Resonating her statement, Ridhima Prabhu, Event Director Dialogues India, says
“It is just a matter of time that all exhibitions will reboot and resume. Virtual seminars and conferences are just stimulators to the main event that will be held in the foreseeable future. “Ridhima Prabhu, Event Director Dialogues India
Having been a part of Index Fairs and our smaller bespoke events (IFJ MAD events and e! Events) Sylvia Khan sees no way in which the digital REPLACES the conventional touch-and-feel events such as trade fairs or bespoke events. However, she feels there is a clear direction that this crisis has pointed in, and that’s a sort of balance between the real and the virtual. Elaborating further,
“I think we must appreciate the gifts of technology in a business that hasn’t really seen much change for 50 years! So while there can never be a replacement for a trade fair in our interiors and design industry, since so much is experiential, virtual events can certainly enhance or provide a point of contact between stakeholders while newer technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality can offer a more immersive experience, in the absence of a physical or “real” trade fair or event.”Sylvia Khan Editor & Creative Head, INDEX MEDIA PVT. LTD
Optimistic about exhibitions & events making a comeback, Ridhima agrees that It’s too early to comment on the new normal for events and exhibition industries, as personal contact is a very important factor. But the hope remains that everything gets back to normal as soon as possible.
Virtual events have always been a good way of connecting with the audience and a good revenue-generating model if handled well. It may have gotten a boost due to the pandemic, but it will not become the new normal, as a medium to large scale exhibitions and events meet a different need and would have to make a comeback, albeit with a lot of process and precaution.Ridhima Prabhu, Event Director Dialogues India
Known to be street smart in his endeavors, Nishit digs up another opportunity amidst this adversity. He finds it the perfect time for event managers & other people associated with events to develop digital marketing skills. Not only will it benefit the exhibition criterion in terms of marketing strategies, but it also plays a pivotal role in staying updated with the latest technologies.
For the above to happen, Events & exhibitions need to step up and lead the way in demonstrating an organized way to assemble and interact whilst maintaining safe practices of hygiene. Kamna Malik is cautious in her approach & feels it will be critical to managing the crowds. She thinks it is important to have a tight structure to monitor the in-flow and out-flow of people during a given time to avoid any sort of crowding.
Enlisting a few innovative ideas, Shradha laid out important things to keep in mind while hosting these events.
“Larger exhibition booths should have different entry & exit points with entries to a limited number of people at a time and should ideally not have pantry facilities. Smaller exhibition booths should have a layout that prohibits entry inside. All products could be showcased in a way that the visitor is able to understand while standing outside. No hard copy distributions of brochures, or sample products, should be done. Prior appointment of meeting or showing of the demo should be encouraged to reduce larger gatherings at a given time.Shradha Badiani, Head of Sales & conferences, FOAID
Ridhima believes we already have fuelled the engine. For large exhibitions to be held as it should, they may have to filter the right audience and the crowd which allows them to follow the protocol to maintain safe practices, hygiene, and entry of a limited number of right buyers and suppliers. It has to be an inverse variation.
Less footfall but good profits churned out for investors and participants. Perhaps a smaller subset of exhibitions could be held repetitively to cover a larger target of people. Operations will have to be changed and upgraded which allows controlled flow of people and adherence to strict protocols. This applies to smaller events as well. This should have been done a long time ago.Ridhima Prabhu, Event Director Dialogues India
For return on investment ultimately the motto of an event is that an interested buyer meets the seller rather than penetration of a bigger crowd browsing which perhaps could be not our target audience. This equation has to be worked out and a format has to be developed. With regards to conferences, talk shows, and exposure, it is achievable if events are organized and disciplined and this requires a lot of backend work between the involved entities. It will eventually lead to the survival of meaningful events and exhibitions.
Discussing the Future of Exhibits in India, Mr. Naeemuddin states that he sees a dramatic change in the structure of conducting the events and exhibits.
Virtual attendance wherever possible is going to be adopted by various industries. However dynamic creativity, using technology effectively, and building a good rapport with the clients can pave a completely new and interesting way for the industry.”Naeemuddin F. Qureshi, Chairperson, IIID Showcase Indore
None of the event leaders think there will be a complete absence of events & exhibitions. Sylvia Khan sees events amplified and enhanced by the use of digital tools and platforms.
“We already have vast resources of technology in hand. We just need to start using them and to create a balance between the real (the touch and feel space) and the virtual.”Sylvia Khan Editor & Creative Head, INDEX MEDIA PVT. LTD
Ending on a positive note Shradha feels there will be several new opportunities to grab and challenges to tackle, which will become a part of our evolution and growth.
Taking a stricter perspective about the future, Kamna Malik is of the opinion that the Events Industry is going to change and they are no longer going to happen the way they used to happen.
“People will have to follow a set of strict rules & regulations and there will be no going around that. They will have to get accustomed to a more disciplined way of working and frankly that is something I am very happy about. As a country, most of us don’t value rules, regulations, and discipline. People lack basic civic sense and think everything is ok! I am hoping this will bring at least some order & method and people will become more responsible and mindful in their actions.”Kamna Malik, Brand Director, India Design ID
Lastly, Ridhima gives a breather by showcasing a pragmatic approach towards the future of design exhibits. She feels,
“The Future of Events and Exhibits is promising like it always has been. The development will never halt. Conventions and social events is a market that cannot be eliminated as a practice from the industry. The way of practicing the same for a considerable period of time will have to be reworked. The show must go on. Nothing can dampen the spirit of it. An event or exhibition is not a task or a place, it is its PEOPLE. As long as we are providing the service in various means, we are resilient.”Ridhima Prabhu, Event Director Dialogues India
As humans, we’re programmed to see the silver lining amidst the dark clouds no matter how gory the situation. Hosting events & exhibitions in a post-COVID-19 would require major adjusting- especially on the part of event leaders & planners. Nothing can replace meeting people in-person, & the experience of examining the products first hand but depending on your goals in attending such events, maybe, people will be re-thinking their approach moving forward. Of course, events & exhibitions will likely go back to normal and resume as they always have, but given the massive costs involved in travel and attendance to such conferences, and the capacity for online tools to replicate the experience, it may well be that the event industry is changed forever as a result of COVID-19. It will take combined efforts & meticulous planning in order to restart the events industry. The focus has to be on key areas such as health and safety protocols, social distancing arrangements, physical distancing measures, thermal cameras at entry points, a cap on gathering size, and mandatory mask-wearing.
Be sure you stay ready so you can deliver safe experiences for everyone involved!