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Raj Manek : Reconnecting trade through his mega exhibitions in India

World over, exhibitions are considered important economic, social and political catalysts that can open doors for domestic and international trade, tourism, job creation, and cultural exchanges. However, as business across the globe saw a paradigm slowdown with the outbreak of COVID-19, the reality was far worse for the exhibition and MICE industries. The pandemic resulted in an estimated loss of INR 3,570 crore for the Indian exhibition industry where in-person meetings were put on halt, business suffered and virtual mediums took over.

As a sector that thrives on face-to-face interactions, bringing people together, and the “touch and feel” aspect of business, the exhibition and events business witnessed a seismic shift towards the digital world. When the world went under lockdown, tradeshow organisers had to re-evaluate and re-invent strategies swiftly to keep industries connected. Digital platforms changed the economics of exhibitions and in came webinars, panel-discussions, sourcing meetings.

The Corner of Influence’ today is proud to have Raj Manek, Executive Director and Board Member, Messe Frankfurt Asia Holding Ltd who re-invented his exhibition business, focused on digital integration and created secure b2b platforms that enable exhibitors, attendees and stakeholders to focus on rebuilding business connects through his mega exhibitions in India.

About Raj Manek

Rajul Manek is a Board Member and the Executive Director of Messe Frankfurt Asia Holding Ltd, a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH, one of the world’s largest event organisers. He has over 25 years of experience in the exhibition industry covering Europe, Eastern Europe including Russia and CIS as well as Asia including over 15 years in India. Raj has worked with leading exhibition and conference organizers, publications and venue operators like P&O Exhibitions, ITE Group Plc and Reed Exhibition Companies.

Raj’s expertise covers the whole spectrum of the exhibition organization business – from launching events in various different markets and industry sectors to identifying, establishing and managing profitable business partnerships with other exhibition organizers and media partners to creating, establishing and running exhibition and venue business in a number of countries. Raj has been responsible for Business Development in many markets but most recently in India, including identifying and managing acquisitions, joint ventures, license agreements, and management agreements.

In 2011, Raj took over the Indian subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt with then a staff 12 people and grew the company to become now the second largest subsidiary with 140 people, 20+ renowned Exhibitions in India, 35+ conferences and 2 offices. In the past 5 years, he has managed to grow the company’s turnover from 1.5 million Euros to 10 million Euros.

As Messe Frankfurt completes 24 years in India this year, Raj aims to continue on his mission of strategic growth initiatives through progress and penetration into new industry segments and take the Indian subsidiary to its next phase of growth and development.

Unveiling our conversation with Raj himself.

How challenging was it to organise exhibitions post pandemic and that too not one; seven at a time?

Our focus post pandemic was straight-forward – to bring industries together once again and focus on delivering safe, successful and highly productive trading platforms where our exhibitors and visitors can come together with confidence, network face-to-face and conduct business effectively.

The task of organising events at this scale and at a new venue was tricky and speculations about a fourth wave fuelled the fire of questions on planning certainty and footfalls. However, the team at Messe Frankfurt India worked tirelessly to make these seven shows a reality and gave exhibitors tremendous confidence by assuring them of complete safety and the right audience.

We curated a meticulous plan for personnel and customer safety with enhanced measures for health and hygiene. Moving to a new venue and convincing exhibitors provided its own set of challenges. We worked closely with all stakeholders of the industry i.e. venue owners, service providers, exhibitors and visitors to implement a comprehensive safety concept for our events and make this transition as flexible, smooth and seamless as we could. Yes, it was both exciting and hectic to host seven exhibitions at the same time but the energy and efficiency of our team made it look very easy.

Messe Frankfurt platforms are known for its international standards, professionalism and are built on trust that has been cultivated over the years of us providing quality services in every aspect of the show. We were determined to pull it off efficiently and that’s what led to the successful results.

Which sectors in India would be your focus?

In the last five years before the pandemic, we pursued a steady and successful expansion strategy through new acquisitions, mergers and value-addition in the existing platforms for our customers that led the Indian subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt to build a strong portfolio of 20 prestigious trade fair brands and over 35 conferences in the country.

While the pandemic put this growth streak in slow motion, it taught us to blend technology with our traditional exhibition model to develop something more engaging and advanced for the present and future generation of traders. Our focus now is to rebuild customer connections, open up new business opportunities, support the exchange of knowledge and technology that will restore business continuity and growth in the economy.

So, the emphasis now is purely on bringing industries together once again for meaningful business encounters – and elevating the exhibition experience for our exhibitors and visitors through the right digital integration.

As for the M&A business, India holds tremendous potential with the majority of the world shifting its focus from China, and Messe Frankfurt as a trade fair organiser has managed to strategically place itself in a strong position within its high-growth market segments in a short span of time. We have a very strong and diverse portfolio in the country, providing us with plenty of opportunities to grow our events and services in the long run.

How do you add value to your exhibitors?

Whether explicitly mentioned or otherwise, returns on investment is the ‘ask’ of an exhibitor. Messe Frankfurt has been successful in getting the right audience, the right industry support, the right investor base and conclusively knowledge transfer as the centre stage of our expo.

We believe what we have gained over the last two decades can only be measured in terms of our exhibitor’s conviction and business confidence in our platforms, quality of visitors who rely on sourcing through MFI fairs in India and globally, and the growing confidence of industry associations and government bodies in our vision for industry growth.

The Corner of Influence is thankful to Mr. Raj Manek for speaking to us and offering his valuable thoughts. We are also thankful to Mr. Hiral Shah for articulating and drafting his conversation with Raj Manek.

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