In Conversation With Sudhir Dhavan, CEO, RE Rogers India

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You have been in the industry for over 24 years. Please shed some light on your journey from heading the sales and operations teams to CEO of R.E Rogers India?

Sudhir Dhavan. The foundation for any career begins in the corridors of academia. I am a Science graduate with a BSc degree from the University of Pune followed by post-graduation in Business Management. I have passed Customs First Category Exam for G-Card in 1997 and hold the ‘Customs Pass.’ Specific to the MICE field; I have an Exhibition Management Degree from UFI and a Certified Exhibition Management Degree from IAEE.

My journey in the events and exhibition industry commenced in 1996, which is precisely 25 years ago, so this is actually my silver jubilee year career-wise. Starting out in this Industry as a Sales Executive, the first show site I witnessed and you could describe as ‘cut my teeth on’ was that of F&B tech’1996 in Mumbai. Since that ‘debut’ event, I worked on many shows, held on myriad sites. I learned about the intricacies of exhibition logistics during International and domestic shows while traveling to show sites spread across the globe. My stint at R. E. Rogers India commenced in May 2010 when I joined the firm as “Country Head -Sales and Marketing”. Three years later, I was designated “Country Head – Sales & Operations”. In year 2018, I was elevated to CEO of the company. Over the years spent in this industry and especially those at R. E. Rogers India, I have gained immense skills in Marketing Management, Negotiation, Budgeting, Event Planning, and Market Planning.

Networking and connecting with people, establishing and maintaining relationships is very important in this industry and I have been very particular while interacting with Organisers, Exhibitors, Venue Authorities, and other stakeholders, ensuring that I reach out to them to the best of my ability. While my journey in the events and exhibitions industry has been thoroughly enjoyable right from beginning, I must highlight the fact that working under the leadership of Mr. Ravinder Sethi was an altogether different experience. Though his training processes are most difficult and challenging, this phase will always be extremely close to my heart. I am now doubly sure that leadership makes a difference to the growth of an organisation and to the individual working for the organisation as well.

Can you give us a brief overview of R.E. Rogers India?

Sudhir Dhavan. R.E. Rogers India (RERI) is the market leader and provider of value added logistics solutions to the Exhibition, Defence, Sports Entertainment Industries and Free Trade Zone Services. RERI is an ISO 9001-2015, ISO 14001-2015, ISO 20121-2012,OHSAS 18001- 2007, ISO -20121, AEO-LO certified company. It has handled more than 150 events a year till February 2020; with one exception – Aero India 2021 during pandemic probably the first International Trade show in the world. Incorporated in 1986, the company has its own infrastructure, including a fleet of equipment, machinery, vehicles and warehouses, in all strategic locations in India. The company works for almost all major organizers in India, and it is also empanelled with the ITPO, as well as other major venues in India. RERI is a member of leading industry associations including UFI, IAEE, IEIA, IELA, AFECA, IATA, etc.

The business strategy that was modified while adapting to the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic has expanded our business in supply chain verticals.

Can you tell us a bit about your work in this industry that led to you winning the FACES OF IELA AWARDS 2020?

Sudhir Dhavan. To begin with, the award was a great initiative as we have no core business on due to the pandemic. During such a time, one who contributed to his organisation and industry – of course, with the help of team members – deserved to be awarded as Face of IELA’ 2020.

When there was a global hit with zero exhibitions, RE Rogers was no exception. Our immediate action plan was to 1) Ensure the health and safety of our colleagues and loved ones 2) Enhance alternate revenue streams from other verticals since 90% of our revenues had come to a halt; and 3) Master the art of Work from Home (WFH). First things first, we formed a Core Group to implement our action plans. I was given the task to spearhead it. The end result today, is a story of survival to success. I would want to underline that though I spearheaded the Core Group, I could only succeed with the strong support of the entire Rogers Family. A special mention must be made of Sushil Upadhyay, our COO, Manoj Kumar, our Defence head, Mrs. Kiran Sethi who was both a professional and spiritual guide, and of course, Mr. Ravinder Sethi who was the ROCK behind us.

As everyone is aware, we have always been very strong supporters of IELA. In these pandemic times also, we decided to do more. I therefore took on the Chair of Education and Training Working Group. Our results of the last year and our future plans speak for themselves. Here also, I could only succeed with the strong support of my colleagues. A special mention of my Vice Chair Ute, our‘go-to-persons’ Alexandra, Elizabeth, Ludivine, and Yannis, who were there for me 24/7; and lastly our dear Chairman Guido, for his guidance and moral support. So for me, if I am the “Face of IELA,” then my Rogers Family & IELA colleagues are the key pillars.

How has R.E. Rogers managed in bringing back the business on track? How has the crisis situation post the pandemic shake up your thinking and upgraded your impact for extraordinary success?

Sudhir Dhavan. The mission was to immediately convert our team of exhibition logistic specialists to other verticals. Alternate revenue streams were needed, which in turn, would ensure a healthy financial company post pandemic. The challenges were how to generate revenue streams from general freight logistics rarely used before the lockdown and how to earn a profit margin when every general freight customer was also facing a financial crunch.

  • Impact for Extraordinary Success consists of following plans and action
  • Exhibitions are bound to reopen and our footprints have to remain in the industry
  • Compile a new data list on clients, vendors, agents, and business resources.
  • Form new business alliances in India with “Competitors” to “Survive through Co-operation.”
  • Coordinate with Indian and overseas exhibition organizers for their customers’ business during pandemic times.
  • Snitiate a ‘Recovery Drive’ to collect old and difficult receivables

How has the IELA helped you overcome the crisis?

Sudhir Dhavan. During the pandemic, post March ’2020, IELA had come out with lot of good initiatives like IELA RELOAD, which was like a recovery programme of ideas for the future, spreading the fighting spirit to empower IELA members to succeed in the ‘new normal,’ anticipating and rebounding by limiting losses and boosting strengths in profitable service areas followed by ‘Get future ready,’ ‘Together Strong,’ ‘Tail Wind’ and our usual programmes of Operations Summit’2020 and Winter Seminar’2021. These programmes really helped in connecting with right approaches and they provided a lot of networking opportunities as well. So here’s a big ‘Thank You’ to IELA, for conceptualising such good initiatives.

What challenges do you face while executing your role as CEO of R. E. Rogers India? What are the SOPs that you follow to perform?

Sudhir Dhavan. I have a greater responsibility to lead the company and channelize the organisation’s foothold in the industry by using all my past experience and expertise in the exhibition logistics management. When I had started out in my role as CEO, the very first challenge I took up was vigorous trainings for staff members at-all levels, where it was important to boost confidence, enhance knowledge, and to ensure that everyone understands the concept of multi-tasking. Also important, was identifying those which need the right kind of support. The second challenge was to find out people with the right potential in operations and improve them so that they could be promoted to be independent and ensure in-houses clearances.

Next challenge was to convert our team of exhibition logistics specialist to other verticals. Then, we had to create alternate revenue streams, especially post March ’2020. It was important to promote solution-based verticals to clients, which will give multiple benefits to organisers as well as clients.

On a personal note, we are curious to know what keeps you busy when you are away from work?

Sudhir Dhavan. I have always enjoyed connecting with industry colleagues when I am away from work and that is right from the beginning itself. Many of them are my mentors today and it has really been great learning from them. Apart from this, I liked to spend time with my family members. My hobby is related to music, where I have interactions with age-old friends for a long time.

What piece of advice you like to give to industry people to get success in life?

Sudhir Dhavan. If somebody wants to get into this industry, they have to first do their homework well and only then take the final decision. They can also participate in various academic programmes from UFI and IAEE for more knowledge. Newcomers should do their research on various aspects of events and exhibitions, not only about logistics. The mantra to get success in life is to be lenient, always ready to learn and be consistent in chasing what needs to be achieved.

What is your USP? How are you different from other companies in the same space?

Sudhir Dhavan. Our USP is mainly our team. We call it the RER family, whose members are our strength and we look up to them as our extended arms to reach out to the customer’s needs. Their contribution, unconditional support and ‘ready to face challenges’ nature is always encouraging and has led to best result approaches. The competition within our industry in India is really tough. Every day, to be a leader in this industry, you need to change your strategy, have patience enough to study your competitors’ movements, keep track of the technology and new trends, etc. We really need to make continuous improvement in our efforts to give our customers a ‘variety service’.

What do you foresee in the logistics sector in the next few years? What would be the top 3 trends of the industry?

Sudhir Dhavan. Based on observations and analysis, I envisage that technology-based operations will be seen more effectively post COVID-19.Online documentation with various government authorities has made a lot of difference as compared to the manual submissions, including government audits. Water transport development will be the key to cut down bigger transit and be popular as one of the sustainable modes of transport. Skilled workers will be in demand. Moreover, training to make workers skilled will be recognised to a greater extent. In-house services will be more in demand rather than subcontracting, as customers would like to have a single point of contact.

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