Interview With Naveen Seth, Assistant Secretary General, PHD Chamber of Commerce and industry


AB. Your association with this industry traces back to decades ago. How has been your journey and how have you witnessed this industry change / evolve during these years/Pre-covid and Post-covid?

Naveen Seth. It is imperative to say that the world as started adopting the new-normal environment. Yes, changes have been vast when it comes to the standard event practices in the Pre-Covid Era. To state a few.

The pandemic has accelerated changes in consumer behavior in terms of using a digital service.

  • Almost everything moved virtual and will remain hybrid
  • Now hygiene Standards are Second to none
  • The catering business has led to Intelligent and safe Catering
  • Event Organisers attention shifted to smaller regional events.
  • Technology replaced traditional face-to-face elements
  • The Content became king and has acted as the need of the hour
  • The traditional networking transformed to Curated Networking
  • Restriction in number of delegates for safe execution
  • There is no second to absolute delivery, but the only one

AB. The Covid-19 pandemic has left its impact on all sectors of the economy but nowhere is the hurt as much as the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) of India. How is the Indian Industry performing currently? How have the shutdown of exhibitions impacted Indian Industry?

Naveen Seth. It is important to know that there is always a new day and a new start. Situation would not remain the same. Yes, situation went bad to worse in more than one way during the Covid 19 pandemic but it failed to stop budding entrepreneurs to develop new business ideas. Currently, we have seen huge signs of improvement in the Indian industry. With the current reputation of Chinese market, India is emerging as the next significant alternative for all the products and services. As far as the Shut-down of exhibition is concerned, industry has definitely missed the un-parallel opportunity that it offers.

Exhibition is not only a great source of revenue generations but it provides a platform to have a continued interface. We are very hopeful that in the coming months, when the things settle down and are conducive to hold physical exhibitions and conference, it will once again lead to a great start and will bounce back in a big way. All I can say for now that we are very hopeful to harp on the paradigm shift favouring Indian MSMEs.

AB. What according to you would be the fate of Indian Exhibition Industry? As a macro play, do you think the fortuity of having bright future for India’s exhibition industry awaits in months to come? If yes, What are the opportunities or bright spots in the Indian Exhibition Industry?

Naveen Seth. It is important to note that the exhibition industry has been adversely impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. The collective loss to the industry globally runs into billions of dollars. Exhibition industry needs to constantly evolve and add value to its customers. It is necessary to keep the exhibitors engaged and also provide them platforms and opportunities to connect with their clients’ in-order to keep the business ongoing and the digital space has come to the rescue which has enabled the exhibition organisers through into billions of dollars. Exhibition industry needs to constantly evolve and add value to its customers. It is necessary to keep the exhibitors engaged and also provide them platforms and opportunities to connect with their clients’ in-order to keep the business ongoing and the digital space has come to the rescue which has enabled the exhibition organisers through virtual shows. Global deals demand organized exhibition industry at every place. The exhibition sector in India is facing huge challenges which are hampering its growth. As a result its true potential has not been realized and the sector is unable to contribute as much as it can.

The developed economies have gained an edge over developing economies due to strong hand in exhibition Industry. I really hope and pray that we can get back to normal as soon as possible. At the time when we have excellent exhibition space newly built in Delhi and also in Mumbai, this is the time to grow. Undoubtedly India will be one market which the world is eyeing on.

AB. There is a paradigm shift in the way an exhibition is conceived and further executed. Now that exhibitions are transforming into hybrid formats, what would the new challenges for a show organizer?

Naveen Seth. The first quarter of 2020 placed the event industry in an unprecedented situation. Initially when the things that were thought to be a gimmick or an expensive add-on started to be reconsidered as a way to adapt to the new ways events need to happen with the size of all gatherings, events, and travels. If you ask any event professional on the biggest trend this year, it will be undisputed answer – Virtual Events. As event planners, we are all eager to get back to planning physical, in-person events. Opportunely now, with things easing up, the value brought by the Virtual Events is slowly re-introduced to the scaled-back physical events, creating a new and exciting Hybrid way of doing things. There are many reasons which may affect our pricing strategy due to the fact that you are hosting a hybrid event which means you’re running one event with two separate experiences, so being able to accommodate both audiences can be tricky. It is true that the content may be the same for both audiences; the way you present it would be completely different.

AB. What trends do you expect to see in the next few years that will influence the exhibition industry? Are you planning differently for this year?

Naveen Seth. The year 2020, forced almost all exhibitions to close their doors and leave the huge exhibitions halls empty. A huge chunk of revenue for the industry was brought to a shuddering halt. The effects of the crash spread everywhere, and beyond the exhibiting companies themselves. For every exhibition cancelled an army of supporters fell with it: hoteliers, taxi drivers, exhibition staff, catering staff, public transport, airlines, printing companies and on and on. On the other hand, the benefits of using virtual trade show technology is the amount of data it can capture. Starting from client registration online the flow of intelligence begins. That data is then captured in a format that can be sliced and diced to lend itself to all kinds of business intelligence analysis. In the era of Big Data, this is a huge asset for any forward-thinking company. To be honest, it is not always easy in a real-life conference setting to gather that level of intelligence. We are however planning to go ahead with Hybrid event format so that, if God forbid the restrictions are imposed again, we could at least deliver the virtual version of the exhibition.

AB. Adaptability is now a mandatory business competency. In this Covid-era, while every crisis has its learning’s, what are yours?

Naveen Seth. The global spread of COVID-19 brought trade shows and exhibitions to a screeching halt in early 2020, with large cancelations of major exhibitions and conference around the world. This was indeed disheartening for event professionals. This situation gave birth to number of companies out there that can help organizations take their shows to the virtual level. This has also given an alternate option for event organisers to explore and take the advantage of the virtual platform where international participants can join with ease with the hassle of spending heavy on travel and stay. So we have taken this to our advantage and look forward to make the best use of the Hybrid format.

AB. Our curiosity could not stop us from asking you that what keeps you busy when you are away from work? Please tell us about your hobbies, sports and other activities that you would love to do at home.

Naveen Seth. This is something that I still allure myself asking over and over again – What makes me happy other than living with exhibitions? This era of pandemic gave us all some meaningful time to dig deep and explore our self. And I can clearly say, and most of us agree, that spending time with family, meeting our dear one (read human interface) has become a predominant factor in our life. Traveling “for leisure” Cycling and cooking is something that I have woven into my life, for a me time!