Exhibition World Issue 5 – 2021 - Page 23

it is probably much more targeted and effective if we specifically understand what both buyers and sellers want . They don ’ t need to go all over the shop looking and hunting for it ”. While this sort of serendipitous search approach can work quite well on a traditional show floor , she doesn ’ t believe it is at all effective online where a different approach is needed .
Chia believes that there have been some fundamental changes in mindset as teams which were unable to deliver traditional events have focused on other strengths . “ We are not a logistics business ,” she says . “ More and more , we see ourselves as a networking conduit for bringing customers and buyers together ”. That has required a real change in thought processes in the teams but , Chia believes it will outlast the pandemic even though she remains very enthusiastic about getting back to the traditional show floor .
As well as the match-making , some of Chia ’ s teams in markets such as India and Japan have focused on the considerable industry expertise they have in house . Research reports for those industries have helped generate some revenue while waiting for regular events activity to return .
When we spoke , Chia was in her home town of Singapore which , amidst a worsening Covid Delta outbreak across much of SE Asia , had recently announced a new approach of ‘ living with Covid ’ once local vaccination levels reached levels that allowed that . She acknowledges that Singaporeans can be impatient and many had been hoping for faster progress . But , with the government looking to hit vaccination levels well over 80 % for all over-12s by September , she believes that restarting events in a more normal way by Q1 of next year is feasible .
Chia is concerned , however , that the rest of south-east Asia is
struggling much more to achieve that sort of success . “ Singapore is such a trading hub ,” she says . “ And we really do need to have that access with the other neighbouring cities ”. Until travel can open up with them , events will necessarily be constrained .
Strong leadership Turning to managing across her huge region with such constraints on travel , Chia comments that it is not so unusual for her to have to manage remotely . With wellestablished teams , she feels that they have been able to manage quite well . “ We have very strong leadership ,” she says .
What has been much more challenging has been establishing new partnerships and managing many of the existing partnerships the organisation has , particularly in China . Having local shareholders in many of their joint venture businesses has , Chia comments , been a real boon . A number of them have really stepped up and “ they will take our place to help us to
“ They have been curating online meetings , such as a group of Turkish ‘ exhibitors ’ for whom one-onone virtual meetings were organised with appropriate buyers . Services included providing translators .”
deliver the message to the partners ,” she says .
Looking forward to a more normal time once events business has resumed , I asked Chia where in the region Comexposium is likely to be focusing its development . China remains a key priority , she says , along with Indonesia and , depending on how quickly it bounces back from Covid , India . In terms of industries , she will continue to build on the company ’ s strengths in the food and beverages sector . That focus would be both upstream into agriculture and downstream into F & B services . “ We believe that after the pandemic there will be real demand for quality food and health products ,” Chia predicts .
Meanwhile , she continues to juggle plans in a very uncertain situation . Shows which had been expected to go ahead in the next few months are now once again being postponed . Chia describes the process as “ the Covid two-step ” and concedes that it is not currently the happiest of dances .
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