Greater Noida – 6th June, 2020 – PREPARATIONS are in full swing to make the 2020 edition of the India International Hospitality Expo (IHE), India’s biggest food industry and hospitality sector B2B show, a 100 per cent online experience that will both facilitate maximum buyer-seller interaction and adhere to the physical distancing norms of the ‘New Normal’ world.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to keep coming up with new ideas and create new opportunities out of adversity, so instead of deferring IHE2020, we opted to make it a click-and-navigate experience accessible from anywhere in the world,” the Chairman of the India Expo Mart Limited (IEML), Mr Rakesh Kumar, said while inaugurating the new format. “We have succeeded in insulating our show from travel advisories and health emergencies,” he added.
IEML is the body that organises IHE, which has been scheduled this year from August 5 to August 8. Last year, IHE2019 attracted over 21,000 visitors and 650 exhibitors showcasing more than 25,000 products across 38 categories, from kitchen equipment, tableware and glassware to furniture and fixtures, to wellness, housekeeping, laundry, food processing and cold storage, at the IEML Expo Centre in Greater Noida (U.P.).
To prepare for a smooth transition to a virtual show, the IEML has organised 14 webinars, including one virtual showcase of Covid 19-relevant products for the hospitality sector, and three more are in the pipeline. Over the past six weeks, these webinars have attracted the best-regarded names in the hospitality sector from key verticals that including hotels, restaurants, food processing, events, MICE, weddings and banqueting.
Sharing an exhibitor’s point of view, Hari Dadoo, Fair President, IHE, and owner of a national award-winning pottery company, said: “Using virtual technology, we at IEML can connect people separated by thousands of kilometers. Even though lockdowns are being lifted, people are reluctant to travel because of the long shadow of the pandemic. Online shows therefore are going to be important in a world where people today are reluctant to step out of their homes.”
Explaining how the virtual showcase will work, Kumar said anyone anywhere in the world interested in accessing the show would have to log in and click on the appropriate button to go to the exhibition zone, or to the masterclasses or sommelier training sessions, or attend the virtual food and hospitality conclave, or even watch the IHE Excellence Awards live.
Supported by a user-friendly navigation system, visitors to the virtual IHE2020 can access the product catalogues of exhibitors, watch their corporate films, exchange virtual calling cards and even conduct follow-up conversations on WhatsApp – all without stepping out of their workplaces, or flying out of their cities.
Industry bodies, meanwhile, have responded positively to the move to make IHE2020 go virtual. “There could not be a better time than this to make the move,” declared Anil Malhotra, President, Hotel and Restaurant Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (HOTREMAI), and Founder-CEO of the hospitality solutions provider, HSMC Asia.
“IHE2020 promises to be the right platform to take Indian products to a global audience. It will take the idea of Make in India to hotels beyond India,” he added. Malhotra also added a caveat: All exhibitors may not be equally online-savvy, or may not have the best-looking catalogues, so some of them may require some hand-holding.
Malhotra’s HOTREMAI colleague and Chairman, FCML Distributors Pvt. Ltd., Nirmal Khandelwal, shares the general sense of optimism. “This was the only way forward for IHE2020,” he said. Addressing the issue of physical verification of the products on display, Khandelwal, who’s also on the IHE2020 advisory board, said the virtual showcase would give potential buyers “a good idea of who’s doing what and then check out the products at the opportune time”.
Rajat Pandhi, President, Association of Resource Companies for the Hospitality Industry of India (ARCHII), and Managing Director of the Panban Group, a hotel furniture and equipment company, also struck a positive note when he said: “IHE2020 has the potential of becoming the hospitality industry’s Amazon or Flipkart – a global online marketplace for hotel and restaurant products and services.”
The virtual show could also successfully reach out to untapped audiences in Tier-II and Tier-III cities and towns with the right marketing push, Pandhi added. And it will be much less expensive for exhibitors, who wouldn’t have to spend on elaborate physical set-ups and on flying out their executives.
Responding to the positivity with which the announcement has been greeted, IEML’s Kumar said: “There’s a lot happening at IHE2020 as we go about our plan to rewrite the business paradigm of trade shows in the post-lockdown world. Our calendar ahead looks busy and we will keep updating you about the developments.”