“Wherever there is chaos, there is opportunity“

To stay on your toes in India’s rapidly evolving trade fair industry, you need a can-do attitude, says Bhupinder Singh, head of Messe Muenchen India

Bhupinder Singh is the CEO of Messe Muenchen India and knows India’s trade fair very well. He explains how the company copes with the rapidly evolving trends there.

MM | India is going through its biggest economic renewal ever. What’s your response to that?

Bhupinder Singh | It’s bullish! We grew by over 47 percent in 2018. We’re currently almost four times the size we were in 2013/14, and since then we’ve moved from being the sixth-biggest international exhibition firm to third place. In the last six years, we’ve acquired four new exhibitions and are continuing this acquisition drive to become the leading player. In all the major criteria—visitors, exhibitors, and floor space—we’ve expanded significantly.

Bhupinder Singh, © Vishal Bhanushali

Bhupinder Singh joined Messe Muenchen India in 2007 as a senior project manager.

Photo: Vishal Bhanushali

MM | Fueled by Mr. Modi’s Make in India, Digital India, and other economic initiatives?

Singh | Yes, we’re playing a big role in helping foreign investors to learn about the market and deal with its infrastructure and other challenges. Mr. Modi is focusing on boosting 25 sectors and we’re active in 14 of them. But there are other factors, such as India’s rising consumer demand from a growing middle class, and the fact that India is developing world-class industries, such as pharma and IT.

MM | How established is the trade fair sector in India?

Singh | It’s a rapidly evolving sector so it is a fairly disorganized space. I still have to explain to my friends what my work is all about! But in the last 15 years, we’ve made considerable progress.

In India you can’t work without a can-do attitude because you need to stay abreast of fast-moving trends Bhupinder Singh

MM | So it’s a pioneering sector?

Singh | That’s what makes it exciting. Wherever there is chaos, there is opportunity. We are seeing a lot of entrepreneurship, with exhibition firms scaling up their businesses, many start-ups—some really good—and the industry is also stimulating local associated businesses. All this means a rapidly changing marketplace. You can’t work in it without a can-do attitude because you need to stay abreast of fast-moving trends.

MM | What are hot markets?

Singh | In 2018, Bauma Conexpo India scaled new heights with 700 exhibitors and almost 40,000 participants. Why? Through Make in India, the government is investing heavily in infrastructure and all the big global construction equipment players are involved. Digital India is attracting huge investments from mobile manufacturers. Samsung, for example, opened its biggest plant in Delhi last year. This has seen electronica India become the country’s largest electronics trade show. Drink technology India is booming because of growing demand for drinks among middle-class Indian youth. Our fair for analytical instruments show for the pharma industry, analytica Anacon India & India Lab Expo, is also getting a boost because India is a global leader in the drugs industry. Other hot markets include ceramics, laser manufacturing, wastewater management, and the renewable energy sector.

Start-ups are future clients

MM | And future hot markets?

Singh | Pharma, chemicals, and the shows focusing on the environment are huge growth sectors, and of course the star of the show is automotive. Our region is now India’s biggest automotive hub. We’re also closely monitoring financial services, for example fintech, and the booming start-up sector. Because start-ups are future clients, we have special start-up zones in our exhibitions, which we intend to expand, and give them highly subsidized rates. So our trade shows are very strategically targeted.

MM | What have been the secrets to your success?

Singh | We are an extremely agile company and go wherever the market is. We do that by keeping our ears close to the ground, and the sound that comes from it is always better than any market research. We think long term—investing in knowledge, clients, and industries that may not bring immediate returns but will in the future. And of course, we are customer-centric.

Bhupinder Singh, © Vishal Bhanushali

We keep our ears close to the ground, and the sound that comes from it is always better than any market research“, says Bhupinder Singh, head of Messe Muenchen India

Photo: Vishal Bhanushali

MM | How do you keep your ear to the ground?

Singh | We work closely with industry, academics, government ministries, exporters, research institutes, and other stakeholders in India. They form a very important part of our speaker panel for our key buyer groups. They also form thinktanks in our trade show advisory boards, giving us insider information on industry trends. We also get feedback from visitors.

MM | How important are support programs in India?

Singh | Very! This is a complex market. For example, intercultural difficulties can make or break a business. So many foreign firms visit our buyer-seller forums to look for an Indian partner to help them develop workable local business models. We’re also the only ones in the industry offering B2G forums, where government delegates from relevant ministries address legal framework needs or tax and policy issues, and can answer firms’ questions on the spot.

We put people at the core of everything we do Bhupinder Singh

MM | It sounds like there’s a lot happening in this market!

Singh | Yes, and that can take its toll! Especially since we have so many different roles. But I think we all live in a world of disruption and in this age, one needs to adopt a can-do mentality and our team reflects that.

MM | What keeps you up at night in particular?

Singh | Taking our existing shows into newer markets and keeping an eye on the Tier 2 cities, which are constantly being disrupted by local start-ups. Three years ago, we launched a new show (India Lab Expo) and immediately afterwards, local players launched three more shows on the topic. It took us another three stressful years to become the biggest exhibition in that sector. These kinds of challenges keep you on your toes.

We celebrate every success, big or small Bhupinder Singh

MM | Let’s talk about the team. What is the Messe Muenchen India DNA?

Singh | We put people at the core of everything we do. We constantly invest in our team’s growth and development. We have a work culture that encourages dynamic and open communication—a very free environment. I am a big fan of allowing the staff to step out of the office to tank up because office walls can kill the creative spirit. And finally, we celebrate every success, big or small. You know how Indians love Bollywood and cricket? Well, above all, we love to celebrate with staff cricket matches. I think it is a beautiful expression of celebration.

By Vicki Sussens. The article was first published in our Messe München Magazine 01/2019.