DMG ’s Simon Mellor and Andy White, organisers of The Big 5, tell The Big Project’s Melanie Mingas why the exhibition is still the place to be
Last year, The Big 5 attracted more than 45,000 visitors from 71 countries. In 2010, despite project delays, job cuts and debt restructuring deals shaking the industry, The Big 5 is still big.
Nearly 2000 exhibitors, big-name speakers and interesting industry product launches are drawing a crowd of thousands to the Dubai World Trade Centre for four days this month.
“We are well aware that Dubai has had a slowdown but The Big 5 is not a Dubai show, it is a regional show and our audience comes from far and wide just to buy. We also get quite a few visitors from countries where we don’t do a huge amount of marketing,” explains event director Andy White.
From the DMG Events office, White works with the group’s senior vice president for construction, Simon Mellor, to get the 2010 show on the road. It’s a process that began before the 2009 stands were even dismantled and the creative, contracts and floor plan for 2011 are already on the drawing board.
“Our job is to make it bigger and more exciting every year. We attend shows all over the world and you’re always looking for fresh innovative approaches.
“Research, particularly among exhibitors, echoes that this is very much a barometer for the Middle East region,” says Mellor.
Among the fresh approaches at this year’s show are ‘country days’, product categorisation, large-scale conferences and new, accredited training opportunities. Building on the feedback from 2009, the show is more accessible for visitors and exhibitors, with more country pavilions and even personalised online accounts for businesses to book appointments with potential clients in advance.
“Because of the size of the show you can be looking at anywhere between 200 and 400 companies bringing products and services that have never been seen in the Middle East before. For a lot of events, that alone equates to an entire show.
The Big 5 is not a Dubai show, it is a regional show and our audience comes from far and wide just to buy”
“The buyers we reach out to know there isn’t anywhere else in the region where they can see the breadth and depth of international expertise, products and technology that they do here every year,” he adds.
Whether it’s your first visit or you remember the inaugural exhibition, the focus this year is on maximising returns; on investment and time.
White joined DMG in February this year, after 20 years’ experience on exhibitions, construction magazines and internationally-recognised events such as The Furniture Show and One Show; this is his first The Big 5.
“Having worked in the UK for many years, one of the advantages of the Middle East is that you can have an open mind. People love to network; face-to-face contact is far more important here and we provide the platform where they can have that,” he says.
Up to 80% of visitors are personally involved in buying the products or services
Building on success
Within DMG Events’ portfolio, The Big 5 is the largest show in the Middle East and North Africa and the third largest globally. The numbers speak for themselves; in 2009 the show hosted 45,177 visitors and 3143 companies, representing 71 countries; 18 countries more than the previous year.
Feedback from 2009 indicated that 80% of visitors appointed a new supplier after the show and 91% of visitors said the event is the only place to keep up with new products and market trends.
White explains: “We’re audited now, and that is really important in the current climate as people need data they can trust.”
The group says sales this year have been as strong as ever with new markets emerging in countries where the show isn’t even marketed.
Mellor attributes the vigour to strong distributor markets: “The recession, in terms of the US and Europe, has been felt here but there are still a lot of distributors looking to promote their products across the MENA region. In a global context, the market here is actually quite positive.”
With a strong drive on product categorisation, White says facilities services and facilities construction have both “fared well” this year.
With billions of dollars of spending power under one — albeit huge — roof for four days, it’s easy to see the light at the end of the downturn. After a difficult 18 months, Mellor says raw material prices have now decreased and projects are being re-tendered and re-costed.
In addition, training programmes will address the zeitgeist issues, which Mellor and White say are costs and the environment; particularly eco-friendly buildings and sourcing eco-friendly products.
Highlighting the positives, Mellor added: “There will be a lot of people looking to the show for a sense of how the industry is performing and the fact that it is the same size as last year is an extremely positive message.”
Visitor Breakdown 2009
GCC (inc. UAE)
The event itself will remain the who’s who of the industry for a long time to come. The 22 speakers lined up for the conference programme over the coming days include names such as Turner International Middle East chairman and CEO Ali Odeh; Al Shafar General Contracting CEO Bishoy Azmy, Oger Abu Dhabi general manager Richard Chammas and TECOM Investments executive director Sougata Nandi.
“I’m looking forward to the conference programme and the country days,” says Mellor.
“The country days are a new initiative and an exciting one and it’s a way to broaden people’s outlook, which many are looking for.”
Wishing the show’s visitors a successful and rewarding experience and a safe journey, he adds: “I am also looking forward to a quality team enjoying four days of the show.
“They work hard all year for it and it is nice to see them rewarded with happy visitors and happy exhibitors.”
“Training is a relatively new initiative this year,” says DMG’s Simon Mellor.
“The opportunities are significant; many large professional organisations have provided strong, international, credible trainers.”
Adding to the demand is a desire in the job market to “look for that little edge” at a time when many companies are shedding staff Certified courses cover dispute resolution, safety for senior executives, project management andleadership, construction waste and waste management, structural engineering and understanding LEED ratings.
The seminar programme covers marketing, sales, green products and improving processes through technology. More than 20 speakers from the most significant companies will lead conferences on topics including financial stability, procurement and delivery and safety.
Providing leads and practical tips for doing business abroad, the country days are a new initiative assembling key governments, product managers and contractors.
“At the moment we have a number of country days planned. They will be short sessions for people to find out how they can break into key markets. It gives companies a chance to ask ‘how do I expand my business from the UAE?’ and I think that’s a very good opportunity,” says DMG’s Andy White.
Now in their third year, the Gaia Awards are intended to raise the profile of “environmentallysound” products and services in the GCC region. Judges from government, local developers and contractors award bronze medals for commended products, silver for highly-commended and a single gold award for the “most exceptional”.
“There is very little benchmarking in the industry so a number of companies are starting to come forward with the news that commercially they are winning business because of the award. That’s where it starts to get quite interesting and people realise the value at stake of being involved,” comments Mellor.
Silver award winner 2009 CME Sanitary Systems’ Manjit Lall adds: “In today’s current environment, all businesses need to show responsibility, be it through their products or processes.”