Situation in the exhibition industry of Azerbaijan will remain stable - Farid Mammadov, Director of Iteca Caspian
About the company: Iteca Caspian LLC that organises the largest exhibitions and conferences in the Caspian region and is a partner of ITE Group plc, one of the world’s leading event organizers, was established in 2000. Every year, the company holds over 20 exhibitions and conferences in Azerbaijan and Georgia covering the following industries: oil and gas, construction, telecommunications and IT, security, food and drink, agriculture, transport, healthcare, health and beauty, travel and tourism, hospitality, education and careers and the environment.
Exhibitions organized in Azerbaijan pass annual audits of UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Caspian Oil & Gas, BakuBuild, WorldFood Azerbaijan, BIHE, BakuTel, AITF hold UFI ‘Approved Event’ status, testifying to the high standards of the events and the reliability of their statistics. All exhibitions are officially supported by institutions within the Azerbaijan Government.
Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Mammadov, how did the situation in the exhibition market of Azerbaijan change?
Farid Mammadov, Director of Iteca Caspian: The situation in the exhibition market reflects the general situation in international markets. Now we see structural changes in almost all sectors of economy, and exhibitions being closely linked to the sectors reflect these processes. At such times, some companies leave showcases, while others join them or change a form of their participation. However, market players have noticed long ago: a participation in showcases, namely those with a good reputation and trusted by exhibitors, is the indicator of stability in the market. In times of crisis when the picture of the economic reality changes sometimes at lightning speed, the need for an effective seller-buyer communication is growing in the professional environment. Against this background a participation in showcases is indispensable, since live communication with potential and existing partners brings confidence to all participants of business processes. Some things can be traditionally said only in private conversation, and it is a clear fact that the number of such topics is growing against the backdrop of the rapidly changing market environment.
I would like to note that currently companies are committed to saving and reducing their costs. Therefore, many exhibitors chose a more rational approach to the costs of participation in showcases: they build a more modest stand, more carefully work on their strategy of participation, reduce expenses on handouts and get more focused on the work at the stand. However, companies oriented at success do not raise the question whether to participate or not. We as organisers understand that local companies now feel some discomfort due to the devaluation of the manat, so we try to work together to find solutions for a profitable participation in local business showcases, work out and offer special conditions of participation for our corporate, loyal customers and sponsors. It will be easier for us to overcome this period of transition together, and so I think that the situation in the exhibition industry of Azerbaijan will remain stable.
CE: Which new possibilities are opening up in this segment of the market taking into account the ongoing reforms in Azerbaijan? How active are now export-oriented companies in the market?
Farid Mammadov: Undoubtedly, the anti-crisis measures that the republic's leadership has taken in recent years, including simplification of foreign trade transactions and registration of rights to immovable property, changes of permit laws on construction, corporate management optimization, protection of investors' interests, suspension of inspections at businesses for two years, simplification of administrative procedures in the field of licensing and customs, reducing the list of business activities requiring a license and others, have had a good impact on the business climate in the country. Companies feel the support of the government and, in my opinion, those companies that transform more quickly, adapting to the new realities, will be successful in the future. With pleasure I would like to note that it is the case for many participants of showcases in Azerbaijan.
Export-oriented local companies always take part in exhibitions hosted both in Baku and also showcases which our partner ITE Group organises in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkey and other countries. And yet, their activity is not high enough in my opinion. For some geopolitical reasons, such as introducing sanctions against a number of countries, companies from Azerbaijan enjoyed the opportunities to occupy a niche in such areas as export of agricultural products or tourism. In this case there is no better tool for promoting products and services, assessments of their competitiveness than showcases.
CE: What are your expectations from traditional showcases? How have the approaches to their organisation changed?
Farid Mammadov: Expectations are positive. This year's calendar included 16 showcases and they all will take place at the scheduled time, in BakuExpoCenter. Work on exhibitions is well underway, and judging by the dynamics of the shown interest we can predict that a number of exhibitions will retain their last year's performance, which is very important. Of course, one cannot deny the fact that some exhibitions will reduce their areas by 10-15 per cent, but at this stage adaptation of companies to new market conditions was expected.
Approaches to the organisation have not changed, since our showcases organisation strategy has proved to be successful for so many years. In our work on exhibitions we have always used the latest trends in the organisation of showcases. And now we are introducing different IT technologies such as mobile applications for our exhibitions, new and more convenient versions of the sites. We actively share our news on social networks.
CE: The Oil and Gas Conference is one of the major events of the oil and gas sector of the country. What innovations will be offered to the conference attendees?
Farid Mammadov: TheCaspian Oil & Gas Exhibition and Conference with its own traditions and format is a key event of the energy sector not only in Azerbaijan, but in the entire region. Every year leaders of the oil industry take part in the exhibition to showcase cutting-edge technologies in the field of oil-gas production and refining, transportation, logistics and services. 40% of the permanent exhibitors is the excellent indicator, testifying to the fact that despite having major investment projects implemented in previous years Azerbaijan goes on developing and opening more and more new opportunities for cooperation.
This year the international conference will be held on June 2-3 at the JW Marriott Absheron Baku and is expected to bring together over 400 delegates from 30 countries. This time delegates will be offered such topics as the further development of the oil and gas industry of Azerbaijan in modern realities, the role of Azerbaijan in ensuring energy supplies to world markets, environmental and industrial safety of supplies and other hot topics. This year the conference for the first time will include the topic on training of specialists for oil and gas projects. During this session experts will focus on commitments of market participants related to personnel and social responsibility, the development of head hunting systems, training programs and other technologies that help employees to become more efficient, building performance measurement systems and formation of a personnel reserve, and many other topics.
The conference will be held in the traditional style, which includes business communication in different formats. Also we are heavily promoting our mobile app among the conference attendees. The app will be available very soon. It keeps abreast of all the latest information updates at the conference.
CE: Which new areas will showcases cover this year?
Farid Mammadov: At this stage, our exhibition portfolio covers quite a wide range of themes that we will develop both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Moreover, we are committed to adding new sectors to the “exhibition menu” to attract expositions of the related sectors. For example, in the framework of the AITF exhibition we are actively developing the sector of “medical tourism”. For the first time we hosted a workshop as part of the AITF tourism exhibition and to be able to organise it we created a special online-system for meetings appointment. During the pre-scheduled meeting the workshop attendees were able to establish business contacts with representatives of the leading local tourism companies, to hold direct talks without intermediaries, to get a real idea of how a particular tourism product was perceived by the market. With great pleasure I would note that we received a lot of positive feedback about the workshop from local and foreign exhibitors. This inspired us to hold similar events during other exhibitions, too. We are hopeful that these and other additional events will bring benefits to exhibitors and enable us to continue work in this direction.
Interview made by Jeyhun Bayramov, Olga Nagiyeva