Aug 10 - 16, 2009

To explore new foreign markets for Pakistani products it is necessary for the government and all stakeholders to attract potential buyers. One international recognizable way of doing this is proving them with a plate form where they can- in limited time, money, and space -interact with a number of solution providers underneath one roof.

While trade fairs and expositions give such an assemblage point to spawn interaction between buyers and suppliers, current world economic disturbances are drying interests of foreign companies to participate in them, comments Aasim Siddiqui, Chairman and Managing Director Pegasus Consultancy- a mutlisectoral event organizer of Pakistan. Its claim to fame is ExpoPakistan, an international trade fair, organized by TDAP and Pegasus. They have planned fifth ExpoPakistan from October 23.

Talking to this correspondent, he said exhibitions were decreasing in international market and foreigners were contracting their world exposures. Although, global economic and financial downturns did not affect Pakistan's economy as adversely as they did to developed economies, believes Aasim, who is a graduate of London School of Economics, "Domestic security issues are seriously imperilling the economy by discouraging foreigners".

However, military operation against militants in Pakistan may revive confidence of foreigners, he observed. He said compared with the high intensity of global recession, the Pakistan had experienced marginal GDP growth. Last financial year, exports from Pakistan declined by 6.7 percent to $17.8 billion as against $19.1 billion in fiscal year 2007-08. It was the realisation of the government of severe impact of falling exports orders on export-driven economy that it had activated trade promotion institutions to make aggressive marketing strategies on the eve of changing world economy. Since then, state-funded trade development authority of Pakistan (TDAP) came in to full action to organize trade exhibitions in Pakistan and began collaborating with internationally-linked local event organizer to actuate foreign participation.

The level of foreign participation has not been impressive due to travel advisories issued to importers who were reluctant to come to Pakistan. According to him, foreign organizers want to host trade shows in Pakistan. There happens to be no or exorbitant insurance premiums on foreign travellers, making the purpose of the visit uncompetitive. Comprehensive insurance cover for foreigners on usual premium rates may relist Pakistan in cost-effective itinerary of foreigners. "To increase global share of Pakistani exports trade fairs are essential," said Aasim adding: "We have to stimulate buying power through ensuring comforts and security to foreigners."

According to him, there is a vibrant demand of Pakistani products in international market. It is wrong to say that Pakistani products are loosing international competitiveness, he says. "Regular visits of buyers can be useful to capitalize on demands." Attending exhibition is cost-effective for importers travelling long distance to Pakistan to contract out suppliers since they know they could meet 20 to 30 suppliers under one roof, he replied to a question.

He feels organization of trade fair in foreign country is needless, saying, "We do not need to reinvent the wheel". There is an already a big textile event in Germany, for instance, so it is better for Pakistani textile trader to book stalls there, he said referring to Heimtextile, international home textile trade fair, held annually in Frankfurt. The India failed in replicating the event in its country.

To him, the time is not ripe in Pakistan to arrange specialised trade fair. Germany is the hub of textile and in that single event 30 to 40,000 foreigners participate, whereas Pegasus organised a mega event in which foreign visitors numbered 1,000, he compared while not explaining the inappropriateness of specialised trade fair in Pakistan. To a question, he said 60 international exhibitions were organized in a year in Pakistan while UK and Europe had over 200 trade fairs annually. 'Yes, our research side is too strong,' promptly answered Aasim, saying event planning features market assessment and guests facilitation services. Event planner disseminates detail guidelines about travelling requirements, geographical overview, accommodation, and illustration of industries. Media is a key source of research materials, according to the promotional contents he shared with this correspondent.

The event organizer was the sponsor and organiser of International Defence Exhibition and Seminar- Ideas 2000. It plans to organize single-country exhibitions to promote Pakistan's industries world over. The purpose is to display exclusively indigenous sectors, products and services. Trade exhibitions are not only important to highlight potential of industries, but they are also direly needed in this crucial time Pakistan is passing through to spruce up country's image. There are various event management companies in Pakistan, but only few have unveiled capacity to organize international events. According to him, it is not easy to make alliance with foreign companies to set up a local event. 'International alliance is not easy as it is not serving the local market. Besides, working has to be defined very clearly. However, we are looking towards it.' He could not answer if is there a need to build expo centre in Faisalabad, dubbed as Manchester of Pakistan for its having composite textile supply chains.

Exhibitions are trade promotional activities and should be planned accordingly to produce desirable outcomes. Trade shows are effective to generate leads, and state run enterprises as well as private sector make lucrative businesses in addition to networking by participating in them. There are some people, who term stall's occupancy in trade shows as waste of money, berating the unfiltered visits in exhibitions. 'We can not stop wanderers from visiting the events; however we ensure that shows we host prohibit underage entrants,' said Chairman Pegasus.