Automation Expo Connect – Taking the Show to the Audience
Published on : Saturday 09-10-2021
Automation Expo Connect, the maiden virtual exhibition was a huge success taking the event to its target audience in the safety of their offices and homes.
The Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world in early 2020 caused much disruption globally in every sphere of life. Much has been written about it and though it appears at the moment that the worst is over, it is too early to be complacent. One of the worst affected business segments is the global events and exhibitions industry, with travel restrictions and crowd management protocols ruling out holding events on such a large scale. Automation Expo – the much awaited annual event and Asia’s leading Automation & Instrumentation Exhibition – was just one of the countless events thus affected, ruling out the 2020 edition. But like many other activities, technology also provided a solution and in the third week of September, Automation Expo Connect 2021 was conducted in the virtual world with global access, recreating the ambience of the physical event to the extent possible. While it was fingers crossed as to how such a hugely popular show would fare in the digital space, after four days of the show, the verdict was unanimous, with all the stakeholders – the exhibitors, visitors and expert professionals participating in the various conferences and seminars – giving it a collective thumbs up!
“With the maiden effort at conducting the Automation Expo in a virtual format after 20 years of physical events, I am very pleased to say the response exceeded our expectations,” said Dr M Arokiaswamy, the Visionary Founder and Managing Director of IED Communications, organisers of the show. “The event transcended the traditional barriers of national boundaries and time zones, connecting people across the globe. The products showcased as well as the technology presentations were well received by one and all. The efforts put into the show by the exhibitors were amazing,” he added.
Over 100 exhibitors participated in the event, with the booths spread across 4 halls. Apart from the host country India, there were four others represented at this event – USA, Canada, UK, China and Taiwan. Canada was represented through an exclusive Country Pavilion. The four Conference Halls played host to 4 conferences and 41 technical presentations as well as a dozen Industrie 4.0 presentations. TAITRA held an exclusive Taiwan Excellence Webinar. All visitors were registered and provided access, also connected with all the booth managers who received their basic contact details apart from company names. A total of 10,350+ unique visitor IDs were thus recorded, and 29,871 footfalls registered. The networking chat option, made available to the Platinum, Gold and Ruby booths to interact with the visitors, was done for the first time in a virtual expo and used by over 8500 visitors.
“Automation Expo Connect 2021 provided a great opportunity to learn new innovation based technologies and new products launched by solution providers. It was a very good virtual meet after a long time,” said Dr B R Mehta, the former Sr Vice President of Reliance Industries Ltd, and a veteran of the automation industry.
“I wish take this opportunity to thank the IED Communications team for organising their first virtual exhibition, Automation Expo Connect 2021. We at Automation Combine had a wonderful experience attending the expo as the Event Partner. During the 4-day online exhibition, the Automation Combine team touched base with almost 600 visitors to our booth. I wish to personally thank all the visitors for attending the exhibition and making it a grand success,” said Mr Joseph Cherian, Sales Director, Automation Combine.
“Automation Expo Connect – the virtual edition, has been a wonderful experience for us. It was good to see and interact with so many customers and showcase our products, plants and solutions to them. The digital platform made it possible for our team to interact with several customers from all across the globe through audio, video and WhatsApp channels. Overall our team could make a good impact, thanks to the organisers providing a seamless interface,” said Mr Shyam Warialani, Managing Director, Baumer Technology India Pvt Ltd. The company is the well-known global specialist for sensor technology, encoders, measuring instruments and components for automated image processing.
These are early days to organise virtual editions of such large scale exhibitions like Automation Expo and that came in for special mention. “Automation Expo Connect was a unique virtual exhibition imbibed with the spirit and emotions of a physical exhibition by all means. This will be remembered for years to come as a very special event by the Exhibitors, Speakers and all other Participants. Kudos to the organisers and all concerned working behind the scenes to make this extraordinary event for the Automation fraternity of India,” observed Dr Thampy Mathew, Managing Director, Pepperl+Fuchs (India) Pvt Ltd.
For industries that are constantly looking for upgrades and newer technologies providing incremental benefits in scaling up to the next level, exposure to new products is a critical requirement, but it goes beyond that. Exhibitions are an important forum for knowledge sharing and information gathering with hundreds of vendors and their marketing teams assembling at a single venue and the resultant networking opportunities with peers and fellow professionals, something that was sorely missed during the pandemic.
“Automation Expo Connect gave us the opportunity to learn about the latest innovations in the I & C field via technical presentations, Expert talks & Seminars. We were able to visit the various stalls at our convenience even late at night – without affecting our office work – and were able to connect with vendors via audio/video modes and find products and technologies suitable to the needs of Nuclear Power Industry,” said Mr Neeraj Agrawal, ED (E&I), Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), providing an end user industry perspective.
Zoom fatigue was a common refrain one came across after the early days of lockdown when most offices followed the work-from-home routine and online became the new normal. That also generated a certain amount of scepticism for the efficacy of the virtual model for events. Automation Expo Connect proved that for an iconic show there is no such thing as digital fatigue. A testimony from Mr V B Srikar, Co-Chairman, Nagman Instruments Consortium, a comprehensive calibration solutions provider through Standards, Systems, Software & Services, proved this point. “The overall virtual exhibition is really well organised connecting people across the country. There were more than 400 visitors to our booth till now and we are expecting 50-60 more till closing time. To be honest, even in regular exhibitions we did not receive the kind of leads we got here, thanks to the convenience people found of browsing from home even at late hours,” he observed on Day 4, the last day of the show.
“A very novel and truly rewarding experience for Orbital. It gave us the right platform to showcase the most recent additions to our portfolio,” said Mr Ranjit Kambil, Director, Orbital Mekatronik Systems Pvt Ltd, a seasoned technopreneur providing safety and automation solutions. Ranjit has a ringside view of the industry as a manufacturer of import substitute Machine Tools and Safety and Automation Systems, as well as a provider of Safety, Automation, Robots and Conveyor solutions for industry, through tie ups with several international partners. “Virtual exhibitions are here to stay and probably co-exist as a hybrid model once normalcy returns,” he opined.
So is virtual or hybrid going to be a new trend, the new normal? Dr Kirti Shah, Associate Director, Engineering – Brownfield Projects, Aker Solutions, feels so. “Excellent glitch free technical sessions and exhibition showcasing new products where one can directly talk with the product experts. A new benchmark in virtual technical exhibitions. Keep scaling high. Expecting Automation Expo 2022 to be a hybrid event – in-person and virtual,” he said.
The organisers came in for special praise for the conferences, seminars and presentations by individual exhibitors. “This is the first of its kind virtual event in India with over 100 exhibitors and several conferences managed proficiently by IED Communications. It was as good as a physical event,” noted Mr G Ganapathiraman, Vice President & GM (India & South East Asian Operations), ARC Advisory Group.
The success of the conferences and concurrent events was also noted by another industry veteran, Dr V P Raman, Consultant, Tecton Engineering & Construction LLC – UAE. “The various technical conferences on Future of Automation, IIoT, Cybersecurity and Smart Factory, along with other technical sessions on Industry 4.0 and various Product Launches were exceptional and well appreciated by the participating delegates, as it covered the latest technological developments in the field of automation, featuring eminent speakers from industry. It was a seamless experience for the speakers as well as the audience, all connected from different locations. The virtual platform design from entry to various stalls were grand. The testimony for the success of this virtual expo is the number of delegates participating in the event, which crossed 10,000+, as I understand,” he said.
“In the last few months many of the physical events ranging from concerts to conferences, were cancelled and replaced by virtual ones. Similarly, Automation Expo Connect has given multifold benefits to customers and suppliers of automation industries. More than 300 technocrats who attended the sessions have benefitted from world class speakers during the conferences on IIoT, Cybersecurity and Factory Automation, as well as the Experts Talk on Future of Automation. The overall layout of the expo, product displays, live chat with stall owners were outstanding,” said Dr Keyur Vora, Vice President/HoD (C&I), Adani – Petrochemical Business and former Vice President – C&I (RIL).
The backend work done by connecting the visitors with the exhibitors facilitated instant connect through email and WhatsApp. “Automation Expo Connect 2021 was an excellent digital technology show. The most exciting feature was immediately getting calls from the booths one visited,” said Dr Firdous Ansari, Group Head – Vice President, Techport-Cement Industrial India LafargeHolcim.
“This is the first Automation show of this kind – Virtual – for IED Communications, and very interesting for us. I would like to compliment the entire IED team for organising such a beautiful event with fantastic technical presentations,” said Mr PSP Rao, Jt Managing Director at Tecnimont Private Limited, and an Engineering Excellence Centre for the Maire Tecnimont Group.
Customer satisfaction is also an important factor in any service and it is no different at an expo, physical or digital. “Participating in the Automation Expo Connect was a new and exciting experience, bringing customers closer to us for better understanding of our products and offerings. This in turn should generate more inquiries, and we hope, boost our sales. The virtual expo was well organised by the IED Team, always at hand to assist us. We look forward to the next edition in 2022,” said Mr Sahir Chopdar, Head of Sales & Marketing, Messung Systems Pvt Ltd.
“We had participated as a Platinum Exhibitor, and received very good response from the visitors. I would like to appreciate the efforts made, particularly in technical presentations. It was very easy to participate in technical presentations from anywhere and the themes chosen were very right and relevant with excellent choice of speakers. I really appreciate the efforts and the overall experience of participating in this virtual exhibition as a participant and a visitor, has been fantastic,” said Ramesh Bhorania, Vice President – Robotics & FA at Prama Hikvision Pvt Ltd.
Summing up, Mr PV Sivaram, Evangelist for Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, Industrial Automation captured some new insights from this virtual event: the technical competence of the organiser IED Communications in handling a new medium; the ready acceptance by the exhibitor community; the easy familiarity of visitors to navigate through the expo; and presenters being so adept on online medium. Another positive impact, according to him, was how exhibitors could record and respond to visitors in real time, and follow up with each and every single visitor. “All in all, the virtual expo was a triumph and surely I feel this is a format which we will be happy to ‘connect’ with next year,” he concluded.