Micheal Dehn: “The speed at which India is able to produce and execute an exhibition is amazing”

Micheal Dehn, general manager for sales and marketing, Messe Frankfurt Trade Fairs India talks about the growing Indian OOH industry and how Messe Frankfurt’s continuous improvement is facilitating Media Expo to excel.

19 Mar 2019 | By PrintWeek India

How are the Messe Frankfurt global operations – and the one in India?
Initially, Messe Frankfurt was only known as Frankfurt where we operated the exhibition venue. But in the 1980s, the company started to expand globally, including opening an office in India. Today, the Messe Frankfurt India office has celebrated its 20 years of existence.

We have grown into a big organisation in the past decade, and have been actively hosting exhibitions in India.

Different sporting events are being hosted in India. Will this boost the OOH industry?
Yes, any event requires branding which would ultimately affect the OOH segment. Many non-traditional sports are being hosted in India and these have a huge fan following.

These fixtures give new opportunities for the OOH industry. The sporting events also bring sponsorships where OOH plays a key role.

From your six months experience in India, how do you see the Indian OOH and signage industry? What are the key areas India needs to focus on?
You are asking me where can India catch up? I’m telling you I’ve seen something that I hadn’t seen before – the outdoor campaign for the upcoming Netflix series in Mumbai. It is by far the biggest OOH branding I have seen anywhere.   

What really amazes me in India is that this industry is creating a lot of very professional looking venues overnight. The speed at which you’re able to produce and execute an exhibition is amazing. The change, the flexibility, and the production, it’s all pretty fast.

What are the plans of Messe Frankfurt in the coming years?
What we try to do in India is to create a one-stop shop for the visitors. As this industry develops, we help to facilitate development. If you compare previous Media Expo exhibitions, you will see a growth trajectory which has been phenomenal. We want to sustain this momentum and as the industry develops, we want to facilitate it.

Our focus is to upgrade this exhibition every year and make it more and more international. Because when you look at the show, we’re covering the entire signage and advertising market. The next step is to increase international participation. We are talking to international associations, international trade publications – promoting the show as we believe this show deserves much more international attention. 

Media Expo hosted the inaugural SOTI conference. Your view ...
At an exhibition, there’s more to it than the business. We also need to provide a platform to exchange the know-how and to understand the latest developments and trends. For that, we always need a conference next to an exhibition. 

Do you try to replicate the model that you created, which you follow abroad while hosting exhibitions in India?
I wouldn’t say it is identical because India has its own cultural and business uniqueness. So we always try to take on board what we can implement from our experiences in other exhibitions. At the same time, we are  mindful of the local requirements. There are certain things that work everywhere. For instance, as the show goes bigger, it’s harder for a visitor to find his way around. Also if I have a specific product in mind that I’m interested to buy, I need to know the exact location of the exhibitors.

When you look at our website, we have a fairly comprehensive planning tool, which is our exhibitor search and the product search. So, the product search will give you the list of exhibitors exhibiting that particular product. At the end of the day, as a buyer, you normally know what you need. We are focussed on enhancing the visitor-exhibitor interaction.  

If a visitor gets more out of the visit, he will also buy more, thereby making the exhibitors happy.

So what is your opinion on the need for sustainability in the signage industry?
When you look at the development of sustainable products, I would say it’s always a mix of government requirements and brand demand. In some cases, the government has to facilitate this process because it has a bigger interest in the sustainable use of resources.

On the other hand, it’s also the requirement of the customer. I would say it’s a combination of these two drivers that lead to more products that are sustainable, and that’s what we are seeing everywhere around the world.

Micheal Dehn has been with Messe Frankfurt for 20 years. His initial four years were in Frankfurt and the last 16 years in Dubai. Since the past six months, he has been in India handling the operations of Media Expo. Prior to Media Expo, Dehn has had experience of hosting exhibitions related to security, cosmetics, automotive, and electrical segments.