Pakistan is finally realising the advantages of holding large-scale expos and as the economy moves towards recovery, the idea that industrial and commercial trade events can increase visibility and attract foreign investment is gaining traction among the local business community, especially since Pakistan was recently upgraded by MSCI from a ‘frontier market’ to an ‘emerging market’.
Before the expo culture kick-started in Pakistan, exhibitions held on a small scale let businesses showcase their products before the general public. While these exhibitions were an effective tool for companies to connect with their target audiences, the advent of the large-scale exposition has let businesses reach out to a wider audience, use media as an aggressive promotion tool, and count footfall to measure the popularity of the event.
For quite some time, the expo scene in Pakistan was propelled forward by Dawn Media Group’s Dawn Education Expo, a yearly event revolving around the academic and career counseling of students by representatives of various universities.
The Education expo tapped into the realization that catering to a large student base’s ambitions of acquiring higher education at the best global institutes was the need of the time when Pakistan was opening up to the world under General Pervaiz Musharraf’s modernization policies, thus, enabling the exchange of ideas on business, commerce, science, technology and education at the global level. The concurrent reforming of the Higher Education Commission enabled the government to send more students abroad through exchange programmes and scholarships.
The city of Lahore was the place to be in Pakistan come the National Industrial Exhibition (also known as Qaumi Sanati Numaish) usually held at Fortress Stadium. At the Numaish families got a fun day out, people found good bargains on products and acquired excellent free advice from experts present at the venue. The face-to-face rapport created a bond of trust between business and consumer that would not have been possible without interpersonal communication.
A revivalist surge
In 2013, Pakistan’s first online property portal Zameen.com held its debut property expo – PREEX 2013 – in collaboration with Lahore International Expo Centre.
The concept of a real estate expo clicked with the audience from the word go since it provided an organised platform to people where they could clear up any confusions regarding everything real estate. The easy availability of information and access to additional resources was an attractive proposition: the 2013 expo welcomed 30,000 visitors; 2016 had 45, 000.
An effective business tool
Expos follow the most basic rule of human interaction: interpersonal communication. Putting buyers and sellers in one location lets companies market to a wider audience, while consumers can evaluate and compare before making a decision. It is reassuring to talk, get answers to difficult questions and form a knowledgeable opinion, whereas for a business, in-person interaction with a potential client raises the success rate of sealing a deal.
Large scale exhibitions help boost regional and national industry by providing a shop window for goods and encouraging foreign investment. This is a cost-effective method of networking and advertising which saves companies precious capital while also leveling the playing field; a small local business and a multinational corporation will both have open access to visitors; both can market their products and services on an equal footing.
A source of wholesome entertainment
Expos invariably feature entertainment in the form of musical shows and food stalls. Often there are raffles, lucky draws and contests that let people compete for prizes. For families starved of leisure options due to the menace of terrorism and an underperforming economy, expos are undoubtedly a very welcome relief.