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Sunday February 25th, 2024

Despite challenges, trade fairs will stay

ECONOMYNEXT – As all economic activity across the globe slowed down with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, governments and businesses put Trade Fairs on hold. Now, in the second year of the pandemic, and the gradual recovery of the global economy, organisers are looking at different methods in which Trade Fairs could be re-introduced.

Trade Fairs are integral to the economy; it is an opportunity for businesses to promote their products and make sales and more importantly, it is a platform to check out the competition, expand business networks, learn about customer preferences, and to connect with existing clients and establish new ones.

In a time almost all businesses are conducted digitally, would this be the preferred option for Trade Fairs too?  Or, are hybrid versions possible?  How could businesses showcase the capabilities and efficiency of products, if clients are unable to touch and examine innovations?

As the President of JWC, Jochen Witt explained, virtual connections work perfectly well in one to one, or one to many audiences.  Not so in the case of Trade Fairs.

It will, at least for the next year or so, take on a hybrid form, Witt told a Webinar on the ‘Comeback of Trade Fairs’, organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom(FNF), South Asia, on October 4th.  The webinar is part of the ‘Restart Asian Economies’ series conducted by FNF. The webinar was moderated by Canadian-Pakistani TV host and socio political analyst, Wakar Rizvi.

With business travel and airline capacities not expected to bounce back until at least 2025, and digital advancements taking centre stage, the trend of Trade Fairs being held across borders will take longer to make a comeback. Instead, he points out, with fewer or no restriction of movement within a country or a region, Trade Fairs will be contained within the domestic sphere. The people, he points out will be selective about the events they attend and organisers must take care in ensuring the returns are worthwhile to both exhibitor and visitor.

With cancellations a constant possibility, organisers are offering standard size booths to mitigate costs, while additional expenses such as sanitizing is shared between organiser and exhibitor.

JWC, he says is considering a hybrid version, where, while face-to-face shows would be followed by digitally connecting clients and businesses, throughout the year.  It is a concept that will try to compensate for the limited reach of a face-to-face trade show and will involve year- long events that will include training, and new interests and matching between businesses.

Panelist Sambit Kumar Mund, Senior General Manager, Business Development, Hyderabad Trade Expositions Ltd. is optimistic. While digitally connecting stakeholder will continue to be part of Trade Shows, he says he is confident that physical set ups will bounce back at least by the next quarter. Trade fairs are increasingly taking on a domestic focus he says, adding however that the scale of the exhibitions have shrunk by fifty percent.  India is seeing a decent recovery of its economy, and both the Central and State governments are focusing on the manufacturing sector, which is key to Trade Fairs. However, he notes that the hesitancy on the part of mid- level managers and project managers to take risks has resulted in constant postponements.

Despite the challenges, Hydrebad had been the first trade venue to open in India. However, the move comes with several changes to make it more attractive to exhibitors.

Where previously, fair participants were required to pay a fixed rate for the venue, organisers now require only a percentage of the revenue as rental fee. As well, the organisers of the fair take care of arranging for licenses etc. so exhibitors, who are mostly from outside the city, can focus on displaying their products and networking.

Small and large players are getting more innovative he says, adding that one trade show had an international pavilion, where Israel displayed their products for visitors to view digitally.

All of the shows follow globally accepted standard operating practices says Mund, who explained organisers are mindful that the trade fair should not turn into a hot spot for the virus. Ensuring the presence of para-medics, ambulances, on-call doctors and a medical centre is the responsibility of the venue’s management.

It would, Mund says,  be useful for businesses to consider different approaches to conducting business, in keeping with the new normal. Regional coordination, for instance better relations between India and Pakistan, would help, he points out.

Though ensuring Trade Fairs attractive to stakeholders without the sensory aspect is challenging, Witt points out that in Germany the 2G and 3G rules are enforced. (The 2G rule permits only those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid 19 to enter business premises, the 3G rules, also requires a negative PCR test.)

With all safety protocols in place, Dusseldorf had, in September held a trade fair for caravans and mobiles homes. The event had attracted 175,000 visitors.

Shaira Saleem, Chairperson, Women Entrepreneurs Association, Maldives  who said that her country is making preparations to attend a Trade Fair to be held in Germany, pointed out that while the Maldives tourist industry has been able to stay the course the pandemic has taken its toll on ancillary businesses. To ensure safety, tourists to the Maldives during the pandemic are required to remain within one resort, as are hotel staff.  While that served the purpose of controlling the spread of the virus amongst tourists, it has meant that businesses providing other services have suffered; for instance women who started businesses in 2019/2020. Even though there has been assistance from the government, with the circulation of currency within the country limited, big businesses as well and small and mid-level enterprises have faced losses.

While digital display and attendance is the preferred option, Saleem states that most Maldivians are not yet digitally savvy for that. However, she is confident that with time, things would get back to normal.

According to Mund, ancillary services such as hotels in India have slashed their prices by as much as 50 percent, and have adopted diversified business models. Already, restaurants are full and the industry is expected to bounce back by January.

Even though the pandemic resulted in workers branching out into different career paths, investor confidence remains high, says Witt. The scope and structure of Trade Fairs may change, but, he is confident that such shows will not be a thing of the past. (Colombo/Oct09/2021)

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Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

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