CEO Middle East
HOW WE SURVIVED
Shenin Hamid shares how her events company has had to adapt in 2020
THE EVENTS INDUSTRY HAS BEEN HIT HARDER THAN MANY SECTORS IN 2020. WITH NO EVENTS BOTH MANDATED BY LAW AS WELL AS SOCIAL DISTANCING REGULATIONS, IT HAS FORCED EVENTS COMPANIES TO ADAPT, PIVOT AND MAKE DIFFICULT DECISIONS. SHENIN HAMID, DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EVENTS AT INSPIRE GROUP, SHARES HER INSIGHTS INTO HOW EVEN A HARD-HIT SECTOR CAN SURVIVE AND IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES
What has the experience been like for your business? As an agency, diversification has been very important to us. If I had to name one thing we did right, it would be that we diversified quickly – this has allowed us to stay afloat in these times. When the events industry came to a shocking halt at the start of the pandemic, shoppers went out to the convenient stores to load up on groceries and basic produce; this led to the quick boom in the FMCG world that allowed us to work with our clients to create interactive, COVID friendly in-store activations. We brainstormed contactless engagements, loyalty programmes and virtual interactive solutions that directly impact product sales online and in stores and kept social distancing and health and safety as the utmost priority.
Events disappeared, almost overnight. It was something I never imagined would happen. Events that had been confirmed were either delayed indefinitely or cancelled completely. Deposits that were due were recalled, payments delayed, borders closed, staff stuck overseas across the Middle East. That being said, payrolls had to be met, overheads did not magically disappear, our warehouses across KSA and UAE were full of event materials/productions items that had to be immediately put to a stop with no execution date in sight and an indefinite delay. We had to make some massive changes, important decisions to restructure and rethink our services, add in new services that would support our virtual offerings to make us more efficient and add significant value for our clients specifically in this time.
If events companies can ‘pivot’ and adapt their offering, others can too. What must companies do now to ensure their survival?
I’ve only really understood the depth and meaning of pivoting in the last six months - we had to pivot and find other ways of offering our services – whether it be online or offline. We asked ourselves, how were we going to adapt to this new world? ‘What do no-touch activations with social distancing look like?’, ‘How would we offer the same services we would generally but without actual people onground?’. One of the solutions we agreed on was, instead of in-store promoters we offered virtual support assistants on a tablet that was embedded into the product shelf that consumers could tap on anytime and get real-time assistance and
recommendations – a virtual promoter!
We went through every pillar of our services dissecting every element and matching it with hundreds of scenarios that aligned with the ministry guidelines and included social distancing with the outcome in mind. In this time, the most important question to ask is ‘How are we solving this problem?’, ‘How is our service adding value to our clients in the current scenario?’, ‘What are some creative ways we can change our offering to better fit what is needed now?’.
Virtual, digital and automated are big themes for the new face of business. How do these relate to the events industry?
I have seen some amazing creative virtual events this year, everything from exhibitions, award ceremonies, gala events and even concerts, If someone told me this 12 months prior – I wouldn’t believe them, but this has now become a reality and ‘virtual’, ‘digital’ and ‘automated’ play a huge role and will continue to play a significant one in the near future
– it solves a huge problem and solves it well – at the comfort of our homes. The same goes for digital and automation, we introduced some great new interactive digital campaigns that are accessible to millions of people all over the world, they have a larger bandwidth and a greater impact - again, all of this while solving a current problem of gathering, crowds, social distancing.
At certain stages in history, entire industries have vanished and been rendered obsolete almost overnight. Is your industry over? Are events ‘on hold’ for the foreseeable?
Events play such an important role in our lives and all over the world. They bring joy, happiness and celebration, some mark the most crucial milestones in life.
Covid has put a temporary stop to many things – but I’m sure events will bounce back and I’m already seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with events resurrecting across the Middle East, at a very small scale but they will be up and running and full throttle soon!
Large-scale gatherings, events, parties and celebrations have been a fabric of society since the dawn of time. What does their absence mean for you personally, culturally and from a business perspective?
Events have always been a huge part of my life. In my beautiful Indian culture, events are deeply rooted and bring people together in celebration which we all cherish and have missed tremendously.
But I have also enjoyed giving myself time and doing small things that bring joy to me, that I could never do on a regular busy day. It could be anything from taking an art class to having a go at stand-up comedy to re-organising my closet. This in a way, has also brought our family closer together and plenty more Zoom calls!
As an entrepreneur, are you looking to evolve your expertise and offering? How does learning, new strategy and business models apply to you, and what do you think other leaders in other industries can learn from how events companies have successfully managed to evolve in a short space of time?
As a child I always loved creativity – to create something with my hands like a sculpture or a hair braid. It always fuelled my passion and pushed me to move on to the next big idea and I’ve always believed that innovation brings life. In order to survive in any market or industry, constant innovation is imperative especially at this time. We had to quickly think about how we could fit in, change and offer a solution that added value to the current situation and to our client, from contactless and socially distanced activations, virtual events, consumer-centric digital marketing to name a few. In order to innovate quickly – we have to learn quickly.
Events is a very creative industry that is run by terrific people who have the ability to create beautiful things. I strongly believe, it’s the people who make an industry what it is, and people in events are extremely creative people that constantly innovate and innovation is key to bring this industry back.
Digital technology has been a huge player for almost everyone. How has it helped your business?
Technology has always been the fore runner of most of our services, it really runs in the forefront of all our services. We create a combination of hardware and software solutions for our clients at events, activations, galas, live events etc.
Some of our amazing technology services include hologram displays, virtual reality portals, sensor-based vending machines for roadshows and on-ground activations, large 3D outdoor displays, augmented reality climbing walls, multitouch screens, LED POSM solutions in-store for FMCG products, interactive stands and displays, to name a few.
These solutions have helped our clients adapt to the new social distancing regulations more effectively that drive instant results.