Interview: Helal Al Marri

ITP.net talks to Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the man behind the organisation of the region’s biggest annual technology event.

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By  Administrator Published  August 26, 2007

ITP.net talks to Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the man behind the organisation of the region's biggest annual technology event.

How do you respond to criticism that there will be fewer big names at this year's GITEX?

GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK continues to receive the unanimous support from world's leading technology leaders including IBM, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, HP, Dell, Oracle, SAP, Cognos, I-mate, du, etisalat, Cisco Linksys, Acer, Sun MicroSystems, Trend Micro, Symantec, and Blackberry.

We are operating in a dynamic business environment, especially in the ICT circuit; therefore it is necessary for our customers to adapt their marketing strategy year-to-year to ensure they meet their overall business objectives. Many have increased stand size at either GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK or GITEX SHOPPER, others are concentrating more on business development via their partners or through the conference programme.

Our mission as the organiser of one of the world's leading technology events is to serve the long-term needs of the international ICT community as a whole. The consistently high return of exhibitors and visitors to the event over the years, along with the waiting list of interested companies is a testimony to the robust and enduring business opportunities GITEX delivers to the international ICT community.

What challenges have there been in preparing for this year's show?

There are many factors involved in producing a successful show and Dubai World Trade Centre has vast experience in organising an event of this magnitude and international stature.

In-house preparations include show concept planning, and executing an international marketing campaign geared towards attracting both exhibitors and visitors. We also coordinate with various local authorities including Dubai Police and RTA, and travel and hospitality organizations to ensure a smooth operation.

What feedback did you receive from last year's show that has been implemented in the organising of GITEX 2007?

Last year's feedback was critical in shaping this year's sectorisation strategy, as well as the introduction of new initiatives such as the GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK Priority Club which responds to the needs of the increasing number of senior executives attending the show who are looking for ways to maximize their time at the event. We've also introduced the Global Conference programme based on our dialogue with the industry, which has been specifically tailored to address some of the critical issues facing ICT companies today.

From a logistical standpoint, we're employing a number of creative solutions to address the parking issues that such a high volume of trade visitors creates. New roads will be opened, which will provide easier entry and exit from the show and new, free parking will be available opposite the Novotel Hotel. Regular shuttle buses to and from the venue will still be provided at major hotels and city centre locations, with a new stop added this year bringing participants to and from the airport.

Why did you decide to change the previous format of the show?

The change in this year's format was based on our ongoing dialogue with both exhibitors and visitors, as we continually seek to make the show even more relevant and reflect the evolving needs of the dynamic ICT industry.

By dividing the show into sectors, participating companies and visitors are able to maximise their time by connecting with the highest volume of potential partners in a dedicated, customer-friendly area.

How will Consumer Electronics be different from GITEX shopper?

The Consumer Electronics event is a B2B exhibition that facilitates networking and commercial opportunities. It provides a platform for exhibitors to connect with key suppliers and decision-makers and allows trade visitors to experience products and technologies often not available on the retail market. On the other hand, GITEX Shopper is a retail expo where consumers can purchase the latest IT products and gadgets.

The strength of the GITEX concept is that we empower exhibitors to support their business priorities through the different channels available at the show.

What impact do you think changing the timing of the show will have on visitor attendance levels?

We continue to expect good visitor turnout at the event as participating companies have planned exciting product launches and activities for their customers. At the same time, we have our official Global Conference programme addressing hot technology topics, which is already proving to be very popular with visitors based on reservation responses. This year, we are focusing on a targeted marketing campaign to ensure we bring the right group of decision-makers desired by our exhibitors to the show.

How do you measure the success of the show?

Success for us is providing an environment in which exhibitors are able to optimize their investment by reaching their target group of customers as effectively as possible, and creating rewarding and productive opportunities for all participants.

While many deals are announced at the show, others are initiated and negotiated during and after the event as the business discussions and transactions are often elaborate and extensive. Many participating companies make valuable contacts and leads at GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK that materialize into future sales and partnership opportunities.

We also conduct surveys with exhibitors and visitors to solicit feedback and evaluate their satisfaction levels with the event on all fronts. GITEX is continually well rated by a good majority of exhibitors and visitors expressing their satisfaction at the quality of business opportunities generated at the event, as well as the achievement of their overall objectives.

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