Exclusive Interview with Marie Kinsella, CEO of IEC Group, Australia.
Marie’s Views on Indian Market and Partners
We are very pleased to be working with India as one of our major partners for this trade fair because India is such an important trading partner of Australia with huge potential for both countries. Australia has a very fast-growing population so the ability and the opportunity for India to do substantially more business in Australia is going to occur; bilateral trade will increase quite significantly over the next 10 years, as a result of both formal trade arrangements but also because the Australian population is growing at a very rapid rate, mainly through immigration. We have had very high population growth over the past 5 years and it’s going to continue and show it’s benefit through the next ten years. India has always had a major profile at this event. In fact, the first edition was held in 2010 and India was the major partner at that show. We’ve always valued the great support from India achieved through close contact with various associations, notably Federation of Indian Export Organisations, which leads the very large Indian participation. I’ve been involved since 2010 and I’ve seen huge development in the offering from India with the products that are very well suited to the Australian market here. India is well regarded for its capability in textile and fashion, and Australians look to India for both product quality and ongoing business partnerships.
How do you compare the Indian products and expertise with the one of China; China being one of the major competitor?
Of course China could be a major competitor in the area of textiles and Bangladesh and Pakistan has become more so in recent years. I think there is no doubt the workmanship and the quality of Indian products is very high and of an excellent standard and I know there’s great quality that comes out from India. So, there’s a lot of confidence in the Australian market in dealing with Indian companies. It is understood that the finished products are of a very high standard, in fact Indian textiles are widely revered by consumers. The textiles sourced from India are just so beautiful and demonstrate the long tradition of textile workmanship that comes not only from India itself but from particular geographic and production regions.
So you think that India is still a cut above the competition?
It’s hard for me to specifically comment on this but I will say that I can just see the quality is consistently high from India. Right from 2010 it just continues to retain a very high level of workmanship and so I think India has to be congratulated as we are aware of many of the initiatives that underpin India’s success in this sector. India should be confident in maintaining a competitive position. It is clear that there is both capability and a willingness to innovate and maintain a position that is historically very strong, although there is still major opportunity for India to further grow its profile and find and develop new markets and market niches.
How has the overall response of the exhibition since it’s inception?
2010 was the first fair. Since then we have seen significant growth from India in the participation which grew initially through partnership with India Trade Promotion Organisation and later Texprocil. Federation of Indian Export Organisations, Handloom Export Promotion Council, Apparel Export Promotion Council, Wool and Woollens Export Promotion Council and various regional based industry bodies across India continue to support the event with consistent participation. The FIEO has been the lead exhibiting group from India for many years and we work closely with them to continue to develop and support the participation by Indian exhibitors and to understand their needs and aspirations for the Australian market.
For the past three years Council for Leather Exports India has been the major partner of the co-located Footwear and Leather Show – with 30 companies participating in 2018. Equally, we value our relationship with the CLE and do our best to support them in their promotion efforts within the Australian market.
Although we have always had a separate but co-located China Clothing Textiles Accessories expo it is the sourcing expo which draws a large percentage of the visitors because of the broader participation. I think in the first year, 2010, we had 6 or 8 countries and it was held here at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. We were much smaller then. This year including Australia which has a small participation of around 10 companies, I think we have 21 countries participating. This is the largest international participation we’ve had. We are pleased that we have Serbia involved this year and that we’re starting to get more European involvement as well as the Asia and the Asia Pacific area. We are strong in representation from the Indian subcontinent and Asia – Pacific but we want to encourage more participation from Europe and eastern Europe –we expect that these regions will increase steadily over the next few years. Continued broad, deep participation, with quality companies exhibiting, will be what continues to drive strong growth in visitor numbers to this event.
Is Europe showing interest to exhibit in Australia?
As we know, Australia is a long way by physical distance but we’re slowly getting more interest and we’re developing our relationships all the time with European countries. So at this stage we see Australia as a great centre for the whole Indian sub-continent and Asia Pacific region to come together; it’s good to do business here and easy to do business. There has been growing interest from Europe and the United States and although the current participation from these regions is relatively small we are receiving increased enquiries from these regions. Naturally then, we can expect participation to increase. With no doubt we are a hub here as a meeting point to connect Australians and New Zealand trade buyers with suppliers not only from the region but from further afield and open up new sourcing activity. Australia is still a relatively small population, but is a dynamic, stable and relatively affluent economy. It also includes one of the highest per capital spending rates on fashion and textiles. This event is about developing connections across the Indian subcontinent and the Asia Pacific more broadly, and beyond, and creating new commercial opportunities for all participants.
How have Australian buyers been in the exhibition?
I have spoken directly to about 10 buyers and they are all very impressed with the breadth of offering and capability; both in the range of apparel for men’s, women’s and children, but also fashion accessories, fabric and footwear. The buyers all comment that the standard just keeps getting better and better, and the show itself keeps evolving in a positive way.
And this year for the first time we have introduced the Global Runway. We were disappointed that we didn’t have India this year, but we are really looking forward to having India participation in 2019 as part of the Global Runway. So that’s been worthwhile for many countries; Indonesia, China and Australia. For Australia, the designers and garments featured on the runway so they could make a direct connection with buyers and the very valuable domestic and international fashion and apparel industry network that this show delivers. We just feel that it adds quite a different angle to our event. It’s great to see the garments on the runway under the lights. It’s a totally different feel on the runway, you can really see the beauty of the garments.
We also have a Global Sourcing Seminar program which we see as very important. People want information in Australia; they are very hungry for information about sourcing from overseas countries, especially India. We were really pleased with the quality of presentation as well and we’ve had great feedback on the content of the seminars this year.
Australia finds it easy to do business in India. One is because of the language, two because of the British connection. A lot of Australians and New Zealanders like doing business with India.
How are you finding the footfall every year?
We’ve got more numbers through this year than last year in Sydney. The exhibition is very big for Australia. So we’ve opened it up and put in more space because it was very claustrophobic for us last year. Some people have said that it feels quieter but in reality the visitor numbers were much higher this year. The show space itself is larger and we wanted to open it up to include more features and generally more space for a better experience. There are more than 700 companies to see, so that’s a very big show for Australia. We certainly always would like more people to visit but we really are looking at getting the quality bias here; not just the numbers. Visitor numbers were more than 10% higher than the previous year, so we are very pleased about that. We also introduced a VIP buyer program this year which drove a significant increase in the number of attendees from the tier 1 major fashion and retail brands and buying groups.
How do you go about the advertising and marketing about the exhibition?
We do a whole range of things. We do a lot of direct marketing; we have a marketing center in our office where we actually build databases that are very up-to-date about who the latest buyers are and the quality managers from all the major chain stores; all the retail chains and department stores. We call them our tier 1 – our big buyers. We do this across Australia and New Zealand. We also work with distributors and wholesalers and invite them to come and find more importing opportunities. We also invite selected manufacturers here to come and connect with the overseas manufacturers. We do all of this through direct mail and calls. We advertise in magazines here and overseas and of course augment this through advertising, social media and industry networking. We do some work with CCCT with the China fair and they advertise in some of the daily newspapers.
Is this exhibition happening in Melbourne for the first time?
We used to alternate between Melbourne and Sydney every alternate year. There is a sense that the big buyers are here in Melbourne, so we have now decided to keep it in Melbourne for the next few years and really build the base here.
Have you already started working towards the next year’s fair?
Yes we have already received a lot of interest. A lot of country pavilions have already committed, they say that they are going to be involved. In particular we anticipate that the participation from India will, we expect, through the various group bodies, exceed the total of 130 companies that exhibited from India this year. But while we are confident of an increase in the number of exhibitors and countries participating in 2019 it is the visitor growth that is our major focus. If we continue to produce strong growth in visitor numbers and quality of visitors, exhibitors will find their way to the show. This is one of Australia’s most established B2B events, with a strong growth profile, and while we do not take this for granted, we are confident of making the event better with each edition and providing value to all participants.
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