Hong Kong - Shilpa Panjabi, an upcoming fashion designer, launched her brand just a month ago in India. But instead of showcasing her wares at India’s fashion mecca, the Lakme Fashion Week, she chose to come to Hong Kong for participating in Asia’a newest fashion event called Centrestage.
Why would upcoming Indian designers eschew homegrown fashion events and choose Hong Kong instead to show their talent to the world? Panjabi says participation in Hong Kong is a stepping stone towards international exposure of her fledgling brand. She says Indian designer wear market is already crowded, people have multiple options and it was best to showcase her stuff at Centrestage for a quick appreciation of global audience.
Shilpa’s is among an increasing number of Indian businesses which have found Hong Kong’s exhibition industry of some use. Here, international exposure comes with other features such as affordable stalls, enough international visitors and a good enough order book by the end of it all. Not just fashion, Hong Kong seems to have become the de facto destination for exhibitors of many other industries as well.
Move over Basel, Hong Kong is now also the epicentre for watch and clock affiocianados to converge too. Last week, Hong Kong hosted the 35th edition of the world’s largest such exhibition, the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, with over 800 exhibitors and becoming the largest marketplace for watches and clocks. The city is also the largest marketplace for gifts and premium, with over 4,000 exhibitors coming to show their wares besides jewellery and lighting.
Becoming the largest marketplace in five categories of exhibitions generates tangible benefits for Hong Kong as the exihibition industry is slowly becoming an important tool in its economic advancement. Findings from the latest Economic Impact Study on the contribution of Hong Kong’s exhibition industry to the economy in 2014 show that the exhibition industry contributed HK$52.9 billion (US$6.8 billion) directly and indirectly in terms of expenditure.
This was equivalent to 2.3% of the city’s total GDP for the calendar year 2014and marks a 29% from 2012, at a CAGR of 13.9%. A significant part of this was contributed by the direct spending of international exhibitors and exhibition visitors.
Sophia Chong, Assistant Executive Director at HKTDC, says between 2-3% of the city’s GDP comes from exhibitions and fairs. To make these fairs more competitive and able to generate incremental business, HKTDC has now also launched a unique concept called the ‘small order zone’ in almost every exhibition. This, Chong says, helps buyers place small orders of anywhere between five to 1,000 pieces and helps both, buyers as well as sellers.
Indians are also increasingly grasping the importance of being seen in the Hong Kong exhibitions related to their businesses. In FY16, 800 Indian exhibitors and 15000 Indian buyers were in Hong Kong for HKTDC organised fairs. India’s e-commerce big daddies Myntra and Jabong were here for participating in the watch and clock fair. Of the 190 fashion brands which participated in Centrestage, seven were from India in areas such as denims and accessories. E-commerce firms Limeroad and Shoppers’ Stop were among the buyers at the Centrestage show this year.
Jatinder Nagpal of Designer Watches Pvt Ltd, an assembler and distributor of premium watches in India, says showcasing his brands in the Watch and Clock fair here makes far more business sense than going to Basel.
“The kind of watches that are produced in India find customers in Africa, Middle East, Russia…..Basel’s taste, market size and pricing (for shwocasing wares) is different and not really suited to our requirements. The Hong Kong show is very strong, almost 30% of enquiries translated into orders for us last year at the same show,” Nagpal said.
Not just showcasing existing wares, Indians also find it lucrative to establish startups in Hong Kong. India born Chandan Sethi, Founder & CEO of innowear, started the business of wearable activity monitors/IOT products first as an OEM and then registered his company along with three more friends in the city. “Hong Kong’s an easy place to do business. The entire process of registering our company took just one day. We had the choice of setting up this venture in India or Hong Kong, we chose Hong Kong. India doesn’t have the ecosystem of supporting wearable/IOT manufacturing. We have already begun selling the products here and are also distributing these in India.”
Apart from direct economic benefits in terms of expenditure, the exhibition industry also provided equivalent of around 83,500 full-time jobs in the exhibition industry and other service and supporting sectors. In 2014, the fiscal benefits contributed by the exhibition industry amounted to HK$2.1 billion (US$269.9 million). Chong says in FY16, the city saw over 37,000 exhibitors and more than 7.64 lakh trade buyers from 200 countries converge to Hong Kong, thanks to the over 30 trade exhibitions it hosts all year round.
Disclosure: The author was in Hong Kong between September 7 and 10 at the invitation of HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade Development Council).