Two days into the exhibition, Raj Manek and Michael Jänecke were still brewing with energy and as we stole a few minutes from their busy business schedule, we could barely sip our coffee as the two engaged us with a comforting and energising interview, which pumped us with a renewed oomph and was certainly more promising than a cuppa in the middle of a tiring day. With six shows within a two year cycle Techtextil is the much sought after technical textile exhibition all over the world. Anurima Das, in conversation with Michael Jänecke, Director,Messe Frankfurt Exhibition andRaj Manek, Executive Director and Board Member, Messe Frankfurt Asia Holding Ltd.
How has the response been so far for Techtextil 2015?
Raj Manek: The response was really good this time. We had a fair share of footfalls to the event. More than the quantity what is really appreciable is the quality of the visitors this time. Responsive, knowledgeable and eager visitors made the show a success this year. The stall owners have also accounted for a shift in the visitor quality this Techtextil.
You say quality. How do you account for this shift in the quality of the visitors in the India chapters of Techtextil?
Raj Manek: Getting aware and gaining knowledge over the years through symposiums has made the people curious and they know what they want. So they connect better, engage in fruitful queries. Apart from that, it is also the government who plays a very important role in making the industry aware of technical textiles. This is a niche segment and knowledge transfer is a very important mechanism in improving the quality. In the last few years, a few mandates, a few steps taken by the government and of course the exhibition platform has accounted for this shift.
Have the number of exhibitors increased since the last time?
Raj Manek: Yes. The numbers have increased, but not so much as we had expected. 2015 saw a total of 159 exhibitors participating. Of which 89 are International exhibitors. We are definitely looking forward to a bigger exhibition in September 2017.
What is the challenge that you are facing at the moment?
Raj Manek: For me the challenge is this persistent gap that accounts for lesser participation. Technical textiles have a huge potential. And what we read about or hear about this industry is slightly different on the ground level. This gap is coming up as a challenge and restricting the industry to get a consumer touch. It is still time, when we will be able to claim that we have a viable consumer expression too.
Michael Jänecke: The foremost challenge that technical textile is facing at the moment is of course the lack of takers for the same. The awareness regarding usage of technical textile has grown and we are at a much better stage compared to the last few years. Targeted marketing and training people to recognise which textile is good for their products or what can be used where to be more specific is still not a reality. If we add the quality with quantity, yes we are growing good. But if we see quality alone, then we are a little behind when it comes to growth.
How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
Michael Jänecke: First of all we should accept that technical textile can replace almost everything. And then we need to prove that the properties of TT are effective, in fact are better in every way. Also after that we need to necessitate specific certifications. So as far as the challenges go, it has to be overcome by changing minds, understanding applications to finally acquiring certifications by fulfilling standards.
How is the situation globally?
Michael Jänecke: I remember some expert a few years back mentioned in a seminar that more than 70 technical textiles are yet to be discovered. Technical textile all over the world had a slow start and the problem is that to complete the cycle, until it is available for the consumer is a full proof process and does take many many years.
Raj Manek: Each country, each region, each segment, each part is separately moving in their pace and reaching their end result. Today we wear clothes and we can shop it, it's because many years back they were discovered, stitched, designed and proven that they can be worn. Similar is the situation with technical textile too. India is just at the beginning of this cycle. Germany is three steps ahead of everyone. But the gap I believe will close down soon and in India it will close faster.
While selecting the exhibitors, what are the parameters you follow?
Michael Jänecke: We definitely look for people who are into technical textiles and once they come to us, we ensure to find out which segment they belong to, their specialisation area. Sometimes it becomes difficult for us to demarcate some into a particular zone. We also at times even after a thorough counselling are unable to compartmentalise an exhibitor, then we ask them to visit us for one year and see around and next year once they are clear with the concept they can join us as an exhibitor.
Techtextil as a platform: Is it a business ground or does it simply create an awareness platform?
Michael Jänecke: There is of course a thin line between the two when it comes to technical textiles and specially Techtextil. We create a centre where potential queries and be raised and responsive business can be conducted too.
How is it globally?
Michael Jänecke: Well, it is indeed a hopeful scenario and unlike yesterday, today the industries who didn't know anything about technical textiles are confidently using the same. While earlier it was 20-30 companies around the world, today the numbers have grown to a straight 100plus. This definitely signals a steady growth. We have visitors from all over the country at all our chapters around the world.
2017. What to expect from Techtextil?
Michael Jänecke: This year is so far good and we are happy. A stable growth is what we aim at. We want to keep it steady and definitely want to grow bigger and include more exhibitors.
Raj Manek: We both love the sound of people murmuring in the background. We regard this as business chatter. We definitely expect this to heighten in the coming years. Especially I expect the exhibition to grow with the market. And I am really hopeful about next year's chapter in India, with so much happening at the government's side as well.