With BITB gearing up to host its 16th conclave in Hotelscapes 2019, Navin Berry, Founder and CEO, BITB, reflects on the learning curve, challenges and the road ahead for the thought leadership industry platform.
There are quite a few events in the industry. What is different about BITB?
There will always be a question of too many, given India’s size and diversity. We are a democracy and the freedom of choice is paramount. Anyone can print a visiting card and become a travel agent, or open a Dhaba and call it a hotel. There are equally many guest houses and accommodation units and they are all catering to respective segments. In this ‘too many’ syndrome, people have a choice to exercise. The same must be said about events in the tourism space.
Having said that, how do you think BITB is making the essential difference? Why should BITB become the event of choice?
What makes us different is that we bring genuine senior leadership across a vast spectrum of industry verticals. Some altogether as verticals and some individuals in their own rights – hotels, outbound and cinema tourism to name some. We capture a certain consistency, also bringing a high level of deliberation and content, distributing it across social media and through an external outreach through a TV channel partnership. These are born out of a few decades of association with individuals. One remains grateful to each one of them for sharing the goodwill and taking the platform as seriously as they do. The ‘no-show’ factor at our events is negligible amongst our speakers. Additionally, we provide a more vibrant interface between government and industry.
Are your events too Delhi-centric? Do you see them panning out to the rest of the country or even abroad?
Two of BITB events – Partyatan se Parivartan and Cinemascapes – are very capable of going to newer cities. Interestingly, Cinemascapes can also be hosted offsite, such as taking 50 film producers to a specific location, with a focus on one specific country or state.
What is holding it back then?
Ironically, perhaps, conclaves are not seen as adequate ROI, as opposed to a B2B sales event, by many players in the industry. Also, a thought-driven conclave creates a certain limitation of its own where we have often found that people are reluctant to talk and shy away from public discourse or disclosing numbers, plans or strategies, and are also averse to being on a panel.
People are more readily available to deploy the same resources, if not more, for a B2B platform. In, almost, three years of driving BITB conclaves, we have not seen significant financial support or participation. As and when that happens, there would be more city-specific interventions. We have, on our radar, a few opportunities to go international.
Going forward, would we see a more pronounced B2B sales element? It seems to be missing and can perhaps address the concerns around ROI?
Most B2B events do have a conference agenda attached to them. I have been in that domain for almost two decades. The conference agenda tends to get sidelined if you have a very large B2B event. The converse can also happen. And attendees coming for a conference are not the B2B people. They are leaders and do not land up buying room nights, for instance. How to find a balance between the two is a bit of a tough puzzle to decipher.
What is the learning curve after three years of BITB conclaves?
We have a sizable fan following and are surely fulfilling a need to provide senior leadership an ongoing platform to convene. Having said that, our next year is going to make us go, at least one or two editions, to overseas to provide additional linkages between our industry in India and across the world.