x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Gitex remains pivotal to the technology scene

Industry insiders say at the Middle East's largest technology event will remain central to the yearly IT calendar.

Exhibiting at the Middle East's largest technology event may no longer be a must-do for IT companies doing business in the region, but industry insiders say the show will remain central to the yearly IT calendar. As Gitex Technology Week closed yesterday, some said that business was as good as they could remember, while others recalled healthier crowds and more excitement at previous events. "Gitex is still something that all tech companies need to consider participating in," said Eileen Wallis, the managing director of The Portsmouth Group, a marketing consultancy. "You can never take the market for given - the technology industry moves so quickly, companies can never afford to be complacent or stand still. You can't take the market for granted."

It is likely that every significant technology company with a presence in the Middle East was represented in some way in Dubai this week, if only by a visitor or partner company. But an increasing number are choosing not to exhibit, instead entertaining guests at separate evening functions, or running events parallel to the show for visiting executives. "There are a lot of companies who are engaging in other ways with their customers," said Ms Wallis. "It all depends on what their specific objectives are, and one of the beautiful things about Gitex is that there are so many satellite events, and companies realise that there is a large contingent of decision makers here."

Ms Wallis has 15 technology clients at The Portsmouth Group, with 10 choosing to exhibit at Gitex. Acer Computer, one of the region's largest sellers of laptop and desktop PCs, was one company - not a client of Ms Wallis - who chose not to exhibit this year. Emanuele Accola, the vice president for the firm's Europe, Middle East and Africa division, said his company's needs were better served by informal participation, meeting key clients and decision makers and leading them on tours of Acer's distribution centre in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

"We found that this is the best approach for our requirements," he said. "We have a separate forum where we invite the people we want to meet, and the approach has been much more effective." Mr Accola was keen to emphasise that the broad appeal of Gitex remained relevant, and his company would continue to see it as a central meeting place for the industry. But public relations executives from some of the emirates' largest firms said more of their clients were choosing to participate informally rather than incurring the significant costs of exhibiting.

While floor space at Gitex is not a massive expense, the total bill for the exercise can often reach more than US$100,000 (Dh367,000) for a mid-sized exhibitor. Acer rented a floor of the Emirates Towers Hotel, just minutes away from Gitex, where the company held meetings during the day and entertained at night. "We ended up spending the same amount as we would have exhibiting," said Mr Accola, "but it is better suited to our requirements." tgara@thenational.ae