EW puts some questions to CloserStill Media’s Andy Kiwanuka, managing director, Asia Pacific, on its strategy for success in Singapore
- Over the past couple of years, Singapore was at the forefront of coming up with solutions to run events in-person. again. How have CloserStill Media’s shows performed in the destination.
We’re very pleased to be able to confirm that our event brands have been very resilient and performed very well in the region coming through the very challenging conditions of the recent global pandemic. With the support of the Singapore Tourism Board and the local and regional Tech community, we collaborated effectively in finding innovative ways to quickly move forward and re-start in-person events.
During the pandemic we managed to launch sector specific ‘1 day industry Summits’ hosting 300pax senior executive professionals from the Retail, Cybersecurity and Cloud computing communities (The Retail Executive Summit, The Smart Cybersecurity Summit and The Cloud Executive Summit), we also ran a series of digital events to support this restart and, of course, we were delighted to be able to once again return to running our flagship, market leading technology event, TechWeek Singapore in October 2022 after a 3-year hiatus.
- How long has CloserStill Media had a presence in Singapore and how do you view the opportunities for further growth?
CloserStill Media has had a presence in Singapore for the past 10 years (launched Jan 2013) and the business has experienced over 10-fold growth during this period. And after 10 years in Singapore running leading industry events for the region, we truly feel that we’re only just getting started and there’s huge opportunity for further development and growth of our existing portfolio of B2B event brands in the region.
Over the years we’ve secured some wonderful trade and association partnerships that will continue to underpin this future growth, allowing us to expand our reach in the region.
- How have you managed your relationships with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the exhibition venues on the island and what has impressed you about their approach?
We’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support we’ve received from the Singapore Tourism Board from the moment we established our MICE footprint here in Singapore in 2013 to the current day. Their approach is very collaborative, they take time to really understand your business objectives, goals and aspirations and provide continuous relevant support with that always in mind. A key part of this is the very valuable BEiS support grants for business event organisers looking to attract foreign senior business visitors to Singapore which has enabled us to grow quickly. The STB has also helped introduce us to very specific industry partners that has ensured our sustained growth in the region and provided us with the ability to reach out to a greater pool of international delegates.
The STB has been integral to the recent success that our CloserStill Media Singapore business has experienced. We’re fortunate and grateful to have established a uniquely collaborative relationship with the team at the STB, where from the very start we’ve been regularly consulted, supported, and guided on our MICE journey from a relatively small, unknown event organiser to an award winning, market leading international business event organiser in Singapore. The relationship has enabled us to attract thousands of senior business leaders and leading regional suppliers from across Asia Pacific to our events in Singapore as well as enable us to attract highly skilled Singaporean talent to our business.
The entire STB team have been an absolute joy to work with.
We look forward to developing this relationship even further over the coming years.
Likewise, with our partner venues Marina Bay Sands and previously Suntec, we’ve found them both to be excellent partners supporting our growth aspirations using a very structured, 2-way, meaningful, and collective approach.
- What other initiatives are you championing?
With sustainability in mind, over the past few years Tech Week Singapore prioritised more digital experiences, reducing the print volume of the official show guides as well as print marketing collateral, introducing an enhanced digital event app instead to support this initiative.
The team has also worked with Marina Bay Sands, our official venue provider to discourage single use plastic for food and beverage provided at the event and encouraged exhibitors to move towards more sustainable material for the event.
- How do you rate Singapore’s knowledge base?
Singapore committed herself to building a knowledge-based economy over the past decade that has paid huge dividends for Singapore’s growth helping it to rapidly transition to a newly industrialised economy. Having invested heavily in ICT, the Singapore government has committed to harnessing technology to effect transformation in health, transport, urban living, government services and businesses.
In our events, we interact with mainly Technology communities that are growing exponentially in Singapore, and professionals who have a strong network of connections both in the country and globally.
Singapore’s knowledge-based economy has very much underpinned CloserStill Media’s successful growth over the past decade.
- Any tips for other organisers entering the Singapore market?
Singapore has always been a key MICE destination in Southeast Asia, a safe, politically stable and progressive country with a relatively open travel policy post -ovid to welcome international delegations. It’s a great destination for any organiser looking to establish their presence in the region.
Ensure you make the most of the local experienced, highly skilled and highly educated talent pool. Build relationships with the very effective, engaged local trade associations and government bodies like the STB, IE Singapore and SACEOS.
And if you’re planning on launching a sub 4,000sqm trade event, I would highly recommend Suntec Convention Centre with a view to moving your event to MBS once its grown to above 12,000 gross sqms. And, finally, ensure you localise your business as quickly as possible to make the most of the opportunities here.
- How does 2023 look for CloserStill Media?
Coming out of the recent difficult couple of years, we were fortunate enough to experience a 50% year-on-year growth from our previous edition in 2019 to October’s 2022 event.
For 2023, we’re targeting similar growth for our flagship business technology event TechWeek Singapore and our recently established Spring Tech Summits, with more industry IT buyers, more visionary speakers and more regional suppliers from across Asia Pacific.
On top of this we plan to launch new sector specific Tech events like the new ‘Data and Ai Leaders Summit’ slated for April, showcasing prevalent innovations in Data, Analytics and Ai today for C-level executives and we’ve just announced the launch of our first-ever event in Thailand, the ‘Smart Cybersecurity Summit Bangkok’ earmarked for the 24 May.
As well as growing our regional footprint, we’re investing heavily in our talent base to encourage further innovation and growth. And as China has recently opened it borders in January this offers further opportunities for accelerated growth of our business in Singapore and Southeast Asia.