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The event industry is moving toward a hybrid future: Q&A with GlobalSign.in CEO Veemal Gungadin

Written by Khamila Mulia Published on 

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The events industry has been slow to adopt technology, but the pandemic has changed everything.

Veemal Gungadin founded event tech company GlobalSign.in (GSI) in 2006 when event tech was not even a thing yet in Asia. Fast forward to 2020—GSI has offices in Singapore, Australia, India, Myanmar, and the US, and it has collaborated with hundreds of events, including the Singapore summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, in 2018.

The firm, which manages an integrated event management and marketing software suite called GEVME, has recently upgraded its platform and launched a newly-built platform called GEVME Live, enabling clients to host, market, and monetize interactive digital events at any scale, providing essential supports while ensuring security, interactivity and standing of in-person events.

“The whole industry is changing. We have moved from offline to online events, and now we are seeing more hybrid events that combine the two aspects and attract both in-person and virtual attendees. Therefore, we’re reinventing our platform to meet this need,” Gungadin told KrASIA.

Gungadin also serves as vice president of digital and innovation at the Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (SACEOS), an organization that helps enterprises in the business events industry embrace digital transformation.

KrASIA recently spoke to Gungadin about the event industry’s transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KrASIA (Kr): Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most offline events have moved online. How is the event industry reacting to this unprecedented crisis?

Veemal Gungadin (VG): There’s obvious damage to both small event companies and big ones. We’ve seen some casualties. For example, Pacific World, a destination management and events company, has shut down globally. At the same time, this has forced the industry to reexamine itself.

The event industry has been slow in adopting technology because events are really about the experience, the content and entertainment you see, interactions, and even the food you’re eating. The crisis is forcing all stakeholders to reinvent themselves and technology is playing a big part in this, especially in creating extra digital experiences for hybrid events that combine a live in-person experience with virtual components.

Kr: Do you think that hybrid events will remain after the pandemic over?

VG: I believe so. We’ve all come to the conclusion that physical events are pretty much gone all over the world this year, and this is the first time such a disruption has occurred at the global level. Although there are a few small events happening right now, we may not see full-blown events in 2021 because the pandemic will not be over yet.

During this time, organizers are adjusting to the new normal and they’re being trained to become really good at running hybrid events. On the demand side, people will get used to the fact that certain events are best held digitally. When you put that together, it creates a different perception of what’s normal. We’ve seen this happen during the SARS outbreak in China, where e-commerce platforms started to boom to the point of buying online becoming something normal. It took a crisis like this to happen and I think the event industry may at that turning point now.

Kr: What digital components are needed for hybrid events? And how does Global Sign.in’s software help create engaging experiences?

VG: A great hybrid experience needs to unify the experience, meaning that as an online attendee, I should be able to interact with people at the offline venues, and vice versa. I should be able to send questions to the speaker or engage with other attendees. For example, if you run a hybrid event on our GEVME Live platform, there’s a chat room where everybody can join. When you check in the event, you get an SMS with a unique link to a chat room where you can start meeting and networking with people who attend the event in person or digitally, find content suitable to your interest, and join the livestream discussion, and so on.

In the typical online conference, you simply go to one room and watch the different sessions behind your computer. Our platform allows you to be more creative. For example, clients could create live Q&A sessions, games, as well as multiple digital rooms with different designs and atmospheres. That’s what we call the integration of experience at hybrid events.

Kr: In terms of cost, is it more expensive to run hybrid events?

VG: Yes, it is more expensive to run hybrid events now because there are physical and digital components. It depends on what kind of event you want to have. If you want to build a very custom, unique experience, then you’ll have to pay more. But I believe the pricing will go down as hybrid events become more popular. Platforms that are being built right now, they’ll scale to cater to more events. Moreover, competition is intensifying so pricing will adjust as well.

Kr: Singapore is introducing a new roadmap for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) events this month. What is your involvement? And what’s the purpose of the roadmap?

VG: The roadmap is being developed by SACEOS with Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board. The idea is to help the MICE industry pivot to the hybrid model amid the pandemic. We have some pilot MICE events happening in Singapore right now, with a maximum of 250 attendees, and there is a raft of safety management measures that have been prescribed to organizers.

Platforms like ours are making sure they are able to comply with the new measures easily. The roadmap also gives feedback to organizers on how to safely plan hybrid events.

Kr: Earlier this year, you also launched a new product called Wylcome. Can you provide more details about it?

VG: Wylcome was launched right before the pandemic to streamline the visitor management process in offices. I’d say it was launched at the right time as the pandemic requires everything to be contactless. The idea is to provide a touchless check-in experience when entering a building, and this tool can also be used for events as well, including MICE hybrid events happening in Singapore now.

Kr: What’s next for GlobalSign.in? Do you have plans for new products or fundraising in the near future?

VG: Right now, we’re really focused on enhancing solutions for better and more engaging hybrid events to benefit all stakeholders, from attendees and sponsors, to speakers and organizers. We’re investing resources, time, and people on GEVME Live, and we’ll be rolling out new functionalities soon. In terms of investment, we’ve been running profitably for a while now, so it’s not something to consider this year, but we’ll probably look into the possibility of fundraising in 2021.

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