Economic downturn hurts COMDEX/Asia 2001

With a less than positive outlook in the industry, COMDEX/Asia 2001 has found itself caught in the midst of trying times during its sixth year.

SINGAPORE--With a less than positive outlook in the industry, COMDEX/Asia 2001 has found itself caught in the midst of trying times during its sixth year.

The exhibition floor space and the number of exhibitors this year have been halved as compared with last year.

Only 3,000 people pre-registered for the regional IT event this year, compared with 4,000 in 2000, said a COMDEX spokesperson.

COMDEX/Asia 2001, held at Suntec International Conventions and Exhibition Center here from April 10 to 12, was organized by Singapore Information Technology Federation (SITF), Times Conferences & Exhibitions and Key3 Media Events.

Last year, the event housed at the same location occupied 3,559 sq meters of exhibition floor, according to the spokesperson. The event then had attracted over 20,000 visitors, 800 delegates and speakers, as well as approximately 225 exhibitors.

However, the floor space has been cut down to 1,500 sq meters and the number of exhibitors has dwindled to a mere 125 this year.

When asked last week asked how many visitors COMDEX expected this year, the spokesperson said that it aims to attract the same number as last year, but on Monday, the organizers revealed that they had approximately 10,000 attendees for the event. At the rate things were going on the opening day of COMDEX, the mood at COMDEX...was not at its best--in tandem with the current sentiment of tech stocks.

Moreover, some major names in the industry, who participated in COMDEX last year, did not even take part this year.

These prominent players include Microsoft Singapore, Sony Singapore, Fuji Photo Film, Trend Micro Inc, Acer Computer, Singapore Computer Systems and Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore.

Responding to queries, a Microsoft spokesperson said: "It's not commercially viable for us to set up a booth this year and we don't have the resources to front the activities at COMDEX."

A second-time visitor and exhibitor at COMDEX here, Mark Warrener, who is attached to the Tasmanian Department of State Development (TDSD) Marketing for Investment Trade and Development unit, said: "COMDEX seems to be a lot smaller this year...if memory serves me right the exhibition hall went all the way to the other end last year."

"I see that most of the big names are not here this year," he added.

"Today the traffic is lighter," he observed, on the first day of COMDEX. "Perhaps its Tuesday," he said, adding hopefully: "maybe we'll see more people tomorrow or the day after."

The only brokerage at COMDEX this year--Philip Securities--had a fairly large set up to promote and create awareness of its online financial services. However, response was not as pleasing as last year.

The number of applications for POEMS--Phillip's online trading system--received at the event fell by at least 30 percent this year, compared with last year's COMDEX, said a company spokesperson.

"We were quite surprise that we are the only brokerage at COMDEX this year,"she added. "Last year we had a few of our competitors with booths here as well."

Meanwhile, the only brokerage firm at COMDEX this year--Philip Securities had a fairly large setup to promote and create awareness of its online financial services. However, response was not as favorable as last year.

The number of applications received for POEMS, Phillip's online trading system, fell by more than 30 percent at COMDEX this year compared with when the company participated last year, said a company spokesperson.

She added: "We were quite surprise that we are the only brokerage at COMDEX this year...last year, we had a few competitors". Other brokerage firms at the show in 2000 included Vickers Ballas and Goh Direct. This year, the incessant freebies, usually given out by scantily-clad models which are almost a norm in high profile regional events, were a rare sight as exhibitors toned down their marketing efforts.

"Last year, there were much more companies and visitors around. Everyone was giving away freebies but this year you see these companies scaling down on marketing, and their participation in COMDEX is to maintain presence in the market--just like what we are doing," said iHive Technology information manager Mathew Tan.

"Taking it in perspective of the current market condition the overall atmosphere is still pretty much...OK," he added.

"As a repeat exhibitor, we wished that the organizers gave us some sort of discount as an added incentive to participate in this event," Tan noted.

The show must go on
When asked about the possibility of the demise of COMDEX, its organizing committee chairman Michael Ang explained: "Last year, a major portion of our exhibitors were under a pavilion called Startup City, of which 90 percent (were) dot-coms."

With the cooling of the dot-com craze now, "it's only natural to see the number fall."

On the bright side, he noted that "we were fortunate that we did not have any major vendors pulling out." However, he could not say for certain if there were any pull out at all.

According to Ang, given the current market situation the organizers are "extremely happy" with the event so far.

Another plus was the conference part of COMDEX, which Ang said received a better response--the number of delegates has grown from 200 last year to 320 this year.

The conference this year covered topics on Application Service Provider (ASP), digital learning and wireless technology. Falling numbers notwithstanding, COMDEX was not all doom and gloom.

Despite the slower pace witnessed during COMDEX, the event still represents a platform for companies to market their products and services.

At least this comes true for two newcomers: JuzPC.com Pte Ltd, a company that runs a Web site providing information on PCs, peripherals and accessories, and OpenTide Asia Pte Ltd, an e-business solutions provider.

JuzPC infocomm technology manager Daniel Tan said: "Although the event is getting smaller by the year, I still believe that COMDEX is a good platform to market our company."

"We've tried advertising in the papers and it doesn't really work...but we expect better results from this event," he added.

JuzPC sees itself as a competitor to Hardwarezone.com.

OpenTide Asia CEO Subrato Basu concurred that COMDEX is still a good venue to make itself known to the industry.

He explained that the poor market sentiment has probably caused "companies to hold back on spending and see what kind of ROI (return on investment) they can expect from being part of this event."