by Esther Faith Lew | October 01, 2017
What's the catch of the day? Quite a few specials on the menu it seems. I caught up with Aloysius Arlando, CEO of SingEx and newly-appointed president of the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC), first to fly the flag for Asians. I think the marlin is the hot one. Arlando and his team are after the elusive marlin that symbolises the ultimate quest in The Old Man and the Sea (by Ernest Hemingway).

A story about redefining success and victory, and its journey of perseverance and patience, it also reflects the story of SingEx's growth trajectory in charting new territories and transforming the experience of its voyage. 

"We want to be the masters of our own destiny and to create our own events, not to compete with other organisers that are here, but rather, to focus on growing a steady pipeline of new-to-market events. Over 90 percent of our events are new, and this goes to show that a whole host of opportunities is there," said Arlando.

When industries collide
Disrupting the way that things are traditionally done is a hot topic that has been on the agenda of MICE conferences. And SingEx has been doing that for a few years now. They have taken typically traditional events and transformed them into cutting-edge programmes that quicken the heartbeat of the economy and speed through the highway to the future.

"One of the key undercurrents that is directing the business flow of the future lies in the intersection of industries - whether vertical or horizontal - to create new opportunities. Our Last Mile Fulfilment Asia event is a good example of that. We brought together industries such as parcel/postal, logistics, e-commerce and brands. We were able to do that because of mobile technology and the rise of e-commerce platforms. And with start-ups coming into the picture, there was a convergence of key factors that powered this dynamo," shared Arlando. Now into its fourth edition next year, the show is the only one of its kind in Asia.

That creative spark 
Throwing in bells and whistles and reinventing the traditional to create exciting new-to-market events require a transformation in thought and deed, and SingEx is flexing its prowess. Having the commercial sense to capture hot industry markets is one thing, but making them memorable and experiential events is another. The inaugural Singapore Fintech Festival organised last year received rave reviews, and Arlando shared that it had delegates comparing it with the Sibos event (and even saying that it was better!).

"We played up on the experiential elements and festivalised the event. In order to understand what delegates want, we have to know who are the players - the established, the emerging and the entreprenuers - and from there, we created the energy flow that made delegates the centre of activity. We wanted them to be tickled by their senses and to trip over accidental finds. 

"The whole idea of serendipity and of great innovations is about things happening by chance. So we took away the rules: I don't insist on you having your coffee break at 10am and turning off the service once the break is over. Let's have all day dining, because your time is unique. If you miss your plenary session, well, we have planned for online and offline content, and you will have different ways of interacting. Even lunch took on a different approach; we had our servers go around with wheelbarrows and served chicken rice from it," said Arlando. 

The Singpore Fintech Festival gave SingEx the confidence to try things differently to test the markets, and with its new-found bravado, there is much to be explored from the sparkling blue ocean of opportunity. One of which will be healthcare. SingEx took the Radiology Asia event and transformed it from a bi-annual event for 250 radiology society professionals into an annual event for over 1,200 delegates, of which about 50 percent are from overseas. "We looked at radiology and combined it with technology to bring in leading companies such as Bosch. It was transformational," said Arlando.

The next wave from SingEx will focus on healthcare, and we can expect similarly innovative formats that bring together diverse but convergent fields. AnEW is an aesthetics event that brings together professionals in Western and TCM medicine, wellness and technology, while CaREhab focuses on rehabilitative and reconstructive medicine for the ageing and physically disadvantaged. 

"We cannot rest on our laurels, and we must create the necessary disruptions and transformations…this is crucial to what SingEx does," added Arlando. "It is important that we dare to dream and to be different with an impact that is going to be mutually uplifting for whomever we work with, whether it's within the organisation or with our partners." 

And just as Hemingway's novella concludes with the fisherman dreaming of his next big conquest - lions - so too has SingEx's successful approach in reinventing events emboldened Arlando and his team to set their sights even further.