ARAB HEALTH’S EXPANDING AUDIENCE

From its humble beginnings as a regional medical exhibition in 1975, Arab Health has grown to become a key event for the healthcare industry. Featuring an array of high-profile corporate exhibitors as well as up-and-coming SMEs and with a burgeoning audience, the show promises to grow even larger. On the 40th anniversary of the exhibition Arab Health spoke with exhibitors and visitors about their experiences of the show. We also sat down with Waclaw Lukowicz, former CEO of Siemens’ Healthcare Sector Middle East for his perspective on the show, having attended four times as an exhibitor and now attending as a visitor for the first time.

The UAE and Dubai specifically – home of the Arab Health exhibition – is strategically positioned as a central transit hub, connecting to all parts of the globe. As one guest puts it, “everyone comes to the Middle East, it’s a meeting point for companies and professionals to exchange ideas”. Exhibitors commented on the importance of the event for meeting new business partners and decision makers, stressing their approval of the growing number of distributors – both small and large – from Africa and Asia. Naturally the UAE’s pivotal placement has attracted an increasingly diverse profile of international exhibitors and visitors. The increasing importance of the Asian and African markets was clear, with many exhibitors excited about Arab Health’s positioning as a bridge between the East and West.

For Asian guests, the attraction of Arab Health seems to lie in its sheer size and scope, vastly outdoing most comparable trade shows in the Asia-Pacific in terms of amount of exhibitors and technologies on display. A group of Malaysian visitors said, “we always visit the exhibitions back home however they are fairly small compared to the size and scale of Arab Health”. Indeed the size of Arab Health allows it to incorporate a wide variety of small and medium companies along with the dominant corporations that tend to dominate such events, which according to Lukowicz sets Arab Health apart from its peers.Those from Western nations on the other hand are attracted to the exhibition due to the rapid growth in the healthcare sector both in the GCC and its neighbouring regions. For them, then, the annual exhibition is a ripe opportunity for investment and expansion of business operations. “Normally we go to Dusseldorf Medica”, said one group of Danish newcomers, “but this year we are trying Arab Health for new opportunities”. Interestingly a number of exhibitors highlighted the thrill of conducting business here rather than at shows elsewhere. Kendromed for example boasted having done more business in one day of Arab Health than during their whole stay at Medica. Lukowicz emphasises that the open nature of the exhibitions allows innovative and flexible SMEs to obtain the kind of visibility not available in other shows.

Those from Western nations on the other hand are attracted to the exhibition due to the rapid growth in the healthcare sector both in the GCC and its neighbouring regions. For them, then, the annual exhibition is a ripe opportunity for investment and expansion of business operations. “Normally we go to Dusseldorf Medica”, said one group of Danish newcomers, “but this year we are trying Arab Health for new opportunities”. Interestingly a number of exhibitors highlighted the thrill of conducting business here rather than at shows elsewhere. Kendromed for example boasted having done more business in one day of Arab Health than during their whole stay at Medica. Lukowicz emphasises that the open nature of the exhibitions allows innovative and flexible SMEs to obtain the kind of visibility not available in other shows. 

The most straightforward reason for attending, of course, is the unending search for new products, new suppliers, and new innovations. Medicine after all is, “an advancing profession”, as described by one guest. Indeed the timing of the exhibition, early in the New Year, as opposed to late year exhibitions such as Medica, lends it an edge when it comes to the launch of new products. For many, the allure of the exhibitions is, “the opportunity to see inventions, innovations and advances in medical practice”. This year for example, Roche’s launch of its Cobas 8100, a cutting-edge innovation in in-vitro diagnostics and Maquet’s unveiling of INSIGHT, a clinical logistics IT solution were two such highlights. However in the midst of all the big brand announcements Lukowicz stresses the importance of innovation driven-SMEs that are interlaced throughout the show, holding it together and attracting vast numbers of visitors who are under severe cost-pressure.For some visitors, attending the conference isn’t necessarily a matter of pursuing distributors and suppliers. In fact, some attend not with an aim to conduct business at all but rather for a chance to eye the wares and services of competitors. “We want to compare our work with what others in the world produce” said one Russian guest. “It is very interesting to compare the developments in all kinds of medical technology throughout the world. Based on this we can also make decisions on future developments and the direction of our own production”, he said. Similarly, Lukovicz marvelled at the opportunity to simply observe the wares of smaller companies who often originate innovative solutions that are later popularised by their larger competitors.

For some visitors, attending the conference isn’t necessarily a matter of pursuing distributors and suppliers. In fact, some attend not with an aim to conduct business at all but rather for a chance to eye the wares and services of competitors. “We want to compare our work with what others in the world produce” said one Russian guest. “It is very interesting to compare the developments in all kinds of medical technology throughout the world. Based on this we can also make decisions on future developments and the direction of our own production”, he said. Similarly, Lukovicz marvelled at the opportunity to simply observe the wares of smaller companies who often originate innovative solutions that are later popularised by their larger competitors.

Those visiting from the neighbouring regions of North Africa and South Asia comment on the relative ease of doing business here thanks to competitive prices and efficient, reliable infrastructure. One Pakisani visitor commented, “since Arab Health is within our vicinity the hauling times are very short and the prices are affordable. We are frequent visitors to Arab Health because the atmosphere and facilities provided are excellent”. The ease of doing business in the region was a frequent topic of conversation, with many visitors lauding the course the UAE has set out on to develop its economy and become the region’s central business hub. 

Arab Health’s growing profile is a reflection of the growing economy in the Middle East and GCC in particular. “Sometimes you cannot imagine the show can get any better”, says Lukowicz, “but in my opinion it does. “I am a very critical person and my first time at Arab health I was very critical”, he remarks, “but over the years the show has improved and won me over”. 40 years on Arab Health has expanded both its catalogue of exhibitors and its audience. In the case of those like Waclaw Lukowicz, it seems the two categories aren’t as separate as once believed, perhaps an indication of the evolving role of the show and its critical role as a meeting point and venue for conversation about the future of healthcare.

For more information, go to www.arabhealthmagazine.com