Gary Khan - India with a vision (1/2)

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29th Jan, 2015
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Jalil Khan, known mostly as Gary, hails from Hyderabad, but has lived most of his life away. Having spent 23 years working for United Airlines in the USA, he is now the CEO of Hyderabad Convention Visitors Bureau, the only organisation of this kind in India, as Gary likes to remind us. A man of wisdom and frankness, he shares here his insights about India as a convention destination, but also explains why, according to him, Hyderabad is a few steps ahead of its India counterparts.
Interview Cécile Caiati-Koch & Rémi Dévé

With a brand-new Prime Minister in office, it seems the country as a whole is going to a brand-new direction. Can you elaborate on this?
The 15th and current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi is in office since May 2014. He conjures up visceral reactions across India. Mr. Modi felt - in fact we’ve all felt - India needed a change and he has a clear, ambitious vision for our country. He has infused confidence with the people of India, gathered the nation as a whole, as well as the US with which India has important trade relations.

His ideologies underline the growth of the nation as a whole, borne out of cultural and ethical values imbibed within all Indians. As the Incredible India campaign stresses on its motto - “Athithi devo bhava” which translates to “Guest is God”- it has been personified in his works since he became the Prime Minister. India, with its audacious workforce that is as good as any other nation, has its roots deep engrained in its cultures and traditions. It is this juxtaposition, Mr. Modi beckons, that makes India so unique in the global arena!

Mr. Modi recognises people’s talent and wants to promote it, along with Indian traditions. The new India will expand trade and manufacture to the world and simultaneously promote tourism and technology. He wants to make India the IT country par excellence, and diversify from the agricultural industry. It all sounds like he has grand plans for India. He has resolved, for example, to make it easy for people to get visas to come and visit or organise conferences. He’s understood the significance of MICE business as being important and made it one of our first priorities because it is high yield tourism per head: he has given clear instructions for business tourism to become a well-defined target market.

Will you play a role in ‘educating’ him understand more what the meetings industry is really about?
As you know, Hyderabad is the only city with a Convention Bureau, so yes, I’ve been asked many times by industry colleagues to share my expertise. I’m eager to tell Mr. Modi how the meetings industry can impact India as a country, how its grandiloquence can boost the economy as a whole, what a meeting organiser looks for in a destination and what a delegate is after when he comes to a conference.

Then, of course, I’m going to ask him for money! There has to be government support and funding for the Indian meetings industry to grow. India is a rich country, in the sense of its huge IT market, export industry, IT products and services, its large manufacturing segment and even medical tourism sectors. As it is, actually all fields that impact our economy are encouraged - in addition to the promotion of ethical values, discipline, and even cleanliness!

It’s the whole increase of the GDP that is at stake and we should all be on the same page about this. Having said that, the MICE industry is inter-reliant with the tourism sector and India epitomizes its endorsement through its identity of being a world renown unique destination. Educating about the meetings industry collates all these aspects.

We hear the outbound meetings market is booming in India. But what about the inbound market? Who is coming to do events in India?

An assortment of people really, but mainly from Europe and the United States. A large number of foreign companies - in the IT, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors - have offices in India, they see the country as an exotic destination, and they promote it to their headquarters back home. A good example is the mission of the Hyderabad Convention Visitors Bureau (HCVB), that actively goes out to the world via trade and road shows, taking Hyderabad to the world and bringing the world to Hyderabad. We also have a distinct advantage since India is an English-speaking country and the world’s largest democracy.

But I’ll give you one example that says it all. We recently won the bid to host the 2016 International Congress of Infectious Diseases. The Boston-based International Society for Infectious Diseases has always had a particular focus on the global burden of infectious diseases and the meeting will be held in India for the first time, bringing about 3,000 delegates to Hyderabad. I personally took the organisers to meet with all the top brass in the government and only then were they completely convinced that we had a true coalition of power houses to impressively host their prestigious congress. India, and particularly Hyderabad, was already ready for them! That’s what made a difference.

Everybody wants to make India a success story in the meetings industry. For this, we attribute to the strong support from the authorities and also from very powerful local associations and institutions filled with nationalistic pride and zeal to promote any congress that is marked to come to Hyderabad. The same approach to win the World Neuro Rehabilitation Congress 2018 was applied and again, we were successful. The Hyderabad victory announcement was made in Istanbul Turkey, late last year.

Part II of Gary's interview is available here.

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