November 16, 2016
Interview - Muthiah Ghandi
M. Gandhi has launched and developed exhibitions in several industries and he is now both in partnership with UBM and Managing Director of their Asian operation (ASEAN Business), one of the world’s leading trade exhibition organisers and the largest in Asia.
In 2006, he established UBM in India, and as the first Managing Director of UBM India, he oversaw the period during which they became the largest private event organiser, staging 14 trade exhibitions in 6 cities in India. Prior to his position with UBM Asia, Gandhi was Executive Director of Blenheim Exhibitions and Miller Freeman.
Mr Gandhi became involved with exhibition industry over twenty years ago, when a friend of his had a contract with the government of Malaysia to organise a huge event, “The way I started was that somebody threw me into the deepest end – so I had to learn to swim pretty quickly.”
So the event was the biggest military and defence show in Asia ever held. So that’s how his career in events started and slowly he got to know the industry and is now the managing director of ASEAN Business.
Prior to your involvement with the organisation of trade shows, within which industry were you employed?
My first job really came from my family’s background, as my family was in the palm oil plantations industry. My educational background is in pure science, with a specific focus on biology. So in that respect I had a lot of interest in our plantation business, and this enthusiasm certainly served me well when I got into the investment and trade show business.
So would you say that your passion is still with agriculture?
I’ll tell you what my passion is, my passion is that whatever I do, it must have some positive impact in a social sense – this is extremely important. My grandfather is my biggest inspiration. He came here when he was fifteen years old to what was then the British Malaya. When I studied about him I discovered that he came here with nothing – he was fifteen years old. He wasn’t even allowed to board this ship, but he managed to get someone to say that he was their son. So that’s how he got out, as he was too young to travel at the time. From there he built a plantation business in Malaya. He spent the last parts of his life giving away - he even built a university. He told me one thing before he died, he told me that his one regret is that he didn’t do these kind things at a younger age. So he taught me that if you want to do good, do good from the beginning.
From looking at his life what he taught me was kindness; because of kindness, when he was fifteen years old he survived. For no reason people were kind to him – for no reason at all. So I thought about it – I am here today because somebody was kind to my grandfather. So I’m thinking, events like these, could really change somebody’s life and that is exactly what I think we are doing. That’s why I go down to even the smallest villages in the most remote provinces where I find only a small amount of knowledge. With these people a little bit of knowledge can change their lives for the better, so these subjects - even livestock knowledge is key to being successful in these areas.
Other than the subjects that you have mentioned, are there any other key areas of agriculture that are currently of particular interest to you?
If you look at all of the subjects that I’m involved with now, water is one key example. Today I’m rushing to Myanmar because we have a water show starting tomorrow. People ask me why I start a water show in Myanmar? I could’ve started something else but because Myanmar is in the beginning of the country. Now this is the single biggest mistake that developing countries make when their industrialisation starts. The main issue when the industrialisation process starts is that they spoil their environment and their water – that’s what happened with Thailand and what is happening here.
However in Myanmar, investments are just beginning. So what we are doing is actually talking to the government and talking to the industry and telling everybody to keep the water clean.
So to some certain extent the reason why I am so excited about this trade show is that because you are in a neutral position from where you are able to offer opportunities for people to share their knowledge on subjects such as feed, which is something that can actively improve the quality of life of the people here.
So what are your plans for the future, can you see things continuing to work in a same way, or do you see areas such as water that you mentioned that are important to move into?
Right now the main area that we are focusing on is water. Of course areas like food and livestock we are focussing on expanding these areas, areas such as feed ingredients and food manufacturing. Another area that we are heavily invested in is renewable energy. So our plan is not to go into new areas but focus on these sectors and become stronger and maybe expand the geographical area of our operation, so that we can really start to make a difference for the economies of the countries in these regions. It is a very serious situation – I mean we are going to add one billion people to our population very soon and how are we going to feed these people?
With that in mind, do you have a philosophy in terms of a policy for feeding this increased population, do you have a view in terms of your organisations role in addressing that?
I think that food is very important – it is a basic need. Food, energy and water – these are basic needs for the development of any country. So these subjects I know are going to be incredibly important and is an issue that is very close to my heart.