The Solar PlayersNokia Siemens Networks
The three of us walked into their booth in the secondary hall (18) and was greeted by a young lady that clearly did not want to be there. I asked about their solar-powered solutions. She pointed to the left and put her hand back under her chin. I stared at her for a second and said, "Where? Who am I supposed to speak to?" With a sigh, she got up out of her chair and walked to a table of men clearly in a meeting. She interrupted them, a man excused himself and asked what I was interested in, and upon finding out I was interested in solar, he pointed to the left and said to speak to that gentlemen there. There were two exhibitor staff and one visitor having a discussion. We walked again to the left, smiled and waved at the two booth staff. One looked at me, then looked back at his colleague who was talking to the visitor.
I said, "Excuse me, I'm interested in learning more about your solar powered telecom equipment?" He shushed me and asked me to wait. "Wait?" I looked around. There must have been ten or twelve booth staff and about four visitors. I mentioned this to my staff in a loud voice, stating why should we have to wait... With a sigh, the gent listening to the other gent talk, walked us over to a solar panel and pointed at it. "This is our solution."
"Hmmm." I noticed the large metal cabinet filled with batteries. (There must have been 4 or 5 batteries per shelf; the entire cabinet was the size of a refrigerator.) I asked where the inverter was. No answer. At this point, the other gent approached and asked if he could help. He told us that they use an 80-panel array requiring 6,000 sqm to power a tower that used that sized battery bank. (Can you imagine?) He stated that they were working with Aircel and Airtel and that they had 270 sites live in Orissa and MP. (To be clear, 270 times 6,000 = 1,620,000 sqm minimum devoted to powering telecom equipment in Orissa & MP. Wouldn't that land be better used, for say... growing food in a developing country?) He wouldn't be more specific. He refused to name a price for their product then handed me a brochure that merely discussed the benefits of renewable energy solutions. No technical data, no pricing, no capabilities, no requirements. He promised to send me this information. I'm not too confident, although he was the only person at the show representing Nokia that seemed informed, professional and courteous.
Luminous Teleinfra Limited (SAR Group)
When we walked into their booth, we were pretty much mobbed by the booth staff who seemed very eager to meet us. I asked about their solar telecom solutions and they seemed to have one. They seemed to have a bit of everything, actually. There was a wind turbine, and a diesel generator as well. They seem to be more of a services company sourcing equipment and customizing the solution per site. They said their solutions started at $10K US, but they wouldn't say exactly which of their solutions that detailed (was it solar? solar/wind combo? back up generator, what?). They stated that their projects were "All over India, but mainly in Orissa and MP." Both companies mentioned these two states. Luminous stated they were working with Airtel, so it seems that Airtel is leading the solar deployments in India (at least based on what the players at India Telecom had to say). My impression of Luminous was that they had no focus based on what they had to tell me. To every question I asked, I got the same answer: "Yes, Madam." I'm not sure they understood my English. :-)
No one at Airtel could answer anything except about their consumer solutions. It appeared that they had focused on consumer services and did not expect to hear any questions as to their network infrastructure. (I hope this changes. If consumers began asking what percentage of their networks were using renewable energy and basing their buying decision on that, it could make a significant impact on the mobile operator's onus to build out responsibly.)
Vodaphone also focused on consumer products, the selling of phones and services. They also couldn't answer what percentage of their network deployment in India was powered by renewable energy, but then, their booth staff were pretty lame and uniformed even about the products that they were distributing brochures for. Asking questions from left field just gave them a dazed and bewildered look.
Ericsson had the largest presence at the show and had a little of everything in their booth. Their network rollout literature mentions nothing about renewable energy-based solutions and it seems that they are focusing on BTS swaps and site management services.
Other NotesI was surprised to see Motorola there. Having lived near to their Death Star headquarters in Naperville Illinois, USA, and having watched them implode upon themselves since 2002, I wasn't thinking they'd be continuing to market through trade shows. Anyway. They were presenting consumer equipment, but also had a minor play in in-building wireless solutions. They were really unfocused with WiMax products mixed in with IBWS (don't say they're the same thing - I've been assured they are not), the displays made no sense. They only had product literature for some products and not others. Ah, well. Motorola... Fair thee well...
Okay, I'm just going to say it. Trade show booth programs are expensive and difficult to do well. Unfocused programs and untrained staff makes for a waste of resources - both in cash and staffing. There is nothing worse than providing a bad visitor experience, online or offline. Be easy to access, provide the information the person wants quickly, allow them to interact as they want to, and provide feedback. Send them on their way with a thank you.
Some of the things I do to make a trade show visit memorable is introduce something interesting about me as a person as well as part of the conversation. It helps to provide an interesting point about the person as well as the company. It's pretty easy for me since I'm an American living in India partially off the grid so it ties in well with what my company does, yet adds that intangible you can't get from a "booth babe". When they get an email from me, my response rate will be just that little bit higher. Remembering facts about them (written on the back of their card) written into your email helps as well. It's all about developing relationships, and trade shows are just like speed dating - you have three minutes, tops, to engage and send them away, hopefully with something nice to say about you and wanting to learn more. Once you figure out how to spend those three minutes of engagement as a company and train your staff on how to go about it, you will have a much more successful program.