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Sat 13 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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The Index factor

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Index, CID speaks to Lu Buchanan, the event’s vice president, about making the show less ‘souq-like’.

The Index factor

What have you learnt from this year’s Index steering
committee?

Bringing together such a diverse wealth of knowledge has
been a great asset for Index. The Index steering committee was formed with this
in mind and consists of highly regarded designers in the region. The steering
committee helped paint a full picture of how Index can evolve, on a regional
level and on the world design calendar. The greater focus this year on an array
of high-end exhibitors on the show floor is something the committee helped
steer.

How will this manifest itself in this or future editions of
the show?

Index has been running for a staggering 20 years now so we
wanted the anniversary show to be particularly special. This year’s Index will
be a sign of things to come. The show will continue to have strong
international presence, coupled with its distinct regional flavour. Key show
features will continue to support and showcase local and youth talent. Beyond
the focus on product innovations we hope to develop future events as the core
of a total design week.

In your experience, what are the greatest misconceptions
that international companies have about this region?

On the international front, there has been a lot of bad
press about the economy of the region so this has created misconceptions. In
stark contrast to any doom and gloom reports, the estimated value of interior
design contracting projects from 2009 to 2010 in the GCC totalled $22 billion.

What elements of this year’s show are you most excited
about?

It’s the level of high-end exhibitors and the 20th
anniversary innovation products lineup that I am really excited about. I am
certain there will be a great atmosphere at the show and I hope everyone who
visits shares the excitement. I really love seeing the students and established
designers interacting on the Al Habtoor & ISG Student Challenge, and the
new Fekra Design Competition will no doubt share the same energy and
enthusiasm.

What are the greatest challenges you face when organising a
design event?

Any major event is a logistical exercise, so to support
exhibitors with their exhibits always presents its challenges in the final days
before set up. Often the challenge is to encourage the industry to come out in
full support of a local show, particularly in the current climate, but we have
not had any such issue this year, so we hope that the industry feels more attachment
to Index.

How is organising events in this region different to other
parts of the world?

I have been very lucky to have run a variety of shows,
ranging from IT to finance and air shows in many parts of the world. For
example, I launched the Homes & Garden shows in Malaga
and Alicante,
and this gave me the first real taste of working in the field of design. This
region is so cosmopolitan that many of the same synergies apply. However, due
to the laid-back nature of the region, many things do come together at the last
minute so it is not unknown to be putting the final touches to the event whilst
people are lining up at the door!

What are Index’s greatest strengths  and greatest weaknesses?

Every year is a learning curve so with 20 years under our belt
we think that we are closer than ever to the right mix. We have taken on board
feedback over the years. At one stage, there was the feeling that the show was
a bit too souq-like or featuring a heavy influence of Chinese products, so we
have worked hard to realign the show and raise the exhibitor focus, present
stricter guidelines and even change international representatives.

An important facet of such a show is that Index is known as
one of the best performing events in the world for its quality of visitors.
Independent research has shown that 92% of trade visitors had purchasing or
specifying responsibility in 2009, with 91% expecting to conduct business
directly with Index exhibitors.

Moving forward, what is your vision for the show?

First and foremost my main ambition for the future is to
raise the profile of Index and develop it into a true networking event. There
seems to be major potential and tones of interest for such a network. In
addition to a more collaborative design network, we would ultimately like to
see Dubai grow into a design capital such as Paris and Milan,
where loads of design events would take place around Index.

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