EN casts a brief eye over the career to date of Roger Shashoua, the recipient of the first ever Exhibition News Pioneer Award at this year’s awards ceremony at Olympia.
Few entrepreneurs can claim to have beaten a path for the international exhibition industry in quite the same way as Roger Shashoua. The UK-based co-founder of four companies, including ITE Group, ICE Group and Expomedia, was launching events in China and Russia at times when others considered themselves explorative if they launched at the NEC rather than Earls Court.
Shashoua is responsible for launching businesses on all continents, with three of his companies subsequently listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Much of his success was built by virtue of entering a country before the market opened, a goal he achieved by carefully selecting the right partners.
In 1980s China, and in an effort to win over the tough Chinese government, Shashoua worked alongside former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson, whose presence afforded him significant credibility.
Later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in an attempt to gain a foothold in Eastern Europe, Shashoua helped tap into the now free press with literary shows such as the Prague International Book Fair; an event he created with the endorsement of the late Czech Prime Minister and celebrated activist/author, Vaclav Havel.
But as he points out, the path to success was littered with unexpected obstacles, most commonly resistance from national associations not keen on foreign entrepreneurs establishing events in their home markets.
However Shashoua’s determination paid off. Events such as construction exhibition Batimat were a big success in Russia, a result he says that came about by “working with the right partners and ministries”.
While these partnerships were crucial to his success, he was also able to detect and steer shows away from potentially corrosive alliances. With the virtual bankruptcy of the Soviet Union in 1998, the country was given over to corruption and escalating ‘gangsterism’. And when the pillars of Russian industry were privatised – in many cases falling into the hands of today’s wealthy oligarchs through carefully orchestrated shareholdings – Shashoua was careful to avoid what he refers to as the “more disruptive elements”.
It seemed to pay off. Events such as the Moscow International Motor Show, a show he confesses was a hard slog in a time of political turmoil, helped secure his reputation internationally.
“These events were not like today’s shows,” Shashoua claimed. “You had to adopt a very different approach.
“One potential buyer in Moscow asked if a car on display was bullet-proof, and on being told it was, sprayed the side of the vehicle with bullets. ‘It is bullet-proof’ he said, and then said he’d take two of them, but not the one he’d shot at because, obviously, it was damaged.”
His chutzpah, by his own confession, has taken him far. In 2007 he authored the world’s most expensive book, a £3m diamond-encrusted edition on working in Russia called Dancing With The Bear, a publicity stunt that once again helped put his name up in lights.
There was nothing but substance in perhaps his greatest industrial achievement to date;
co-founding the ITE Group. Shashoua attributed the group’s success to “outstanding management” – taking the company from a “dynamic, youthful outfit with huge growth potential and turning it into the international business it is today”.
The turn of the century took him and his company Expomedia to India, where he personally invested in one of India’s first privately owned venues, in Greater Noida – a suburb of New Delhi.
At the same time, Expomedia helped launch and manage a second government-owned Greater Noida Exhibition Centre.
Of course, Shashoua is not ready to rest on his laurels just yet. His latest venture, IPR Connections, is billed as the ‘first comprehensive global trading site for owners of brands including exhibitions’.
“This business is capable of assisting how inventors, companies, research institutes and other holders of IP, or their attorneys and agents, assign, license, sell and acquire IP rights worldwide,” Shashoua said. The company also works with other intellectual property rights, trademarks, designs, domain names and new products.
It brings Shashoua almost full circle, harking back to his early days at the head of the largest patent company in the US.
Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess.
During Shashoua’s 50-year career, he has built up four international exhibition groups, three of which were quoted on the London Stock Exchange.
1960s – Takes first steps into the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, UAE, Egypt, Iran).
1970s – Enters Africa (Nigeria, Ivory Coast).
1980s – Enters China (Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzen, Shanghai).
1990s – Launches into Central and Eastern Europe (Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungry, Romania, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine).
2000s – Enters India.
This was first published in the May edition of Exhibition News.
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