Presenting its solutions at various forums, Unitsky String Technologies Inc. invariably arouses keen interest. What tasks does the company solve during exhibitions? How is the effectiveness of participation measured? And which of the events can be called the most successful for UST Inc.? These and other questions are answered by the company's CEO Nadezhda Kosareva.
– Nadezhda, Unitsky String Technologies Inc. regularly participates in exhibitions on technological topics. Please tell us why this is important for the company?
– This is part of the marketing activity. Firstly, our presence at such events increases the company's recognition in the international arena. Secondly, UST Inc. employees get the opportunity to find out which technologies are most in demand on the market right now, which innovative solutions exist. Thirdly, every exhibition is about establishing business contacts. In addition, participation in events of such type can be an important stage of processes that have been going on for a certain time. For example, signing an agreement or contract.
– Does the company participate in all significant exhibitions on technological and transport topics?
– We have a strategy that defines the key parameters of marketing activity. It includes the audience that the product is aimed at, as well as the areas of its application that are most promising from the company's point of view. When deciding to participate in a particular exhibition, we proceed from a number of priority areas. These include: connecting city districts and logistics centers, overcoming water barriers, creating transport infrastructure in recreational areas, forming an alternative transport system of the "second" level inside the city. The regions where exhibitions are held are also important. Priority is given to those where we are currently actively working on the implementation of the company's projects.
– You mentioned the target audience… Who is the UST Inc. presentation designed for?
– Today, when the product has passed the stages of creation, expert assessment and certification, the company's presentation is aimed at an audience that can be a customer of uST transport and infrastructure complexes. In fact, we are talking about representatives of major enterprises that need to solve various logistical problems. Such as the delivery of raw materials to the place of processing, transportation of products from the places of its production to certain logistics hubs. Another segment of our target audience is government representatives: both regional and top-level. These are civil servants who make decisions, compile programs for the development of transport systems in the regions and may be interested in our product.
– Nadezhda, Unitsky String Technologies Inc. is not just developing an alternative mode of transport. The company, in fact, offers the world a new branch of industry. Please tell us what kind of reaction does UST Inc. product arouse among exhibition visitors?
– It changes over time. Even before the creation of Unitsky String Technologies Inc., the author of the idea of string transport Anatoli Unitsky participated in various exhibitions, where he showed visualizations, operating models of complexes. At that same time, sometimes it was possible to substantiate certain decisions only in theory. Nevertheless, even then the technology aroused genuine interest among the exhibition visitors. But there also appeared many questions. Today, after creating the product and obtaining certification, there are considerably fewer questions, but the interest from customers has grown noticeably. All the main aspects and advantages of our complexes are shown and proven in practice.
– And what questions are most often asked by visitors to such events?
– Previously, many people were interested in how string transport operates. Now they are asking how much it costs to build and operate a transport and infrastructure complex and where you can contact to discuss the details of the transaction. When we first presented our transport at the InnoTrans exhibition in 2016, the string-rail overpasses were under construction. The idea of how the uST complex would operate could only be formed from the illustrations that we demonstrated. Today we have built six transport complexes. Several more are under construction. Thanks to this, most of the questions are withdrawn: about the principle of operation, about the fields of application, about safety and certification… Our representatives at the exhibitions can only continue communication in terms of the use of uST transport and infrastructure solutions for those challenges that a region or an enterprise face.
– How many exhibitions has the company participated in during its existence?
– Today their number has exceeded fifty. On average, the company participates in various events every two months. During them, we learn about existing trends, as well as show solutions that we have. This allows us to be in the thick of the events in the transport industry, maintain contacts with partners, remind about ourselves and, of course, increase the number of customers.
– Which exhibition can be called the most successful for the company?
– I would mention several exhibitions. If we list them in chronological order, we recall InnoTrans 2016, where we first showed our rolling stock. It was a 14-passenger uBus and a 2-seat uBike. Another exhibition is InnoTrans 2018. That was the first time we presented the flagship of our model range – the high-speed uFlash. During this event, a funny episode happened. Some of the visitors seriously said that "Belarusians have brought a rocket to the exhibition." Of course, we explained to such participants that our uPod has nothing in common with a vehicle that burns out a huge hole in the ozone layer at launch. Participation in the World Government Summit, which was held in Dubai in 2019, was also significant for the company. Our uCar and uBike were presented to high-ranking officials. As part of this event, the Sheikh of Dubai have personally examined this technology together with his son, the Crown Prince. Speaking about recent bright exhibitions, then this is, of course, Expo 2020. We focused on the presentation of the company not so much in the Belarusian pavilion, but at our uSky test and demonstration center in Sharjah, located near the exhibition. Many delegations from different countries have visited it. At that time, our product was already certified by TUV company, so the degree of visual expression was not comparable with other exhibitions. We were able not only to show the technology in handout materials, but also provided the guests with the opportunity to see uST transport with their own eyes and even drive in it. In terms of effectiveness, the EXPO exhibition surpassed all previous ones by an order of magnitude.
– Is it possible to say that participation in this or that exhibition has led to some tangible result?
– Today, only one of our projects appears in the media – a 15-kilometer route in Dubai. This project was announced not by us, but by the Dubai Ministry of Transport (RTA). And since it is publicly announced by the other Party of the deal, we can publicize it. We cannot disclose the rest of the projects. On the one hand, due to agreements with our partners, and on the other – we do not want to talk about them for security reasons: unfair competition has not been canceled yet. I would not say that the 15-kilometer route project was the result of an exhibition, but it was definitely the result of certain events, among which was the World Government Summit in Dubai.
– How does the company evaluate the effectiveness of participation in exhibitions?
– There are several evaluation criteria. One of them is the growth of the company's recognizability. Various metrics can be used here. For example, references in the media. You can also evaluate the effectiveness by the number of contacts established during an event, as well as by the number of documents signed. There is also such an indicator as the generation of fresh ideas. Our professionals travel to an exhibition to learn about innovations. If after the event a lot of new technical solutions appeared from our engineers, the exhibition was held for the company with benefit.
– How labor-intensive is the process of preparing for exhibitions?
– It depends on the nature of participation and the scale of presentation. In the early years of the company's existence, we presented our developments as widely as possible: we brought transport models and even industrial samples of uPods to exhibitions, prepared large handout materials, created many introductory videos specifically for exhibitions. Of course, this process required time and financial investments. Preparation for the event took at least six months. But this approach was relevant at the initial stage of the company's development. Few people knew about us then. And we, figuratively speaking, had to shout to be noticed. If we continue the analogy, now we can no longer raise our voice: we are already heard and well known. We constantly communicate with partners in various regions, therefore we participate in exhibitions on a smaller scale, but with a greater concentration on the target audience. Today, exhibitions interest us more as platforms for the implementation of the necessary stages on the way to a commercial transaction than as an opportunity to make ourselves known to the world.
– And what can you say about participation in exhibitions in the foreseeable future? Are there any plans to further adjust the format, taking into account the current state of affairs?
– Of course, we always keep our finger on the pulse and decide on the format of participation in exhibitions depending on the interests of the company. Sometimes we have to adjust our plans. For example, earlier we announced participation in the InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin, but a lot has changed in the world since the publication of this information. Take, for example, global restrictions and cancellation of events due to coronavirus. The exhibition was postponed. And during this period, our plans for InnoTrans have changed somewhat... We have a number of events planned till the end of the year. We will tell you about them in due time. In the meantime, I can say that they are related to specific regions that are most promising for the introduction of uST transport. If we talk about the format of participation, the approach that is being used today can be called quite effective. In the future, when we gain a foothold in the market and set ourselves the task of developing new niches, the format of participation in exhibitions might be revised. We will probably make a larger presentation again: in accordance with the new tactical tasks and the higher level at which our company will be positioned.