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Chapter V – The Experts Roundtable I Gary Shapiro, CEO – Consumer Technology Association [CES]

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For this week’s Experts Roundtable, we were excited to host Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, CTA Producers of International CES. He has been a prominent figure of the Global  Tech Industry, and his platform remains one of the biggest exhibits of technology and innovation. For last week’s roundtable, we spoke  to him about the future of CES, his experiences during the lockdown and thoughts on India becoming a new global manufacturing hub.

His Wife who is a doctor had contracted COVID and is completely recovered from it now while he goes for his own testing as we speak. We wish his tests come negative and salute his spirit to come for a conversation in between this.

Gary Shapiro, President & CEO- CTA  [Producer of CES]  In conversation with Ramesh Somani- Chief Editor and Publisher, BBC TopGear India and Exhibit

 [Ramesh Somani]: Everyone is restless to hit the ground, tell me what are the challenges and difficulties you see while working from home? How has your experience been?

[Gary Shapiro]: Well, working from home has its own challenges and delights frankly. A prominent challenge is maintaining relationships with people – earlier when in office you could walk up to people and talk to them or have discussions and get going. So used to having normal conversations – everything is timed and planned. With emails and texts taking over, I am noticing we are missing out on a lot of things and make mistakes sometimes. Also, conversations over video seem to be much more formal than they used to be. On the positive side, I have two children – age 8 and 12, and we are having our meals together. Me and my wife and exercising together – my wife is a doctor and she had COVID-19. She has not been tested positive for anti-bodies, and today I go in for my check. But otherwise, technology has played a great role in supporting business during lockdown and the biggest noticeable change is lesser pollution globally, Earth is healing and the air is getting cleaner. 

[Ramesh Somani]: So now what happens to CES 2021? Is there a virtual counterpart?

[Gary Shapiro]: We are planning for a live event in January from Las Vegas, of course there are things out of our control. People will definitely be back to work and there will be more activities going on around the globe. CES will look different, we have to evolve ourselves in accordance to things around us. We are definitely doing to highlight technologies that are helping us in this crisis that we are in. Our strategy is to widen the shows digital reach with a wider selection of CES livestream content and other engaging digital and virtual opportunities. 

[Ramesh Somani]: Keeping the global sentiment in mind, the most burning question currently is do you see manufacturers and technology products shift their base from China to elsewhere? Are companies really looking at India as a viable option?

[Gary Shapiro]: One of the results of this crisis is that every country is now re-assessing its relationship with China. America will definitely distance itself from China and India is definitely a contingent as a country. It’s a country that’s ahead of the rest in many ways – the workforce is well educated, communication is not a concern, we understand each other well. However, we have an innovation scorecard and we ranked India – while it does great in some parameters, there are a few challenges related to investments, employment and government regulations. India has not embraced innovation, there are tariff barriers, there is a strong resistance to self-driving cars, and government regulations have been very restrictive to promote innovation.  

[Ramesh Somani]: What happens to start-ups in CES 2021, how is the Eureka Park going to accommodate all these closely packed stalls?

[Gary Shapiro]: We will be spreading out the exhibitors around the show more, Eureka Park is expecting fewer exhibitors so we will have more space, especially in the new infrastructure being build in Las Vegas that will be used for our show. That will give some additional space for us to spread out. We have lost a few exhibitors, especially a few from China. We will have more space in our show and we are working on the floor plans currently. We do plan to digitally enhance CES so that people around the world can see it. CES is a platform that unites the community, and if we have to do it virtually, we will do the best to give our exhibitors the same experience whilst being digital. 

[Ramesh Somani]: What has been your observation on companies changing their ways of working? Would be seeing more and more companies folding up and exiting?

[Gary Shapiro]: Companies and manufacturers are depending upon their local authorities to deal with situations. Their number one concern is the well-being of their employees. And yes, shareholders are equally important. But there have been some major opportunities – I’ve been talking to companies that manufacture lights, TV sets, microphones, laptops and other consumer electronics, and everyone says business has been great so far. People who are now forced to stay indoors are buying electronic products which they wouldn’t have in the earlier normal circumstances. There is a high growth in some areas; however some aren’t doing so good.

I would like to restate what was said by a very famous global scientist over a hundred years ago – he said it’s not the strongest who survive, it’s not the fastest who survive, it’s those who adapt the quickest that can survive.

The US government is currently shelling out money to the unemployed, as a result of which we are seeing the highest percentage of unemployment in the United States currently and it will be difficult to get them back to workforce because the unemployment benefits now are more than being employed today. On that front India is doing better 

[Ramesh Somani]: That you for the wonderful insights Gary! I’m looking forward to seeing you soon, take care of yourself.

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