A Bigger, Better, Greener IIJS

Leading from the front, Nirav Bhansali, Convener, IIJS National Exhibitions, GJEPC, is a man of action! Thanks to his assiduous planning coupled with his pragmatic approach, IIJS Signature is seeing radical transformations in more ways than one.

By launching the One Earth initiative at the show to reduce its carbon footprint through an aggressive tree-planting drive, Nirav Bhansali is spearheading a transformative phase of the IIJS brand. In an exclusive interview to Solitaire International, Nirav Bhansali shares details of One Earth as well as a slew of new eco-friendly features that will be introduced at the show.

Nirav Bhansali, Convener, IIJS National Exhibitions, GJEPC

As Convener of National Exhibitions, please share your vision for the evolution of the IIJS Signature and plans going forward?

IIJS Signature and IIJS Premiere have come a long way and the process of evolution through the years has been an ongoing one. There are many new initiatives that will be introduced during IIJS Signature.

The main mission is to make our shows “Completely Green” by the year 2025 or 2026, and we are in the process of evaluating the carbon footprint. The journey begins with IIJS Signature 2023, as we have already started going carbon-neutral.

The three main steps taken in that direction are: One, all the booths are prefabricated so that there’s no wastage. No exhibitor is allowed to create their own booths. Earlier, after the show ended, we had to dispose of a lot of used material left over by individually customised booths.

Second, for the first time ever, IIJS Signature will be using Tata Power Renewable Energy Ltd., harnessed by solar and wind energy. Even though it’s costly, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

And the third, and the most important initiative is One Earth! As part of saving our planet, we aim to plant 100,000 trees in a year under the IIJS brand! GJEPC has partnered with SankalpTaru Foundation, and the tree plantation drive is aimed at offsetting carbon emissions generated by IIJS Shows with the added benefit of contributing to the livelihood of farmers. (For more information on “One Earth”, visit https://registration.gjepc.org/tree_plantation.php)

What prompted the One Earth initiative? Are you planning to audit the IIJS shows for carbon emissions towards becoming carbon-neutral? How will you achieve this target?

It’s the increasing carbon emissions that have altered the climatic conditions that impelled us to come up with One Earth. In 2021, global CO2 emissions grew 4.8%, reaching 34.9 billion tonnes of CO2. This has caused extreme weather conditions like tropical storms, wildfires, severe droughts, and heat waves, negatively affecting crop production.

The tree-plantation drive in association with an NGO SankalpTaru is aimed at offsetting carbon emissions generated by IIJS Shows with added benefit of contributing to the livelihood of farmers. This is the first such large-scale pro-environment initiative by a gem & jewellery trade organisation in India.

We intend to involve all our participants including exhibitors, visitors, vendors, sponsors and media. We are requesting every exhibitor to contribute at least 1% of the booth cost towards tree plantation.

The cost of planting each tree is only ₹155/- and the Council is only a facilitator between the NGO and the donors of the IIJS Family.

We aim to plant fruit-bearing trees in villages across all states with a population of marginal farmers. Plants will be distributed as per the soil suitability in the region, and importantly, each and every tree will be geotagged, with the location and farmer’s name and so on. A third-party auditor will oversee the farmer’s activity for two years. Later, the plants will be left solely in the care of the farmer, and he can reap commercial benefits.

A certificate will also be issued to the donor.

Yes, we are already looking at options of consultant agencies, who will identify how much carbon emission is being produced by the IIJS shows.

How does the farmer benefit from the One Earth Initiative?

The benefits are multifold – not only does the farmer earn by selling the produce, the oxygen levels of the environment will also improve.

The farmer can earn approximately ₹10,000 per tree over 20 years. The tree plantation drive will be instrumental in securing the future of lakhs of farmers thus ensuring food security and clean environment in India.

For an investment of just ₹155 for one tree, the cumulative returns are much more. We will continue to expand this programme, and eventually the health of the soil and the quality of air will improve. For the year 2023, we are aiming to plant 100,000 trees, but there could be a domino effect and the idea could catch on, and we may exceed our target.

What’s the minimum amount of contribution expected of each exhibitor and visitor?

As of now, we are requesting exhibitors to contribute a minimum 1% of the booth cost; to national visitors, we are requesting to plant five trees and for international visitors, a minimum of 10 trees; to our vendors – from freight forwarders to design agencies and more – we want them to commit at least 1% of their contract value towards planting trees. All the proceeds will go directly to SankalpTaru and contributors can get the 80G certificate to avail tax benefits.

Personally, I’m also visiting top retail chain owners to contribute more towards this cause and plant 1,000 or 2,000 trees each.

What was the main reason for expanding IIJS Signature into a 5-day show?

We are making all our IIJS shows bigger. IIJS is sought after by old and new participants, and we were unable to provide them booth space. So, this year, IIJS Signature is double the size of the regular Signature. It’s as big as IIJS Premier, and we have over 1,300 companies occupying 2,600 booths.

Our debut show, IIJS Tritiya, to be held in Bengaluru in March, has received a good number of participants. We are closing at almost 1,600 booths. So, the show will be as big as the regular IIJS Signature of the past.

We are also working on expanding IIJS Premiere by almost 30% for the 2023 edition. In all, we are making all our shows bigger and better.

A lot of effort is also being put into getting the right kind of visitors. We also want to increase international participation. In the future, we might re-start the international pavilions at IIJS Premiere.

Tell us more about the new changes one can expect at IIJS Signature.

Apart from focusing on more cleanliness at the show floor; double the speed of our servers; we are trying to add more entry and exit entrances and are in talks with some agencies to improve the parking facility.

This time, we are booking two hotels for our visitors, and offering them not just room stay, but dinner as well, for which we are negotiating good rates.

The show will be bigger, better, and greener – this is the mantra for the next few years!

The Council is also working towards developing an all-inclusive IIJS App so that participants can check every information related to the show across various activities. The App will be launched at IIJS Tritiya in March 2023.

What else can one expect at IIJS Signature?

After some re-thinking, we decided to change the format of our seminars, which were often directed towards our business only.

The seminars have been rebranded and will now be known as Innov8, under which we will have three verticals.

One is Innov8 Talks. The talks will be related to our business, but not directly related to gems and jewellery. For instance, discussions could revolve around alternate financing, retail discounting, Artificial Intelligence, Visual Merchandising, and so on.

The second is Innov8 Launchpad, a dedicated space at the fair where exhibitors will be invited to launch their products. We will also invite speakers, who may want to market stuff like HR software, Cloud Security for websites, or digital insurance, safe digital transactions, etc., that can benefit any business.

The third, is Innovation Hub exclusively for the Machinery section, which will allow exhibitors to launch their products, but again unrelated to gems and jewellery manufacturing. The topics could range from AI on social media, customer service enhancement, Cloud Storage, and more.

Tell us more about the ‘Murmuration’ theme and ambience being created at the show.

This year’s theme revolves around Starlings, the birds known for their shape-shifting ariel flights known as ‘murmurations’. They have a penchant for grouping together as it offers safety in numbers from predators; they stay in flocks to exchange information, which alludes to our industry that flocks together at IIJS to unite as one! There will be thematic cut-outs and installations that will also be made from recycled material that ties up with the One Earth initiative.

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