While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected a number of sectors severely, especially on the wake of the lockdown measures applied globally, other sectors have witnessed reflation –there are even businesses that were born amid the crisis and benefit from the potentials it provides.
Hybrid events have become one of the main features of the new normal imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic since its onset in late 2019.
Ahram Online spoke with Mohammed Tayem the Founder and CEO of UAE-based Eve – a fully interactive, immersive 3D virtual platform – on the challenges his business faced when it launched, amid the pandemic, in July 2020 and how he tapped on the potentials the crisis extended.
Eve, which mainly operates in the GCC region is equipped to host virtual events, virtual conferences, virtual roadshows, virtual exhibitions and virtual music concerts, providing ready-to-use templates or environments that can be customised as per the client’s requirements.
Ahram Online: How has the COVID-19 pandemic benefitted online platform businesses?
Mohammed Tayem: The outbreak of the pandemic early in 2020 forced global lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus. Even after the lockdowns were lifted, strict social-distancing rules were imposed across the world to slowdown the contagion and control the number of cases. With people staying at home and remote work becoming the new normal, online platforms thrived as they provided a sense of continuity and facilitated businesses to go on. From food delivery to online shopping, to video conferencing tools and virtual events, almost all forms of digital businesses have grown exponentially in the last year as a result of the restriction of movement imposed by governments.
AO: Organising events businesses are among the sectors that observers expect will be affected negatively over the long-run because of the pandemic…Do you agree?
MT: The events sector is very resilient to the ups and downs the economy witnesses, it is a core pillar in marketing and will always bounce back. Having said that, it has been affected by the pandemic and major events around the world getting cancelled or postponed. Even during the peak lockdown phase event organisers and brands have found effective ways to communicate and engage with their audiences through virtual events, webinars, virtual conferences, etc. In fact, a number of online platforms were launched during the pandemic to support the sector.
With the augment of technology; the resilience of the events industry and the vaccine being rolled out globally, the impact of the pandemic on the sector will not last long.
AO: To what extent has the pandemic impacted your business?
MT: For my company, COVID-19 was a game-changer. We saw an opportunity in the challenges brought by the pandemic. Eve was born during the pandemic as a response in order to keep people connected and help them execute their events while they are sitting at home. Also, eve was a response to this pandemic to spread hope, create a new era for the events industry and replicate the success of hybrid media by taking hybrid events into the future. From the moment we launched Eve back in July 2020, we saw an immediate positive response from the industry for the virtual platform and an acceptance of the fact that the events industry is changing forever. Our region has a big focus on the events industry, playing a major role in the GDP of GCC countries, as these big events attract millions of visitors every year and generate millions of dollars in return as well as international publicity that comes with the events. So, accepting the fact that our audiences on international and local levels are willing to accept the new direction was astounding.
Basically, when we designed the platform, we thought of building a full event environment with all the touchpoints, but virtually. What differentiates Eve today is the strong knowledge of the product designers who built the platform with 3D environments and technology integration to cater to all the needs of both event organisers and attendees. Our 3D platform can help the organiser control the stage and the backstage from the platform itself, which no other platform across the globe is offering. Eve is fully integrated with an e-commerce backend that allows the exhibitors to display and sell within the platform, without actually leaving the environment.
AO: Your business is located mainly in the GCC, do you have plans to expand in other markets?
MT: Eve virtual is a tech-based platform that facilitates hosting events and other business functions in virtual 3D environments. Due to the nature of the platform, it is available to everyone across the globe. We have already worked with clients from the USA, the UK, Asia and GCC.
AO: Do you have plans for the Egyptian market?
MT: When we launched the Eve virtual platform, our goal was to reach a global level from day one, and accordingly, as a result of all the characteristics that we presented and the speed of market response to the launch, we were able to gain the confidence of a large number of important names on local, regional and global levels. We strive on a daily basis to confirm our endless keenness in front of all our partners with success from suppliers, employees, clients and media agencies to work on a daily basis and to develop the platform, providing it with the latest technical solutions, which competitors have not reached. We have been able to put Eve in a record period on the global map of the business sector (events and exhibitions) and soon we will begin to provide virtual solutions to the education sector.
AO: You started your business in July 2020, which means it began amid the peak of the pandemic’s outbreak... Does it mean that this business will survive on the long term despite the challenges?
MT: The pandemic was an eye opener for many sectors. Many virtual platforms and video conferencing tools were launched to facilitate remote working and business continuity. Virtual hosting platforms definitely have opened many new avenues for the business world. Virtual platforms have the ability to reach a global audience, connecting multiple time zones on a single platform. Speakers, guests and attendees don’t ever have to physically travel to the event's location. The option of hybrid events has become increasingly popular, with a limited number of attendees on ground and a larger audience base joining the event virtually.
Virtual and hybrid events also make it much easier to track customer journeys throughout the platform. Comprehensive data can be obtained by virtual platforms that event organisers can use for making virtual experiences richer and more engaging.