By Alyssa Stahr
Photos by Borya Galperin of the Wingle Group
The vaping community and industry is a disruptive one. Ann Khomyakova, from international show company, Smile-Expo is an organizer of large business events. Having been engaged in the exhibition space for nine years, Smile-Expo is an expert on global innovations and market drivers. While Smile-Expo mostly works with new market areas, namely robotics, 3D printing, mobile health and augmented reality, Khomyakova said that they are rarely surprised when it comes to events planning. When they were tasked with working with the vaping community, they were calm and full of determination. And then they were faced with just that—the vaping community.
VAPEXPO’s organizers navigated in a fragrant fog throughout the event.
“We were really excited by their energy and commitment. Everything was turned upside down,” Khomyakova said. Young, positive vapers entertained the participants [of VAPEXPO Moscow] better than all those contestants and activities that we prepared for them. We even thought that we should rent a huge
hangar, bring a lot of e-liquids and electronic cigarettes, and then everything would be organized by itself.”
There was more vapor than Khomyakova expected at the show, however Wingle Group photographer Boris Galperin was able to take clear photos—with great effort. VAPEXPO’s organizers navigated in a fragrant fog throughout the event.
To save time, just after the end of June’s VAPEXPO, the Smile-Expo team began to actively collect feedback from guests, exhibitors and partners. As a result, they made a list of obligatory changes for the Dec. 4-5 show, also to be held in Moscow:
1. Rent a pavilion with a large area and powerful air extraction system.
2. Invite international observers in order to give rise to the vaping industry in Russia to the maximum degree.
3. Divide the exhibition into B2B and В2С days. Thus, each audience (conference participants and vapers) will have free range of the pavilion without half measures and compromises on style. Exhibitors will be able to talk with partners in a calm atmosphere and visitors will test a large number of new models of electronic cigarettes and e-liquid.
The event venue, Sokolniki, is conveniently located, and many foreign exhibitors and participants already are familiar with the area and know what to expect. In turn, Khomyakova said that the Smile-Expo team is familiar with the administration and will be able to choose a large pavilion according to increased needs.
There were 35 exhibitors at the June event, distributed 50/50 between the CIS and foreign countries. There were major vendors from Russia and Belarus, regional stores of electronic cigarettes, as well as manufacturers from China, France, Italy, Croatia, India and the United States.
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All arrived with a huge range of products, liquids and electronic cigarettes.
“It is worth mentioning our main sponsor, Stand Point Vapor (SPV) opened the exhibition,” Khomyakova said.
The conference portion of the event brought together about 200 people, occupying all seats were occupied. The exhibition itself attracted about 2,000 visitors. Khomyakova expects the next event will grow by at least 20 percent.
“We would like to admit that the Wingle Group helped us with the organization of the conference. In fact, they were co-organizers of CIS Vapour Dialogues. The company has been operating on the electronic cigarettes market from its very beginning, so their knowledge and contacts helped us attract foreign speakers at the conference,” Khomyakova said.
As vaping industry in the CIS is only starting to develop, it is natural that show organizers wanted to get more experience and practices from abroad. For this purpose, the first day of VAPEXPO was completely devoted to the communication with foreign speakers.
Peter Beckett, public policy consultant with ECITA, moderated the first day. Beckett, together with legislative committees of the European Union, are developing the rules to regulate the market and the norms of standardization of electronic cigarettes in the EU.
Ray Story, CEO of TVECA, provided a program on the legalization of e-cigarettes and tips for dialogue with the vaping community along with Oliver Kershaw, the founder of E-Cigarette Forum (ECF).
The second day was entirely devoted to the reports of Russian vendors and marketing experts in the vaping industry, who shared their experience of work on the domestic market and talked about the specifics of relationships with government agencies.
For example, Anton Bakanev from Nektar spoke about ways of advertising of electronic cigarettes in Russia and dealing with providers in order to bypass the ban on advertising on the Internet.
The owner of one of the largest stores of electronic cigarettes in Russia, Babylon Vape Shop, shared his thoughts on how to promote elite liquids for e-cigarettes.
In light of the popularization of medical research about electronic cigarettes’ influence, the representatives of the Russian Research Institute of Tobacco joined the group. They brought up for discussion a plan for the development of technical documentation on e-liquids and offered instrumental methods for quality control of vaping products.
Khomyakova said that officially, inhalers and electronic cigarettes do not fall under the prohibition provided by the anti-smoking law in Russia, but she had to verify this information by consulting with lawyers and sending requests for an explanation to the Ministry of Health. The only current prohibition concerns advertising.
“This fact makes VAPEXPO quite an attractive event,” she said. “All of our projects are groundbreaking. For our company, it is important to move forward and to organize new exhibitions, which are in the lead of the market. The same case was with VAPEXPO.”
Today, the vaping industry in the CIS remains fairly closed niche according to Khomyakova, in particular because of the limited spread of information about electronic cigarettes. However, just within one year the vaping community has doubled without any support and diversity of products.
“Imagine what will happen if you open the market to foreign products? We have imagined and launched VAPEXPO,” she said. “It is true that some exhibitions have been already held for five years, and they are well known to visitors; everyone knows who is who. The first VAPEXPO was unknown, but it still managed to bring together a huge number of visitors and exhibitors. Those who participated in it were real pioneers, and we thank them for their participation.”
The second VAPEXPO is the next opportunity to keep abreast of trends in the market. The market is opened, and next summer (the third VAPEXPO) it will be clear who you are—a beginner or an experienced participant with the customer base and the sympathy from the vapers.
For more information about the June show and upcoming December show, visit http://VAPEXPO.ru/en.