HOW far can fatherly love go?
For the Angs of events company Worldbex Services International, that affection sent them right to the top when it inspired them to hold the first Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) 11 years ago at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. And for Worldbex Marketing Director Jon Richmond “JR” Ang, the youngest child of the company’s founding chairman Joseph Ang, that love inspired him to take a leading role in the family business.
“My grandfather used to be a distributor of a certain car brand and MIAS was my Dad’s way of paying homage to his father and his legacy,” said the eloquent 27-year-old. “It’s inspiring, in a way, because he did it because of his Dad. And now I’m doing this because of my Dad.”
Ushering people at building expos
JR’s youth is all the more apparent when you consider that he was still in school during the first five iterations of MIAS. As a business management student at De La Salle University, he worked with brands like L’Oreal and Unilever, graduating in 2010. A year later, his father invited him to join Worldbex where he currently handles the company’s public relations and marketing.
“My first show, it felt so surreal,” Ang said. “I really started from the bottom. When I was young, I used to help out at the registration counters and in ushering people. It was a nice experience. It was my ring of fire because, now, I am doing it all by myself.”
Surprisingly, the counters that JR used to sit at as a kid weren’t for MIAS, but for the Philippine World Building and Construction Exposition or WORLDBEX, which started in 1996. Ang recounts the difficulties his father faced with his first show.
“We are an importer and distributor of construction materials and my Dad participated in exhibits abroad,” he said. “He saw the potential and the opportunity of exhibitions, which is why he invited foreign organizers to come to the Philippines 20 years ago. But they weren’t so open since, in a way, they looked down on the Philippine market.”
Ang said this triggered his father to pursue exhibitions on his own. When Joseph came back to the Philippines, he established Worldbex Services International in 1995. And fortunately, his efforts were not in vain.
“Twenty years ago, the running rate of a construction expo was around 30 to 80 booths,” Ang said. “That was big already. But when my Dad started his first construction expo, it had around 156 booths.”
The first MIAS
Drawing on the decade of experience Worldbex had from hosting various expos, including WORLDBEX, the World Bazaar Festival and the Philippine Building and Construction Exposition Cebu or PHILBEX, Ang said his father decided to host the country’s first large-scale car expo in 2005.
“There were a lot of partners in the industry that helped him,” he said. “Two of them were motoring journalists Alvin Uy and Jason Ang, who are still MIAS co-organizers today. Also, Alvin is from the construction industry since we supply for a construction depot he works for.”
Ang also said the involvement of the Car Awards Group Inc. was instrumental in adding credibility to the event, although Worldbex didn’t expect MIAS to take off the way it did. He attributes this to the show being a “neutral ground” for car makers.
“Back then, the car industry was mainly distributor-driven and there were a lot of associations, meaning there were clusters,” he said. “But when we started, those threats were actually opportunities since we didn’t represent any car association. Until today, we welcome all car of shapes and sizes and showcase them to the market.”
This openness to cars of all kinds not only appealed to car makers, but also to the Filipino public that came in droves every year to attend MIAS. Apart from excited car enthusiasts, Ang said MIAS is the perfect car-shopping experience since people can see all of the cars in the market in one place and literally stroll from one to the other. As a result, he said foot traffic grew immensely after the show’s first year.
“The first year was our testing ground. The second year was our reaping season,” he said. “And ever since the second year, we have been constantly growing single-to-double digits.”
Ang added around 110,000 people went to the 2015 MIAS over four days, equating to an average of about 38 people a minute. “We even had to close the doors to the World Trade Center from time to time as maximum capacity was reached,” he said.
But JR believes that MIAS and all of Worldbex’s exhibitions play a bigger role than just putting people and things under one roof.
“It has definitely been helping the economy in terms of cash flow, with exhibitors generating sales from visitors spending their hard-earn money,” he said. “And it’s not just cash, but also the transfers of knowledge, technology and innovation among Filipinos and the international market.”
More people, more cars, more space
This year, MIAS is expected to have around 420 cars, 56 motorcycles and 272 booths from 148 companies. Ang said he is hoping for more luxury and entry-level Chinese car brands to join the show. He also said Worldbex wants MIAS to appeal to even more people, or to at least 112,000 attendees, through more car launches and new competition.
In addition, Ang said MIAS will have more seminars, focusing on road safety, Land Transportation Office-related matters and motor sports. “We believe that drivers need to be constantly informed with new guidelines, new techniques and new knowledge that would educate them,” he said.
But perhaps what JR and Worldbex pine the most is a place that can handle their burgeoning car show.
“Ever since we started, it has been our challenge to be at par with the Bangkok Motor Show, Tokyo Motor Show and even the Detroit Auto Show,” he said. “If we only had a bigger exhibition venue, we would have been at par with Bangkok and Tokyo a few years ago. That is one thing we have yet to develop.”