Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Email

Pico Art International:
Pico Art rides wave of MICE industry to global success

Pico Art International: Pico Art rides wave of MICE industry to global success

A strategy of following its clients around the world has allowed event management and marketing group Pico Art International to transform itself from a small commercial art firm into a global force.

Group president James Chia, who started out washing paintbrushes in the family-run business, says Pico "managed to catch the wave" of the developing meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry here in the 1970s.

"In those days, when the company was small, we didn't really know how to do market research, so we just listened to our customers, who were mostly international companies," he adds in an interview with The Straits Times at the firm's Kallang Avenue base.

"When they asked us to do projects overseas, we just followed them."

The firm was founded by Mr Chia's older brother S. L. Chia in 1969, painting movie posters and advertisements on the sides of buses.

Pico now has offices in more than 36 cities around the globe - in Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East - and refers to the suite of services it provides as "total brand activation".

The company has widened its portfolio beyond organising exhibitions and trade shows - its projects include designing museum displays and providing facility management services for exhibition halls and stadiums.

It undertakes more than 1,000 projects worldwide every year. These have included pavilions at the Shanghai World Expo, the Beijing and London Olympics, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum 2009 Leaders Week in Singapore.

One major project coming up involves organising a large-scale machine tool exhibition in China next year.

"When expanding overseas, we take a long-term view of the industry in each market... we entered each country to stimulate the market there," he says.

Pico has 100,000 sq m of inhouse production facilities across five continents, manufacturing equipment like prefabricated tent structures that it needs for its exhibitions.

The home-grown company was among the early birds in the internationalisation game, including being "a pioneer in the China market", when it began rapidly expanding overseas in the 1980s, notes Mr Chia.

"In the early days, there were no convention or exhibition facilities in countries like China and Vietnam; we had to do things like convert carparks into temporary exhibition venues."

Availability of quality materials and suitable workers can also be an issue in countries where the Mice industry is not as developed.

"Many of our customers are multinational companies and they expect the same level of quality no matter which country we are in," says Mr Chia, adding that the quality control process can sometimes be "painstaking" but is necessary to keep standards high.

Undeterred, the company took matters into its own hands - it has constructed and managed permanent exhibition halls and sports facilities in various countries across Asia.

"When expanding overseas, we take a long-term view of the industry in each market... we entered each country to stimulate the market there," he says.

"Exhibition organisers don't invest in building exhibition halls, because their exhibitions happen only once a year, for example. But it's something that a company like us can invest in."

In the same vein, Pico is also setting up "creative centres" around the world, including two, in Shanghai and Beijing, which are scheduled for completion this year.

The complexes will include manufacturing facilities, creative studios and offices.

The company recorded about $600 million in turnover last year, more than half of which came from China - a market Mr Chia refers to as a "driving force".

As any company venturing abroad can attest to, establishing a presence in a foreign country is not easy.

"When expanding overseas, we take a long-term view of the industry in each market... we entered each country to stimulate the market there, exhibition organizers don't invest in building exhibition halls, because their exhibitions happen only once a year, for example. But it's something that a company like us can invest in."

"When a Singapore company intends to go overseas, it is important to study and understand the market. Unlike the Singapore market, once you venture out, it feels like you are in the ocean - there are waves, tides, currents and sharks."

The company's first project in every new market is the initial step towards establishing a long-term presence.

"We use the first project we do as our showpiece... the money that we make is also channelled back into subsequent investments."

Despite all the company has achieved overseas, Singapore is still home, says Mr Chia.

"We are a global brand, but the Singapore office is still one of our most important offices... being a Singapore company also gave us a good credible standing overseas."



Share this story

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Email

Sign up for IE newsletter
Connect with us!


More stories about Lifestyle & Retail.