PRAVEEN VENU tells Clifford Agugoesi in an exclusive interview, on the sidelines of CyFrica 2020, 25-26 February, at Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, south west, Nigeria, Africa is on a high-gear transformation no investor can afford to ignore it.
Cyber Era: Kindly introduce yourself and company to us.
PRAVEEN VENU: My name is Praveen Venu and am the sales director for Tradepass. Tradepass is a business-to-business (B2B) event services company. We are headquartered in India and we organize events across Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East. In Africa and Asia, we have different product lines across different industry verticals. One of our key pillars is Cybersecurity and BFSI-Banking, Financial Services and Insurance.
CE: Why did you decide to host CyFrica 2020 in Nigeria; what is your fascination for this market?
PV: Africa, like the world looks at it, is a land of opportunity and any technology or any industry as a matter of fact under the lot of disruption and innovation that is right now happening know Africa is leading the race. So, in Africa, we have two product lines, the one is the BFSI which is part of our global series, which is called Financial Innovation Series(FIS)and the other one is on cybersecurity, which is known as CyFrica. CyFrica is a pan African initiative. We are doing this in Lagos, Nigeria, focusing for the west African market, we are going to Kenya in August, which is focusing on East Africa and then, by the end of the year, we are going to Johannesburg in South Africa , both focusing for the Sub Saharan. CyFrica focuses on bringing together all the industry experts under one roof, to ensure that we are speaking about how to make these countries cyber-safe.
CE: Looking at the configuration in this event would you say the reaching out you made, considering the quantity and quality of the attendees, has met your expectations?
PV: Yes, definitely. So, what we do? We are not a typical small scale conference or an exhibition kind of a company, which randomly gets people here. We are not in the name of just numbers, we are here for numbers with quality. So, what we do is: we have a very high level of prequalification process before we bring in any delegate on board. So, the prequalification process is basically for us to understand the kind of projects these guys are involved in; what are the challenges they face, what kind of topics are they looking to get educated on and that is typically how we curate the programme. So, in a nutshell, this is not an event where people come in and just listen to some slides and, then, they dose off and, then, they go back, that’s not the style at all. We make it as interactive and as educative as possible and at the same time, we also bring industry experts who are technology leaders who have great value to offer the industry. So, here in Lagos, we are working with some big players, like the likes of Microsoft, UNIKEN, Dangote,Dufil Prima Foods Plc, CyberSoc, African Alliance Plc, Stabbic IBTC, Unity Bank, et cetera. So, in a nutshell, what we look at is ensuring there is a good takeaway for delegates, the speakers, the partners who have something to offer the industry and, then, they have a lot to take back once they leave from here.
CE: What is your target demography for this summit? The reason we ask is because, Nigeria in particular, and Africa as a whole, as you alluded to earlier, are where the attention of global investors is shifting to today. Did you, for instance, target the innovation community that is peopled with persons under the youth bracket; does the configuration of this summit reflect that as well?
PV: Yes. What we do is, we don’t come on topics just over a cup of coffee. We have a research team who researches on topics , discusses with stakeholders and accordingly we curate the programme. As you are aware, Nigeria was the hardest hit when it comes to cyberattacks in the past couple of years. So, right now, yes, Nigeria is on the verge of reforming the cyber landscape to ensure Nigeria is cyber-safe. What we have targeted here is based on our research ; we understand that cybersecurity is everyone’s business. So what we have done is; we have brought together all the major industry verticals from the likes of financial services, governments and non-governmental organizations, law enforcement agencies, retail, e-commerce, healthcare, manufacturing, and lots more. In a nutshell, we have brought in all the major industry verticals under one roof over the span of two days.
CE: Tell us about your background. Having interacted with you briefly, we are tempted to suspect you have a background in the Performing Arts as ‘curating the event’ keeps recurring in your explanation. Did you have some exposure to the Creative Industry before moving on to events management?
PV: I have been in this industry for quite some time, for a little over a decade and what we do is that we organize this kind of events in different markets, across different industries. So, cybersecurity is just one pillar; we have different industry verticals that we operate in and we are good at match-making, we bring in all the key stakeholders under one roof and they get connected with the right kind of technology vendors or any vendors for that matter.
CE: Tell us a bit about your personal professional background.
PV: I started off working in this industry some 10 years back. I started off with a French organization based in India. I worked with them for their Products Line across Asia, Middle East and Africa: I spent some time with them and then moved on to establish Tradepass. Tradepass is close to 2-3 years now. We have done events in different markets across Africa, South East Asia, India and the Middle East around different topics and around different industry verticals.
CE: How would you compare what you did in Kenya 2 years ago with CyFrica 2020; do these markets have similarities, if any and how would your presence improve whatever lapses that this market is
having, from your perspective?
PV: Africa in general, as I said, is on a very high mode of transformation and Innovation journey that they are in. As a continent, it is one of the biggest continents so we are speaking about the regions being split now; we are looking at East Africa, one market, where, of course, Kenya leads. You go to West Africa, Nigeria is prominently positioning themselves, so our activity in Kenya was very successful. We are taking CyFrica to Kenya, as we said earlier to make it much bigger. On the other hand, we have also we are talking to our clients across West Africa, we are speaking about countries like Ghana, we also got programmes in East Africa in places like Rwanda, Tanzania. So, yes, we are here for good.
CE: So what would be the impact that CyFrica will have on the digital economy that Nigeria is looking to having, for instance?
PV: Well, from our perspective, we are just an event organizing company, so what we do is that we bring together all the key stakeholders under one roof . In terms of what impact does it have, of course, it is for the regional leaders to speak about; it is not something that I would be able to, but yes, in fact, we create this platform s for the good of the regions.
CE: What would be your final take on the necessary steps that African countries need to take in order to be safer, considering the spate of cyberthreats that are looming?
PV: Well, over here, we have had discussions with various governments, law enforcement agencies, technology solutions providers, so they have definitely laid down their perspectives as to what needs to be taken from their countrywide perspective. Again, as I said, as an events servicing company, we our job is to ensure that we create such platforms where it creates opportunities to network, it creates opportunities to learn, and at the same time it creates BIG opportunities for companies and enterprises to innovate themselves.
CE: So when next is your presence going to be felt here?
PV: As I said, we are here for good, so, this is the first time we are hosting CyFrica in Nigeria. Of course, we are going to make it bigger and we have a research team which is coming down with a lot of products lines across West Africa- in countries like Nigeria and Ghana, yes we will keep announcing them through our social channels , through our press releases. So, that’s typically how we do it.
CE: Thank you very much for your time.
PV. Thank you for this opportunity.