Tuesday, June 28, 2016

PowerGen Europe 2016 in Milan

Dear Readers,
On 21-22-23 June 2016, I participated to PowerGen Europe Conference and Exhibition in Milan (Italy). I came with my wife to Milan before Conference. We found a comfortable small apartment at reasonable price for one week close to the exhibition. We visited Milan city museums, parks, shopping venues, Duomo, Churches, Opera, on the weekend together on foot,
I met with numerous domestic (Italian) and foreign energy professionals during the conference. I exchanged information. I listened to speeches and watched presentations, demonstrations. There were many business professionals from Turkey. However there were also cocktails to join, free drinks everywhere, lots of face to face communication to exchange off-the record information, gossip etc. There were people who came not only for fair but also for travel leisure for holiday shopping in Milan, world center of fashion. Majority of technical people in the company booths were not sales people, hence they did not know sales psychology. A technically trained people can not be a sales people overnight. Most of them did not know how to respond questions, how to talk. They were entering extra long presentations, boring conversations, giving unnecessary informations, lots of details. Some of them were not interested in any conversation, as if in the mood just waiting to leave and go to shopping. There were people who were interested in collecting free promotional stuff only, pens, book, catalogues, shirts whatever available. There were all types of people with no culture in good manners, holding seats at resting places, responding in rude and bad manners. Most of them did not know any foreign languages, asking lady translators to help them. Unfortunately most of those ladies were not able to translate the details of the technical jargon. Most sales people were not trained upfront what they were supposed to sell, they were unable to answer simple questions, they had catalogues filled with nonsense outdated empty information.
Among senior professionals, we exchanged plenty of first hand market rumors in face to face interviews. Just a few words or sentences were enough to relay some critical information. We understand that outdated technology was finished, prices were remained too expensive. Nowadays old, big, too cumbersome firms are about to leave the energy markets. I'm familiar with old professionals. Some of them were separated from the company, retired.
They were looking for new opportunities to get hired elsewhere. However they were illiterate in new software and information environment.
Far East company officials were quite eager to push the market. However they were speaking with their weird native accent, and could not communicate properly. In order to overcome that difficulty they hired mother tongue English speaking sales people however these people were unaware of the technology they were in for sales. On the other hand, Germans, French, Spaniards, were not comfortable talking other than their native language.
Exhibition area covers two large halls. Visitors, and exhibitors were from various countries. I met with many professional friends from my home country, I visited their booths to talk, to exchange news, gossips, to feel the market. I sensed that our engineering companies were in financial difficulties. In most of them, ownership is changed during project execution, they could not pay money they borrowed and they had to sell the majority stake to the company they owed. Serious ones were struggling for survival. We have available human capital, intellectual accomplishments, and there are international financial groups who were waiting to buy these blue chip engineering establishments. I could not see or meet with any serious investor from my home country. Similarly I could not come across with any ministry of public official in the conference. There were all vendors, but unfortunately there were a few investors or purchasers. On the other hand our contractors were quite good in overseas business to build new industrial or power installations.
Major foreign equipment supplier companies have sensed the market tendencies earlier that we were. One of them said to me, "We are dealing with the same technological garbage, over and over again". They are fearing the ultra low cost similar equipment as produced by Far east companies with or without western license. Western companies are quite comfortable behind their custom walls, but they are trapped there. Their home markets are saturated. They can not supply overseas. They can not sell in international markets.
In this year's exhibition, I was very pleased to witness the growing number of companies from my home country. There were equipment manufacturers, contractors as well as engineering companies. Our big companies have now started to show interest in holding a booth in Powergen exhibition halls, encouraging their staff to make technical presentation, and they have proliferated in the exhibition toured. We all know that our country has a huge investment potential in the energy market.
In the past I used to have free Internet-cafe-like place. However now wireless internet usage was available for a fee. Everyone already has iPhone. WiFi is available standard in hotels.
The biggest US energy traders, the GT-ST (OEM) builders, manufacturers of high capacity boiler companies are still interested in our market. But now their prices remain very expensive. Similar equipment are available at a much more reasonable prices in the international market. As long as you can make the basic design by running a professional software, the rest is easy. US prices are quite high which makes them uncompetitive and difficult to make business overseas.
Foreign investors asked me the economy and the investment environment of my home country. What can I say? Investors expects to have free fair and transparent competition, freedom of expression, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, separation of powers, all these issues are needing for a investment environment. They do not come in their absence. In general I sensed their reluctance and indifference to our environment. I observed their cautious attitude and lost of investment appetite against Turkey.
In the long term, if we see that a very different perception of future investment expectations in our geography, do not be surprised.
Next year (2017) PowerGen Europe conference and exhibition will be held in Germany in Cologne 20-21-22 of June. I highly recommend you to join if you are working in the energy sector.
There are many international companies on the energy market, investors, financiers to cooperate. You can find the senior executives of international companies, you can talk to them, nowhere else so easy.
In years 2018-19-20, I have been told that PowerGen management is seriously considering to organize the same conference in Istanbul. In order to take that decision, they have to observe and be convinced that we have an attractive investment environment, free from regional wars, we must create the proper infrastructure of market mechanisms in Western standard requirements.

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Ankara, 30 June 2016


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