1+1>2: A&S Undergoes Transformation to Ride the Tide of Change

1+1>2: A&S Undergoes Transformation to Ride the Tide of Change

In recent years, numerous alliances and strategic partnerships have been formed in the security industry, signaling unlimited growth potential. Messe  Frankfurt (Hong Kong) announced in September that it has acquired a majority interest in Taiwan-based A&S Group. This feature looks into the rationale behind this partnership and explores what it means to their customers, partners and the industry in general.

In the early 1990s, the security market was still at a nascent stage. The need for integrated solutions had not yet been instilled in the minds of corporate executives and government bodies, and security players everywhere focused heavily on selling "simple" products. "What's being developed and what's being demanded can sometimes be very different, and security professionals need information platforms like A&S to bridge the gaps," said Parson Lee, Publisher of A&S magazines and President of A&S Group. "We were the only publication truly dedicated to electronic security."

Over the last 19 years, A&S has transformed from a local buyer's guide to a series of professionally done, globally circulated, business-to-business publications, linking everyone in the supply chain, from IC designers to device manufacturers to distributors and system integrators. A well-known and trusted brand, A&S now has more than 10 publications under its label.

Advancing with Times
The company has witnessed catastrophic events taking place around the world these past two decades, and has observed a growing need for high-tech safety and security solutions that are integrated via software-based or IP-based technologies and can be utilized for nonsecurity applications and gains.

"As one industry veteran puts it, security is no longer a 'dirty business.' With R&D breakthroughs in communication protocols, software engineering and system integration, as well as government investments in homeland security and city surveillance projects, the security industry is moving forward by leaps and bounds," Lee said. With more IT and telecom giants entering the arena, the industry is in flux and in need of more robust communication tools and marketing vehicles.

These developments propelled A&S Group to diversify and start offering other media services like Web sites and events in 1997. "Print magazines, Web sites, themed events and trade shows are equally pivotal and are complementary to one another. Trade publications cater to people's habit of reading and provide incisive coverage that leaves an impression. Web sites provide volume, convenience and timeliness. Trade shows and events offer warmth and perspective." Lee explained.

Changing Landscape
During this evolution, Lee has always been mindful of increasing competition. "Just like many other SMBs in Asia, when faced with ever-intensifying competition from MNCs, we have to look for ways to remain a sustainable business." To quickly and simultaneously globalize and localize A&S's print, online and event portfolios becomes a must, and the company requires unprecedented amounts of resources to plow through all possible roadblocks.

A mutually beneficial partnership has, thus, been forged between A&S Group and Messe Frankfurt (Hong Kong), to pool and leverage each other's strengths for improved services, accelerated growth and reinforced global recognition. This transformation, Lee stressed, ensures that all A&S's brands — A&S magazines, asmag. com, SecuTech Expo, GDSF and CompoSec — continue to strengthen and expand.

"We believe in the growth potential of the Asian exhibition market and, in particular, the market for security and safety," said Stephan Buurma, MD of Messe Frankfurt (Hong Kong). "We know we have chosen the most experienced player in this field. A&S, with its in-depth knowledge in electronic security and regional developments, was the logical partner to give us a head start to our competition. We intend to capitalize on its expertise in trade publications and exhibitions, and become the leading integrated business and marketing platform in this industry."

This brand new alliance means a steep learning curve for both parties, but Lee believes that the right chemistry and balance can be struck in no time. "A&S is an experienced, integrated media service provider, and, with Messe Frankfurt's growth playbook and management tools, we will contribute significantly to its efforts in further fortifying and expanding its Intersec branding in electronic security."

Best of Two Worlds
Both Messe Frankfurt and A&S are striving to organize better and more effective exhibitions, and deliver even more informative content in print and online to reach all corners of the world. "Messe Frankfurt's global footprint, experience and professionalism will now further catapult our security trade shows and themed events to be of truly international caliber," said Lee. "Local" manufacturers and channel players worldwide will be able to capitalize on the added platforms to better communicate with one another, educate partners and users, and collectively promote the security industry.

The first joint project is Intersec Thailand, taking place in Bangkok in September 2010. Further exhibitions are planned to be launched in quick succession. "We don't want to underestimate our competitors and are fully aware of the challenges ahead," said Buurma, "but we do possess the best know-how and resources to be the leader in security and safety for the various Asian markets." Leveraging A&S's extensive experience in print media, Messe Frankfurt is also actively researching the potential to launch magazines in conjunction with its other key events in Asia.

A&S's clients, partners, visitors and readers alike will get to enjoy more diversified marketing options and richer service portfolios, Lee said. By integrating the existing Messe Frankfurt security exhibitions in Dubai and Argentina, as well as A&S's extensive regional events and global sales network, the new entity — Messe Frankfurt New Era Business Media — intends to achieve further synergies in terms of visitor and exhibitor acquisition.

"Our senior management, corporate mission and quality services remain unchanged," Lee reassured. "Our commitment to delivering the best also remains unchanged." A&S's existing team of reporters, sales network and worldwide contacts and partners are its invaluable assets, and the new group will continue to reel in more partners and talent from across the globe, allowing more knowledge and experience to be shared. With more localized magazines and events made possible and available, Messe Frankfurt New Era will be able to offer more comprehensive services to help more global and regional suppliers that are looking to grow.

"As the founder of A&S, I'm always thinking about how to better grow my people and the 19-year-old business to keep up with the industry and its expectations of us," Lee said. "Armed with Messe Frankfurt's global assets and renewed prowess, we aim to maximize the respective expertise of both organizations to scale new heights, to grow exponentially with global and Asian security solution providers."

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