April 29, 2016

The Interview - Erik Heemskerk - Victam International

Victam recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary of holding events in Asia. On the first evening of the event a Celebration Dinner was held. The international audience of over 400 executives from our industry were treated to a wonderful evening program that featured both modern and traditional Thai entertainment.
However, during this evening, came the confirmation of the sad news that Victam’s General Manager Henk van de Bunt is soon to retire. Mr van de Bunt has been with the organisation since the very first show in Bangkok in 1991, in the quarter of a century since Victam has enjoyed a growth rate of over 600 percent. Mr van de Bunt will vacate his post on June 31st. A well-known and respected industry personality, he will certainly be missed by all, although he will still have some presence within the organisation as he will take up a role on the board of the Victam Foundation.
He will be succeeded by Erik Heemskerk, who will start on June 1st. Milling and Grain Magazine met with Mr. Heemskerk at the recent Victam Asia show to discuss his feelings about succeeding Mr. van de Bunt, as well as his past experiences and future plans for when he takes the helm at Victam.

Hello Mr Heemskerk and thank you for sparing a few moments of your time to speak with us. Our first question is just to ask if you could provide a bit of background information about yourself, who you are, and why you feel that you are the right man to be taking over control of Victam?
I am Erik Heemskerk, I am Dutch and I have been working in the events industry for about 20 years now. I started my events career in the Netherlands with Amsterdam RAI, which is one of the main venues in The Netherlands and largest exhibition organisers. After this I did some work in IT for a few years and then I came back into the exhibition industry where I worked for Jaarbeurs (VNU exhibitions).
So basically in the Netherlands I have worked for both of the bigger exhibition organisers. Some time later I decided to set up my own marketing company and tried to develop an event in the applied games industry, which unfortunately didn’t go so well.  I then had the opportunity to go to UBM where I became a brand director with the responsibility for pharmaceutical events in Asia and Turkey. I am currently responsible for seven events that take place every year.

That’s great, so you have had a very varied degree of success throughout your career. How do you see your role at Victam and what do you think you bring to your new role?
I start at Victam on June 1st and the reason that I am very happy to be joining Victam is firstly that Victam is an international event which I really like, I really enjoy working in an international environment; basically bringing together the world. Another is the topic, although I don’t know much about it, I think that it is a topic that is incredibly important and it goes much further than you or me.

When you say that our industry goes much further than you or me, what exactly is that you mean by that?
If we realise that there are still well over a billion people worldwide who are starving, then we understand the absolute importance of this side of the industry for the global population, which is something that I really appreciate. If I, through the Victam shows, can make a difference then I will feel I have achieved something.
We are an organisation that right now works with a large and varied list of companies who work within our show profile but also in other industry sectors. There may be interesting opportunities here. The only shareholder of Victam International BV is the Victam Foundation, which reinvests the profits back into our industry through its charitable projects. So as you can see there are many reasons why I am so happy to be with Victam!

Victam events focus on animal feed, rice and flour milling, grain processing and more recently biomass pelleting. With regards to Europe and Asia, do you see that Victam will be expanding further on a regional or international scale?
Well, that is certainly the million dollar question. I would certainly love to tell you but unfortunately, coming from outside of the industry I do not yet know enough about the industry to make any judgements on this. At the moment, I am sitting back and learning from everything I see. Victam has recruited me to continue to develop the brand’s portfolio. Hopefully I will be able to tell you much more in six months’ time.

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