The second biannual BRIDEX (pronounced Brih-dex) exhibition was a marked success for this small Southeast Asian nation on the northern tip of the island of Borneo. While a relatively small regional show, it drew a solid representation of buyers and vendors in the region, reaching all the way to Africa and the Mideast.
“Darussalam” means “Abode of Peace” and Brunei is in fact a peaceful and prosperous nation, but the underlying theme of BRIDEX was that while peace is a good thing, one must be prepared to defend it. His Majesty, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, is the 29th of his line, which dates back to the fourteenth century. Aside from his normal interest in having a highly trained military, His Majesty had taken a special interest in the success of this show and many country leaders answered the call to add their support. King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan attended the show. King Abdullah is well known for his personal background in Special Operations as well as the world-class training facilities he has sponsored in Jordan, so it was no surprise that he would join the Sultan in attendance at the show. The two Monarchs shared the opening ceremony of BRIDEX, which was in a new exhibition center launched with this show as well. The show was filled with official delegations, ambassadors, buying groups, and other qualified personnel on the first three days.
There were several educational and research facilities represented at the show. Two that stand out are the Training Institute of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, which had a large presence in the second building, (www.mindef.gov.bn/mindefweb/trainingcenter/e_home.html) and the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau in Jordan (www.kaddb.com/public/home.aspx).
Conferences were held prior to and during parts of BRIDEX, and they were sponsored by IHS Jane’s and hosted by the Ministry of Defence of Brunei. General Ehsan Ul Haq of Pakistan gave the keynote speech on emerging security threats. The General’s background in running combat operations in the Peshawar district, as well as intelligence operations, gave a unique view to his presentation. Subsequent sessions covered network-centric capabilities, terrorism in Southeast Asia, security challenges, and disaster relief options.
There was an Air Show that was quite a crowd pleaser, but it was the Beachhead exercise that was perhaps the most impressive display in the eyes of many experienced military personnel. Brunei’s military forces put on a combined assault on land, sea, and air, and the resulting exhibition was very professional and visually stunning. It highlighted not only the skill of the aviators who performed the air show, but the martial ability of the combined Brunei military.
The last day of the show was Civilian Day, and members of the public were allowed in. While public days are generally not the most productive sales tool for defense exhibitors, what it did accomplish was to educate the Bruneian public about their military forces and the special abilities of the various groups. After the air show and the military show, the local newspapers were filled with commentaries from the public about how they had little idea that their military was so skilled and modern. This was all in a positive manner, and probably excellent public relations for the Bruneian armed forces.
A note for SADJ readers who attend a lot of shows to meet customers; something unusual happened at BRIDEX that is worth mentioning. The Sultan not only attended the show, but he went row by row through the entire exhibit area and personally met and looked at the products from every single booth. This author has seldom seen the amount of VIP time that happened at BRIDEX. The attendees from the Sultan on down were very hands-on and attentive to every booth. Whether that translates into business for the attendees depends on the presentation and products of the attendees, of course, but BRIDEX management pulled out the stops in getting that VIP time for exhibitors and everyone we spoke with was appreciative of this. We were very impressed with the quality of the visitors and the interest exhibited by them. For vendors who travel the world and go through the international bureaucratic maze and jet lag haze to try to reach their end users, there’s no higher praise for a show. We will definitely be back to Brunei Darussalam for the next BRIDEX event in 2011.