“The defense trade will continue to flourish in environment of growing military threats”

Says Tomer Avnon, founder of Avnon Group and TAR IDEAL CONCEPTS which has a diverse portfolio which primarily focuses in the HLS, Cyber & intelligence sectors, incorporating defense companies and providing a platform for trading in military products and equipment.

In the lead up to ISDEF 2017 exhibition which was initiated by Tomer Avnon, and is expected to bring visitors from approximately one hundred countries, in a joint interview with Aviad Matza the company’s CEO, the two review Israel’s defense trade status quo and the opportunities to increase it in an environment surrounded by regional threats. Although Israel is considered to be a large importer and exporter of defense and policing equipment, the number of professional international exhibitions held in Israel is relatively small; especially considering the broad range of exhibitions and conferences held here, in areas with which Israel has a special interest in such as bio-medicine, Hi-Tech and water. Worldwide there you can find a wide variety of exhibitions around industries such as defense and homeland security, the main ones being exhibitions such as Milipol and Eurosatory in France, AUSA in the United States, GSA in Singapore and more. This reality makes the annual ISDEF expo, dealing with defense and homeland security issues, so important.
It is the leading and most important international exhibition in Israel, and is recognized as such, worldwide. ISDEF gathers senior representatives from the global defense industry and displays the best innovations in the various areas, while providing solutions to meet the operational needs the defense bodies around the world deal with. On the one hand, buyers who are interested in what the Israeli market can provide are coming here and being exposed to the best technological innovations that Israel offers. In addition representatives from defense companies and army equipment suppliers come to ISDEF to showcase their merchandise to the defense forces and the law enforcement authorities in Israel. The goal in both cases is to provide a platform for creating new business connections, while displaying technological developments and innovations from Israel and abroad.

“The exhibition creates opportunities for meetings among the various end users from defense bodies around the world, and it’s a unique platform for international cooperation ventures”, says Tomer Avnon, the President of Avnon Group, who stands behind the exhibition which he founded ten years ago. “This year we also added a professional conference which will deal with critical defense problems both in the region and globally, with comprehensive reference to issues such as terror, refugees and cyber. Hundreds of representatives from dozens of countries are expected to attend the exhibition and conference, along with official international delegations, buyers, heads of law enforcement organizations, police organizations, and senior officers from foreign armies in charge of purchasing and logistics and more, all in all, thousands of visitors. There’s no doubt that this is the largest international defense and homeland security exhibition in Israel, aiming to provide an solution for the defense needs of various organizations, including armies, police forces, special forces, defense and intelligence agencies, homeland security organizations, rescue and emergency organizations. I believe ISDEF provides exposure to hundreds of companies from Israel and from many countries in the world, providing a unique environment to exhibit and demonstrate the latest developments and advanced technological available in today’s market.

Solutions rather than Products
Tomer Avnon has been in the business of military and defense equipment, for over 28 years. “I enlisted
to the Navy a, where I was exposed to new defense equipment and technologies. After my release at the end of 1989, I attended twodefense exhibitions in France and England, and got hooked on the subject” he recollects. “In January 1990 I established “TAR IDEAL” as a company of representations, aiming to bring the newest technologies and solutions to the IDF’s Special Units. Today, after almost three decades, the company exclusively represents 35 companies from around the world and supplies equipment and solutions to the defense system, IDF, Police and Special Units. “At the end of the last century I adopted the civilian marketing concept of “One Stop Shop”. I realized that the world is rapidly evolving and that the defense forces stopped looking for products and prefer to purchase solutions. As a result, I set up a separate division within the company, aiming to provide complete turnkey solutions from A to Z, to end users in army, police and security. A sort of Ikea for defense forces. Today we provide Solutions in over 50 countries. “By receiving a complete solutions package, you ensure not only the quality of the products and ensure that they meet the customer’s needs, but also the synergy amongst all the products and systems provided to the end user, along with training and quality assurance” Avnon adds. “Most of the governments in the world are heading this way, because they understand that this way they get the best solution in the shortest time and with a single address for any problem which might emerge.”

When did you decide to venture into the exhibitions industry and why? After all, business was
good and your company, if I’m not mistaken, wasanyways a marketing platform for doing business
in the defense industry?
“Ten years ago I identified the lack of a defense exhibition in Israel. We decided to set up a conference with five companies that we represented Visa- VI the defense forces. We took a tiny room at Kfar HaMacabia, with several dining room tables on which we displayed the equipment of all the companies and the turnout was 160 customers. All five companies received orders that year. The next year we hosted a similar event, this time with 20 companies and again, was an amazing success – 800 customers. At that stage we started getting applications from companies we didn’t represent to participate and this is when we decided to establish Israel Defense – ISDEF.

This year the exhibition takes place in Hall 2 of Ganei Hata’arucha and this is indeed the largest international exhibition in Israel with over 300 exhibitors.” About three years ago, Avnon passed the management of the company to Aviad Matza, who came to him directly after being released from the paratrooper’s commando. After ten years in the company, he appointed him to be CEO, in order to free some time, and established the Avnon Group, a defense trade group incorporating several leading Israeli manufacturers, thus using the combination of technology and Israeli entrepreneurship together with marketing and sales capabilities in order to form a significant competitive edge in the global market.

Over the years, many manufacturing companies from the hottest sectors in the defense market have joined the group. For example, ISTAR, the unmanned planes company, which produces a complete family of airplanes, starting from tactic planes for intelligence and reconnaissance up to big platforms with integration for a variety of payloads for monitoring and intelligence, or companies such as BLER and Tactical Labs, which are manufacturing software and hardware for the cyber world, as well as Comparts, which is manufacturing composite materials for aviation as well as for ground uses requiring reduced weight and enhanced durability. The Group takes pride in the fact that it actually provides the widest response to defense customers in Israel and abroad. Lately one can even see that the synergies are starting to form among several of the companies within the Group, collaborating in terms of technology and marketing. An example of such a synergy is the cyber drone which was launched recently as a result of a merger between ISTAR and BLER.

Israel keeps its position
In a joint interview with Tomer Avnon and Aviad Matza they review the Israeli and global defense market,
indicate Israel’s relative advantages in the arena, and review the opportunities to increase the Israeli defense export and talk about the exhibition, which this year includes professional conferences, including workshops with international experts in the areas of national security, cyber, anti-terrorism and homeland security as guest speakers.
What is Israel’s position in the global defense market in supplying to armies and law enforcement organizations? What is Israel’s relative advantage in comparison to other countries, and above all, is the brand “Israel” still as strong as before?

Tomer Avnon: “In spite of Israel’s size, it consistently keeps a very high position in the list of global defense exporters. The Israeli know-how and innovation, along with extensive experience and the lessons learnt from the battle field, has over the years, resulted in making Israel’s knowledge and defense produce, a well-known brand worldwide and the international customers specifically prefer Israeli products and involvement in defense procurement projects.

Aviad Matza: “There is no doubt that the secret in the success of Israeli branding in this area, lies in the very diverse defense challenges that Israel faces, and the solutions they get – the Iron Dome and the intelligent fences; Tunnel identification systems and armoured windows for housing along the border; Cyber defense for strategic devices and riots control means. All these are practical and equally important, fast solutions, which meet the rapidly changing security needs. As for the import of defense equipment, due to the defense threats on Israel, the Israeli customers are uncompromising
and every system or product they procure must be the best.”

What are the opportunities to increase the defense export? Are there any new markets
to which we can turn?
Tomer Avnon: “The cyber threat, which is accelerating each day, is probably one of the main potential growth engines of the Israeli export. There is an increasing understanding in the world that this threat is real and is linked to every
aspect of our lives, beginning with our bank accounts and up to border protection. Israel enjoys a big advantage in this area and it seems that the Israeli companies have been wise enough to prepare for such threats in time. Today, the Israeli
products in the cyber sector enjoy a clear preference. Another sector is the unmanned vehicles. If up until ten years ago, acquisition of unmanned planes or boats was within the reach of highly developed counties only, today, this market has
opened and has advanced remarkably, and it deals mainly with downsizing and range elongation,
along with varying capacity capabilities, both in the drone world and in the world of confidential vehicles in the air and in the sea.”

Is that true for the cyber and FinTech industries as well?
Tomer Avnon: “I believe that there is no risk there either, again both due to the depth of the cooperation among civilian companies and the wide backing from the Congress, which only six months ago allocated huge amounts for broadening the R&D between the countries in the areas of cyber and FinTech and due to the increasing need for protection in these areas worldwide, and as I mentioned previously, the Israeli companies have a significant foot print and advantages in these areas.”

Is that true for the cyber and FinTech industries as well?
Tomer Avnon: “I believe that there is no risk there either, again both due to the depth of the cooperation among civilian companies and the wide backing from the Congress, which only six months ago allocated huge amounts for broadening the R&D between the countries in the areas of cyber and FinTech and due to the increasing need for protection in these areas worldwide, and as I mentioned previously, the Israeli companies have a significant foot print and advantages in these areas.”

There’s no alternative to direct meetings
What is the advantage of your exhibition over
others, how is it unique?
Aviad Matza: “ISDEF is an event which provides a platform for small and medium sized  companies, which are the majority in the market. Even though they are innovative and offer revolutionary products, they do not get adequate exposure in exhibitions in the world and they don’t meet formal delegations which come regularly to Israel. At ISDEF they get a stage which is not only equal, but actually a lot better than in the other exhibitions in the world of defense. We bring to the exhibition an extraordinary amount of decision makers from dozens of countries in the world, starting from the political and defense levels, such as ministers and heads of defense authorities, down to businessmen, and delegations, who form means of entry to the international markets. ISDEF naturally became the international flagship of the Israeli defense industry and it provides the local defense market the place it deserves in front of the international community
which is looking forward to these meetings.”Tomer Avnon: “The exhibition and the professional conference, which will be held in parallel, present various solutions which offer an solution to many issues which effect many countries
around the world. We are convinced that the exhibition will provide an opportunity for many companies to present the most advanced developments in the world, in the areas of combat, arms and the most modern defense measures.

”This brings me to the next question – why did you decide to add a professional conference
to the exhibition this year?
Tomer Avnon: It is extremely important to hold conferences and exhibitions together, especially in the defense industry. While the conference introduces content and transfers know-how and looks at trends in the defense world, the exhibition
provides an independent meeting place between the customers and the current technologies and provides the exhibitors an opportunity to hear objective opinions about their products and the buzz in the market. I believe that in spite  of the availability of information on the media and on the internet, there is no alternative to a direct meeting between the manufacturer and the end customer.” You’ve been active in this sector for almost three decades, what is your goal now in regards to the defense trade to and from Israel?

Aviad Matza: “Because of Israel’s defense challenges and the needs stemming from them, along with the Israeli know-how and innovation and since the Israeli brand is so strong in the global defense market, I believe that the constant growth of the Israeli defense market will continue to flourish in the future, and as for the Group, we will continue monitoring the trends and the needs of the market and be one step ahead of everybody else, in a way that will make it possible for us to continue to be the first address for our many customers around the world, and of
course in Israel

”Tomer Avnon: “The Israeli defense industry is one of the best and most advanced industries in the world and it is ranked #14 in the world in terms of expenditure on defense. According to last year’s data, the export turnover of the defense industry is evaluated at over 7 billion USD, and it draws international interest. In addition, Israel imports defense
equipment to the value of 2.8 billion USD – the second in size in Israel. In this aspect our Group is an important player in promoting defense export and import from Israel to the world and from the world to Israel. We will continue to do what we’ve
been doing all along, constantly improving and entering into new and developing niches in the face of dynamic markets and demands. We have a strong network of business connections and we leverage it on behalf of our customers. The Israeli economy also benefits from it.

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