For many of us the word ‘Exhibition’ is merely limited to visiting a modern art gallery, raving at a collection of paintings by a renowned artist or getting awed by the international auto expo held every year. Surprisingly for some people it is the exhibition at school or college that restricts their thinking to idea of an ‘Exhibition.’
It may be startling to know that the exhibition industry is one of the most booming industries in India and has been contributing significantly to the GDP of the country for the past four years. In the globalised world of the 21st century which has been shrinked by communication, exhibitions and trade fairs underline the importance of face-to-face interaction among the different countries on a common platform.
Fairs and melas in every nook and corner of the country have been prevalent since the ancient times and even now. India being the second largest country in terms of population with 1.5 billion people and fourth largest GDP in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) has emerged as the favourite regional market for exhibition and trade show organizers. It has behind it a rich heritage of Trade fairs – the Pushkar and the Kumbh Mela respectively for just not being trade fairs, but business generation too.
Main sectors like handicrafts, food, electrical, automation etc. are growing tremendously and thereby needs focused attention. Due to this business growth requires a platform where interactions can happen and growth prospects can multiply. Trade shows and exhibitions are apt for this and play a vital role in today’s business world.
Every year over 2,000 exhibitions are held in India with on an average, 100 exhibitors each. Of these between 10 to 15 percent are from overseas, bringing with them on an average 5 personnel per exhibitor. This makes between 100,000 to 150,000 international visitors coming to India every year through the exhibitions which results in huge spending on hotels, airlines, restaurants, entertainment, ground transportation, sightseeing etc. impacting the economy of the region in a very significant way.
In the list of countries offering indoor exhibition space, India ranks 16th offering a total of 2,60,000 sqm with USA and Germany topping the list. In the Asian scenario India is being surpassed by China which gives 66 percent of exhibition space.
Our country reflects buoyant growth and this in turn has driven demand for international trade shows as well. But the limited convention space and lack of infrastructure facilities are some of the bottlenecks we need to tackle to make this sector a booming industry. Growth in this sector depends upon new and modern venues. There is a need to find a quick-fix solution as exhibitions and trade shows highlight the social and economic prospects of the industry. Thus, the exhibition industry needs to promote the key role it can play in the development of city, region or industry far better.
India has ventured into the arena of exhibition industry very late. In 2006 the India Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA) was formed that represents the entire country and all segments related to the exhibition industry. It brings together all the exhibition organizers, managers, designers and stand contractors, freight forwarders, services and facilities providers, venue owners etc., so that there is a common platform available to the entire industry to consider ways and means for the sound and scientific development of various facets of the industry.
Thus, IEIA acts a one stop window where all the information pertaining to various exhibitions, trade shows, industry news, various agencies, private and public organizations operating in the exhibition industry can be accumulated.
For an exhibition to be successfully executed the 5P’s that come to fore are : Purpose, planning, passion, patience and persistence-but it is the passion that helps Indian exhibition organizers and service providers to open shows successfully.
The top 10 of B2B Fairs organized in India are : Aahar, ACETECH, Automation, bc India, Elecrama, IIJS, International Horti Expo, IITF, Kisan and Plast.
With growth prospects immense the exhibitions and trade shows in India have a huge potential which needs to be tapped in the right way, and helped to grow with best global practices. There needs to be a harmonious blend of global practices which is in sync with local business interests. Festivals like Diwali serve as the perfect launch pad to introduce ones product and build the brand in the market. As a result the marketing and the sales department benefit a lot.
Having said so it is important to know the importance of Trade fairs and Exhibitions :
- Trade fairs and exhibitions contribute to intensification of competition as well as to an increase in growth and employment. They are the intermediary between producers and buyers
- It improves the company’s image and increase brand awareness as well as the introduction of new products
- They attract new customers and cultivate contacts with regular customers
- Trade fairs serve the development and cultivation of customer relations, the search for partners and personnel as well as the positioning of the entire company
- They work as test markets for new products and also market research instruments
- They help to increase the level of awareness of the own company, to analyze the competitive situation and to prepare the sale of product and services.
- For young companies in particular, exhibitions play a vital role to have an opportunity to gain an overview of the competition, their presentation and their products
- Exhibitions are proven to generate more sales prospects than almost any other form of marketing or promotional activity.
- They create a value proposition in a conducive business environment where customers are able to do generate business leads and network – under single roof
- The knowledge shared and the people interacted with over 3-4days of an exhibition is immeasurable in its value as compared to other marketing tools.
To make India as an attractive destination with a promising market its high time that the exhibition sector should get the much needed industry recognition. The government needs to incentivize the sector the way it is done in China or Germany. Also the exhibition industry needs to be more of a government-funded model with the authorities providing finance for construction of trade fair venues as contrast to infrastructure in India which is being solely done by the private sector. The need of a public-private partnership model, where the government acts as a facilitator and is more actively involved in infrastructure development is the much required agenda.
But there are few bottlenecks and challenges that the Indian exhibition industry has to overcome to become a full-fledged emerging sector :
- Problem of paucity of space and venue
- Abysmal quality and high prices
- Mind boggling array of NOCs and permissions
- Application of multiplicity of taxes as there is no exemption from taxation and fees and subsidies for trade shows and venue creation
- Non-uniform policies of the state governments
- Unfair competition from state-owned venue owners
- Narrow vision of the private sector
Despite the challenges, the Indian exhibition industry is one of the most exciting in the region. According to research the Indian exhibition industry now generates over 700,000 square meters in net space sales each year- making it the fifth largest in the Asia and clearly one with the potential for substantially more growth. Even in the new age of technology led communication, social media and the mobile internet, face to face interactions are still key to fostering profitable business relationships and that comes with exhibitions and trade fairs.
Thus, we need to grow at a faster rate and post higher returns. It has to be a consistent growth as regards the top-line and also the bottom-line. However, the question is not to realize the potential but how soon we can do it.