Making progress at Pragati Maidan

Auto Expo 2012 had provided for less than 40,000 square metres of occupied space by vehicle exhibitors due to which entry of visitors was restricted.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 03 Jan 2013 Views icon5456 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Making progress at Pragati Maidan
After the near-stampede triggered off by the huge crowds, stinking restrooms and cramped halls at the Auto Expo 2012 held at Pragati Maidan, India’s premier exhibition ground is finally set for a makeover.

Pragati Maidan is now being turned into an integrated international exhibition centre-cum-convention complex. Currently at the design and layout stage, the ministry of commerce and industry and the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) are jointly working on the ‘project revamp’ with the restructuring of Pragati Maidan expected to be undertaken in a private-public partnership mode.

J S Deepak, additional secretary, commerce ministry, told Autocar Professional that the revamped exhibition area will have a state-of-the-art exhibition space of around 50,000 square metres. This will allow 4,000 participants to take part. There will also be two new convention halls with a capacity of 1,000 seats each.

Investments are expected to come from the private developer roped in to develop the complex and, according to Deepak, while investment figures are still being worked out, it is expected to be in the range of Rs 1,000-2,000 crore. The restructuring exercise will be undertaken in phases over a three-year period.

Once approvals for the design layout are received, bidding will commence for allotment of development work to private developers. Pragati Maidan belongs to ITPO and Rita Menon, its chairman and managing director, is confident that if all goes as per plan, work will begin in January 2014. ITPO will provide professional expertise for both the revamp of the Pragati Maidan grounds as well as the development of a new exposition centre for future shows.

The commerce ministry manages exhibition venues through the Department of Commerce. The idea behind the revamp is to de-choke Delhi which sees chaotic, mile-long traffic snarls that typically accompany any major event at Pragati Maidan.

Auto Expo 2012 had provided for less than 40,000 square metres of occupied space by vehicle exhibitors due to which entry of visitors was restricted. However, about 700,000 people thronged the week-long event, pushing the exhibition infrastructure to its limit.

Out of sync with modern needs

So what really ails the current Pragati Maidan grounds? It is an inadequate, old and obsolete exhibition infrastructure that has reached saturation point, says Vishnu Mathur, director-general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). SIAM, along with the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), manages the Auto Expo. He says that Pragati Maidan cannot cope with the increasing demand for additional space. Realising this, minister for urban development Kamal Nath had said that the government was looking at venues in Dwarka, west Delhi, as an alternative. He also wanted to rope in international exhibitors with skills for developing an exhibition centre of international standards. Nath said Pragati Maidan in its present state has already been stretched to the limit.

With India’s growing international status and interactions at summit, ministerial and other levels, there is a dire need for an integrated exhibition-cum-convention complex in New Delhi to provide a suitable venue for international events for the next two to three decades. At present, while Pragati Maidan provides facilities for international exhibitions, Vigyan Bhawan is the venue for organising conferences in the capital city. However, both these facilities are old, inadequate and in a sorry state.

Pragati Maidan was created in 1972 for organising Asia 1972. It now falls far short of the minimum infrastructure suitable for organising modern exhibitions, forget there being a degree of sophisticated display. Firstly, the halls are not inter-connected and secondly, they cannot be air-conditioned due to their outmoded design. Vigyan Bhawan, built in 1956, cannot host large-scale international events.

The department of commerce which looked for a suitable location for setting up an integrated international exhibition centre-cum-convention complex (IECC) in the New Delhi-NCR, zeroed down on Pragati Maidan as the most viable to cater to business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G) and government-to-government (G2G) events and not involving large public participation. Hence, it decided to establish the IECC at Pragati Maidan on par with state-of-the-art facilities available at international venues.

It was decided to divide the project in phases involving the design stage that would span designing an integrated exhibition-cum-convention complex, preparation of a complete layout plan, developing specifications for various aspects of the complex and assessment and projection of requirements for various facilities by an advisor-cum project management consultant (APMC). The APMC would be tasked with advising ITPO on the project plan, design, layout plan, and requirements for various facilities at Pragati Maidan. The APMC would also assess the techno-economic feasibility of the project and advise on the funding options. It would be charged with getting the approvals for the layout plan on behalf of ITPO and also advise it on implementation, selecting the executor through a competitive bidding process and supervising work. The execution phase, meanwhile, would entail the actual implementation of the project in line with the detailed architectural and engineering drawings by the project executor.

Accordingly, a perpetual lease deed has been executed in the name of ITPO of an area of 123.51 acres in March 2011 after payment of Rs 21.22 crore. The Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) approval was also sought for changing the land- use definition of Pragati Maidan from ‘recreational district park’ to ‘public and semi-public facilities (International Convention Centre). Thereafter, DDA, in a December 2012 notification has asked for feedback from the public on the proposed change of land use of ITPO-Pragati Maidan.

Feedback Infrastructure Services, Gurgaon has been selected as the adviser-cum-project management consultant by ITPO with the letter of intent issued in August 2012 followed by the inking of an agreement between ITPO and APMC in September. The actual work on phase I of the project according to the APMC may start in October 2013 and is slated for completion by end- September 2016.

While the restructured global exhibition-cum-convention complex at Pragati Maidan once ready will be used for B2B events, a show primarily like the Auto Expo will be shifted to a facility at Dwarka. The new facility is now on the drawing board and is targeted at future exhibitions like the ASEAN Fair which attracts the public as well as business and international visitors.

Auto Expo goes to Greater Noida

In the interim, the venue for Auto Expo 2014 has been shifted to the India Expo Centre and Mart at Greater Noida. And in a first, vehicle OEMs and component makers will be hosting the show at separate venues but on similar dates between February 6-12, 2014. Also, in a departure from the earlier shows, the event takes place in February, a month later than the usual dates so as not to coincide with the Detroit Motor Show. Thanks to India’s booming auto sector, the Auto Expo has been steadily grabbing eyeballs as an international show and is a must-attend for overseas visitors. “For instance, Volkswagen would like to participate in the same way in the India Auto Expo as it does at the Frankfurt Motor Show,” says SIAM’s Mathur.

The proposed Expo Mart venue at Greater Noida, the 2014 venue, will offer an exhibition space of around 53,000 square metres for vehicle makers. But the amenities are also expected to cost more albeit one key benefit is that being around 45km from Delhi, only genuine visitors may make the trip.

“What participants and visitors will look for in future shows is a world-class infrastructure and facilities that make it convenient for them. We hope that the new venue will be able to prove worthy of an international class event,” says Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer (sales & marketing), Maruti Suzuki. He adds that the success of the event will depend on the Metro connectivity and further pick-up and drop facilities from the venue to the station. “Serious car enthusiasts will reach the venue anyway,” he points out.

Though the venue for holding the component show in 2014 is likely to be finalised soon, the frontrunner is the Buddh International Circuit developed by Jaypee Green at Greater Noida, in proximity to the Auto Mart site. “About two to three sites are under consideration, but it will be in close vicinity of the Auto Expo venue,” says Vinnie Mehta, executive director, ACMA.

Though ideally the automotive industry would have been happier hosting the show together, industry body SIAM believes separate venues for the event will not diminish the stream of business visitors to the show. Similarly, for the component makers, the show is expected to draw many more quality business visitors due to the B2B nature of the industry.

L Ganesh, chairman of the Rane Group, says that space constraints are forcing the separation of the vehicle and components show at Auto Expo 2014. He hopes that a new exposition centre will materialise and in future, both shows will be held at one venue. A similar view is shared by another component maker Sandhar Technologies with vice-chairman and managing director Jayant Davar saying that the umbrella of Auto Expo should encompass both auto and auto components under the same roof. “The current space constraint at Pragati Maidan is definitely a big disappointment.”

For now, the industry seems to have no choice, though in terms of revenue and visitor turnout, Abdul Majeed, Head of Automotive Practice, PricewaterhouseCooper, does not visualise too much of a drop due to the show’s new location. With most visitors coming from outside the city, especially Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai or from overseas, their main interest is business networking.

Meanwhile, in a kind of a trial run, SIAM is organising the next International Bus and Utility Vehicles Show 2013, from February 15-18 at the Greater Noida site. This should help the organisers better manage Auto Expo 2014.

Among other industry opinions on the shift of venue, an India Yamaha Motor official said the shift from centrally-located Pragati Maidan will affect public attendance and double the effort and time to manage two venues separately. “Normally the show receives a variety of visitors as 20 percent are for the component makers and these also flock to the stalls of vehicle manufacturers for new car and bike launches. Now that will stop. Further, we expect a huge drop of 20-25 percent in the balance 80 percent of the crowd visiting OEMs stalls due to the distance and the absence of metro connectivity,” says Roy Kurian, National Business Head of IYM.

All said and done, it seems as if the government has taken note of the auto industry's demands and is working overtime to ensure that all runs smoothly. Making the venues top class is the need of the hour and it is commendable that those concerned have begun the process. If it all falls into place, all the stakeholders will benefit. It will also be a shot in the arm for the automotive sector.

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