Auto Expo 2012: A premier global show?

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 17 Jan 2012 Views icon1802 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Auto Expo 2012: A premier global show?
The 2012 India Auto Expo attracted 1,500 exhibitors from 24 countries and there were 50 new vehicle model launches including several global launches. There were 25 specialist international delegations and the occasion was graced by many high-profile politicians as well as senior auto industry executives from India and around the globe. In this respect, the Delhi Auto Expo can certainly be regarded as a big success and it is becoming very prominent internationally. Some now even claim that Delhi has now reached the status of global premier global auto shows such as Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Detroit and Tokyo.

In this column, I want to focus on the venue, the organisation and logistics of the Auto Expo and make some constructive suggestions for improvements. I regularly attend international auto shows in cities such as Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and others and have also been a regular visitor to the Delhi Auto Expo since 1998. It is an unfortunate fact that the Delhi Auto Expo is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to key indicators such as quality of the venue, organisation/logistics and quality of service provided to exhibitors, the media, the trade and the public.

The Auto Expo should be about showcasing India’s capabilities and its emergence into the global automotive arena. Unfortunately, it also highlights India’s severe weakness in areas such as infrastructure, planning and organisation, hygiene and discipline. The disturbing fact is that there have been few meaningful improvements in running of the Expo during the last decade; indeed the situation seems to be worsening and has now reached crisis point, just at the time when the level of interest in India’s auto industry is very high.

The Delhi show would have trouble complying with even the minimum health and safety, hygiene and security standards in force in many of the developed countries. Examples include rubbish and construction debris everywhere, stray dogs, spit, loose/exposed power cables, potholes, uneven surfaces, dangerous stairways and chronic congestion in several halls. There are a lot of security personnel but security enforcement appears to be very haphazard and ineffective.

Need for 'pragati' at Pragati Maidan

The biggest issue is the venue. At present, Pragati Maidan appears to be the only suitable venue for the show of this size in the whole of India. This itself is a shocking situation and there is a crying need for more suitable venues. Perhaps this is an opportunity for other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to invest in major convention and Expo centres and provide some competition to Pragati Maidan and Delhi. In the absence of other alternatives, a major overhaul of Pragati Maidan is much needed. Incremental improvements and constant construction activity is clearly not resulting in meaningful progress. The most effective solution would be to demolish most of the current buildings and infrastructure and construct a new world-class convention and expo venue with a series of interconnected exhibition halls, conference facilities, restaurants and shops. I am sure that the payback from such an investment could be attractive.

However, I am not at all confident that anything like this will happen. The best one can hope for is incremental improvement in the facility. Until India has a world-class venue, it cannot claim to have a world-class auto show. It is also clear that the current ‘organisation’ of the Auto Expo is ‘amateurish’ for a show of this magnitude and importance. There were many disgruntled exhibitors and this year’s experiment to use a private company to manage media passes was a total disaster. There was no evidence here of India’s ‘global prowess’ in IT and customer service. There is now a desperate need to bring in international and more competent private sector expertise to provide more professional level management at the Expo and also to provide support to exhibitors, the media, the trade and the public. Again, I am not confident anything meaningful will happen in this area as there are far too many vested interests. Bringing in international expertise would be regarded as a ‘loss of face’.

No effective crowd management system

One of the major problems has been effective management of the number of visitors. In most international shows, there are designated days for media, trade and public. The Delhi Auto Expo appears to have no effective system for managing the visitors.

On the one hand ‘bona fide’ media were having a hard and stressful time getting their passes in time while children and families were in abundance during the media days. Two days for media, two days for trade, and the remainder of the days for general public seems to be an international norm. Sounds simple but the organisers seem to be incapable of managing this properly. Yet another reason to bring in external/international expertise to learn and manage this process effectively.

There are far too many working-level personnel and contractors at the Expo, yet it is hard to get any helpful information or assistance. For example, I am not sure why security guards are needed to check passes at the entry to every hall, assuming adequate checks were made at the initial point of entry. There are also many construction workers and sweepers at the site and they generally give a very poor impression. There are also too many unauthorised vehicles/two-wheelers on the site while the shuttle-bus service between halls appears to be erratic. How about stopping all construction activity during events, having clean tidy roads/pavements and investing in some road-sweeping machines/vehicles instead of using ineffective brooms? Why not jet-wash all the roads and pavements every evening?

India’s auto industry accounts for 22 percent of manufacturing GDP and is now a significant generator of export revenues. The industry has made remarkable progress in the last two decades and is paying premium prices to showcase their achievements and capabilities at the Delhi Auto Expo but they are getting very poor service from the venue and the organisers.

It is high time that India invested in a world-class venue and introduced world-class practices in the running of major events such as the Auto Expo. Otherwise, companies will begin to avoid the Expo and look for alternative ways to spend their events marketing and product launch budgets.
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