One look at the strong participation by auto makers in the ongoing Delhi Auto Expo and the huge crowds thronging to see new cars and two-wheelers, and you would never believe India’s auto industry is facing one of the most severe slowdowns in its history. The gloom surrounding the dismal performance of the country’s auto market has all been left outside the walls of the Delhi Auto Expo’s new venue at Greater Noida. Inside, the story is about celebration and optimism, with the excitement around 70 new product launches and unveiling proving too infectious for any industry official to see anything but hope of an imminent revival.
A week back, the three organisers—industry chamber CII, auto-makers’ body Siam and auto components’ association Acma—were a worried lot. Siam’s deputy director-general, Sugato Sen, admitted that there were many pressing issues that could impact the success of the 12th Delhi Auto Expo, apart from low consumer sentiments. Given that a new venue being tried for the first time—the Auto Expo has been held in Pragati Maidan since its inception in 1986—and the fact that the Greater Noida Expo Mart was about 50 km from the centre of New Delhi, there was concern that visitors would get discouraged. Moreover, the expo has been split into two—Pragati Maidan continues to house the auto components fair—largely a B2B affair, while the vehicles expo has been relocated to Greater Noida. A new venue also means things like security, stall layout and general organisation, were all being tried for the first time. But there is a silver lining—a total overhaul meant that there was also an opportunity for the organisers to script an entirely new story for India’s premier auto expo that is watched globally by investors, but has long been plagued by issues of crowd mismanagement and inefficient organisation. In a way, the sparkling new venue has uplifted the brand image of India’s auto industry.
To the credit of the organisers, the Expo this time has surely been a success. Sen had earlier said that he expected about 5.5 lakh general visitors to turn up, lower than the 7 lakh visitors seen in the 2012 edition. But already, with still two days left for the finale on February 11, the Auto Expo is close to a 4-lakh visitor count. Not only the public, but the auto-makers are a pleased lot as well. A Renault and a Volkswagen official both