India needs to catch up with the rest of the world

Updated: Mar 24 2006, 05:30am hrs
Indias economic liberalisation and integration with the world economy will remain incomplete without the development of world-class facilities for holding conventions and exhibitions. The country, unfortunatley, fares poorly on the world map as far as convention-cum-exhibition centres are concerned. Even smaller countries like Singapore can boast of convention centres large enough to host global conferences.

Its time for India to take a cue from global convention centres and develop a few that could meet the growing need of conferences and exhibitions. For instance, McCromick Place, the largest convention centre of the US, has a 2.2 million square feet exhibit hall. It has a theatre Arie Crown that is large enough to seat more than 4,000 persons. The convention centre, which is in Chicago, has parking space for as many as 8,000 vehicles. It attracts 3 million visitors annually.

The United Kingdoms National Exhibition Centre (NEC), the busiest exhibition centre of the Europe, attracts more than four million visitors every year. It has 21 halls and 2 million square feet of space. The NEC stages about 180 exhibitions every year ranging from public shows to international trade exhibitions. It is also the largest exhibition centre in England, though it ranks seventh in Europe.

The worlds largest fairground, however, is in the Mittelfeld district of Hanover, Germany. The Hanover fairground includes an exhibition area that include 5.3 million square feet of covered area and 624,306 square feet of open space. It has 27 halls and pavilions and a convention centre with 35 function rooms. The fairground was originally an aircraft works. It was badly damaged in World War II. Since the Leipzig, the traditional fairground of Germany was in Soviet occupation, the British military government decided to hold the fair in hangars in Laatzen, south of Hanover. That was in 1947. Gradually a permanent fairground was established over the years. Today the Hanover fair, attracts about 6,000 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors.

Asias largest column-free meeting area is in Singapore. Suntecs convention halls located on level 6, offers a meeting area spanning 12,000 square metres of total floor space. These multi-functional and flexible halls are used for conventions, exhibitions, banquets and concerts. They can accommodate up to 10,000 delegates in theatre-style seating or 10,600 square metres of exhibition space. Suntec has a total of 31 meeting rooms, which can accommodate groups from 10 to 400 people.

The other big convention and exhibition centre is in Sydney. The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, also Australias largest, hosts more than 600 events every year. The centre has 30 meeting rooms and 30,000 square metre of exhibition space. In 2005, the convention hosted a massive 13,250-delegate incentive meeting from Asia.

India, unfortunately lacks convention centres of the magnitude that can host large international conferences. This was even admitted by finance minister Jaswant Singh in the budget speech for 2003. He talked about establishment of two convention centres of international standards with public-rivate partnership at an estimated cost of Rs 1,000 crore each. Maybe we need more to cash on the growing business opportunities.

FE Research Bureau