The process of liberalisation of policies have opened up many business opportunities for foreigners in areas like telecommunications, banking, insurance, oil and petroleum, technical services, technological upgradation, pharmaceuticals, health, agricultural-based products, food and water management etc.
Looking to the enormous business opportunities available in India in varied sectors, many foreign companies, institutions, research organisations, manufacturers and suppliers of technologies etc. are keen to promote and publicise their specialised areas in India. As is known, exhibitions, conventions and congresses are very important medium for promoting such specialised activities. There have been many instances wherein people wanted to organise important seminars, conventions and congresses in India but they did not do so because the infrastructures available in the country was neither adequate nor suitable for such specialised activities. Therefore, the scale of such activities had to be curtailed. Sometimes, the organisers shifted the venue to other countries.
Conventions, congresses, seminars and exhibitions not only promote and generate business but very importantly they also help in promoting tourism thereby giving impetus to hotel, travel and transport industry.
In the capital city of Delhi, so far the only facility available was Pragati Maidan for exhibitions, conferences, congresses and seminars. Pragati Maidan was built in 1972 to accommodate the first Asian Trade Fair held at New Delhi. There was no emphasis at that time to provide infrastructure for conventions, seminars and conferences.
Also, the conference facility at Pragati Maidan is too small. It can accommodate only 200 persons. For large conferences, the exhibition halls of Pragati Maidan have to be converted into conference halls. Such conversion do not provide for proper acoustic arrangements. Even the exhibition halls in Pragati Maidan are far distant from each other and are not of international level. There is a great need to create infrastructure of international level in Delhi or National Capital Region (NCR) as also in other metropolitan cities of India to cater to the requirement of the large conventions of about 5000 delegates with small rooms for individual sessions and exhibition halls.
The India Exposition Mart, a company jointly promoted by Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH), Ministry of Textiles, Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) and exporters of handicrafts, has set up international level exhibition halls and permanent showrooms at Greater Noida. This infrastructure is considered to be very appropriate for events on business-to-business basis. However, there is a need to create more such infrastructure in other metropolitan cities. There is also a need to upgrade the facilities at Pragati Maidan to cater to growing business needs.
Creation of infrastructure for conventions and exhibitions requires huge investments. In the initial stages returns on such investments are slow and not very remunerative and attractive. Spiralling land prices in metro cities makes the task of development of such facilities even more uneconomic and difficult.
There may be many private organisations or promotional organisations interested in setting up such infrastructure but they cannot do so on their own. In the countries like Germany and the US, city mayor offices set up such a centres either itself or through a PPP (public private partnership) model by forming a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company or body for the purpose. Indian promoters lack financial resources needed for the job. Therefore, the government must step in and provide necessary support to encourage the PPP model. It can be either a joint venture or a subsidy by the government or making available the land at a reasonable price. Once appropriate infrastructure is created in the NCR and other metropolitan cities, there will be considerable demand for organisation of conventions, seminars, congresses by international organisations and companies. These facilities will prompt India to bid for world conventions.
The writer is director general, EPCH