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T he Indian economy is expected to quadruple in size between now and 2020, according to a report by Edelweiss Capital. Currently worth US$ 160m, India's exhibition industry has the potential to grow to US$ 990m, according to a recent report compiled for UFI by the Business Strategies Group. However, these are hypothetical statistics that while widening the eyes of many overseas investors, do little to entice the international exhibition organising community. At a time when east European specialist organiser ITE is increasing its footprint in India with the purchase of the as- yet- untitled business operation of the former Expomedia Group, most overseas exhibition organisers are withdrawing. Among the most recent émigrés are Montgomery Worldwide, which closed its Indian division last year, dissolving its joint venture with Inter Ads Exhibitions; InterAdsMontgomery, and Reed Exhibitions, which closed its New Delhi office in a bid to consolidate business elsewhere. Informa has also changed its focus, looking to capitalise on its business in the Middle East instead, pulling out of India and opening an office in Saudi Arabia. The truth is that far from being honey to the proverbial bees, the Indian exhibition market needs to overcome many challenges before its growth potential can be tapped by organisers. " Venues are the most important obstacle facing the Indian exhibition, convention and trade show industry business. We need world- class infrastructure to host our big exhibitions," says Manish Gandhi, executive director of Asian Business Exhibition and Conferences, organiser of the upcoming AceTech construction exhibition in Mumbai. According to the BSG report, venue space dedicated to exhibitions in India was 254,707sqm in 2009, and no new venues are planned for at least two years. The shortage of space in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi is a particular problem, as it is these cities that have the critical mass of potential visitors necessary to support a While India's economy is expected to continue its rapid growth over the next 10 years, the country's exhibition industry is still misfiring. Antony Reeve- Crooklooks at what is being done to bring India into the premier league. The Indian dilemma Cover Story | Exhibition World 12| THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW. EXHIBITION- WORLD. NET " In 25 years the industry remains fragmented, closed, and has not reached its potential." - Vicki Bedi. busy trade fair calendar. Gandhi believes that for the Indian exhibition industry to achieve anything approaching its US$ 990m market potential, it needs to create an additional 800,000sqm of exhibition space. " Venue creation holds the key to future growth. And venue creation, being a highly capital- intensive activity, needs government support and subsidies," he says, adding that the real challenge to organisers in India is to scale up the exhibitions and still give value to the exhibitors. But as anyone who's tried to organise an event in India will tell you, space is far from the only problem. Regulations and bureaucracy make it as difficult for organisers to manoeuvre as any shortage of square metres. As Gandhi puts it, " Government regulations are not conducive to fast growth in this sector, the problem is that the exhibition sector is yet to get Government recognition." Investment in venues and infrastructure is key to India's success