Cover Story| Exhibition World As Bedi points out, " Do you think the government of India is going to look at an association with only 25 members in a country as large as Europe, that has around 1.1 billion people? No. We need a mature, welcoming association with a 200- 300 members, and the organisers need to support increased competition." The association has also progressed into lobbying at a policy- maker level, recently commissioning a consultancy to conduct an in- depth study of the industry. " If you go to the policy- makers, you need to have this ammunition to show them the importance of the industry, how it generates economic growth, and brings benefits to other businesses," says Arora. " As things stand today, the appreciation is still not there as to the importance of this segment of the economy." India's International Trade Promotion Organisation ( ITPO), which falls within the Ministry of Commerce, is the lynchpin for the future success of the Indian exhibition industry. If the organisers, venues and service providers can make a convincing argument to invest in the industry, then they can win the attention of India's public sector. As it stands now, that support isn't there. Look no further than the 2010 calendar of the country's largest trade show venue, New Delhi's Pragati Maidan. For the crucial part of the year, April to October, it will be unavailable for exhibitions because it has been given to the Secretariat of the Commonwealth Games. As Arora points out, " this is the importance that we have in the mindscape of the Government - we don't exist". The ITPO is mandated, as well as being a trade promotion authority, with regulating the exhibition industry. It is also a venue owner ( Pragati Maidan) and organiser. Together with the Ministry of Commerce, it's the organisation where most of the solutions to India's problems lie. " Yes, the ITPO is probably inefficient, and yes the government of India is probably not concentrating on garnering the full benefits that this industry can bring to the country," says Bedi. " But I want to ask the people who have been leading the exhibition sector what they have done for the industry, because in 25 years the industry remains fragmented, closed, and has not reached its potential." The project the IEIA has given to its consultancy group includes asking it to study the German trade fair model. " We want them to look at how Germany's exhibition venues helped their economy, and we also want them to look at China, as well as one or two other countries," says Arora. " We want to see how and what they are doing to promote their industry and how it is affecting their economy." Amitabh Kant is the MD and CEO of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor. He was formerly the joint Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, and to those of us not familiar with his work, he was also the man behind the ' Incredible India' campaign, 2002- 2006. Kant believes that the future of India's exhibition industry lies in the creation of a successful public-private partnership. " To drive India as an exhibition destination we have the ITPO. But India is such a large country that it needs to be thought of as five different regions," he says. " We need to create vibrant private sector organisations in each of these that will drive, promote and market business- to- business events, under the umbrella of the ITPO, and ultimately the Ministry of Commerce." Kant believes there are three goals to score in order for the Indian industry to thrive: new exhibition infrastructure, fresh promotion and marketing, and establishing the ITPO as the facilitator, catalyst and regulator. And only the latter should be a responsibility of the public sector. " Unlike China, where infrastructure is being created by the government, India's infrastructure is being created by the private sector. It's a public- private partnership model where the government acts as a facilitator and catalyst. " To my mind, conventions and exhibitions should be totally driven by the private sector. Only the promotion and marketing of India as a MICE destination should be done by the ITPO," he adds. It's crucial to the growth of India's exhibition industry that it succeeds. Because no matter what the true dollar forecasts for India's growth are, this is very much a human story. Opening up India's international exhibition industry will bring benefit to people on every rung of the socio- economic ladder, creating jobs and boosting international ties. With so much scope for foreign investment, India must embrace its exhibition sector. As Bedi says, " We have an audience, we have guys who are willing to invest, there is a demand, but still the industry is failing. We all want this cake to get bigger." 14| THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW. EXHIBITION- WORLD. NET Inside India's largest venue, Pragati Maidan " We need to create vibrant private sector organisations to drive events, promoted by our Ministry of Commerce." - Amitabh Kant.