How NOT to hold a trade show!!

Posted: July 18, 2004 in Uncategorized

The Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council is the premium body for the industry. Its an industry which is perhaps the highest foreign exchange earner in the country, with members travelling abroad regularly, interacting with foreign customers, exposed to international standards, attending international trade shows. And yet the India International Jewellery Show, organised by them in Mumbai from July 15-19, appears to be a lesson on “how NOT to hold a trade show”!!

 

Here is a ball-by-ball account of why I feel so:

1. At the outset, the show is restricted to trade only. You have to be connected to the industry to be able to register and attend the show. I had pre-registered before the show, and which itself, had demanded so many formalities, viz. photographs in prescribed format, letter from company, proof of identity etc. etc. Fair enough – I went through that, and got the registration.

 

2. When I landed up at the venue (time: 11:15 am) at Godrej, Vikhroli, I saw that the parking and registration formalities were organised outside the venue, on the opposite side of the Godrej complex, on the Eastern Express Highway. I took a U turn and reached that area. To find that it was pretty much a large plot of open land, muddy and slushy, and in the middle of which, a few tent like structures were hitched up, for registration. Vehicles were parked in an almost random fashion – find a corner that you can sneek your car into, and leave the vehicle there. And there were already tons of vehicles there, so I got my parking like almost 500 meters away. From where I had to walk up to the registration tents.

 

3. There I, being a pre-registered visitor, had to only go and get my card scanned and pick up a pre-registration kit. A simple lack of thought was seen here. Although there were hardly 4-5 persons in this specific queue, you still had to go through long vertical aisles with 4 turns, that you had to go through. Nobobdy thought it fit to remove the centre pieces, and let people just walk through quicker, considering that there was not much rush.

 

4. Inside with a lot of effort I found people who could guide me to the next thing to do – walk out and look for a bus to take me to the actual exhibition area. Most of the organising staff were clueless. Whoever took the contract for this organising part, must have taken it at lowest cost, and had to hire cheapest staff, whom also they did not think it necessary to train!

 

5. When I went to look for the bus starting point, I was shocked to see this long, long line out there! Yes, at least 200 persons waiting in the queue at that time, wanting to get into the bus to go inside the exhibition area. On enquiry, I was informed that I should not even think about walking in, as it was at least 1.5 km walk. So like the 200 persons who were already there, I went and stood in the queue. And with this long queue, you would expect them to run regular sized large buses, so that the queue gets cleared and people keep moving fast. But guess what? The buses (well, ‘bus’ is a joke; they were little bigger than a car!) were in fact, micro-mini-15 seater buses. Which moved slow. Which were not even fully filled up each time, for whatever reason (well I did discover the reason later, when I finally got into one of the buses; there were few persons who did attempt the walk, rather than wait for the bus, and as these persons were walking away, and the bus passed by them at a slow pace, many of them managed to hop onto the bus, having not had to wait in the queue!!). And as one stood in the queue, more people kept coming. And one could see, that the people being industry persons who often knew each other, they would greet persons standing in the front portions of the queue, and then just conveniently wait up with them, not needing to go to the end of the queue. And no organiser was there to prevent such nonsense from happening.

 

6. While I waited for the bus in the queue, I saw a different queue by the side, and one which was long when I came in, and which grew much longer all the time. This, I found out, was the queue for spot registrations. God help you, if you did not register in advance. The queue there was at least 500 persons long, and seemed to keep growing, as it moved ever so slowly. I understand that a person had to make payment at one place, get photographed elsewhere, produce the documents for confirming that they were a trade visitor, provide the photo identity of a prescribed kind only, and what not. There appeared to be one window where they only verified all these documents! Is there any wonder then, that the queue went ever so slowly. I would have guessed that one would need nothing less than 1.5 to 2 hours to go through that long queue and register. And is that all? No, obviously not. Because after registration, they come and stand in the bus queue (did anyone think of keeping a bus ready, where the last registration window was there??). Lack of imagination was completely exemplified there.

 

7. All of these queues and registration tents were in the wide open spaces, with wet mud under your feet, at most places. And it was in the middle of monsoons in Mumbai, with every chance of heavy rains likely to happen at any time. I wondered what could happen if it rained. If you had carried an umbrella, you might be fine. But like me, if you left it in the car (because you did not want to lug it around in the exhibition area), or you had not brought it with you (because you were going to see a jewellery exhibition, you thought, and not for a walk in the garden!), then what would you do, if it rained while you were standing in the one hour long queue?? Run helter skelter, with no shade in sight. And the people running with you would have been rich diamond and jewellery merchants also standing there in the queue, as also many ladies in rich saris.

Thankfully, although there were dark clouds above us, it did not rain, while I was waiting there. I do not know if it ever rained at some other time, and how did people manage then, but the point is that this is something that could have been so easily anticipated! As could have been antiticipated, the number of persons who would be attending, and registration counters, buses, etc. could have been planned accordingly. But no! They were not!

 

8. After what seemed like forever, I managed to get into one of those mini buses, and got into the exhibition area. I checked the watch when I finally reached the first exhibit. It was 12:45 pm. So having reached the venue at 11:15 am, I managed to see the first exhibit a good 90 minutes later! I can imagine that many visitors would have similar or worse experiences. Only goes to show that the organisers had NO VALUE for the time of the visitors. Also the exhibitors who would have paid a packet to take stalls there were also short charged. Because their target prospects, the trade visitors, spent more time waiting outside, than within the exhibition space. For example, I managed to cover only the one hall (out of the total of 4), and that is all the time and enthusiasm that I was left with, after the long morning outside!

 

9. Just one more point to show the sorry state of affairs. I went in to grab a bite, in the exhibition cafetaria area. Considering the large number of visitors, the cafetaria was big and busy. Lots of stalls for different types of food, with boards all around. All information, except the details of prices (there were a few select items, say around 10 out of a total of 70 items on offer, whose prices were available). There was a coupon system, so you had to buy the coupons on cash, and then the food, with the coupons. So I figured that the coupon counter would have the prices and stood in queue there, after having decided what I was going to eat. The coupon counter was at one corner of the cafetaria, and food counters were at the other side. When I went to that window, I told him what I was going to eat, and asked him how much it would cost me. To which he replied that he did not know! Ever so innocently he went on to explain that the coupons contract was with him, but not the food contract, so how can he expect to know! And if he does not know, how are we supposed to know?! He had no answer to that. Obviously the organisers did not think of making the two contractors to talk to each other! But understanding my disappointment, he did decide to give me a tip from his own side. Since I was only the one person, he suggested that about Rs. 50/- will cover my need for a sandwich and a coke, and will perhaps leave me with some spare money for a tea as well. Thankful for his advise, I took the Rs. 50/- coupons, and went and stood in the queue for the sandwich first, after which I would have gone and stood in the queue for the cold drinks (yes, indeed, it was that that kind of a day – from one queue to the other, and only in between, managing to sneak a few peaks at the exhibits too!). But guess what, when I got to to the window for the sandwich, I am told that it costs Rs. 50/-. So much for my cold drink and that extra cup of tea that the coupons guy had suggested, I may be able to get! Shocking.. to say the least!

 

I got out of the place as soon as I could. While I am sure I did see some good exhibits, guess what stayed with me, in my head, about the exhibition? You know what stayed with me… all of the above!

 

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