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December 1, 1998


IT World '98 / Comdex India all set for showtime

Vijay Shankar in New Delhi Email this story to a friend.

India's annual IT jamboree is all set to roll off tomorrow at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The mega IT show will be held over four days from December 2-5.

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Comdex India Exhibition has been a regular feature on the Indian IT calendar since 1992. However, this year, the show that is being called IT World '98/Comdex India Exhibition, almost missed the date.

The event comes up against the backdrop of much speculation over its survival and form.

Rediff had brought to you the news on June 11 that the four partners had decided to part ways.

The Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology had found it 'unviable' to get together with "people having different charters".

Vinnie Mehta of MAIT had doubts over the real benefits from this massive show. "You can no longer keep track of what money is going into building the brand and what amount is going into sales," he had complained to Rediff.

The National Association of Software and Service Companies too had then decided to organise its own IT shows.

"Too many cooks spoil the broth," was the emphatic summation of Navin Kripalani, vice-president, Business India Exhibitions, when he spoke with Rediff then.

Happily, for Indian IT, three of the quarrelling partners eventually kissed and made up. And the event was once again put on track.

This time round, Ziff Davis (the Softbank Company, event managers and owner of the Comdex brand rights), Business India Exhibitions and NASSCOM are confident of an impressive show.

But not all agree.

There is immense scepticism on the success of the event this year among IT leaders and enthusiasts.

While the uncertainty about Comdex India hovered over the industry, companies went ahead and liberally spent on another annual event that debuted this year, the India Internet World.

Major international companies from USA and Singapore had flown in earlier in the year and lavished funds on their participation at IIW. So, are they likely to do it again in the same year?

The local IT industry, barring large companies, is quite strapped for funds and is unlikely to represent itself in a big way this week at Pragati Maidan.

But if the Comdex India organisers are unsure too, they are not showing it. BIE's Kriplani promises "There shall be more value for money for the participants this time." Says Ramachandran of BIE that "About 400 companies are participating and these represent the entire range of IT product and service providers in the country". A number of participants from Taiwan are also expected.

Participants have booked most of the 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, they claim.

Rank Xerox of USA is one of the major participants this time and has taken up space independent of its local partners in India.

This year, the organisers are expecting about 60,000 attendees.

A special feature of the event is the multi-track conference on IT issues relevant to India: Internet technologies, electronic commerce, Y2K, ERP and data and security. Experts from Indian will lead these sessions.

The total absence of international experts at the conference, in contrast to the last year's Comdex show is conspicuous. This is bound to chip away much of the attraction of the conferences.

Likewise, the 'power panel' discussions too feature the repetitive though well known names in India. Not much 'power' is likely to emanate there.

One power panel discussion on 'Will electronic governance take off in India?' holds promise, because Indian experts would be in a good position to discuss it.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, who is a great evangelist of IT in governance, will be the most prominent speaker at Comdex India '98.

Another sure draw is going to be the live demonstration of supercomputer PARAM 10000 simulating a Y2K crash. The pioneering Centre for Development of Advanced Computing has built this latest generation of its machines.

India's chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand will be at the exhibition venue tackling a few opponents in software driven chess games. The video show of the games on large screen is expected to be a big opportunity for the audience.

As an empowering measure, IT World 98 / Comdex India is offering special one-day sessions on 'People Soft Financials' ERP package and on the subject 'What Oracle does'nt tell you'.

The immense interest in IT in this country, especially among students and ordinary computer users, guarantees a focused audience for the exhibitors at the stalls.

The new partnership of the organisers is eager to put up a good show, that you must grant them. But only time will tell whether IT World '98 / Comdex India will attain the stature of a truly national event.

Given the constraints under which the show has been put up, it should be a considerable success even if the standards of last year's Comdex is met.

Over the next four days Rediff will bring you the event as it unfolds.


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