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December 6, 1997


The summing up

R Vijay Shankar at Pragati Maidan

India's rising power in the information technology world and the scintillating industry growth rates call for an equally impressive platform to display the strength.

Did IT India '97/Comdex fulfill that need?

Was it worth the while?
The summing up
Microsoft wins
The number of participants and exhibitors; the range of display of products; the large number of visitors, both professional and casual and the series of well-attended conferences can be accepted as a decent outcome of the efforts to showcase India’s IT capabilities.

Yet, did the quality measure up to other similar international events?

The conferences

The theme, ‘Towards - the intelligent network' - helped bring to the fore issues of policy and management impact. But the quality of the presentations and the choice of speakers left much to be desired. A delegate complained that "A better pool of internationally successful people should have been down."

Most speakers stuck to safer grounds of common knowledge and devoted a good part of the allotted time to promoting their company’s products and solutions. No policy direction, no summarising of constraints and no tips on the changes in the IT environment came forth.

The tiresome refrain was the Internet and its awesome capabilities. But not once was the chorus punctuated by some terra firma advice on how these wonders could be made to happen in India within a reasonable timeframe.

The talk by Rick Inatome, chairman of Inacom Corporation, USA, proved to be the most popular of the sessions. His talk on ‘Redefining corporate IT strategy in the age of knowledge’ received the best response.

The organisation of the conferences left much to be desired. The delegate fee, many felt, was steep. The time slotting for speakers was poor and many had to rush through their presentations at a breakneck speed. Some even spent half their allotted time working out if they had enough time for the talk!

The poor quality of the slide projections rendered it useless. The public address system gave way quite frequently and the loud blasts of sound were quite an embarrassment.

The last minute changes in the list of speakers, no timely production of transcripts and poor question-time management added to the woes of the participants.

All this, however, did not deter the organisers from using every opportunity to praise each other at the 'memento' presenting ceremony and the lengthy introduction of speakers wasted some more of the delegates' time.

The exhibition

No business participant this correspondent talked with, undervalued the exposure his company has obtain from putting up a stall at Pragati Maidan. But not even a few endorsed the organisation of the exhibition as of international quality.

G Harikrishnan of Epson said, "We were harassed while bringing in our goods for display. There were no arrangements for clearing the entry smoothly."

"The site should have been handed over to us at least 72 hours before to the show," said S V Ramanan, DGM corporate planning, CMC Limited. "It is really difficult to set up products in the short time they give us. Besides, the stalls are to be closed by 6.30 to 7 pm, leaving little time for rectifying equipment trouble."

Many exhibitors complained of frequent power breakdown, poor arrangement for refreshments and lack of good drinking water. Poor hygiene conditions in the toilets and ever within the halls, were another common complaint.

Says Grace Huang, sales manager, Ability Electronics, Taiwan, "Compared to the other Comdex exhibitions, organisation here in bad. They were still setting up equipment at the end of the first day! There were no announcements and hygiene conditions were poor. They should improve."

Angeline Chang of Enlight Corporation, Taiwan, has a similar experience. "They should arrange for good quality restaurants in the covered space within the halls," she suggested.

Many visitors felt that some internal transport arrangements would be in order as the halls are spread over long distances.

A Sitaramaiah, manager and system engineer, AMP India Private Limited, suggested that there should be a "high-end business service" so that "there can be more focussed business discussions". AMP offers structured cabling products and these could be better presented to specific potential buyers if there had been some kind of screening for delegates with a serious business interest, he felt.

"Business India Exhibitions and the other organisers need to do a lot more to improve the logistics," felt Neeraj Shaabi, marketing manager, Microsoft India. "There were power cuts while presentations were on," he complained. Shaabi also complained of the hygiene conditions.

A centralised information pool for the major deals concluded, information on business ties-ups, product releases and launches during the exposition would have been in order. But even an IT event of this scale could not manage provision of easy access to such information.

The email facility at the press-room got online only at the end of the first day! The Comdex Internet Center, sponsored by Microsoft, according to Shaabi, got operational well after the exposition began.

The saving grace was the staff at the Business India Media Center. They were extremely helpful, especially to journalists who were facing tight daily schedules.

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