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Do Not Make in India

DefExpo in Goa sends out all the wrong signals

Ghazala Wahab

Goa: Now that the ministry of defence has made its point by producing a show virtually out of thin air (and red dust) in just about a fortnight, can we please get serious about defence exhibitions once again. Especially when they are a gateway to ‘Make in India’; a forum to showcase our industrial capabilities so that global companies are tempted to partner with them, not only for the Indian programmes but hopefully for the global ones too.

CEO BrahMos Sudhir Mishra with the defence minister
CEO BrahMos Sudhir Mishra with the defence minister

International shows like Aero India and DefExpo should not be held hostage to political whims. India has a precedence of bi-partisanship as far as defence and the armed forces are concerned. After all, didn’t Mulayam Singh Yadav, an Uttar Pradesh politician, resist the temptation of shifting DefExpo/ Aero India to his constituency, Etawah, when he was the defence minister!

A show is not a mirage in the desert. It is about the whole eco-system which facilitates its organisation and management. Infrastructure does not refer to exhibition halls alone, or facilities at the exhibition venue. It refers to a streamlined network of roads, business facilities, service providers and possibility of walk-in business visitors. The defence minister himself admitted in his inaugural speech that trade exhibitions the world over take place in metropolitan cities. This is not a coincidence, Mr Minister. They happen in big cities because of their proximity to local industry, government organisations and infrastructural facilities, none of which exist in Goa.

The MoD has been touting big figures to establish the success of the show. While most professional exhibitions wait till the end to judge whether the show had met its targets, in India, the ministry declares a show successful even before the inauguration. And in the process uses the statistics to conceal the real picture.

The real picture at DefExpo 2016 is that there may be more international exhibitors, but they are dissatisfied exhibitors. Most of them have curtailed their participation because they were not sure whether the exhibition will happen at all, and in Goa or someplace else. Several global exhibitors have not brought equipment that they would have brought to Delhi because they weren’t confident about the logistics train. What’s more, even on the second day of the Show, they were anxious whether the whole thing has been worth their while, if they will indeed get adequate serious visitors. Stability and certainty are two pillars businesses need.

Dear Mr Minister, development of Goa is not the responsibility of the global defence industry. Global exhibitors are here to do business. We want them here because we need their technology, their equipment and expertise. And now we also want them to convert the ‘Make in India’ slogan into a practical programme. It has to be a relationship based on mutual benefit. None is doing other a favour. If you want them to make in India, you have to give them your best. DefExpo in Goa unfortunately is your worst. It is the most expensive way of telling the global industry that if you want to do business in India do it at your own peril. We are like that only, thank you.

If indeed the Delhi venue (Pragati Maidan) was unavailable, a sensible course would have been to look for a temporary place as close to Delhi as possible. One place that comes to mind is Greater Noida, which also hosts the Auto Expo, one of the bigger trade shows in India. Dear Mr Minister, please take the show back to Delhi if you want Indian defence-industrial complex to thrive. Else, tell the world don’t make in India.


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