Aero India 2013 too missed the bus
Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
For all the superlative claims like the biggest and the best, Aero India 2013 was certainly the shortest air show in the world. While some defence shows run for an entire week with at least four days dedicated to business, most air shows contend themselves with three business days. Both Aero India and DefExpo traditionally adhered to the latter format.
But at Aero India 2013, business was over on the first day itself. And probably, soon after the departure of the ministerial delegation! Families with small children started trooping in on the second day of the Show, right in the morning and by late morning it was free for all. The X-ray machines at the entry stopped working, the toilet attendants abandoned their posts, the food court regurgitated the same tripe and the air display viewing area (ADVA) was littered with empty water bottles and discarded packs of chips (see Box 4).
Either in anticipation of this, or expecting no business, senior-level executives from most participating companies fled the Show on the second day itself. Signalling that the Show was over, barricading tapes came up around the stands in the exhibition halls by mid-morning on the third day, even as the permanent simian residents of the venue started displaying their impatience by strutting around the exhibition halls or jumping on the false ceilings of exhibits.
But these are irrelevant details. Aero India 2013 was declared a grand success by the defence minister himself on the inaugural day, even before the first aircraft took off on a demonstrative flight, indicating the opening of the Show (see box 1). For a Show that is organised by the ministry of defence for the pleasure of the defence minister, these pronouncements are not only marks of encouragement, but an end in itself. All is well when the minister is happy. Listing Aero India as one of the biggest international events, defence minister A.K. Antony said in his inaugural speech that the air show has put India on the international aerospace events’ map. Having found a place there, the rest becomes inconsequential, because the purpose of the Show is apparently not business generation but minister’s gratification.
Hence, no sooner had the Show concluded, the Aero India website pulled out all content. Unlike other shows, with permanent online content about the show, its history, profitability, photographs etc, the Aero India website now is an empty page (see Box 2). Therefore, there is no way to know how many trade visitors came to the Show and what volume of business was promised or conducted during February 6-10. Clearly, when the success is predetermined, there is no need for a post-mortem.
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