A member of Plastindia Foundation's management board has quit the organization to protest the manner in which the group moved its namesake Plastindia show to Gujarat. Meantime, an online campaign has started to pressure PIF to move the fair back to New Delhi.
Manoj Agarwal, managing director of Indian plastic packaging firm Kanpur Plastipack Ltd., said he resigned from the 14-member management board of the Plastindia Foundation Oct. 2 over what he termed poor decision-making on the part of the Mumbai-based foundation.
“It's like running a corner shop, not a professional organization,” Agarwal told Plastics News. “It made the foundation lose such a huge amount of money and made us a laughingstock in the international community.”
Agarwal, who is also a past president of India's Plastic Export Promotion Council, said he wanted to be clear that he did not specifically oppose moving the show to Gujarat's Mahatma Mandir Exhibition Center, which is under construction in the city of Gandhinagar.
“It was more related to governance issues with the Plastindia Foundation, the manner in which they handled this, the back and forth that they did,” he said. “In my opinion it was irregular.”
That back-and-forth included PIF first announcing in May 2013 it was moving the show to Gujarat. Then, in November last year, it reversed itself and said it would keep the show in Delhi. But last month, in September, it changed course again, back to Gujarat.
Asked to comment on Agarwal's resignation, PIF Secretary General A. N. Sapthagireesan said in an email: “In Plastindia Managing Committee, all decisions have been unanimous. Mr. Manoj Agarwal was also a party to all such decisions.”
Agarwal said that while the industry will struggle with moving the show, he believed that ultimately the event, to run from Feb. 5-10, may succeed.
Others are not so optimistic. A petition has started on the change.org website, called “Save Plastindia 2015,” which is asking PIF to return the show back to New Delhi.
“If shifted to Gandhinagar [the show] is headed for a major disaster,” the petition said.
As of Oct. 20, 161 people had signed the petition. The document questions whether Gujarat's new center can be completed in time and said that Gandhinagar lacks sufficient hotels.
“We appeal to all concerned to unite against the unfair practices and decisions of Plastindia Foundation to abruptly shift the venue… just four months before the commencement of this prestigious event,” it said. “The decision has caused heavy losses to exhibitors and visitors from all over the world who had made their travel & stay arrangements in New Delhi [a] long time back.”
“If we do not all stand up and protest against this, we will not only continue to become a laughing stock of the industry but also will lose the credibility in the international market,” the group said.
However, PIF leaders said construction of the Mahatma Mandir showground had made rapid progress, and would be a big improvement over the outdated Pragati Maidan Fairgrounds in Delhi.
In a statement, PIF said the new convention center is a modern venue with a “good hall layout plan with adequate height and centrally air conditioned halls.”
PIF said the relocation makes business sense, with more than 60 percent of India's plastics industry located in the state of Gujarat.
And it defended the local infrastructure, saying the exhibition center has adequate parking and is well connected with major ports.
It said the nearby major city of Ahmedabad is “well connected with rail, air and road.”
PIF officials said the previous location, at Pragati Maidan, was plagued by lack of electricity and other basics needed by the large machinery exhibited at a plastics show.
But the sudden move just a few months before opening is extremely unusual, and there were strong suggestions that government officials in Gujarat put pressure in PIF.
PIF's largest overseas partner, Messe Düsseldorf, wrote to PIF officials in mid-September that “we do understand there must be tremendous pressure from the Government of Gujarat.”
Senior state government officials from Gujarat spoke at an early October PIF news conference in Gujarat to promote the move, and gave extensive interviews to local media.
In a PIF statement, the group's President Subhash Kadakia said that bringing the show to Gujarat would “add to the importance of Mahatma Mandir as an emerging venue for global exhibitions.”
One well-placed Indian industry official said it seemed clear that the government of Gujarat was putting a lot of pressure on PIF to move the show, and faulted PIF for not taking a stronger stance against that.
“It put these guys [PIF] with their backs against the wall and they had no options,” the source said.
India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, was chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years before winning national elections in May.
One Indian association source estimated that moving the show to Gujarat could cost the PIF about 5.5 crore rupees, or $900,000, from forfeited fees to Pragati Maidan and other expenses.
PIF estimates that 150,000 people and 2,000 exhibiting companies will participate in the 2015 edition.