GANDHINAGAR, INDIA — The controversy surrounding the Plastindia trade show's last-minute move halfway across India — which led to lawsuits from domestic companies and major questions from international partners — may finally get a chance to be put to rest as the show opened its doors Feb. 5.
The initial reviews from the show grounds in Gujarat state could probably be summed up as “not bad” and “let's wait and see.”
The move from New Delhi to an untested, unknown trade fair complex in the west of India was not the logistical disaster some feared. The event opened without apparent major problems.
But it's also not the immediate success its promoters promised — even the organizer Plastindia Foundation declined to say, after all the push to move, if future shows will stay in Gujarat or move back to New Delhi.
The big question voiced by those on all sides: could the new location attract the right kind of visitors, those who spend money on capital equipment and other big-ticket purchases?
“The key issue will be the quality of visitors,” said Kavita Shah, chair of Plastindia Foundation's media and public relations committee.
In an interview at the show, both she and L.K. Singh, co-chair of Plastindia Foudation's executive council, confirmed that the Mumbai-based foundation has yet to decide the location of the next edition of the show, in 2018.
A few big exhibitors pulled out in recent weeks because they said they had too many questions about the event, after PIF decided in September to move the show.
Machinery manufacturer M Plast (India) Ltd. decided in January to cancel its large, 200-square-meter booth because organizers didn't seem very, well, organized.
“In December, they were not ready to even give the stall numbers and the locations of the booth,” said Director Rajendra Shukla. “We thought if they are not ready with these things, how will this exhibition be successful?”
Influencing his decision, he said his company was finding very inflated prices for hotel rooms and difficulties making travel arrangements to the smaller airport in Gujarat, complaints echoed by others,
As well, Austrian machinery maker Starlinger told its customers in a January letter it was canceling its booth even though India is one of the largest markets for its equipment for woven plastic packaging.
“The decision by the organizers of the exhibition to move PlastIndia from New Delhi to Gandhinagar, Gujarat State… has prompted us to abstain from participating in 2015,” the company wrote. “Due the relatively short notice given for such a change we fear that we cannot ensure our usual exhibition standards for our customers, prospects, partners and employees.”
Plastindia Foundation officials say they made the late move because they wanted to get away from poor conditions at New Delhi's outdated Pragati Maidan fairgrounds, and because government officials were telling them the Delhi complex could close for renovation.
But a lawsuit filed by some Indian companies seeking to stop the move alleged another reason: the government of India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who ran Gujarat's government before winning national office eight months ago, pressured Plastindia in order to give an economic boost to his hometown.
Foreign participation down