ES. The India ITME Society has been successfully serving the industry for 40+ years now and hosts 3 Mega International Textile Technology events in India addressing different aspects of industry requirements and focusing on future technology. Exhibitions have played a pivotal role in ITME’s journey. Please share with us the legacy of India ITME Society and its incredible journey over the years with major milestones achieved since its inception.
Seema Srivastava. The India ITME Society has been serving the Textile Engineering industry for 42 years now. Our first Executive Director Late Mr. N. G. Abhyankar I.A.S., Finance Secretary Govt. of Maharashtra, who along with along with major industry stalwarts from Textile engineering industry formed India ITME Society to support and promote Indian capabilities in manufacturing most modern machinery in India apart from establishing India as a major hub for Textile Engineering & Allied Industry. Keeping in view the size of domestic market, our focus is on linking isolated small and medium buyers and sellers to the larger ecosystem and enabling customer connect throughout the globe. Our flagship event was always the India ITME event, of which we have now held for 4 decades. In 2015, we launched “Global Textile Technology & Engineering Show (GTTES)”, which was meant to link European textile machinery sellers to small and medium buyers in the burgeoning Asian market, especially within the post spinning and weaving sectors. In 2020, we held the first International Textile Machinery Exhibition (ITME Africa 2020), to link the African technology demands to Textile engineering & technology solutions.
ITME Society also offers trade enquiry services to help our customers generate leads and access specific products worldwide, as well as supports education and research through various programmes in collaboration with foreign universities. Moving with time, ITME Society has initiated multiple programs to Encourage Women Entrepreneurship in Textile Engineering. Recently ITME Society worked with MSME and Project “Siddhi” towards improving lives of women weavers in Madhya Pradesh. Under this scheme personal hygiene training and facilitation for girls in the age group 12 to 18 years for period of one year was launched.
Another major milestone is our collaboration with ITC-UN for promoting India- Africa business, skill development and technical education. Under this ITME Society facilitated donation of weaving machine to from India to Bahir-Dar university, Ethiopia to support hands on technical training to students. India ITME Society works towards 360 degrees development for Textile Engineering Industry in India & focuses not only on Trade & business aspect but also nurtures the future talent of the Industry. In short, we are right in the thick of it and look to be so, for the foreseeable future!
ES. As a pro-active industry body, please share with us how difficult it has been functioning in the midst of a pandemic and what value could you generate for your members during this difficult period.
Seema Srivastava. Like every industry, the Indian textile industry is no exception to the pandemic slowdown. For a period of about 7-8 months, all activity almost came to a standstill in the textile and textile machinery industries. Imports of raw materials, machinery components, and other goods arrived, but there were legal obstacles to moving them to factories, resulting in heavy demurrages and detention charges. For the exhibition industry, the coast was clearer, but the result was the same: we could not organize physical exhibitions. We had to adapt to virtual events to keep generating value for our members who were all facing hardship. That being said, we’re looking with hope at the future, as the vaccination cycles make their mark. The best of business rests on public, face-to-face interaction and we know face-to-face interactions will return to our industry soon enough. Virtual Buyer- Seller Meet, Textile Exchange 2021, Technical Lectures for Students all were conducted virtually. In fact apart from our Exhibition Society delivered most of its activities virtually ensuring that Indian Textile Engineering Industry remained visible and engaged with global customers/associates.
ES. The textile industry in China is the largest in the world in both overall production and exports. Globally, India still lags behind China in the textile machinery industry. What would be your thoughts and tips for India to improve its standing on the global level in this sector?
Seema Srivastava. China’s excess capacity in fibres and yarn will continue to affect the domestic Indian industry, as it disseminates cheap products in the Indian market. And China’s raw material input, labor force, and infrastructure considerably outstrips India. On the other hand, last year’s Xinjiang cotton issue opened up old wounds in the China-USA trade war. Added to the onset of the crisis, the American market is looking for alternative sources for supplies. Within this gap, India can make a difference over the next decade, but I would not want to suggest that our separate nations are on the same level. For now, it is not a competition and it need not be one.
ES. You yourself have been a very prominent face in the India ITME’s journey. Please tell our readers about your successful journey over the years since you started your association with ITME. What major milestones and achievements do you especially cherish in your heart with regards to making ITME’s exhibitions par excellence?
Seema Srivastava. When I joined in 2009, immediate task in hand was to modernize the operational aspect of ITME exhibition. With great satisfaction I can say, India ITME events are conducted now with precision and quality using most modern apps and technology. Another scintillating task I undertook was to Conceptualize, plan & execute 2 new exhibitions each with different focus and expanding into overseas market as exhibition organiser. Establishing successful MOU’s with international industry associations of various countries thus increasing Society’s global connect tremendously. Being a woman myself, working for upliftment of rural and tribal women through skill development program, encouraging girl students through internship etc. are all well cherished memories and experiences for me.
ES. You have been a prominent face in the Indian exhibition industry. Please share with us your thoughts on the challenges surrounding the Indian exhibition industry?
Seema Srivastava. Indian Exhibition Industry has to have a defined structured growth path and pursue it. As of now, we lack clear frame work to pursue a purposeful growth, influence domestic and international exhibition policies. Proper Skill training program, Common Safety and service standards for events / Exhibitions, venues, service providers etc. have miles to go to reach global levels. Cooperation with state and regional government agencies needs to be addressed to provide seamless experience to participants in terms of travel connectivity, information, permissions, tourism options, public transport facility.
Unless trade fairs / exhibitions are considered as an important activity for business growth, tax revenue and foreign exchange revenue for government, employment generation etc by governing authorities, exhibition industry will continue to be viewed as unorganized sector. Covid pandemic has taught us that lesson very well isn’t it? And how much prepared are we for such future calamities as an industry.
ES. You are a member of the Steering Committee of the newly formed body for exhibition organizers – CIEO. We would like to know what prompted you to be a part of this initiative especially when there is already an association i.e. IEIA which has been advocating the concerns of the industry stakeholders. What concerns are being addressed at CIEO and has there been any breakthrough so far?
Seema Srivastava. I am a member of IEIA & appreciate the association for its work & all its efforts towards betterment of Exhibition Industry. I believe IEIA has a strong role to play in the growth of Exhibition Industry in India & should carry on its responsibilities diligently. However, being heterogeneous IEIA is unable to focus on needs of a specific segment. This apparently was felt and identified by service providers and logistic segment and all have formed their own association to address their needs. In fact exhibition organizers are the last to take this step. Last 1.5 years of disruptions to normal way of conducting business brought in a realization that we as exhibition organizers, who initiates an event, takes all the risks of investing time and money, need to have a homogeneous and exclusive platform to present and discuss our concerns with focus and practicality. Our challenges as organizers are very different from venue owners, or logistics services or any other services which form part of exhibition industry. Extended Pandemic crisis brought the hard realization of the fact, that we organizers didn’t have an exclusive or unified collective voice so far in our country and how crucial it is to have one for our survival and future.
We also realized that, it is a necessity for us to stand united, think out of the box, Adapt to the changes and take bold steps in order to grow and evolve successfully into an organized sector recognized by government.
These very emotions and thoughts shaped CIEO or Council for Indian Exhibition Organizers: an exclusive forum which brings an identity, unified voice and one umbrella for organizers to stand under. This is the first ever such forum in our country – which is – FOR the organizers, BY the organizers, and OF the organizers,– a truly democratic collaboration of exhibition organizers and the exhibition industry.
ES. As a largescale organiser of a live machinery show that involves huge venue space, your relationship & coordination with the venue requires a special mention. Also because venues are very important stakeholders in the event ecosystem. What do you feel about the rapport of the organizers and venues in India and whether any concerns & challenges exist in their equation (both in pre-covid and post-covid scenario)? Also, If there are challenges then how can they be addressed?
Seema Srivastava. India ITME Society has been organizing industrial business exhibitions with live machinery display in India since 1979, when venues were not available in India. We organized our first event in open ground & subsequently shifted to NESCO which was a factory facility initially. INDIA ITME is one of the 1st exhibition was held at NESCO. Thus NESCO & India ITME Society share long term association since 1979. Subsequently we also held India ITME event in BIEC, Bangalore & the 11th Edition in 2022 is scheduled at IEML Greater Noida. Providing facility for full venue Industrial Exhibition is complex and requires excellent co-ordination between organizers & Venue. I appreciate & thank all 3 venues & its team for their exemplary co-operation & support to India ITME Society over the years.
From no venue, India now has multiple venues of different size and advantages in all metro cities and 2 tier cities. However, still our country has miles to go before we can become boast of being Exhibition destination with world class Venues with size, coordinated services, infrastructure and other conveniences. As I pointed out earlier, this has to be coordinated effort not just by venue owners, but also government bodies. Now these are regular issues, not specific to current pandemic situation. With all events being postponed last year and this year too, venues and all other service providers have to pitch in to restart the industry. Concessions on space rental or services, affordable paneled services, flexibility in hiring self selected service providers all will help an organizer to revive shows and business. Mind you, organizer has to offer many discount to participant and absorb all additional costs as well as suffer from reduced booking and as such reduced income, that too after long 20 months of no income as on date.
ES. While exhibitions are a catalyst for several industries, the exhibition industry itself is badly hit by the pandemic and were amongst the first to close down and will probably be the last one to open. What are your thoughts on the ongoing situation of the exhibition industry and the future that it beholds?
Seema Srivastava. The future is hybrid. We will continue to have physical exhibitions after the pandemic subsides, but the exhibition industry will also incorporate an increasing number of virtual events. The logistics required for virtual events is considerably more manageable than for physical events, and that will allow the exhibition industry to hold several buyer-seller meets in a short period of time. From our side, we held a 3-day virtual event in December 2020, which included a buyer-seller meet with 284 exhibitors from 18 nations and 1,767 buyers from 57 nations. In April 2021, we held another 3-day virtual event called the ‘TextilesExchange 2021.’ This facilitated more than 700 meetings between buyers and sellers. In my experience, the exhibition industry will continue to create business, and in situations where applicable, will adapt through the digital sphere. There is no panic; in fact, we are looking forward to a rich vein of virtual business in the months before the 2022 exhibition.
ES. According to your expertise & knowledge, what would be the top trends we can expect to witness in the Indian Exhibition ecosystem in the new normal after COVID?
Seema Srivastava. As we move forward into 2021-22, I see confidence rising in the industry. Slowly, business will go back to normal. We have estimated that it should be safe to return to physical interactions by the end of 2022, which is why we have postponed our ITME exhibition to 2022 December. On the topic of trends, as I already mentioned, I see the industry will adapt to hybrid versions of exhibitions, with more virtual and digital events.
ES. We are witnessing growing usage & advancement of technology in every industry? To what level do you feel our industry should embrace technology and do you feel it has some negative aspects too in regards to our face to face industry?
Seema Srivastava. Nothing can replace face-to-face business interaction. Business is deep and nuanced, even more so the textile machinery industry. If someone is looking to buy a high-speed jacquard loom that costs ₹5 lakhs, they would usually prefer to see it in person and test its various functions and compatibility. The eye of an industry expert may not be able to use its potential over virtual mediums and video conferences. Human relationships just seem to thrive in real-life conditions. Having said that, the virtual medium does allow us flexibility and cost-friendly options, so we will surely be using virtual events as well.
ES. What are ITME Society’s upcoming plans in regards to exhibitions?
Seema Srivastava. As I mentioned before, the future is hybrid. The Society is looking forward to organizing as many virtual buyer-seller meets as possible. The success of our prior virtual meets encouraged us to try out the format more frequently. One aspect of the meet that we want to continue was the virtual networking lounge, which enabled informal interactions between buyers and sellers. This increasingly informalized the setting and opened up a greater number of business interactions than were possible in fixed meetings. For physical exhibitions, we have the India ITME planned in December 2022, and the GTTES and ITME Africa in 2023.
ES. Finally, what would be your message to the industry?
Seema Srivastava. I would want the industry to look ahead with optimism. As the pandemic subsides, we have a lot to be thankful for. India still has one of the largest labour forces in the textile industry, and the cost of manufacturing of spinning machines in India is already one of the lowest in the world. The world will continue to look to us for business opportunities, even in American markets. Under the 2020-21 Union Budget, a National Technical Textiles Mission is proposed for a period from 2020-24 at an estimated outlay of Rs. 1,480 crore. The Indian government is also enabling the Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS), a credit linked Capital Investment Subsidy (CIS) scheme during 2016 to 2022 with an outlay of Rs. 17822 crore for the modernization of the industry. I can see us recover all that we may have lost in 2020-21, and get back to tried and tested ways.