In Conversation With Chandrika Behl, Managing Director, Exhibitions India Group

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ES. What will be the highlights of the 31st edition of the Convergence India expo, and what is new this time?

Chandrika Behl. Organised by ITPO and the Exhibitions India Group, the 31st Convergence India and 9th Smart Cities India expo is India’s largest Tech & Infra expo, so, really, it’s the go-to event for anyone interested in India’s advancing role in the realms of digital and urban development.

Through digital inclusion and keeping the citizen at its core, the 2024 edition will cement the expo’s legacy of bridging the country’s digital, social and economic divide. The platform is also a showcase of India’s emergence as a digital powerhouse and a clear leader in this field. This year, the expo is bigger and better than ever, with over 1,200 participants from 40 countries, including 250 startups, all of whom will unveil the latest innovations across sectors and congregate to chart a course for the future.

50 conference sessions will see senior speakers from government and industry provide an insightful perspective on the most pressing issues of the day and their vision for overcoming these issues in future. Over 50,000 visitors will get a chance to interact, explore and make alliances in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. The expo will be graced by the presence of Ministers and senior dignitaries from the Government of The Startup Hub will feature startups displaying innovations across the verticals of emerging technologies, ICT, and Smart City applications. There will be mentoring sessions from the pioneers of the ecosystem, specially curated conference sessions, a Startup Pitch Competition, and an Investor-Startup meet. Other significant attractions include global product launches, curated marketing support, business matchmaking, a City Leader’s Conclave, and industry awards. The event will also see Country Pavilions from Russia and Armenia. Curated B2B meetings will be organised to assist exhibitors in establishing new business engagements.

The expo has received support from various ministries and government campaigns, such as Digital India, Skill India, the Smart Cities Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Electronics & IT, MoHUA, Ministry of IB, Ministry of MSME, Ministry of Science & Technology, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), etc.

ES. How do you see Convergence India and its co-located events become a one-stop solution for exhibitors and visitors?

Chandrika Behl. Convergence India has remained at the forefront of promoting technological advancements in the fields of telecom, satcom, broadcast, wired & wireless technologies, 5G & 6G networks, IT solutions, AI, smart solutions, M2M, mobile & accessories, IoT, embedded tech, blockchain, and FinTech – the entire gamut of digital solutions. We aim to create a comprehensive technology showcase, such that is provides a true representation of the way forward.

With Convergence India being the mothership, the individual sectors are addressed by a sharp focus brought in by the co-located expos. For instance, the Mobile India expo is India’s longest-running and largest showcase of mobile devices, accessories, hearables, wearables, and lifestyle gadgets – providing a robust buyer-seller platform to industry players. The IOT India expo showcases IoT innovations in Cloud and big data, VR/AR, artificial intelligence, design applications, Industrial IoT, and other disruptive technologies. Similarly, Embedded Tech India is a platform for the embedded technology ecosystem that powers smart devices, smart manufacturing, smart

transport, smart cities, etc. FinTech India showcases companies and institutions involved in financial technologies, including blockchain, digital banking, e-wallets, payment gateways, cyber security, e-commerce solutions, and more. Finally, Digital Gaming India showcases emerging trends and technologies in the gaming sector.

Meanwhile, the Smart Cities India expo is a display of India’s emerging modernisation and development landscape by showcasing the integration of transformative technologies with the key pillars of urban development – green buildings, rooftop solar, renewable & clean energy, clean environment, clean water, water conservation, urban mobility, and the use of innovative ICT solutions for optimising resources that make cities smart and sustainable. Together, these offer a comprehensive platform for domestic and overseas players, innovators, technologists and startups, and leaders in sustainable technologies to unleash the power of physical networking, expand business opportunities, and make new alliances.

ES. Please discuss some new trends that will impact the industry.

Chandrika Behl. Supported by an industry-friendly policy ecosystem, every sector that we address is poised for continued growth. India is the world’s second-largest telecommunications market, with over 1.2 billion mobile subscribers, of which about 750 million are smartphone users. Over the next five years, the country is poised to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. During this period, the rise in mobile phone penetration and the decline in data costs will add 500 million new Internet users. Consequently, mobile applications will be one of the fastest-growing markets in the segment, led by the growing popularity of OTT applications. As mobile exports grow, it will further strengthen the components and accessories market. With deeper Internet penetration, data usage has increased exponentially, making India one of the biggest consumers of data worldwide. Combine this with the development of infrastructure at a rapid pace, as is taking place across the country, and you have the groundwork being laid for sustained growth for years to come.

ES. Venue selection is a primal decision to make. What factors do you think are relevant to influencing the resolution?

Chandrika Behl. There are many factors that drive venue selection – first among them would be accessibility and connectivity: proximity to major transportation hubs, ease of access for exhibitors and visitors, and robust connectivity are paramount. A venue’s strategic location ensures maximum participation and seamless logistics. Secondly, infrastructure and amenities: state-of-the-art facilities, modern amenities, and large pillarless halls, all play a key role when choosing a venue. And, of course, flexibility and scalability: the ability to adapt to varying event sizes and requirements is vital.

A venue should offer flexibility in layouts, booth configurations, and scalability to accommodate the diverse needs of exhibitors and industry sectors. And, finally – perhaps most importantly – the venue should be customer oriented and work with the organiser to ensure the best possible experience for all exhibitors and attendees.

We’re particularly excited about the redevelopment of Bharat Mandapam and the entire Pragati Maidan complex, not to mention the emergence of new world-class venues, such as the Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai and the India International Convention & Expo Centre (IICC) in Dwarka.

The addition of these venues will enable a fresh wave of possibilities for the sectors. The trade fair industry plays a pivotal role in any country’s economy, and the recognition of this in India is evident in the development of these new venues.

ES. In your opinion, how was 2023 for the industry, and how did it impact EIG?

Chandrika Behl. India’s attractiveness as an investment destination remains robust, as a result of which the exhibitions industry continues to see sustained growth. India is growing on both fronts – in terms of domestic demand as well as export growth – as a result of which both our domestic and international business has seen growth in the past year. We’re not only amongst the oldest and most established exhibitions organisers in the region, but we’re also the largest sales agent in India for the leading exhibition organisers from around the world. India is fast developing a reputation of being not just a supplier to the world, but a supplier that’s reliable and can be trusted to adhere to quality standards and timelines – all the while being cost competitive as well. EIG is very proud to be a part of India’s growth story, and in fact play a pivotal part in it.

We not only provide India’s largest Tech & Infra platform within the country to showcase ‘Brand India’ and shine a light on the India story – as we’ve done long before this phrase became popular – but we’re also proud to provide access to the most valuable platforms from around the world to Indian MSMEs and corporates to showcase their innovations, and therein provide opportunities in new markets for Indian enterprises.

ES. What are your plans for 2024?

Chandrika Behl. We intend to build on the growth of the past few years and continue to provide a launchpad for Indian enterprises across industries and markets. Convergence India has completed three decades of providing the leading technology platform in the nation, and we intend to ensure it remains cutting edge. The Smart Cities platform is nearing a decade, and it’s 10th edition in 2025 will coincide with the next phase of the Smart Cities mission. Our aim remains contribution to nation building. We also have some new projects in the works, but more on that over the course of the year.

ES. What message would you like to give to the industry?

Chandrika Behl. We intend to build on the growth of the past few years and continue to provide a launchpad for Indian enterprises across industries and markets. Convergence India has completed three decades of providing the leading technology platform in the nation, and we intend to ensure it remains cutting edge. The Smart Cities platform is nearing a decade, and it’s 10th edition in 2025 will coincide with the next phase of the Smart Cities mission. Our aim remains contribution to nation building. We also have some new projects in the works, but more on that over the course of the year.

The path to our success runs through that of our partners and clients! Our philosophy has always been to create an enabling environment for the success of our partners and customers, as we know this is the only way to ensure long term success. We believe that this philosophy has served us exceedingly well over three decades, and will continue to do so going forward – which is to say, as India grows on the world stage, not only do we aim to ride on the coattails of this growth but we aim to continue facilitating this growth, as we’ve done throughout our history. So, what I would say is no secret: India is poised not just for lasting growth, but for accelerated growth. And, at EIG, we intend to play our role of facilitator with renewed dedication and enthusiasm.