By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI–More than 30 countries participated in this yearâ€™s 26th International Trade Fair (November 14-27) held at Pragati Maidan in the capital city. Begun in 1981, this year the annual fair had stalls of 7,500 Indian and overseas firms and attracted more than 3.6 million visitors.
Organized by the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), the fair aims to display Indiaâ€™s industrial progress, its increasing market and its potential as an attractive venue for global trade.
Inaugurated by External Affairs Minster Pranab Mukherjee, the twin-theme of this yearâ€™s fair was â€œTourism and Small & Medium Industries.â€
â€œIndia has the potential to become one of the most exciting tourist destinations in the world. Indiaâ€™s small and medium industries employ more than 80 percent of the population and contribute 40 percent of the total industrial output. Their products need to be showcased,â€ ITPO organizers said.
While the different Indian states showcased their tourism potential, that of the National Small Industries Corporation was displayed in a separate hall called â€œTechmart.â€ China was the â€œPartner Countryâ€ and Thailand the â€œFocus Countryâ€ of this yearâ€™s fair. Among other countries participating in the fair were Afghanistan, Bhutan, Egypt, Iran, Italy, Pakistan and Syria. Besides, more than 150 delegations from 32 countries visited the fair with their main interest being to further economic links with India. For instance, an Austrian company–Eurobond Technologies–participated in the fair for the first time. The company set up a stall of repair kits and adhesives for industrial use. A representative of the company said: â€œWe hope to further our trade relations with India with this fair.â€
During the fair, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the ITPO and the General Organization of International Exhibitions and Fairs, Cairo (Egypt) to boost trade between the two countries. As per the two-year agreement, the countries will invite each other to their fairs and exhibitions and also provide free space and publicity to each other. Besides, pleased with the response at this yearâ€™s fair, according to Egyptian Ambassador E. Hamid Higazy: â€œNext time, many more Egyptian companies have expressed willingness to come to India.â€ From the Indian side, â€œMore Indian companies are keen on going to Egyptian markets and this MoU will remove all hassles,â€ said Safdar H. Khan, senior general manager of ITPO.
Among the key international attractions at the fair were spices from Pakistan, including Shan Masala and Laziza Masala. Whether it was the butter chicken masala, garam masala or any of the dozens of different kinds of spices available, the crowd of buyers seemed endless here. Some Indians have become so fond of Pakistani spices that they wait for the fair to buy enough to last till the next yearâ€™s fair. The impact of becoming familiar with the Pakistani spices through the fair has been such that now they are also available throughout the year at various outlets. As expressed by Zulfiqar Ali Sheikh, senior vice-chairman Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI): â€œThese spices are now also available in India, mostly in Delhi, through retail outlets.â€
With Indian children awed by Chinese toys, good quality and low prices led to demand for same skyrocketing during fair time. The key attraction from Thailand were artificial flowers. Pleased by the response from Indian consumers for Thai flowers made from paper, rubber and leaves, an artificial flower trader from Thailand said: â€œThe response from the Indian public has been amazing as compared to last year. This yearâ€™s response has been better than that of last year.â€
Among primary national attractions, the Punjab pavilion focused on promoting awareness of health-oriented crops and manufactured items. A big hit of Jammu and Kashmir was the traditional Kashmiri cuisine. Apart from a full course, known as Wazwan including 36 types of food with more than half being non-vegetarian, the Kashmiri stall also served kahwa (Kashmiri tea). Pleased with the response from Delhites, G.M. Gazi, a manager with the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), said: â€œWe have been coming here for a long time representing JKTDC. This year also we got a tremendous response.â€
What was perhaps no less commendable was that the two-week fair passed by peacefully without even a single incident of eve-teasing or pick-pocketing being reported. Over 3,000 police officers were deployed, with around 2,000 in civil dress, to ensure security at the fair. While police officials were armed with X-ray scanners and mine sweepers, CCTVs and rotating cameras were installed at vulnerable spots including main gates, major halls, theatres and public telephone clusters.
On the closing day, while the state pavilion of Kerala was awarded the gold medal, that of Gujarat bagged silver, Chhattisgarh received bronze and that of Rajasthan a commendation medal.
Pragati Maidan, Asiaâ€™s biggest exhibition ground, is spread over 149 acres of land in the heart of the capital city. It offers about 61,290 square meters of covered exhibition space in 16 halls, plus 10,000 square meters of open display area. The government is keen on revamping this ground in coming days. Expressing this, the Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, said on the concluding day: â€œPragati Maidan should be made a world class exhibition and convention center and the venue should not be shifted. The matter is being discussed with the Ministry of Commerce and Urban Development.â€