There’s more potential agony ahead for India’s flagship aviation show, AERO INDIA 2019. After navigating out of an earlier proposal to hold the show months in advance in November this year in Lucknow, the government had to play safe and hold the show on schedule in February 2019 at its traditional venue, the Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru. But those new dates have a critical overlap with another major show in the region — IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Livefist can confirm that several big exhibitors have written to the MoD ‘cautioning’ them about these dates.
While the IDEX 2019 show is scheduled from February 17-21, Aero India 2019 is scheduled from Feb 20-24, giving teams who normally move between such shows virtually no lead time for travel, logistics and set-up. In 2017, dates were close as well — while IDEX 2017 was held from February 19-23, 2017, the Aero India show that year was February 14-18. Many exhibitors at the time had wondered about the uncomfortably close dates, and blame the relatively lackluster quality of Aero India 2017 on this clash of dates. For the 2019 show, many companies, including participants in India’s upcoming flagship fighter jet contest — the pièce de résistance of military procurement activity in the country — have virtually petitioned the Ministry of Defence drawing attention to the possible effects of such a date clash.
An executive for one of the firms that has written to the MoD told Livefist that with months still to go for the show, it was hoped that the government would consider shifting dates by a few days to provide teams with a minimum period of logistical and travel flexibility between Abu Dhabi and Bengaluru. The fact that international government and corporate delegations also travel between shows looking for procurement or sourcing opportunities also threatens to keep teams away from Aero India, and focused instead on the larger show in Abu Dhabi.
Executives at an Indian firm told Livefist that limited exhibition budgets mean plans for Indian companies to send teams to international shows like IDEX stand threatened, since it would unthinkable for them to ignore Aero India — that wouldn’t go down well at all with the Department of Defence Production, a department that has long been criticised for failing to ensure a level playing field for the private sector.
International vendors frequently have single teams of executives travelling between trade shows, and coordinating containers full of equipment. While clashes of this kind are not unheard of, show organisers and governments generally avoid date overlaps for obvious reasons — each show wants maximum participation, visitors and international attention. In Aero India’s case, many exhibitors believe the government has dug itself out of certain embarrassment with a hurried show in Lucknow, but landed itself in another spot of potential embarrassment by competing with the significantly larger IDEX show in Abu Dhabi. The Indian MoD has so far only issued a statement announcing the Aero India 2019 dates. Exhibitors believe these dates could easily be tweaked without affecting plans too much. It is unclear if the government will listen to warnings from exhibitors.
By virtue of India’s enormous procurement appetite, shows like Aero India and DefExpo continue to draw impressive participation at the end of the day and remain fixtures on annual defence event calendars. But both shows are still considered significantly less influential than several other shows even in the region.