Dear Friends,

One more Defexpo behind us and this was the special one being the tenth. The rural expanse on the shores of the Bay of Bengal came live with maddening crowd in the sweltering April heat of Chennai. All critics and skeptics about the organisation and management of the show got a pleasant surprise with smooth entries with virtually non-existent queues even in the morning hours of Day 1. HAL which had been handed the responsibility which was traditionally Defence Exhibition Organisation’s (DEO), did a great job in such a short notice.

But the love affair ended here. Don’t enter the show at 8.30 and you have had it. More than an hour in the car to cover a distance of 500 metres as the roads leading to the Gate No. 2 were so narrow that there was no choice. The Olas and the Ubers of the city had no starting point option to be found when one needed to go back.  With minor irritants like stinking mobile toilets  and air conditioning being bad in some Halls and good in some, the show seemed full of people. The infrastructure existing in the town was probably never  made with such crowds in mind, so the exit from the parking itself took virtually more than an hour every evening.

And despite the crowds,  the industry especially the MSMEs which had been the reason for holding the show in the hinterland got very less footfalls and were extremely disappointed. They did get discount to showcase, they did get an opportunity to be a part of the show but did they get the right companies to see their capabilities and products, is a million dollar question, the answer to which is no. Because these big-ones were busy signing MOUs with the big companies or attending the seminars organised by industry associations or the MOD. Where was the time for them to even think of the supply chain development at MSME level leave alone recce and  talk to the exhibiting small industry?

Lots of uniformed personnel were there , many delegations from the forces but the bureaucracy and the decision makers from the ministry seemed either missing or were there for half or maximum a day and had no time to ponder or see for themselves how make in India would happen with the Indian industry. So Make in India did rule the roost at Defexpo 2018 but only verbally.  The real make in India guys were there but left wondering where they stood in the scheme of things.

Lets think twice about why ideas which are good get dampened? The aim was achieved but the aim plus not. Eventually was the aim just to change the venue and get MSMEs there or was it to get the MSMEs  business and eventually into the defence manufacturing supply chain?

Sangeeta Saxena

14 April 2018