Slow-coach Calcutta’s loss has been hi-tech Hyderabad’s gain. While Chandrababu Naidu’s swanky town is gearing up to open the doors of the 15,000-sq-metre, ‘international-standard’ trade fair ground next month, in technical collaboration with Messe Dusseldorf, Calcutta has been left to ponder over what could have been.
The bosses of the world’s largest trade fair ground in the German city of Dusseldorf seem convinced that Calcutta has missed the bus, and dredging the project out of deep waters is a near-impossibility. “No, at the moment, we don’t have any plans to help the West Bengal government set up an international trade fair complex in Calcutta. We already have our hands full,” said Fritz Otto Thielmann, project director, Messe Dusseldorf GmbH.
Thielmann, who was in town for a presentation to promote a string of international trade fairs scheduled in Dusseldorf from June 16 to 21, 2003, clearly indicated that the focus of the German trade fair major was now on Hyderabad. Messe Dusseldorf has provided technology and expertise for the Hyderabad facility built by Hitex, a joint venture between the Andhra Pradesh government and L&T.
“Ironically, Hyderabad was not even in the reckoning when Messe Dusseldorf first presented a feasibility report to the West Bengal government on a possible collaboration for a permanent fair ground in Calcutta in March ’99,” said K.C. Damodaran, representative of Messe Dusseldorf GmbH in India.
The report, prepared by German development agency DEG, assessed a 40-acre plot on the EM Bypass, beside the Satyajit Ray film institute, for the project. There was a legal hassle over the title of the land being offered by the government and officials promised to look into the matter.
“An MoU was also signed between the West Bengal government and the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) for the trade fair complex, but since then, there has been no communication from the government to Messe Dusseldorf. They have subsequently invested heavily in Shanghai and elsewhere in Asia, besides providing technology for the Hyderabad complex,” said B.G. Roy, regional director, Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC).
“Hyderabad was quick to realise the significance of having a world-class trade convention facility in its backyard, and was fast off the blocks to create support infrastructure,” said Damodaran. Now, it can reap the harvest, hosting a clutch of fairs from January, covering such diverse sectors as medical equipment, food technology, tubes, sheet metal, instrumentation, pharmaceuticals and building technology, he added.
German consul-general in Calcutta Erhard Zander, guest of honour at the Messe Dusseldorf presentation on Gifa, Metec, ThermProcess and NewCast 2003, felt the city could be an ideal locale to host such fairs, which in turn, can boost foreign investment. “The fundamentals are strong here, and Calcutta is the trading gateway to a large national and international hinterland. But, the government should work towards improving investment climate and labour conditions,” he said.
Inviting government and industry delegations to the trade fairs in Germany, Zander said: “It is important to make these trips to build bridges with prospective collaborators and project Calcutta’s strengths on an international forum to dispel doubts. The consulate office will do everything it can to help the IGCC coordinate such visits by industry captains and decision-makers.”