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Mats to pickles, except business
All’s fair in Haldia fair

Haldia, Jan. 16: Packed soya chunks, refined sunflower oil, mats, dokra showpieces, kantha stitch saris, patachitra books on Swami Vivekananda and pickles — the takeaways from the penultimate day of Bengal Leads 2013 were plentiful.

“We are holding a big B2B (business to business) exhibition at Haldia,” industries minister Partha Chatterjee had told a curtain-raiser news conference on the three-day industry summit-cum-exhibition.

The Telegraph today spent several hours at Haldia’s Helipad Ground — where 67 stalls have been put up in four hangars, each measuring around 20,000sqft — to assess whether the exhibition was achieving the stated objective.

Most stalls were empty. Visitors trickled in small groups to some stalls, flipped through brochures and picked up an odd item or the other but few spoke of anything remotely connected to business.

“There has not been a single serious enquiry about trade or business since the inauguration,” said an official in the stall of a company that deals with petrochemicals.

“Some visitors are enquiring if we deal with white sugar, pointing at polyethylene granules kept in jars. Others are enquiring if we manufacture bottles. A few want to know if we are hiring. Can you call it a B2B exhibition?” the official asked.

According to him, a B2B exhibition cannot be held with participants from across a wide spectrum of industries — companies selling pickles to petrochemicals and jute bags have set up stalls.

“B2B exhibitions require the assembly of several players related to one particular industry…. I don’t know how the government planned such a show here in Haldia, where even people from Calcutta are not turning up,” he added.

Some employees at stalls sponsored by government departments said they were enjoying “paid leave” as there was hardly any work.

Others counted the costs. “The organisers have charged Rs 1.16 lakh for a 3-metre-by-3-metre stall…. Then, we had to spend around Rs 3 lakh to do up the stall. We have four company officials camping here for three days and that also involves expenditure,” said a company representative.

Companies need not be always prodded to take part in B2B exhibitions or trade fairs as making their presence felt at such shows is a key element in marketing strategy, he said. “But the expenses here cannot be justified,” he added.

The situation in another hangar — where various technical sessions on manufacturing, health, north Bengal development, information technology, infrastructure, road, transport and power, tourism and skill development were held — was not dissimilar.

The B2B technical sessions in big trade fairs cover the entire gamut of one particular industry and people with experience are invited as speakers for a comprehensive overview. But most sessions at Haldia were packed with government representatives as speakers.

“There were hardly any people with specific interest in information technology in the audience. Some looked like local people or students…. But we had to speak,” said a speaker.