By KV Nagendra Prasad, Chief Operating Officer, HITEX Exhibition Centre, Hyderabad, India
KV Nagendra Prasad, Chief Operating Officer of HITEX Exhibition Centre gives insight into the current situation of India’s exhibitions and events industry while in the midst of COVID-19.
India today [21 April] has entered the 28th day of the nationwide lockdown declared by the Government of India. Everything other than essential services are still under lockdown, areas across the country where COVID-19 cases have been detected have been declared as Red Zones and strict enforcement of lockdown is being enforced in the Red Zones along with regular testing of the public. By far the steps taken by the Government have been successful in containing the spread of the pandemic in India to remain in Stage-2. However, numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been on the raise. Mumbai, the financial capital of India leads with highest COVID-19 cases and related deaths. Mumbai remains on high alert and complete lockdown.
As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India’s COVID-19 tally climbed to 18,601 cases from all over the country as of today [21 April], with an increase of 1,336 cases in the last 24 hours ending Monday morning. The ministry added that at least 590 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported across the country, with 3,251 recoveries so far.
The exhibition and events industry in India remains shutdown and is looking at a revival time of eight to 12 months after lockdown is lifted. Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA) is actively engaging its membership to understand the issues on the ground and has been representing the same to the Government. IEIA’s 6-day webinar series from 2nd – 11th April, held on alternate days, witnessed around 250 to 300 participants from across the industry. IEIA also released a press note mentioning around 90 shows to have been either postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 during the time-period, summing up to approximately 15% of the total events conducted annually in the organised sector, with a resultant estimated loss of Rs. 3,570 crores for the entire sector. The postponement or cancellation of these shows translates into doubling of the total turnaround time for realisation of the amounts incurred in the preparatory stages, while the organisers and allied service providers would bear the burden of fixed costs and salaries, etc. without any returns flowing in.
India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB), under the Ministry of Tourism, has also been engaging the stakeholders and has been conducting a series of Webinars and surveys to estimate the COVID-19 effect on the convention and meetings sector.
Events and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA), India’s leading association for the events industry stated in their press release that impact on the events and experiential industry is expected to last for months while the impact in the first two months alone is pegged at Rs 3000 – 5000 Cr, at a minimum, as projected in a survey of 230 MSMEs in the sector, the effect for the comings months will be many times more and is being pegged at cancellations worth over 80% of the 40,000 Cr formal and informal events industry. This is in part due to cancellations of existing projects and contracts, cancellations of conferences, State and Central Government endeavours, international MICE events, the entertainment segment and cancellation of flights, which has impacted the industry. The approximate number of folks estimated to be directly or indirectly employed including infra (tent house/ lights/ flowers/ catering/ hospitality) is approx. 10 million jobs. 80% of this would be at risk as it would be daily wage earners with no access to credit facilities nor to working capital.
The situation continues to be fluid for the Indian MICE industry with the COVID-19 cases continuing steady raise. However, the industry is also hopeful for a full recovery within 12 months after the lockdown is lifted and situation returning to normalcy. The industry looks towards the government for support for its survival.
KV Nagendra Prasad is a Member of the Board for International Association of Exhibitions and Events® (IAEE); Immediate Past President of Indian Exhibition Industry Association (IEIA); and Chief Operating Officer of HITEX Exhibition Centre in Hyderabad, India