IILF in purpose - built centre4 March 2001
After years of waiting Chennai now has its own purpose-built exhibition centre and the 16th India International Leather Fair had a double inauguration at the end of January, both for the show and for the centre. There are two air-conditioned halls of international standard in phase one of the project but even this was not enough to accommodate all the exhibitors and a temporary structure was added to house the chemicals suppliers and the restaurant. Although this was not welcomed by the exhibitors in the 'annexe', even here the standard was much higher than in the past and the only real problem was the inadequate lighting. The Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) managed to confound the sceptics and the centre was constructed in just seven months. However, the timing of phase two will depend on the commercial success of the centre. The needs of the leather industry alone will not be enough to justify the expense. The mood at the fair was of great sadness due to the tragic earthquake in Gujarat. But there was optimism too. After five years of stagnation, exports are now showing a healthy rate of increase. Business is set to boom but there were still the overseas buyers to contend with and they were looking for the impossible: higher quality allied to lower prices. At the moment a lot of the progress in India is through joint ventures and a great many well known brands are sourced from India. The IILF coincided with the official opening of phase one of a new sole unit, a joint venture between Forward Shoes and Suoloficio Malaspina of Italy. Phase two, which will include leather encapsulated units, is scheduled to commence production in the second half of the year. India would also like to create her own brand names but was warned by Ramesh Subramaniam of Tata International that companies should never enter the brand market unless they were 100% sure of their quality and ability to supply. Speaking at one of the show's two seminars, he told attendees that 'one mistake and your brand is finished.' The Chennai Trade Centre is located on 25.48 acres at Mount Poonamallee Road, Nandambakkam, on the outskirts of the city and very convenient for the airport. There are several international class hotels in the area such as the Trident, Radisson and Royal Le Meridien. The inauguration of the two halls, 5,000 and 1,850 m² respectively, marks the end of a ten year wait for a project which has sought international tenders twice, only to be shelved. It represents a 51:49 joint venture between ITPO and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). Despite the new centre's appeal and the boost in exports the visitors were slow to arrive at the fair. It was not until the afternoon of the second day that the stands and aisles really filled out, much to the relief of the exhibitors. More on India next month.