Exhibitions must not be considered as Mass Gatherings

Ever since the lock down has been implemented, economy has witnessed a free fall across states and sectors. Central and State governments are trying their level best to restore the economy and keep the cycle running, but Covid-19 cases which is growing at an alarming rate topped up with a crumbling health infrastructure has led many to believe that we are going to stay for a long run in this economic crisis. There is an air of uncertainty on the timeline of exactly when we start witnessing flattening of the curve and followed by a downward trend to witness zero cases one day. While globally, many companies claim to be on the verge of developing a vaccine against Corona virus; the truth remains that we are still a good one-year away from getting close to any commercial vaccine.

These unprecedented times have been very challenging scenario for any government across the globe. On one hand, lives are at stake and on the other hand the economy at risk, which virtually means lives too are at a risk especially for nation like India with large population which can’t afford savings and live on their daily wages. With unknown factors in the game, it is very difficult to plan an exit strategy from the lock down and even more difficult to identify ways to revive the falling economy.

It’s an ocean and there are many initiatives that need to be taken into consideration. While the government is taking many aggressive steps to revive the economy, they are also looking at saving lives. I would like to attract the attention of the strategy makers and think tanks on how the traditional exhibitions can be a game changer in reviving the economy.

Many believe that exhibitions especially B2B, is a mass gathering activity and should not be allowed during Covid-19 crisis. Secondly, it is believed to be a very small industry which doesn’t have any significant impact on the economy. Being in the industry for almost a decade I can say with complete responsibility that both notions are totally false.

I would like to highlight a few key points to support my suggestion

  • B2B Exhibitions are an ‘organized gathering’ of people rather than ‘mass gathering’ as many believe. I am sure none of us have ever heard of any stampede in an exhibition despite having more than 100K (for larger exhibitions) people under one roof. Right from when a participant enters the venue till his exit from the venue, the entire route map is designed carefully. It functions similarly to the experience of a flyer; right from reaching the airport, queuing for dropping luggage, security checks, boarding the flight, collecting his baggage and finally taking a cab for his home.
  • One of the key concerns currently is the health of the people. If you have been to any of the B2B exhibitions, you can clearly see the efforts taken by the organizing team to provide healthy and hygienic atmosphere to attendees. H&S (Health and Safety) is the top priority for the organizer and most of them invest heavily into H&S protocols right from training the staffs to providing H&S facilities to attendees.
  • While many of you who have only visited the exhibitions during the show days, may not have seen the set-up days. Set-up days for medium size exhibitions is generally three days. During these three days of set-up and three days of show, there is a significant number of people who get direct or indirect employment. These are mostly daily wage earners. On an average this number for medium size B2B exhibitions varies from 20,000 to 25,000. In this ongoing crisis, these are the people who are mostly affected. Exhibitions provides an opportunity to give employment to these daily wagers in an organized atmosphere where H&S has been taken care in greater detail.
  • Most importantly, B2B exhibitions is a marketplace. Countless numbers of MoU and business deals are signed in an exhibition. Three days of exhibitions act as a foundation stone for the retail business and provide much needed stimulus to the economy.

Government is looking for staggered exit from the lock down. It will be a wise decision for the long run to exempt exhibitions from mass gathering and allow exhibitions to be held at the earliest. It fits into government agenda of reviving economy, safeguarding the livelihood of daily wagers and at the same time ensuring H&S is taken care. Also, a huge chunk of the businesses who participate in any exhibition, falls under the MSME segment, which is a backbone of the economy.

Developed nations like Germany, which clearly understands the value of exhibitions, have already taken a decision to exempt B2B exhibitions from mass gathering. Looking forward for a similar step by the Government of India. B2B exhibitions can surely play a catalytical role in reviving and further boosting the Indian Economy.

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