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December 8, 1999
Books, CDs, televisions, and whole lot of cribbing visitors and delegates -- that sums up Comdex '99 for you.
The 'biggest technology conference', organised by Exhibitions India, began its annual session today with a keynote address by B Ramalinga Raju, chairman, Satyam Computers. And it gave one a sense of déjà vu.
Nevertheless, Comdex this year is a pale shadow of the show put up last year and the year before that. The reason is obvious -- the National Association of Software and Service Companies and the Manufacturers Association for Information Technology are conspicuously absent from the event.
MAIT broke up with Exhibitions India, an offshoot of Business India Group, last year itself. This year, it was NASSCOM's turn to pull out though Executive Director Dewang Mehta came a-visiting.
An innocent query regarding his presence evoked in a terse reply from a delegate: "He must be here to do his networking."
Be that as it may, there wasn't much networking anyone could do. The delegates roamed around, searching for the conference hall or the Lal Chowk where they were supposed to address cyberprenuers from India and abroad.
Said a delegate, "It is so badly organised, I can't even find my own exhibition counter. And now where the hell is lunch happening?"
According to Exhibitions India, 150 exhibitors, 40 per cent of them from abroad, have taken up the 20,000 sq feet space. This is a drop, however, from last year's Comdex, which attracted over 170 exhibitors. EI officials refused to comment on the slack this year.
However, the drop is at least partly attributed to another event happening within Pragati Maidan itself -- Convergence India 1999, another Internet-oriented event organised by EI. It has attracted bigger names, like Vinton Cerf, and larger companies like Lokheed Martin etc. With that kind of star billing, it definitely had the advantage over poor ol' Comdex.
However, the lukewarm response appeared to have had no effect on Ramlinga Raju of Satyam Online when he stepped up to speak.
He spoke of the vision of his company, which recently acquired Indiaworld, and the expertise that has brought it to the Nasdaq.
He urged Indian netizens to be more disciplined and globally-oriented. Raju said, "Currently the world GDP is estimated at $ 25 trillion. In the next 20 years, this will go up to $ 50 trillion. Of this, 60 per cent will come from service and major portion of that would be IT related services.
"Now, considering that India has an edge in IT related service, it should be able to get at least 10 per cent of the projected GDP. For this we have to start strategising and synergising right now," he said.
Defending his decision to pay an awesome $ 115 million in acquiring Indiaworld, Raju said, "People say it was an exorbitant price to pay. But with Indiaworld we acquired high synergy. Now when we talk about global marketplace then our reference point will be global value and creating shareholder value. I don't think this a big price to pay for the synergy that we have achieved."
But that was about all there was to it. Comdex, this time, is a washout, we're afraid.
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