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September 24, 1999
Housewives to the digerati, IIW saw them allNeena Haridas at Pragati Maidan
That was a young lady in a Rajasthani gunghat (veil) discussing India Internet World '99 with her friend.
And you thought IIW '99 was all about tech geniuses and striking solution deals.
Well, it was all that and more. For, that is the romance of Pragati Maidan. It is not just an exhibition ground; it is also entertainment for the bored souls of Delhi.
No matter what the gizmos on display, Pragati Maidan gets its share of loyal visitors everyday. Once the business hours closes post-lunch, they just drop in by the millions, picking up pamphlets and brochures for the raddiwala next month.
And that is what probably made the IIW so human. It was not just the Netizens who were exchanging notes on their stopovers on the superhighway.
Students, children, housewives, you name it and they were there. Chaos. There were young collegians with stars in their eyes, queuing at the Microuniv booth to find out if Internet education would open the doors to America for them. But Sulakshana Mehta, a housewife, only wanted to know if she could find a company that would help her set up a papad business on the Net.
"You see, I have to take care of my children. So I guess e-commerce, I just learnt that word right here at one of the booths, is a good idea," she chuckles.
"This is the kind of effect we wanted this exhibition to have on people. It was not just for people in the trade to. It was meant to get more people hooked," says Pradeep Kar, chairman, Microland, the sponsors of the IIW.
And sure enough, a lot of people were hooked. At least to the booths that was interactive. For instance, Mahadev.com got a mathemagician to perform his number tricks. He had a packed audiences which grew bigger and bigger as his tricks got more complex. One of them said, "His presentation is really boring. But I think people are glued to the floor because they want to know what the hell is he trying to say."
Be it curiosity or business acumen, the fair brought in a fair amount of visitors and even a significant number of deals were struck.
According to Kar, over 75,000 visitors including 1,600 delegates and over 20,000 business visitors attended the show put up by 100 companies.
Says Manish Modi, managing director, NetAcross, "We were here last year too. It is not just that the number of visitors has increased; the quality of the crowd has increased too. We have in fact struck deals across the table right here in the booth."
Micheal Wescott, managing director (Asia Pacific), Penton Media, echoes Modi's sentiments, "We have had our share of infrastructure bottlenecks at Pragati Maidan. But that has not stopped people from taking the show seriously. The quality of questions that I have had to answer has changed in the last one year. People are here looking for specific solutions and don't look lost anymore."
Well, that may be so for the business visitors, Mr Wescott! The general janta could often be spotted feeling the touch-screen computer as if it were a sexy woman while a few with Net savvy but without expensive connections were busy emailing their friends from the counters.
The speakers' lounge was quite another story. The biggies of the Net who have never met offline were busy introducing themselves to each other and getting impressed by each other's achievements.
And many flew home impressed by the "IIII", as a prominent speaker put it... "India's interest in Internet".
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