As India continues to be one of the largest emerging markets, the chance you’ll be traveling there for a tradeshow in the near future is likely. After recently returning from a trip to Mumbai for a show with a client that is new to exhibiting in India, I felt that, not only giving tips on business related items, but truly painting a picture of the region and the local culture would be more beneficial.
After a long day of travel and a 3 a.m. arrival, I was exhausted as I stood in line at the prepaid taxi station. It is important to get a government controlled pre-paid taxi to ensure a fair rate from the airport to your destination. Believe it or not, it is also important to request a blue cab opposed to a black cab, but I’ll revisit the transportation situation later. With the presence of armed guards throughout the airport, you feel like you are in a Rambo movie. You wonder what exactly you have gotten yourself into …
As I found the number of my cab on the back of my prepaid receipt, I was mobbed with people trying to take my bags out of my hands, women shoving their malnourished babies at me begging for money, and a random person asking to have their picture taken with me. Locals find it an honor to meet a Caucasian person. Many of them will never see someone of another ethnicity or have the opportunity to travel outside of their city, let alone India. They look at us like we’re A-List celebrities and you start to have sympathy for real A-List celebrities in regards to the Paparazzi.
Once you get in the cab, the cab will first pull over to show the prepaid certificate to the proper person. You will shortly notice that India does not have “rules of the road.” They have “suggestions,” but the “suggestions,” like stay on your side of the road or in your lane, are not enforced. It is also common to see random animals meandering down the road.
Arriving at your hotel, security guards may open the trunk, look under the hood, take a mirror and look under the car, and open all four doors to ensure no bombs or weapons are being brought onto the premise. Bags may also go through a metal detector, and a screening, just as you do at the airport.
As you enter the show hall and obtain your badge, ask for a surgical mask, you will notice the dust immediately. Pending the length of your stay during install, your eyes may start to be bothered as well.
At first it reminds you a lot of building on show site in Europe, however I would say there is more building on site in India than in Europe. There are a lot of stands that literally 100 percent of the items are built on the show floor during install, hence the incredible dust storm. Often times you’ll notice the local laborers do not wear shoes while building. Women take homemade brooms and continually attempt to sweep up debris, at the same time looking for anything that may be worth something in the mess to help compensate their low wages.
Things are done at their own pace. We were told for two days that a wall and door would be added to our conference room and it was next on the list of things to do. The door and wall were built after the show opened. The door was a sliding accordion type door, not one with a handle like we are used to in the United States. Be specific in the look you are trying to achieve, so you aren’t surprised when you get to India and realize your little details are not what you wanted.
To ensure ease on show site with all of your services, order as much as you can online before you arrive. Like the U.S., they often have discount deadlines as well, to help save you a few budget dollars. They usually will require you to order online and pay 100 percent before the service is rendered. If services are not paid for before arrival on show site, it is likely they will hold your exhibitor badges until money is received or proven to be on its way.
Be clear on the amount of time you will need to set up your product and if you will need any assistance. Since most of the building is done, on-site as previously mentioned, your local crew may assume they have through the night to continue building and you are left with a freshly painted wall to mount your expensive product to.
If you need to ship product home or anything else after the show, be sure to arrange for the transportation before you leave or through your standard global freight company. Do not leave items for the show organizer to ship home or go to a local post office. You are at risk of being taken advantage of on the customs taxes.
Remember that India is an emerging market. If you plan on doing a give away with the latest technology, make sure the technology is already in the market. Did you know that the iPad just came out in India and they still can’t get a lot of the bells and whistles that we can for it here in the U.S.?
A few facts about India
Many business people do speak English, however your local taxi drivers, laborers, and store employees do not.
It is uncommon to see many forklifts on the show floor; most of the time people hand carry items off of the truck or roll them on a dolly; therefore, damage is likely to occur if you do not pack items appropriately for shipping.
Fabric is uncommon in India due to the extensive dirt in the show hall. The fabric will be dirty before the show starts with no way of cleaning it well.
You will find a range of business dress from suits and ties to khakis and polo shirts. Women are not required to wear anything out of the ordinary.
Always make sure your exhibit design is approved by the show organizer on time; all structures must be approved.
Instead of hiring multiple taxis, you can hire a car (driver) for a day for a set price. You can often do this through your hotel or a local car “rental” company. The driver will drop you where you need to go and sit and wait for you until you are ready to leave. Pending the size of car you need, this can cost you between 1200 and 7000 Rupees a day on average. This is about $25-$150 a day. I highly recommend this, as you can request an English speaking driver and they will know where they are going.
If your driver or server does a great job, a 10 percent tip is appreciated.
Before you leave for India, be sure to call your doctor and schedule appointments for the appropriate vaccinations and a prescription for malaria pills.
As you prepare for your trip home, make sure to arrive at the airport three hours early. You will have to fill out a customs form and go through additional security checks to leave the country.
To leave you with a few final thoughts … Take time to appreciate India for what it is, but keep in mind you will likely be overwhelmed during your first trip there. If you have the opportunity for a trip to the Taj Mahal, go. It is one of the most amazing structures you will ever see in your life and truly is one of the wonders of the world.
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