DefExpo – ‘Goodbye. Please don’t come back’

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An earlier blog described some of the incredible aspects of DefExpo 2016 held for the first time in Goa, located halfway down India’s western coast and only annexed from Portugal in 1961.

Continuing the narrative, Shephard’s intrepid workers decided the best course of action was to arrive nice and early on opening day to avoid the anticipated traffic jams. We were right on one account – we did indeed avoid any traffic by departing at 7am.

However, our clever planning caught up with us when we found the registration counters didn’t open till 9:30am. This required a couple of hours waiting in the hot sun for my colleague. I just don’t get the logic.

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As the photo above shows, security was tight at the makeshift venue. In many ways it reminded me of a concentration camp, with an outer perimeter formed from razor wire fence and guard towers, and with lots of armed paramilitary soldiers on duty. There was also a queue to clear the inner security cordon too, with X-rays and body and bag searches mandatory.

As far as I can tell, there were two chief advantages of the new venue. One was that the layout was easy to navigate, with eight or so huge tented structures laid out in symmetrical format. Very easy to navigate compared to the old site in Delhi.

Actually, let me retract that last statement. It would have been easy to navigate had maps listing companies and their locations been freely available. There were no maps on display and requests for one gained vague shakes of the head. A map? What a silly idea!

IMG_1195Also, one would probably need the 4×4 HMMWV pictured here to navigate parts of the car park that seemed to have been forged from a rugged martian landscape.

Air-conditioning was rather spotty too. The Israelis and Russians ensconced in their hall seemed to have done the best, while some other halls sweltered as the air-conditioning machinery failed to make the necessary impression. As to which companies were present, please refer to our extensive DefExpo coverage.

The media centre was enormous and filled with row upon row of computers. Well done! However, there was never anyone available to answer media queries, and there was no indication of timings for events such as demonstrations or press conferences.

DefExpo organisers really need to get their act together here. An information counter – even just one – would help. Along with maps, please.

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This brings me to the second major advantage of the new site – there was space for an outdoor ground demonstration. It was good to see Arjun main battle tanks and other armoured vehicles strutting their stuff…if you managed to find out the schedule. But beware, this covered spectators with a heavy film of cloying dust.

With 1,035 exhibitors, apparently the 2016 show exceeded 2014 figures by 25%. This is a good result despite the inconvenience of having to travel to Goa. Gloating officials aside, I suspect exhibitor numbers would have been even higher if the show had been still in Delhi. India is simply too important a market for international vendors to ignore.

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So, some good things for which show organisers should be commended, but there are still far too many things that continue to irk. For example, our driver was not allowed back into the car park after he went in search of victuals and left his car inside!

As we left on the final day, we passed by the local protesters. One held a sign aloft, “Goodbye. Please don’t come back.”

Only time will tell whether this advice will be followed!

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