In 2012, Auto Expo became the joke of the nation. If there was anything that captured more attention than the automotive highlights that year, it was the hordes of fathers, mothers, aunts and kids crawling all over Pragati Maidan on a media day. The Auto Expo had dipped to a new low, millions of undesirables were creating pandemonium with their incessant demands for freebies, press kits – even press releases were being fought over.
I vividly remember those days, especially when ex-OVERDRIVE journo Abhay Verma tried to get his hands on a press release and got bashed up instead by a ass#@£e who tried to snatch even those few sheafs of paper from his hands. I knew this because we were standing a level higher looking down at the complete breakdown of a motor show. Widespread vandalism erupted at almost every pavilion. It was chaos! I even recollect how at the Ducati press conference, SIAM officials asked for the doors to be thrown open to the general public at the behest of an arrogant woman who had her nose so far up her behind, she did not understand the difference between a press day and public. I also clearly remember her berating the hapless security guards at the booth that day when they tried against all hope to hold back the crowds for just a few minutes until all the official announcements were made. There was also the moment when someone came and told me that the crowds inside another pavilion had broken down the glass barricades put up by JLR in their first year in India.
Fast forward to 2014. The fallout of a terrible 2012 was clearly evident with the Auto Expo shifting venue to Greater Noida. What was Delhi’s loss was UP’s gain. Things improved dramatically. The fiasco of the previous year saw more stringent filters put in place to separate the media from the media wannabes. A full fledged press division was enlisted, accreditation was sought out much in advance and things flowed far more smoothly than ever before.
Auto Expo 2014 thus had a lot to prove. A screaming industry, howling media and international ridicule had shamed somebody into putting globally accepted practices into place. The press day proceedings were docile, orderly and well-mannered. For the first time, the Indian media found some air to breathe, without the usual fists to avoid and huddles around a media support desk like in the Superbowl! And then everything came crashing down around our ears. There was absolutely no connectivity to be found anywhere. The Internet did not work – the absolute lifeline for media on such days was clogged, pinched and strangulated. There was no semblance of a media room, some place I entered which said media room had journalists lying across the floors because there weren’t adequate chairs and tables to accommodate them all. Wifi bandwidth was non-existent and 3G wasn’t effective yet to help anyone get their content out within the desired time. Overall, there was a sense of purpose but not absolute fulfillment!
Move on to 2016. Auto Expo has gotten better by leaps and bounds. Accreditation notices were sent out months in advance and the media were consulted as to how things need to be executed. My press badge for the first time was ready nearly a month before the event and I was clearly instructed where it could be picked up from. I do understand the challenges of delivering media badges unlike international shows that used to courier them. But the fact that I got my pass in time alone was a clear indicator that things were going to go well this year!
A suggestion for Auto Expo, for 2018 – save paper. Media passes can be emailed, printed out like a boarding pass when you need to take a flight. Bar code systems are competent to provide adequate security cover to prevent more than one person using the same entry pass at the same time.
And then there is the other issue I thought Auto Expo could handle a little more responsibly. There are several undesirables within the media fraternity who also come to the Auto Expo not so much as to carry out out their responsibilities as for the freebies. This year too though the general media were well behaved, there were still stray incidences of media persons haranguing the representatives at a manufacturer’s media desk for boxes of chocolates, for instance, that were being distributed. But barring that and some other incidents which ended in the police entering the picture to sort out things, the chain of events flowed smoothly.
So to SIAM I say, good job! You’ve truly taken a disaster and made it into a world class show. However, there is now the part manufacturers have to play. Stop the freebies and get your act together. Be professionals and see what’s happening around the world. One of the simplest forms of communicating with your audience using the media is to do so digitally. Email a press statement to us and make sure there is enough bandwidth for the assembled journalists at your press conference to receive that and form their stories. It would help if you get images for us too. But there are simpler forms of reaching out to us instead of a box of chocolates or any other goodies. The organisers have shown they are capable of rising to the occasion, its now upto the manufacturers. Don’t throw money on the freebies, it would probably reduce the huge spends you complain about by a small amount. Yes I do understand Auto Expo is expensive, drop the sleaze at the stalls, it will further reduce the load on your wallets. Only you can stop the freeloaders. Put a carrot on a stick before a mule and it’s gonna bray, stomp and be what it usually is, an ass!
For more news on the 2016 Auto Expo, click here.