The impact of COVID-19 on the Indian Exhibition continues to worsen

With events getting postponed and participation prospects plummeting, the Indian Exhibition Industry stands at the crossroads, seeking a stimulus, boost and revival to save jobs, businesses and the industry.

Much before the COVID outbreak, the corporate consulting giant Ernst & Young India (EY) forecasted in the year 2017, that the Indian exhibition industry will cross INR 10,000 crore in size in the FY 2021. After a major run in the year 2019, the rally was halted by the pandemic outbreak in the first quarter of 2020 and the industry continues to stare in the abyss waiting eagerly for growth to catch up again. The Indian MICE industry has faced the loss in the tune of $ 666 million in the year 2020 (equivalent to INR 3500+ crores).

The year 2020 saw cancellation and postponement of all the major events ranging from the Tokyo Olympics to expositions of all sizes across the world. The Indian exhibition and events industry also witnessed the postponement of all the major B2B expositions and events including REI 2020, CPHI-PMECH INDIA 2020, DELHI WOOD 2020, IFSEC 2020, and other B2C & B2B events in the pharma, machinery, electronics and aviation and lifestyle sectors.

Though the organizers, exhibitors, and participants have been eagerly waiting for things to improve in terms of a potent vaccine release, protocol for exhibitions, and a boost from the governments, the cancellations are not ceasing to drop down. According to the US-based think tank the 'Centre for Exhibition Industry Research' (CEIR)'s June survey, the top reasons the exhibition industry participants are cancelling their participation are:

  • Uncertainty on whether large gatherings/group meetings would be allowed due to state/local lockdown order(s)
  • Corporate 'no travel' policies impacting attendee and exhibitor participation.
  • Many participants have to fly into an event.
  • Potential participant fear that might depress attendance
  • Concern over exhibitor ROI
  • Likely to be a major financial loss if the event(s) took place.
  • Lack of clear, consistent guidelines to implement safe physical distancing/hygiene practices.

A few event and exhibition players across the world have explored the option of offering digital/virtual alternatives to real exhibitions, but Industry experts like Mr Razi M Shakir, CEO, Panache Exhibitions (India) opine that "The virtual and digital can act as a compliment to the real-world MICE events but nothing can replace the real people to people interaction for networking, connection and business growth."

In a bid to improve the prospects of the events, the organizers can explore to
  • Work closely with the local governments to assure the potential participants of local administrative and logistical support.
  • Seek help from the Exhibition service providers to implement safety protocols in the booth design, and the pavilion design.
  • Invite suggestions from the participants and exhibitors in deciding upon the schedule and design of events to ensure optimal interaction opportunities.
  • Work with local hospitality partners to streamline stay and travel for the potential participants, so that they can focus on business instead of safety.

Now is the time for the exhibition service providers to take lead and offer solutions to help organize the events and expositions at the earliest by adopting and sharing the industry best practices. For instance, Panache Exhibitions has mastered a checklist-based approach to events, and streamlined its processes to ensure contact-free service and sanitization protocol for clients, venues and participants.

As the old saying goes, "If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.", and the time to travel far has come.


CEIR June Survey Finds COVID-19 Impact on U.S. B2B Exhibitions Worsening and Growing - Center for Exhibition Industry Research

EY India: Events industry to cross Rs 10,000 crore by FY21: Report - The Economic Times (

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