Can B' do a Phoenix?

Can B' do a Phoenix?

Can B' do a Phoenix?

That’s for you. Yes, twelve winters have passed by, but Karnataka’s flagship premier event for information technology industry is still floundering, faced with diminishing pull power, sinking in the quagmire of its own self-belief that all is well.

Despite the writing on the wall, from years now, officials just snigger at you with a sense of indifference that everything is still hunky-dory with But for one who has been tracking the annual ICT jamboree, up, close and personal since its conception, can only hope that better wisdom prevails, sooner the better be given a thorough makeover lest it turns ritualistic before finally running aground.

Much as they try to blinker at the fact that the conclave has lost much of its chip and byte, every time media raises the issue, officials duck the issue, totting up numbers buttressing their case. This time too, it was the same routine, adding the bogey of drought and recession for poor show.

Tossing up numbers, State IT, BT & ST Principal Secretary Ashok Kumar C Manoli said “our primary aim this year was to add value to our participants by reponding to current needs of the industry.” This, was achieved through focusing on emerging sectors, providing opportunity to garner more business, knowledge enhancement and networking, he claimed.

However, conceding that “there is no full stop for excellence,” he promised next time around exhibition would be more focused on specific areas of technology than size, while still insisting it is extremely focused event, and had achieved desired expectations.  While, on knowledge enhancement and networking, one could concede the meet met intentions, that it focused on emerging sectors, helped in garnering more business, and that numbers were there, is too simplistic a conclusion to arrive at.

A shadow of the past

Not only has the event  shrunk considerably in scope and size, even in terms of fair space, visitors and most importantly visibility too, it was no where nearer earlier editions. The IT jamboree was simply lost in the byzantine corridors and conference halls of the hotel complex it was held. Though it kept away curious crowds, souvenir seekers and pamplet collectors, ensuring decision makers, business delegates, student, industry and academic community and prospective entrepreneurs scouring ideas, went through their business, the ‘IT’ feel to the calendar conclave was sorely missing.

Yes, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji was there making the right observations at the inaugural function. That an exuberant IT Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu rendered it theatre of the absurd singing hosannas of IT Czar and IT Inc was another matter. Cisco’s Global Technology Officer Padmashree Warrior too was there, making the most — turning speeches into sales pitch for her company. Other invited speakers at sessions spread over three days went through the rigamorale offering no new insights that was not already known.

As a regular observed, participation by most of us from the media has become tokenism. The event has virtually outlived its utility for the industry it does not result in visible results in terms of business enquiries or possible deals. With MNCs already ensconced in Bangalore and elsewhere, there’s hardly any new company shopping in. Even most large domestic companies simply give it a miss with no concrete takeaways. With potential clients absent it made no meaning at all, an observer added.

Another one noted that the design, structure, content and conferences have all outlived their purpose despite claims to the contrary it has been ideated by the advisory panel. He averred that both the industry, if they have a say, and the government, need to sit across and rework the event to make it more attractive again and ensure it makes appropriate business sense for stakeholders to spend three days of quality time.

Many endorsed the same view saying the show has lost its sheen and needs to be put back on track. For, taking a folio out of Bangalore’s success, states like West Bengal and Kerala are at it. If Bangalore as IT Capital & Knowledge Capital is to hold its own against such competition, then, they observed, a well thought out, structured event is imperative.

Strong brand equity

Some took the extreme position that the event is unnecessary given that Brand Bangalore has already attained global status and that holding the event which had made sense a decade ago when local firms needed global exposure does not anymore. The bottomline is specific steps are to be taken with utmost sense of urgency with a brand new, lest a funeral hymn is sung bemoaning its demise.

For from five to four to three, (.com/.in) has eroded in attention span as also in its ability to deliver desired results which also succinctly sums up the sojourn is has gone through these twelve years. Another conference watcher opined “we must attract more countries to come and participate. Also conferences must get specialised segmentation such as KPO, BPO. Like lately, it should become focused towards college students and youngsters.  Also more component companies must be attracted. Domestic companies must showcase their own development in terms of software and products committing themselves they will make big launch announcements at the annual conclave.

Bangalore has the technology. It is cosmopolitan in nature. We have to leverage on this to get better participation. We should encourage showcasing of bio and nano driven technologies and initiatives as well. Each year the event should have something fresh to look forward across the strata.

While officials aver that the primary focus will be on business, networking and B2B (business-to-business) events now unlike in previous years, the industry, though, isn’t buying it. They say participation has gone down significantly over the years as the whole scenario has changed. Today, many more IT centres have come up in the country and officials must take cognisance of this reality to rework the entire event.

A trade consulate official opined unless companies see different format with deliverables and focus shifts to futuristic technologies both exhibition-wise, conference and product-wise, will continue to see poor attendance.  As time changes technology offerings on showcase should be reflected at the show, he added.

Another observed it is time to hand it over to professional organisations such as CII, Nasscom or MAIT, making it pure-play industry initiative. While the industry body can work out basic contours of content and conduct, government can shoulder event management. It could be turned into biennial show like Aero India, he suggested. Well, the State’s flagship showcase spectacle, over the years, has sought to reinvent itself in tune with the times. But then, the jury have had their say. One hopes that the government takes the suggestions more seriously to refurbish Asia’s Premier ICT Event, as it is proudly billed, instead of allowing themselves to run around in circles like the fable of six blind men and the elephant.