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Why DefExpo 2016 remained a low-key affair

The take-away from the DefExpo was limited.

Written by Harsha Raj Gatty |
April 2, 2016 8:57:26 am
defence expo, defexpo, defence expo 2016, defexpo 2016, manohar parrikar, parrikar, defence event, goa defence expo, india news Secretary (Defence Production) AK Gupta presenting a memento to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar during the International Seminar on Advances in Shipbuilding Technology organised at Defexpo-16 in Goa on Tuesday. PTI Photo

Hailed as Asia’s largest Defence exhibition till date, DefExpo 2016 remained a low key affair despite the participation of 1055 registered companies (as per its initial website data) from 47 nations. Although on its finale, the aerial acrobats, and the drill by the armed forces enthralled the local crowd, both registered firms and defence analyst venue agreed that the take-away from the DefExpo was limited.

During its inaugural the Union Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the amended DPP is aimed at boosting the India’s target of ‘Make in India’ policy, besides creation of major domestic defense industry.

He added that the policy framed also ensured the offsets or concerns of many foreign company’s have been taken care. “Under the amended DPP we have ensured that the procurement takes place in a transparent but at a faster speed,” he said.

However, the much anticipated announcement Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) besides spelling-out on Indian Designed Developed and Manufacture (IDDM) and reiterating on Make in India in Defence sector contained nothing new, they say. “Firstly, MOD did not release the complete text of DPP policy, it contains only first few portions. The complete policy would have given greater clarity of thoughts for the foreign delegates and put them in a better position to conclude defence agreements during the Exhibition or near future, ” an Defence analyst for Urdu based website said.

According to another analyst, only handful of Letter of Intentions (LOI), Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and prospective future agreements were signed at the Business to Business (B2B) held at Goa. “But, no real orders were signed that would give us an estimate to asses the actual worth of hosting such B2B or Government to Government (G2G) meeting,” she said.

Only a deal between Reliance Defence and Antonov – a Ukraine based corporation Rs. 35,000 crore over small aircraft deal may seem to materialise, she added.

Interestingly, despite the allocation of C11 stall at the DefExpo 2016 to the Reliance Defence Limited, of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) did not take part in the exhibit, that was confirmed by the Defence Exhibition Organisers. Among the Public Relation (PR), while few speculated the no show of the company since it had ‘no products’ to display, others said that Reliance was disappointed by the poor mix of exhibitors and therefore withdrew its showcase at the last minute. “We were told that the company did not event pay the rent to the organisers,” a PR personnel added.

Further few regular participants at the earlier edition of DefExpo and Aeroshow rued that the venue was unnecessarily isolated at remote area of Quepem. “It is two-hour drive from the state capital (Panaji), the leading roads are narrow, traffic towards the venue are congested due to high vehicular movement and logistically it is not so feasible to transport materials, he said.

Moreover although the shift of DefExpo venue from its traditional venue at Delhi to Goa, did generate substantial business to hotels and transporters at South Goa region near Madgaon. Along with the improvement of road to the venue, several business delegates have questioned the MOD’s move to change the location. According to them, MOD lead by Manohar Parrikar was more focused on generating business opportunity to Goa during off-season, than protecting the business of Defence dealers. “At Delhi, being the hub we had the top brass of the defence presiding at the DefExpo, along with tier three and two level officers, who were involved in the decision making process. On the other hand, at Goa – only few officers from creamy layer were chosen and chartered to Goa. It very much restricts our ability to present our case before the Defence procurement team and limits it is not possible for SME’s like us to travel time and again,” a business delegate officials adds.

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