Origin and early days of Exhibitions
The best-known ‘first World Expo’ was held in London, United Kingdom, in 1851, under the title “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”. The Great Exhibition, as it is often called, was an idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria‘s husband. The event was housed in an enormous glass building that came to be known as the Crystal Palace and is considered to be the first international exhibition of manufactured products.
It was said at that time that “The Exhibition was the first time that the nations of the world had ever come together in one place, other than on a battlefield”. Even in its inception, ’The Great Exhibition’ influenced the development of several aspects of society, including art-and-design education, international trade and relations, and tourism.
There were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than 10 miles, by over 15,000 contributors. The biggest of all was the massive hydraulic press that had lifted the metal tubes of a bridge at Bangor invented by Stevenson. Next in size was a steam-hammer that could with equal accuracy forge the main bearing of a steamship or gently crack an egg. There were adding machines a ‘sportsman’s knife’ with eighty blades from Sheffield. Canada sent a fire-engine with painted panels showing Canadian scenes, and a trophy of furs.
India contributed an elaborate throne of carved ivory, a coat embroidered with pearls, emeralds and rubies, and a magnificent howdah and trappings for a rajah’s elephant. Amid all these wonders, there was the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond which drew public attention and excitement. More than six million people came through the Exhibition and the profit and many of the exhibition items were used to create what is now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Since its first official appearance in 1851, three distinctive phases can be distinguished in the history of exhibitions that of industrialization, of cultural exchange, and nation branding.
Role of Exhibition in Industrialization:
How exhibitions played important role in industrialization is visible from the world expositions, especially focused on trade held from 1851 to 1938 encouraging technological inventions and advancements. World expositions were the platforms where the state-of-the-art in science and technology from around the world were brought together. The world expositions of 1851 London, 1853 New York, 1862 London, Philadelphia (1876), 1889 Paris, 1893 Chicago, 1900 Paris, 1901 Buffalo, 1904 St. Louis, 1915 San Francisco, and 1933–34 Chicago were landmarks in this respect.
This lead role in stimulating economics by exhibitions continues till date. Today in number of countries, events are accorded top priority by governments because they act as a catalyst for overall growth and employment generation.
The most outstanding example and proof of key role of exhibition as a catalyst for industry, employment and economic growth are Germany and China. Post World War II – the German trade fair industry grew in direct proportion to its GDP growth. Exhibitions boost German economic output by over EUR 20 billion every year. They also ensure 226,000 people have full time jobs. Furthermore, exhibitions generate EUR 3.8 billion in taxes at the federal, state and municipal level.
Various European studies have shown that trade fairs bring into play a powerful multiplier effect contributing to the extent of 10 to 12 times their turnover to the geographical area served. Estimating the worldwide turnover of the industry at EUR 25 to 30 billion, the economic impact of this activity, even by conservative estimates, would be around 250 billion.
China’s GDP growth during last decade or so is directly proportional to growth in its exhibition industry. According to industry estimates, India’s exhibition industry already contributes to the extent of 94,000 crore rupees in terms of business generated at shows currently held in the country.
Cultural & Social function of Exhibition:
1939 to 1987 saw a focus on cultural exchange and social function Trade fairs and congresses have always been platforms for the exchanging knowledge. In today’s knowledge-based society information has become a decisive resource & these events are major knowledge dissemination platform.
From Expo ’88 in Brisbane onwards, countries started to use world expositions more widely and more strongly as a platform to improve their national images through their pavilions. In a world where a strong national image is a key asset, pavilions became advertising campaigns, and the Expo a vehicle for ‘nation branding’. Improving national image was the primary participation goal for countries.
Today’s world expositions embody elements of all three eras. They present new inventions, facilitate cultural exchange based on a theme, and are used for city, region and nation branding.
How exhibition stimulate individual companies & products?
The key to winning a customer is to be able to connect, present, and capture interest. And the power of human senses; touch, feel, hear and see is infinite in an exhibition, making it the best marketing tool. The intend of visitors are focused on doing business and keen willingness to strike a bargain ensuring attention and interest of the key decision makers.
Presence of Competition under same roof also facilitates understanding market hurdles, trends, sales pitch of competitor, price and technology comparison etc. All these are key factors influencing decisions on future market expansions, allocation of research budget, pricing policy, customer service etc.
As an example I would like to cite India ITME Society creating excitement for Textile Industry & Textile Engineering Industry for India and its neighbouring region, single handled promoting Indian brand globally. This mega event has succeeded in promoting India as a key nation for Textile engineering industry, sourcing and manufacturing hub, attracting many foreign machinery manufacturers to invest and set up their manufacturing facility in the Country generating employment and business for ancillary industries.
Decision maker’s, technocrat, Scientist, Consultants, Government officials, Students and Press Media from 97 Countries converge for a six day Tech fest and business every 4 year. Thus it is creating huge foreign exchange & revenue for the State Government, Hotel industry, Airline industry, Transport industry, Catering industry and other related services. This mega event generates permanent & temporary employment of 30,000 through 57 vendors during the event.
The power of exhibitions and events to drive business and economic development is proven since its inception and its importance and role will continue to grow especially in this era of globalization.
Ms Seema Srivastava
Executive Director –
India ITME Society