Space crunch, GST make India International Trade Fair a dull affair

After a lacklustre performance last year – thanks to demonetisation – the annual India International Trade Fairis back at Pragati Maidan this year, but the spark is till missing. Since all the state pavilions and the Hall of Nations were demolished earlier this year, the states’ exhibitors have had to display their work in a few stalls, instead of the wide open pavilions they usually get, and they are clearly not happy about it. But their woes don’t end with the space crunch. Due to GST, the prices are higher and buyers tell us that the shopping experience is completely missing from the fair this year. On the other hand, the international traders are receiving a good response, because they are not levying GST.

This year, the trade fair feels like an exhibition: Shoppers
Swati, a jewellery trader from Hyderabad, says, “We need more space to provide a better experience to our buyers. This year, we have limited space to display our creativity. Even if there are four buyers standing at the stall, it gets crowded and more customers can’t come in.”

Visitors also tell us that without the state pavilions, the trade fair has lost its charm. Padma Lakshmi, a homemaker who was at the trade fair, told us, “Earlier, every state used to have those huge pavilions and once you stepped inside one of those, it used to feel like you are actually in that state. Iss baar toh teen stall ke baad Tripura hai, chaar ke baad West Bengal. Exhibition lag raha hai, trade fair nahin.”

Another shopper, NM Jha, a government employee, said, “It’s too crunched, pehle toh state pavilions mein pura din nikal jaata tha. This year, two-three hours are enough.”

Dear Delhi, why do you bargain so much?
Apart from the space crunch, GST is also ruining the shopping experience. The traders tell us that Delhi can’t shop without bargaining, especially now that the prices have increased because of GST. An artist from Assam at the trade fair told us, “Dilli mein log bahut bargain karte hain. If the item has been marked at Rs1,000, they will straightaway quote Rs300, and say that the last price is Rs500!”

Subhash Das, a handicrafts trader from Tripura, said, “What we are selling is artwork, and it takes days to create each item. I have been showcasing my work in Delhi for the last 10-12 years and I participate in exhibitions across the country, but nowhere do people bargain like they do in Delhi. And this year, almost every shopper is saying, ‘GST toh le rahe ho na, ab price toh kam kar do’. How do we explain that there’s no connection between the two? Many shoppers have left without buying the items they selected because they thought the price was too high after adding GST.”

Foreign traders get good response
Due to space crunch and high prices, the state pavilions might have disappointed shoppers, but the stalls by foreign traders are receiving good response. Reason? This year, the area for foreign participants has been increased from 1,900 sqm to 3,000 sqm. Also, most foreign participants are not charging GST.

A trader from Thailand told us, “We are not charging any taxes, you only need to pay the price of the item.” And most shoppers seemed happy with the pricing. Rajni Sharma, a homemaker at the fair, told us, “I went to the state pavilions and I was so disappointed. There was no space to stand and the items seemed to be expensive. But I liked the collection from foreign countries and the pricing also doesn’t seem too high.”


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