In January this year, I went to the auto expo in Delhi, as part of DYPDC College and shared the space with DC Designs, watching in awe, each time Dilip Chhabria walked past me. And oh, what a memorable event. It was my first time and now I rue the fact why I never went before.
It wasn’t hard to figure that a lot of general crowd had got in on Business passes on the first two days (which was restricted only to business visitors), and how do I know that? Because a friend of mine told me, ‘Everyone knows someone in Delhi’.
Auto expos are a great place to see heaps of to-be launched vehicles. The energy is phenomenal. It’s like you’ve stepped in the midst of a metal concert and are surrounded by thousands and thousands of head-banging fans. The automobiles are displayed in their gleaming avatar, all polished and new, flanked on both sides by beautiful girls in short dresses, smiling and waving on the turntable. Auto expos mean to auto enthusiasts what Oktoberfest means to beer lovers. Of course most people do come to check out the girls as well.
Auto expos are the Disneyland of automobiles. Every where you turn you see a gorgeous looking vehicle enticing you towards it, hypnotizing you. A day is never enough to take it all in. It always feels like there’s too much to see and too little time see it all. You just might spend too much time ogling, say Mercedes cars more than needed, and in the bargain, not have enough time to check out the hot new Harley models or the awesome Enfield bikes. So you have to pace yourself, and most important of all, keep the excitement in check. Look, click, walk, should be your song if you want to cover the entire area. You thirst might not be entirely sated, but at least you will wet your throat.
The crowd were so many in numbers the police at several junctures feared a situation akin to a stampede. The event that began at 10 in the morning everyday for seven days from the 5th January to the 11th, saw crowds forming mile-long queues 9 a.m. onwards. Perhaps even before that. This spelled trouble, especially for exhibitors, who were pushed in with others in the same queue, especially at gate numbers 2 and 7. It was only few days before the wrapping up of the event that I learnt that one could come and go through other gates as well, which weren’t crowded at all, for example, gate number 4. Yes, I did feel silly.
Looking at the number of people at DC’s stall, you’d think there’s a match going on between India and Pakistan, and Tendulkar is batting. People. People. People. I was starting to lose my sanity. High-pitched screaming and stern rebuking – nothing worked on the crowd. I was crying hoarse over the mike telling them to keep moving, but nope. No reaction. They continued to stand and stare at the cars like a lone desert traveller in front of a fountain of sweet drinking water.
Those who visited the 2010 auto expo were extremely fortunate, because DC displayed some of his most awesome cars. The Imperator, a modified Innova and a modified Tata Winger.
Out of the three, The Imperator almost had people’s eye-balls sticking to it. The name Imperator has a Latin origin. It was a title originally, roughly equivalent to commander during the period of the Roman Republic. Dilip Chhabria designed The Imperator, a Super Sports Utility Vehicle for the launch of DYPDC College, one of Asia’s largest design schools. You can see the crowd’s pupils dilating, mouths parting in awe, eyebrows shooting up in wonder, and their whole self slowly slipping into a trance. And one can see why. The Imperator is not your conventional boxy, rugged SUV, but a rather sexy, sensual avatar. The Ying Yang (Tata Winger) and Innova too were very popular with the crowd.
I was asked a lot of questions and I gave answers to all of them, but some were just too funny to be answered with a straight face. One gentleman asked me, ‘Is this the modified Nano?’ Now, after looking at the size of the imperator, how can anyone even come up with such a question is beyond me? People know it’s a sports utility vehicle, and on top of it, an off road vehicle. Still someone had to ask me, ‘Sir, what’s the mileage of the car?’ Why would anyone care for the mileage if he is buying a SSUV? Someone came up with: ‘Sir, which is the base vehicle?’ On repeatedly telling the gentleman, ‘This is a concept vehicle, sir,’ he stuck to his question with the perseverance of a child: “That’s fine, sir, but which is the base model?” Finally I told him, ‘When I say it is a concept vehicle, sir, it means it’s been built bottoms up.’ Phew!
What was most heartening to see though was the amount of interest and enthusiasm for DYPDC College’s Automobile Design program, and when they learnt that Dilip Chhabria will be their Chief Mentor, you could almost feel their pulse racing. You could see them gushing looking at Dilip Chhabria interacting with the hordes of media channels.
Delhi-ites couldn’t get enough of the sleek, futuristic vehicles. At every stall, especially DC’s, people could be seen clamouring for space, elbowing each other to reach the front line, to get a better look at the vehicles, to click as many pictures as they could, using their high-definition cameras and others using their regular cell-phones. Many a car lovers lost their phones, wallets, glasses and what not, but the crowd continued crowding the stalls and showed no signs of abating.
Some yelled and screamed just to snatch the colourful and expensive brochures and pamphlets, (Maybe just for the heck of it. Maybe just because they were free) that were being distributed at every stall. You can see visitors at the end of the day, carrying heaps of brochures, like trophies. God only knows what they intend to do with them.
Everyone wanted to get in and a get a piece of the gorgeous vehicles lined up by the biggies in the auto world. The event witnessed around 50 global automobile launches. 50! Which is certainly a first for India. Leaving the other international expos aside, vehicle manufacturers chose India as their launch and/or showcase platform.
According to Wikipedia, India was ranked as the ninth largest in the world in the automotive sphere in the year 2008. In 2009, the global automotive industry reached a market size of 1.8 trillion, while India became Asia’s fourth largest exporter of automobiles, closely trailing Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Following the economic liberalization (de-licensing) in 1991, Indian automotive industry has demonstrated phenomenal growth, in fact growing at a staggering 17 percent on an average in the last few years. It is also heartening to know that the Indian automotive industry provides direct employment to about 5 lakh people and contributes 4.7 percent to India’s GDP. Presently, almost every major automobile player has a plant in India.
India is the hot, new force in the automobile world. We continue to do well even as the entire world reels under recession. From GM to BMW. From Audi to Mercedes. From Volkswagen to Renault. Everyone wants a share of the ever expanding Indian market, and are trying very, very hard to make a little space in Indian hearts. Some of the showcases at the expo included, GM’s Chevrolet Beat and Volt to Renault’s Fluence to Honda’s Jazz. Tata’s Prima to Jaguar’s SJ, Toyota’s Prius and Etios to Mercedez Benz’s Fascination to Harley Davidsons’ new, monster bikes. There was a whole section dedicated to vintage cars, and what cars! Absolutely splendid.
However, some credit for drawing eyeballs also goes to the good mix of Indian and foreign girls promoting vehicles of their respective employers. What was impressive to note was that they wore the outfits despite the icy bite in the Delhi air.
With a space of over 150 acres, Pragati Maidan was the perfect venue to host the expo. There were enough arrangements made for food-lovers with various stalls dishing out varied cuisine like choley bhaturey to chowmein to pizzas to rajma-chawal to International coffee (as expensive as 90 bucks for a cappuccino to as cheap as 20 bucks for Nescafe in a flimsy, plastic cup). But there were certain areas where they missed out. For example, the crowd management at the entrance, the lack of information booths, lack of directions to halls – this certainly made it difficult to go around without getting lost. And at times even lack of basic amenities, like water in washrooms. It meant having several men walking around the ground with unclean hands. The persevering ones did find water for a wash, including me.
All in all, a terrific trip and I eagerly look forward to go to the next auto expo.