Pragati Maidan ‘2.0’ will be a game-changer for exhibition industry in the country

Built in 1972, Pragati Maidan has long been the nerve-centre of capital’s trade and commerce. With the recent announcement of ITPO (India Trade Promotion Organization) undertaking an ambitious project to create a state-of-the-art exhibition cum convention centre, CMD L C Goyal believes that once completed it will, not only, fulfill the aspirations of domestic markets, but also nurture India’s international trade helping movement of people and services. An exclusive with the seasoned bureaucrat: 

GoyalInordinate delays and lack of proper coordination and implementation have often derailed big-ticket projects.  Established in 1972 to host the ‘ASIA 72’ expo, Pragati Maidan, too, has had its share of hits and misses.  Since its inception, it has been a host to countless trade fairs and exhibitions. But, because of several reasons, much of its revamp has been on papers. The idea of redeveloping Pragati Maidan has been on the table for quite some time, says Goyal. Assuring that it was a concrete push, he shares that he has decided to inject a sense of urgency into it. “It’s a mega project and involves the redevelopment of the entire complex,” he says.  Adding that he would spare no efforts, at his level, to ensure that the project was completed on time, he adds, “I am not talking about the past where it did not move at a pace it ought to have; I am not getting into that.  As far as I am concerned, this project is long overdue; its time has come.”

Explaining that the project was to incur about Rs. 2,500 crore, he said that he was in touch with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. “We are on the same page. The funding will be a mix of ITPO’s own financing along with some institutional finance; we could also explore involving another country. All options are on the table and funding should not be an issue,” he divulged.  Informing that there was some distance that needed to covered, he said that it could take a few months to finalize approvals. “It first needs to be cleared by the ITPO board and then Ministry of Finance will have to look at it. It may, even, be discussed at the level of CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs),” explains Goyal. “It is difficult to indicate a time-frame but it is high on the agenda. From the zero date (the date of actual implementation on the ground), it could be three years,” he adds. He mentions that the project would be completed in the next 30-36 months. “It will be undertaken in two phases. In the first phase all the state pavilions and non air-conditioned will be demolished,” we were told.

Sharing more details about the mega-project, he tells us that, “We will have close to 2 Lakh sq. meters of exhibition space, as against currently available 65,000 sq. meters.” The first phase will comprise of some 1, 15,000 sq. meters. “It will accommodate up to seven thousand people and will boast of individual halls – which will host to different space need,” added the CMD.

Detailing the enormity of the complex, the CMD shared that the area comprised of more than 115 acres of land. “We have around 65,000 sq. meters of exhibition space, out of which around 44,000 sq. meters comprises of air-conditioned pavilions,” he says.  He stresses that the idea, not only, was to redevelop and come up with world-class, state-of-the-art exhibition halls, but also to have world-class convention centers. “It’s a global practice to have exhibition halls with convention centers together,” he says.

Advocating a need for a few underpasses or other road amenities that needed to be created around paths linking the venue, he said that, “these were not the part of initial cost. We are trying to see if these can be incorporated in the program.” Arguing these were essential to ensure unhindered access, he mentioned that he had made it clear that these were key interventions to ensure success of the project.

To ensure accommodating large crowds, a giant parking facility has been mooted.  “The complex will need a major parking facility. Right now, it is all too scattered. The idea is to have an aggregate parking of 4,800 vehicles and most of it will be underground,” he details.

Calling the revamp a part of the national agenda, he opines that the nation was on the right track and had a clear vision. “The agenda has been beautifully articulated by our PM with programs like the ‘Make-in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’ and more recently with ‘Start-up’ India, “he says.  He noted that the project was critical in realizing the broader national agenda. Mentioning that there was a sense of urgency which was missing a couple of years ago, he stressed that, “The critically, urgency and relevance of this project is much more than ever before.”

He notes that the nation was in need of facilities that will enable stakeholders’ exhibit their products and services. “We take pride in the fact that we are an important part of India’s vision being realized; we gave exhibition space to young entrepreneurs at half the rate for displaying their products,” he said. Revealing that he had been instructed to provide this facility to new entrepreneurs, he believes that it will lend much needed visibly to ‘start-ups’.  “The response was pretty good.  This year’s theme was ‘Make-in India’ and I have already declared that next year’s theme of IITF will be ‘Digital India’,” he tells us.

When asked whether such a facility could help accentuate India’s attraction in the region and make it a centre for exhibitions and conventions, he concurred, “If we have state-of-the-art facilities, I am sure that all these countries will make the most of it. It will also promote our trade within the region,” he says. Further illustrating the power of trade in driving movement, he shared that as many as 295 companies from 28 nations participated in the India International Trade Fair this year.

He believes that once completed, a revamped Pragati Maidan will give an impetus to India’s trade within the SAARC region, South-Asia and even in the entire Asian region. Stressing on its strategic location, he notes that, “Facilities can come up in Noida, Greater Noida and Dwarka but this is in the centre of Delhi; if I cannot leverage this advantage then it is a grave injustice to the potential infrastructure we have on our hands.” “So, it will be a great asset in promoting our trade, both, with in India and overseas, ultimately increasing movement,” adds Goyal.

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