A Brave New Digital World: India is a Global Powerhouse for Meetings and Tech

Hotels & DestinationsInternational

St. Regis MumbaiThe St. Regis Mumbai

More than three decades after the last Indian head of state visited the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a historic step last year in California’s Silicon Valley to usher in a new era of global connectivity between India and the rest of the world.

Modi met with Google, Apple and Microsoft in hopes of boosting innovation and technology in the world’s largest democracy. The Digital India campaign launched in 2015 as a way to transform the developing nation into a digitally empowered society.

Among newly advanced developing countries, India has one of the fastest growing economies and is gaining a larger presence on the global platform. The country’s leader is taking steps to promote India as a global meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) destination, with several developments and initiatives. The nation’s capital, New Delhi, will receive a new state-of-the-art convention center. And earlier this year, International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) welcomed its first Indian chapter.

“The exhibitions and events industry in India is flourishing, and it is important to IAEE to be a part of the industry’s growth,” says David DuBois, president and CEO of IAEE. “This year, we established a new chapter in India and welcomed the first graduates of the Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) learning program class from India. These achievements reflect the global power of the exhibitions and events industry and, of course, IAEE’s commitment to education and networking so that our industry can have a unified voice across the world.”

Mumbai

The most populated city in India is at the epicenter of the MICE boom that is resonating across the country. Mumbai, also known as Bombay, is a financial, commercial and entertainment hub that draws more than 4 million international visitors a year.

The coastal city along the Arabian Sea is a gateway for the bulk of travelers arriving in India through Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM). By 2019, a second airport will alleviate air traffic and ensure ease of travel for meeting attendees. Navi Mumbai International Airport received the green light in May after many delays.

The proposed airport joins the pipeline of meetings infrastructure designed to accommodate projected growth in meetings and events. According to a 2015 report by Cushman & Wakefield, demand for MICE business in Mumbai will increase once Reliance Convention Centre at Bandra-Kurla Complex opens in 2017. It will be one of the largest exhibition facilities in the country, with 807,292 sq. ft. of space.

Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) is Mumbai’s largest privately owned convention center, with four halls occupying more than 484,675 sq. ft. of space. Plans to expand floor space are underway. BCEC offers Wi-Fi, open-air cafeterias, restaurants, business centers, lounges and outdoor green spaces.

Luxury hotels in the center of the city also offer conference facilities for major events and exhibitions. This month the fourth annual MICE India & Luxury Travel Congress takes place July 28–29 at The St. Regis Mumbai. The exclusive invite-only exhibition brings together corporate planners and global suppliers for educational seminars and hosted buyer events. This year’s event features speaker sessions and panel discussions on topics such as the state of India’s MICE sector, planning and negotiating in the Indian market and the evolution of incentive programs.

New Delhi

India’s capital is a sprawling metropolis of commerce and business amid national politics and foreign relations. The Parliament of India and various constituencies are clustered in the center of the city between historic monuments and prominent buildings. New Delhi is also where several multinational corporations—including Google, Siemens and IBM—are based, making it the largest commercial center in the country.

This political and economic powerhouse is capitalizing on its potential to draw larger conferences and events with the addition of new meeting venues. For years, New Delhi was passed over for other cities with better-equipped facilities. That’s all about to change with a highly anticipated state-of-the-art convention and exhibition center next to Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). The facility has yet to be named.

This year, the prime minister approved construction of the building to include exhibition halls, meeting spaces, breakout rooms, auditoriums, performance venues and a cargo hub. Within the 130-acre complex, several adjacent hotels will provide an estimated 3,500 guest rooms alongside dining outlets and retail services.

Vigyan BhawanVigyan Bhawan

Vigyan Bhawan and Pragati Maidan are two major convention centers located near India Gate memorial. Vigyan Bhawan is a multilevel venue primarily used for international summits and political events. It has a plenary hall with seating for 1,285 and six smaller halls that can hold 74–378 people.

Located across the park, Pragati Maidan is the larger of the two, with 775,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space, including 16 exhibition halls, four auditoriums and three open-air theaters. Plans are in place to expand the hexagonal building with a pillar-free convention center that can seat 7,000, upgraded exhibit halls and additional parking.

With respect to New Delhi’s ascent as a top MICE destination, Wow Awards and Convention Asia 2016 took place June 23–25 at JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity. The awards ceremony and networking event recognized movers and shakers in Asia’s MICE industry. From 1,130 entries, the jury selected winners in 70 categories, including best exhibition, best conference and best incentive of the year.

“The Wow Awards and Convention Asia is slowly but surely building into the hub for the MICE, entertainment, wedding and events industries in Asia,” said Karishma Hundalani, director and head of content for Eventfaqus Media and TMF Dialogue Marketing India. “With the anchor of an 8-year-old, very successful and credible award platform, Wow has now extended into and is strongly establishing Asia’s definitive MICE and Destination Wedding Expo. Surely, it doesn’t get bigger than this!”

Hyderabad

The capital city of the South Indian state of Telangana, Hyderabad is a well-known technology hub and is building on that reputation to enhance its status as a center for meetings, incentives, conventions and events.

On the outskirts of the metropolis, Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy City (HITEC) reflects the importance of technology. Spread across 200 acres, the HITEC township is often referred to as Cyberabad. It’s no surprise that international corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook have offices in HITEC.

Salesforce is the latest U.S.-based company to expand its presence in India, with plans to open a new 2,000-square-foot center in HITEC by the end of the year. Salesforce expects to add 1,000 jobs based out of its HITEC office by 2020. (Salesforce already has a presence in Bangalore and Mumbai.)

CEM India GradsGraduates of the 2016 Certified in Exhibition Management Learning Program at Hyderabad International Convention Center

One of South Asia’s premier convention venues is next to HITEC. Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) provides a world-class facility for tech giants to gather as well as key event space for the MICE industry. HICC features a pillar-free hall with nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of space, capable of hosting up to 6,500.

On March 31–April 1, HICC was the site of India for MICE International Conclave 2016, which was attended by organizations such as International Association for Exhibitions & Events (IAEE) and United Federation of Travel Agents Association. The event drew 400 MICE industry professionals for education and networking.

“The venue was modern and easy to navigate,” DuBois says. “The staff was wonderful. From a technological point of view, there was adequate bandwidth for checking email and posting to social media.”

One of the highlights of the conclave was a reception held outdoors on HICC’s event lawn. DuBois reports that food and beverages were wonderful, and traditional Indian music and dancers helped international attendees immerse in local culture. IAEE held its spring board meeting during the MICE conference and used the event to call attention to its new IAEE India chapter.

Marriott Hotel & Convention CentreHyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Center

The 287-room Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre is adjacent to HICC. There’s 24-hour multicultural cuisine and a travel desk onsite.

Another business property close to HICC is Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre, which offers 293 guest rooms and 55,000 sq. ft. of event space. The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace has 428 guest rooms, with Wi-Fi throughout the property, a spa, and seven meeting rooms and event venues that total 22,665 sq. ft.

Westin Hyberbad MindspaceThe Westin Hyberbad Mindspace

Bengaluru

Of all of the cities in India, few have received more attention for being an innovation center than Bengaluru, colloquially known as Bangalore. In South India, the capital of Karnataka is often called the “Silicon Valley of India” and has a metropolitan population of 8.52 million.

According to a study released last month by Capgemini Consulting titled Digital Dynasties: The Rise of Innovation Empires Worldwide, Bengaluru broke into the top five global locations, surpassing Tokyo, Shanghai, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Munich and Chicago. The latest additions to Bengaluru’s tech portfolio include Airbus’ BizLab and Visa, which has a new technology center for 1,000 developers working on new payment solutions.

Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) serves as a global meeting venue that definitely benefits from the city’s notoriety as an innovation leader. For the second year in a row, BIEC will host the annual Electronica India Sept. 21−23. The 2015 international conference for the electronics industry drew 353 exhibitors representing 634 companies from 16 countries, including China, Germany, Russia, France, United Kingdom, Japan and Switzerland. The trade show drew 15,435 last year, which marked an increase of 33 percent compared to the previous year, when the event was held in New Delhi.

BIEC is India’s first LEED certified exhibition and conference facility. It offers 428,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space spread out in three halls, a 59,920-square-foot conference center, an amphitheater and its own helipad.

White Orchid Convention Center is a key 50,000-square-foot meeting and events venue in Bengaluru. Known for hosting conferences and corporate events, White Orchid is next to Embassy Manyata, a 110-acre technology campus that is home to such international brands as Microsoft, Fidelity Investments, IBM, Lowe’s and Target Corporation.

Sheraton Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Center is scheduled to open in December in the city’s business district. The convention center, which is adjacent to the hotel, will offer 52,497 sq. ft. of event space. The 325-room property also will feature a 10,527-square-foot banquet hall.


Incredible Incentives

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is India’s most alluring architectural attraction. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the 17th-century mausoleum beguiles all who cast their eyes on its white marbled teardrops and spires, which appear in shades of pink at sunset.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra attracts as many as 4 million tourists each year, and is well worth a visit. For meeting and incentive groups that want to escape India’s crowds and bustling cities, India Ministry of Tourism suggests some lesser known places where visitors can walk among ancient temples and exotic wildlife.

Between West Bengal and Bangladesh, the landscape turns into a thick forest canopy with meandering riverways that empty into the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans are one of the largest tracts of mangrove trees in the world and serve as a protected habitat for endangered wildlife, including species of reptiles, tigers and crocodiles. Groups can explore the brackish tidal ecosystem with Sundarban Tiger Safari, an operator that provides customized tours, cottages and conference facilities for up to 60 people.

On the Malabar Coast is an international vacation destination like no other. Goa is synonymous with palm-fringed coastlines, coastal cuisine and legendary nightlife. The former Portuguese colony is an amalgam of East and West after being isolated from the rest of India until it was liberated in 1961.

Today, much of the coastline is crowded with restaurants, hawkers and beach resorts. On the southern end, Palolem Beach is a natural bay shouldered by green headlands on either side. An ideal setting for excursions and retreats, the area offers traditional yoga classes, trekking tours, kayaking, dolphin excursions and spice farm tours.

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