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Smaller place, less crowd mar spirit of foreign participation at IITF

By Porisma P. Gogoi
New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) The ongoing construction activity at the Pragati Maidan fairground has marred the spirit of trade fair this year with lesser stalls and crowds compared to the previous years. However, traders were still hopeful of good sales now that the business days are over and the fair is open for common people.

“The crowd is lesser this year. The ITPO (India Trade Promotion Organisation) has reduced the number of visitors from 150,000 on a per day basis last year to 60,000 per day this year,” Wanida Wongpitak, a trader from Thailand who has been participating in the fair for two consecutive years, told IANS.

“We are expecting more sales once the business days are over,” he said on Friday, the last day for only business visitors.

Recollecting the period of demonetisation, Wanida said: “Last year, we had faced problems as the fair coincided with the demonetisation period. People had less currency to spend. This time I have a (point-of-sale) machine, but for that I charge 5 per cent extra.”

Wanida’s stall displayed a variety of products made of mango wood and bamboo, like vases, bread baskets, candle holders and other decorative items, including items which were customised for Indian market.

“Chapati boxes and tea cups are specially for Indian customers. The tea cups got sold out very fast. Our products are all USFDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved, they are food and water friendly,” he added.

The other stalls of Thailand displayed colourful accessories, artificial jewelleries and flowers — giving visitors a wide range of choices.

According to the ITPO, the expected footfall this year is not more than half of that of last year. “Last year, our footfall was 14 lakh. This time, since the fair is in half the area, we are expecting 60,000 daily on an average over 10 days. First four days are for business,” a spokesperson had said earlier.

The IITF last year was held in an area of over 100,000 square meters with around 7,000 exhibitors.

Another attraction of the international trade fair was the bedazzled Turkish stall displaying glossy ceramic showpieces, melamine trays and fashion jewelleries. Colourful lanterns and chandeliers stole the attention of the crowd.

Just next to the crowded Thailand stores was a quiet stall from South Africa that displayed handcrafted verdite and African jade stone sculptures.

“I have been a regular participant for quite a number of years now, although I was not here last year. This year, people don’t seem too interested in buying my sculptures,” rued Robert Kaliyongo (the artist), adding: “I’m hopeful that people will turn out in large numbers in the remaining days.”

“We have been coming here for more than 10 years now. The crowd this year is fine,” said Yee Ye San, a trader from Myanmar. San told IANS that she had a collection of both precious and semi-precious stones like topaz, jade, amethyst and pearls.

Afghanistan stalls were stacked with a wide range of dry fruits, rugs and carpets and semi-precious stone jewellery. Other stuff that stood out at the foreign stalls were Rajshahi silk sarees from Bangladesh, perfumes from Dubai and saffron from Iran.

(Porisma P. Gogoi can be contacted at [email protected])

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