NBT World Book Fair 2018

Not So Encouraging Start!

Construction activities coupled with closed entry points may affect footfalls at the Fair. The most affected due to this could be stall holders of hall number 12

By Sanjay V Shah

Day 01 – Saturday 06 January 2018

So, New Delhi World Book Fair (WBF) 2018 is kickstarted today! Organised by the National Book Trust, India and patronized by numerous publishers and all those connected with writing, printing,
publishing and related businesses, New Delhi’s WBF is considered to be the biggest of its kind in Asia. Obviously, it generates footfalls not only of Delhi people, but also from across the country and
abroad too. This year, its dates are from 06-14 January 2018. So, what is the opening scenario? While we can always be sure of one thing that in general, WBF 2018 would succeed thanks to loyal
visitors and avid readers, there are few things of concern as well.

Firstly, unlike previous years, this year’s WBF is spread across lesser halls. Due to developmental activities on within the Pragati Maidan premises, halls from one to six and 13 to 18 are no more a
part of WBF. If that was not enough, entry to the venue is possible only from two gates, i.e. 01 and 10. Now, this is a worrying situation. And today, the free shuttle bus service, which is a very required
amenity for visitors, is also not operational. This has resulted in much lower footfalls on the day one, especially in hall 12, where Mangrol Multimedia has its stall, number 151.

Hall number 12 is at one end of the Pragati Maidan. In current layout of halls, it comes last in sequence for visitors entering from gate 10. For visitors entering from gate 01, it comes first but
then, they have option to choose from hall numbers 11 and 12. The indications given by the first day’s footfall in hall 12 are very bad. We saw quite a low turnout despite it’s a Saturday. The
situation across the hall was alike. When we went for a round up to other halls, we realized that they had quite a better number of visitors.

Hall 12 is mainly for Hindi and all Indian languages. Our experience is that it usually attracts lesser visitors than many of its counterparts as English has become the first choice for readers. So, it would
have been really appreciating decision had NBT decided to place the hall with regional languages offering at middle of the affair. That way, many of visitors who skip it would have entered it.

Another small but significant thing. As the erstwhile food court of Pragati Maidan is demolished, most of food stalls are placed just before hall 12. So, visitors, after paying considerable time visiting
other halls; and just when most of them feel tired and hungry, they see food stalls and relish themselves with one or the other stuff. In chilling winter of New Delhi, its not easy to give up greed
to eat. Once that is done, its not easy to stroll around and soak yourself into more books.

Simply speaking, hall number 12 is surely going to have a tough time ahead, unless, off course, I am proved wrong. I would really like to be proved wrong but then…

NBT WBF 2018: Day 01 at a glance:

1. Higher than 2017’s rentals for stalls for this 09-day affair is probably because of lesser number of halls.

2. Standing stalls, which was an affordable option for small participants have made way for 02X02 stalls.

3. Construction activities in the Pragati Maidan premises have restricted entry to the event from only two gates. Bad news for stall holders as well as visitors.

4. Food stalls are placed just outside hall 12. So, all visitors coming to the Fair from gate 10, tend to skip hall 12 and relish food. Similarly, those who enter the venue from gate 01 usually (or strangely) like to begin with hall 11. They make exit from a different gate, closer to other halls, so, they also miss hall 12.

5. Despite being charged quite handsomely; stall holders are not offered free Internet. And most connections, we tried JIO, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, failed to have even working connectivity.

6. What we found funny while collecting our stall holder kit in the morning was the absence of coffee mug, offered till last year! Our dust bin too had not reached to our stall till the time this was written.

7. In this digital world, a lot can be done not only to promote WBF but also to attract footfalls, keep visitors engaged so that they spend more time at the Fair. Wonder why such attempts are not made by the National Book Trust.

(Sanjay V Shah is Founder-CEO of Mangrol Multimedia)