It is nine years since InterGame ran a trade show in India. It was at the Taj Palace Hotel, a five-star international-standard luxury hotel in New Delhi.

It was the second such event following InterGame taking it over from the founders, the American Amusement Machine Association.

AAMA had started the show as a method of introducing American manufacturers of amusement games to a new market. It was a bold move - arguably ahead of its time - but both AAMA and InterGame recognised India for what it was: potential.

Ten years ago, India was an emerging market for the amusement industry. It had some ageing amusement parks, a rash of pool halls, a few arcades and a small number of family entertainment centres. But it also had a billion people, and of those 250,000 ‘middle class’ with disposable income and a thirst for entertainment.

That combination is what gave it the potential recognised by the AAMA and InterGame. Through circumstances, which have no place here, the trade association in India, IAAPI, wrested control of the show and ran it on its own.

The latest IAAPI show was held at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai from February 21-23. Like the shows 10 years ago, the event had its rash of international exhibitors, keen to take up the potential, which today is even more prevalent in India than it was 10 years go.

The 2009 show gave rise to a crop of complaints. Complaints about the organisation, the venue and the dates. In the interests of objectivity, InterGame is reviewing both sides of the argument, those of disaffected exhibitors and the response of IAAPI. It is also interesting to review just where India is today in the pecking order of worthwhile markets.

The country has very much gone the way of the leisure industry in the Middle East. The combination of shopping and leisure pursuits is a popular mix. In the case of India, it supplements, rather than replaces, the booming movie theatre business.

Ten years after the boom in shopping malls in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries, India has caught the same bug.

As many as 500 major shopping/leisure projects are now under way in India. They are in various stages of development, but they supplement the hundreds already open and successful.

In almost every case there is an element of leisure incorporated into the development, multiplex, movie simulation theatre, skating, bowling, go-karts, and other natural introductions to coin machines and amusements.


With some of the world’s wealthiest industrial corporations, India has the ability to invest and carry through major shopping and leisure developments. All of the necessary ingredients are there to fund, design, build, equip and promote shopping malls - and the people have the resources and the will to support them.

The business in shopping malls has already reached high levels of sophistication in India, to the degree that developers now recognise that while FECs may not represent rupee-for-rupee the best return on investment, they have the effect of increasing footfall in the mall. This has to be taken against a background where Mumbai has the most expensive real estate in the world - even higher than Tokyo.

To realise the benefits to the centre as a whole, of increasing footfall by running an FEC when the return on the space is unjustified otherwise, displays a degree of sophistication by the developers which is as elevated as any in the Middle East or Europe. If they can turn up the volume of people, they increase the selling potential for the storekeepers - and further ensure the rents.

This maturity which is appearing throughout the Indian construction and leisure shopping sector comes at an opportune time, for the country is gearing itself up for the Commonwealth Games, due to be held in October of next year in New Delhi.

The massive amount of infrastructure necessary for the influx of visitors, which will result, is working hand-in-hand with shopping developers.

The necessity, therefore, for a trade show, which reflects this upgrading in quality development, has become paramount in India. This year’s event (February 21-23) was severely criticised by some exhibitors. It is notable that they are all international companies, which clearly suggests that they are used to better quality locations and higher standards of infrastructure and organisation.

One exhibitor who asked - for obvious reasons - not to be named, said: "The organisation stinks. The association obviously does that show for its own reasons and doesn’t have the exhibitors’ needs in mind. The venue (the Bombay Exhibition Centre) is not up to the standards which one would expect of an international show.

"The floor is not even flat and several people fell - totally impractical for ladies in heels. The show is also held on a weekend which is nonsense for this industry and to make it worse, it was held on a long holiday weekend for the Monday was also a holiday in Mumbai. The dates for next year have been changed from February to March and again it appears on a weekend!"

The exhibitor said that the show attendance was ‘decent’. He added: "It is what I would call a ‘local show’. But the market is evolving and operators are finally willing to invest in good quality games and technology."

A slow show 

On the record was Sebastian Mochkovsky of Sacoa, who said: "It was slow this year. The first and second days had few visitors. The third day was better, even though it was a religious holiday. I am not happy that they allowed in the general public; it made for a lot of noise and people asking us for free samples, grabbing brochures, etc.

"Generally, I am not happy with the organisation and the location. The hall had an uneven floor and a lot of smoke because of a kitchen next door and no ventilation. If they must use that location next year then it needs to be on regular working days."

The most damning report came from Prakash Vivekanand of Amusement Services International of Dubai, who said: "This was an organisational nightmare. There were several prominent international companies there and most of them were showing their latest line-up of products rather than re-runs of past product lines.

"FEC equipment suppliers accounted for 80 per cent of the floor space, which demonstrates that the show has evolved more into a showcase for FEC products than for rides and water parks.

"Visitors from large Indian real estate and retail firms were absent yet again. While most would attribute this to the economic downturn, we cannot overlook the fact that the show was on Saturday, Sunday and a public holiday Monday."

He said that the show attendance had increased and Vivekanand noted that there were some investors keen on getting into the street arcade business. "Most of these private investors from the small to medium-sized business segments predominantly hailed from interior parts of India and from smaller cities lijke Dehradhun, Nagpur and Ludhiana.

"This is a good sign and indicates that the arcade concept is becoming more acceptable in smaller cities. Most of these people were primarily interested in used and reconditioned equipment but in time these operators will mature and realise the importance of combining show stopper games with their existing equipment."

He said that the venue was "the worst available hall." He said: "The floor was uneven, the stand fittings were tacky and the electrical contractor could only provide sockets in one place at the entrance side to each stand, not along the wall space. Wires had to be concealed under the loosely laid carpet.

"If the visitors managed to keep their balance in the aisles, there was always the possibility that they would trip over the wires. Exhibit handling at move-in was a nightmare. There were no pallet trollies and forklifts were scarce."

Holiday interruptions 

Vivekanand complained that the organisers knew about the public holiday 300 days in advance but told him there were no other halls available at other times, yet his own investigations showed that halls were available between February 14 and 28, but the cost was 30 per cent higher.

The aisles, he said, were empty until afternoon, and the general public outnumbered industry professionals. "There were sales personnel marketing advertising space in retail and hotel magazines to exhibitors and there were plenty of insurance salesmen and time share people. Little or no profiling at the entrance was done to prevent this picketing and Sunday turned out to be a free fun day for children with some of them running amok."

He also noted that a customer satisfaction form circulated by the organisers to exhibitors only gave the choice of ratings from ‘good’ to ‘very good’ to ‘excellent’.

Vivekanand concluded: "As an Indian, I feel sad about the lack of organisation at the event which in turn reflects on a country that offers lots of opportunities.

"The organisers should feel the need to improve the event by choosing better venues, dates, support services, staff and also feel the need to speak to exhibitors locally and internationally, address their issues and pave the way for a better event that will present the industry and the association in good light."

In fairness to the organisers, there is also the reverse of the coin. Mark Horwood at UDC in the UK was an exhibitor. He noted: "India is a third world country; anyone who does not take this on board when visiting is not worldly and is untravelled.

"For a show in India the organisation was acceptable. It was never going to be the same standards as in the US or the UK. The floor in some places was uneven but was not a big issue and I detected no restaurants nearby and therefore no smell."

He added that with a population of over 1.3bn, India is a vast country. "Let’s assume that of this number one billion will never see or play a video or redemption game. That leaves 300 million - and if 10 per cent of them are potential players then it is still a massive market.

"The market is developing very fast; operators are turning their backs on games imported from China which are cheap but poor quality and unreliable and they are also rejecting used video games from Japan as they don’t like games with Japanese writing on the screens and the refurbishment is basic."

Organiser’s response 

InterGame invited IAAPI to respond directly to the complaints, but at the time of going to press, there had been no response on the specific issues raised, but the organisation simply forwarded to us its own report, which contained some views:

Paul Collimore of Animazoo UK: "The event was very well organised and the IAAPI staff went the extra mile to help us. The quality of attendees was fantastic and we met a large number of potential customers and resellers. I rate this show 10 out of 10."

Tony Whittaker, Elton Games, UK: "Our first IAAPI was a great success and we were very impressed with the show organisation. We met with a variety of operators who gave us great insight into their needs and future developments."

Satinder Bhutani, Andamiro, US: The Indian market is the one with the most promise, having visited the IAAPA (US) and ATEI (UK) shows in January. We had a lot of response to our products at the IAAPI show."

Olivier Lorge of FEC International: "I was more than pleased to participate in IAAPI 09. It was really well organised and marketed. The visitors were there and the response was much more than estimated."

To conclude, InterGame asked its Indian correspondent, Pramod Krishna, to comment on the current situation in the country and on the trade show. He said: "India represents a rapidly expanding economy which is still showing a very positive growth rate, even with the global recession.

"This is manifesting itself into more disposable income for the huge middle classes and they in turn are responding positively to the leisure opportunities opening up for them.

"These include shopping malls, of which hundreds are springing up all over the country; and often include an FEC or some other leisure entertainment. The opportunities for the amusement industry in general, and the games business in particular, are immense.

"As for the show, it is very much a case of IAAPI needing to decide what it wants to be. If it is a local, domestic show, then most Indians will put up with what in international circles would be inferior locations. But if IAAPI wants its show to be an international event then it really must address the problems raised by the critics. The international trade expects much higher standards."

The 2010 IAAPI show will be held at the same location Thursday to Saturday, March 18-20, 2010.