The stalls at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi are still being done. Lorries carrying huge hoardings, stands and everything else to design the many stalls keep entering the venue as the curtain raiser for the Auto Expo 2012 takes place. A bit chaotic, many journalists wait with enthusiasm for the conference to begin at 1 pm (it's already delayed by an hour).
Organised by the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA), Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the first day is a bit intense. Members of all three lobbies are making an extra effort to get things sorted. "Even the media badges are not yet completely ready," says one of the organisers. But this is not unusual for an event of this magnitude. Finally the crowd settles down and the conference begins.
"Our first show took place in 1986 and we had 100 exhibitors. And in 2000 the number crossed 1000. And in 2012 we have over 1500 exhibitors from 24 countries," says Rajive Kaul, Chairman, steering committee, Auto Expo 2012.
The Expo - which opens on January 7 for regular visits - expects a footfall of 100,000 every day, and definitely more on the weekend. In the next couple of days the Expo will be ready for 43 press conferences and more than 50 launches and showcases.
Although the cover story in the latest issue of Business Todaytalks about economic woes, there's a stark contrast inside - three consecutive stories on India's automobile sector discuss the growth in research and development, the fast growing component manufacturing industry and Hyundai's manufacturing units - which are soon to exceed capacity. Against all the odds, the Indian automotive industry is set to reach a new high.
At present the automobile business has an annual turnover of $35 billion, which makes India the seventh largest auto manufacturer in the world.
"It is said that in a year we will overtake Brazil to become the sixth largest," says Kaul. Similarly, the component business - with an annual turnover of $40 billion - is expected to become $100 billion by 2020.
All this is happening as India emerges as the largest manufacturer of small cars in the world and the second largest of two-wheelers. A very timely event and a boost for visitors as the theme of the Expo this time is "Mobility for All with special emphasis on the safety and need of environment friendly fuels/vehicles, technological advancements, and innovative designs."
The big launches have already begun. Bajaj launched the RE60 and expects to replace its existing 5 million three-wheelers in the next ten years. Fiat launched the new Linea and the Punto.
Whether this year becomes a landmark year or not is still twelve months away to decide, but there will definitely be some high torque and adrenaline rush for the rest of the week as India revs its engine.